Tiny Tack House: Living Large In A Tiny House Interview

Have you ever considered down-sizing? How about down-sizing to a 140-square foot home on wheels that you’ve designed and built yourself? That’s what Christopher and Malissa Tack did, and the end result (their Tiny Tack House) is a completely customized architectural and multifunctional marvel that meets their needs and enhances their lifestyle.

Ever since Homedit initially spotted the Tiny Tack House two months ago, we’ve been inspired by the simple magnitude of the Tack’s tiny-yet-oh-so-efficient living space. Homedit was lucky enough to interiew Malissa Tack about her behind-the-scenes experience with the design of, construction of, and lifestyle afforded by the Tiny Tack House. Read on for amazing photos of and commentary on this enchantingly back-to-the-basics home:

The Tiny Tack House is so creative and mind-blowingly efficient. In a world that often touts “more is more” when it comes to homes, what was your primary inspiration for heading in the opposite direction?

Freedom. Freedom from paying off a house that would be bigger than our lifestyle, freedom from the worries of “can we afford this,” freedom to live a simpler life and enjoy the things that matter and the freedom to go wherever we need to. Big was never an option, and tiny was a new concept to us. We were used to living in around 1,000 sq ft. or less, and we never desired any more than that. We are able to be so efficient with our home, because we only use what we need. We made a lifestyle change that opened our eyes up to what we really want out of this life, and this Tiny House gives us that freedom to do so. This isn’t an option for all, but for us it was the right direction to go.

Are there other tiny houses like yours? If so, did any stand out as an ideal, or did you pick bits and pieces from them to create your own architectural design?

There were few Tiny Houses that we knew of at the time of deciding to go forward with our own plans to build one. We had the pleasure of visiting Dee Williams on a few occasions. Dee invited us into her home so we could get a better understanding and feel for what it’s like to be in a Tiny House. Her house was much too small for Christopher and me, measuring in at about 14′; we wouldn’t have enough room to fit Christopher’s photography gear or our two workstations. We knew we needed something a little bigger, since we do plan on starting a family in the near future.

We used Dee’s house as a starting point, then I incorporated my 3D skills to create a few mockups of possible floor plans that would work for us and our two cats at the time. Simple things like, where is the kitty litter going to go, or how long of a bench do we need if someone needed to comfortably sleep on it. Almost all aspects of our house were taken into consideration when deciding on our final plan. This house was built with our two lives in mind. This house works for us, because it was designed by us.

How did you go about deciding what were the absolute essentials for a happy, homey home? Were there any pieces or details that almost made it in the design but didn’t make the final cut?

Our home had to work for us. Christopher, being a working photographer, needed room to store his gear, so we built a bench that serves as seating and extra sleeping as well as storage. When it comes to a small space, everything needs more than one function.

Our cabinet also houses more of his gear, but the bottom third has a special space for our cat’s litter, which can be accessed through the bathroom. I didn’t need as much space for my work, since I work as a 3D artist, so we wall-mounted my computer; this way it serves as my workspace and entertainment center. We also use my desk as a dinner table.

Space is very important in a small space, so thinking about what is necessary to your living in your house is key. We did consider putting in some stairs instead of a ladder, which would serve as extra storage as well. This idea didn’t make it in, since we felt we had enough storage in our house already, and we didn’t want to lose our floor space for more room to store things. The idea is that less is more, and we didn’t want to bring in more than we needed.

What made you decide to put the home on wheels? Do you ever take it “camping” (talk about a luxurious campsite!) or off the property you built it on?

The main reason for having our house sit atop a trailer was to make it mobile, so we could move our house with us as needed. Whether it was for work or family, we didn’t have to worry about the stresses of trying to buy or sell a house in a changing market. When we built our house, the option to move it seemed like a better fit for our lives.

Christopher and I love to travel, and we thrive on the idea of change. Our house gives us that option, though it sits, for now, where we built it. We don’t take it places, because that would take some time and energy to get the house prepped for moving, and the cost of gas would be a bit much. We have wheels for when we need to move it but don’t plan on moving in often. That would be luxurious camping, you’re right!

I love the earthy feel of your Tiny Tack House. Why did you choose to use plank wood from floor through the ceiling

Thank you! We love the rich smell of the wood, and the warm colors help keep the space nice and cozy! We decided to use plank wood (Knotty Pine T&G for the walls and ceiling, Floating Bamboo for the floor) because of its ease of installation. This was our first building project, and we didn’t want to over-complicate the build with materials we didn’t really know a lot about.

It was also a good choice for us, since we used Sheep’s Wool for our insulation. We simply would put up a few boards then stuff some wool in. We designed the house to be as simple as we could make it, while achieving everything we wanted the house to serve.

