See How This Couple Built Their Mobile Tiny Home For Just $30K

See How This Couple Built Their Mobile Tiny Home For Just $30K

At 204 square feet, this DIY tiny home on wheels is fully functional and even features a nifty gear room.

When Washington–based couple Robert and Samantha Garlow decided to downsize to a mobile dwelling, they knew instantly that they wanted to build the home themselves. To document their DIY project, they set up the blog SHEDsistence so friends and family could follow their progress.

The Garlows added a layer of rigid insulation around the exterior to increase the home's resale value. This resulted in a wall that is both lightweight and delivers better thermal performance.

"The idea of having the chance to experience the consequences firsthand, both positive and negative, of our design and construction decisions was a valuable proposition," says Robert, who is an architectural designer. "This also meant the design process was directly related to—or hindered by—what we could do ourselves on weekends using off-the-shelf materials." 

Regulations stipulated the home's maximum exterior width needed to be eight feet by six inches. Therefore, the Garlows oriented the siding corrugations vertically to create an integrated rain screen system that allows for drainage and evaporation without the added width of furring strips.

Since this 204-square-foot mobile trailer was the couple's first experience building a tiny home, they chose DIY-friendly wood framing rather than light gauge, which would have been more challenging. They combined the frames with thin plywood to counteract lateral forces from road travel. 

The couple used reclaimed walnut wood for the entry alcove of the home, as well as corrugated metal siding that was salvaged from the roof of a local barn.

Robert and Samantha designed the trailer to have a kitchen and lofted bed  on one side of the home, and feature a bathroom and storage room on the other end. There is also a living area, which sits in the center. 

A look at the corrugated metal siding that features a gorgeous matte gray patina.

Worried that the extensive use of tow-away furniture might become a nuisance for everyday living, the couple opted for simple, sturdy, multi-functional, built-in units. 

Large windows bring plenty of light into the house.

In fact, the only loose furniture item in the home is a two-seater bench in front of the breakfast bar in the kitchen, which doubles as a workspace. 

The kitchen is fitted with a compact propane stove top and oven, as well as a refrigerator, sink, and a pantry behind the stairs.

 The Garlows liked the visual spatial connection created by the height difference between the loft and the lower living space, so they ended up using netting rather than a partition wall. 

Storage is cleverly located throughout the house, including under the bench in the living room.

The only functional space separated by a wall and door is the bathroom, which has a shower, sink, composting toilet, and modular shelving. 

The 24-by-36-inch peninsular counter offers nine drawers for storage.

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The galley-style kitchen—located below the sleeping loft— has identical operable windows on each side to bring in an abundance of light and cross breezes. 

"The seven-foot-long couch is more than adequate to use as an extra sleeping surface, and all five of the stairs are a great location to sit," says Robert. 

In the loft, a full size mattress is set parallel to the length of the house. 

To accommodate for their love of outdoor adventure, the couple also made the decision to set aside 24 square feet of precious space for a gear room, which is located behind the bathroom wall. 

When it came time to add a safety barrier for their daughter Aubrin, they opted to install tight netting so the two areas did not need to be visually separated.

"Our goal in building a tiny house on wheels was to better enable the life we wanted, so having all our outdoor gear with us at all times was a necessity," states Samantha. "These are the tools that open up so many of the mountaineering, climbing, backpacking, snowboarding, and camping adventures that we love." 

Plenty of storage space is located under the stairs.

"The gear room is also a great place for us to keep the not-so-pretty systems, like the on-demand water heater and breaker box," she says. "It also means we have room for a washer-dryer combo, should we decide to add one in the future." 

A peek at the 24-square-foot gear and storage room.

In total, the home took the couple around 14 months to complete. Today, they still reside in it, along with their first child, Aubrin. 

Although the kitchen may be small, it is fully equipped with amenities and functionality.

"For the first few months, I was haunted by the imperfections," Robert explains. "After two years passed and I became a father, I started to cherish the imperfections as proof that there is always room to do better and to learn more," he says.

They have lived in their tiny house for more than a year now, and Robert explains that the most challenging—yet also the most educational and character-enriching aspect of the project—was realizing that mistakes made during construction (like an imperfect mitered corner) represent an opportunity for growth and improvement.

A functional, road-ready tiny house.

Robert and Samantha agree that the most difficult part of tiny home living comes before the planning and construction. 

A view of the living area from the loft sleeping area.

"Mentally preparing to live in a tiny house requires a pretty radical shift in perspective from the way many of us were raised. As a designer, it made me realize what's possible, and how much truly isn't necessary."

A cozy family Christmas in the tiny home.

Here are drawings of the transportable trailer.

A look at the cross sectional plans.

To learn more about this mobile tiny home, check out their website here.


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