Everything, from the front door to the appliances, seems to have been custom built at a smaller size. Was this the case, or was it fairly easy to find downsized items? Were you ever surprised, either in a good way or not, to find an added cost in going smaller with some things?

All of our appliances were found at local stores. We picked up our gas range from a boating supply store, our fridge from a hardware store, our sink came from IKEA, and our heater from a local store as well. You can find a lot of great stuff online or in reused/reclaimed stores at a great price. We cut our butcher block countertop down a little, just to make more walking/prepping space in the kitchen.

We went with a custom sized front door, mostly because a regular sized door would have taken up a lot of wall space. A door is just something that you walk in and out of, so we didn’t want to dedicate that much space to it. And everything else was custom made for the space for the function it serves. When you look at the scale of the project, you aren’t buying appliances that fit into, say a 1,000 sq ft space, so you aren’t really spending more money, you are actually buying fewer items. We spent less than $700 on our appliances for our home, including our stove, fridge, heater, and dehumidifier.

The steep angle of the roof is perhaps extreme for larger homes, but it works perfectly on your home to make the space feel almost spacious without being uncomfortably steep. How did you determine just how steep a pitch to construct?

Will it fit under an overpass… that’s the question you have to ask yourself when figuring out your roof height. The number to remember is 13’5″ and it’s the maximum height for a ‘load’ on your trailer without needing a special permit.

The pitch of our house is nice for the geographical location our house is in. We do get snow from time to time, and the pitch helps keep the roof clear of it. In other areas you wouldn’t feel the need to go so steep, but the height does come in handy with more head room in the lofted sleeping space. We also incorporated dormers into our loft, which allows for both of us to sleep comfortably without knocking our heads on the ceiling.

Be honest – do you ever crave just a little more elbow room on rainy or snowy days? Has the required close proximity to each other affected your marriage?

Not at all! Best part, the elbow room you get when you open the front door and go outside!

I love how cozy my house is; it’s what draws me inside. Being that I work as a 3D artist, I do spend a large amount of time on my computer, but I also garden, hike, ride my bike, travel, hang out with friends, and do what everyone else does.

My home is in no way restricting, it’s a pleasant space to be in, and a joy to share with others. I’ve even had friends tell me that I have more floor space than their bedrooms! They say that everything is put in its place and kept nice. You kind of have to, because with a space this small, a pair of pants on the floor or a bag of camera gear left out of place makes it seem cluttered. But it keeps us organized and helps us recognize the things we can live without.

Christopher and I were married for about a year and a half before making the leap, and I can honestly say that life with my husband has never been better! That’s easy to say, when you are married to your soulmate, but you also have to take into perspective the fact that, because our space is much smaller, we see each other more and are forced to communicate with one another.

As my friend Andrew Odom says all the time, you are forced to run into each other and say please and thank you and excuse yourself when you are in the other’s space.You become much more aware of how you affect the other and how you communicate with each other. I would never want to be in another room when I could be enjoying the company of my loved one.

Christopher and I have found a balance with each other, and we respect each other’s space, even in a tiny house. We aren’t living in this world alone, after all… so we need to learn how to get along. You are not separate from anyone, but more connected and your actions cause reactions, and always remember the little things!

The entire house, all 140 square feet of it, is extremely efficient. What would you estimate the equivalent size of your house to, usage-wise, with regard to traditional homes?

Well, I’ve never owned a traditional home, so I can’t exactly give you an idea with regards to how much more efficient it is, but I can say that we spend around $300 a year on electricity, twice a year we refill our 20lb propane tank, and use about 80 gallons of water a week. I’ve seen studies done where the average family household uses up to 400 gallons of water a day, that’s more water than we use in a whole month. We have become very mindful of what we take in, and not to be wasteful.

I’ll admit it, I used to take 45 minute showers before… it’s easy when you don’t have to worry how the water is getting to your house. But when you have to become responsible for getting that water to your home, you become much more aware of how much you use, that gets wasted.

We also have solar panels that provide us with electricity from the months of April – October. During the summer, we might use maybe $25 worth of electricity from the grid, but the summers in WA are nice and sunny and keep our solar running our house just fine.

It’s all inspiring, in a huge way. The house design, I mean. What are your three favorite things about the Tiny Tack House? Is there anything you would change, now that you’ve lived there a while?

Personally, I would say the loft is my most favorite place in the entire house. The idea of having to climb up to the top, like that of a treehouse, creates this magical child-like feeling. Christopher loves the coziness of the house, its warmth and inviting appeal. Also, the idea of our house, and what it stands for to us.

Like your first question as to why we went in the opposite direction: Freedom. This house has given Christopher and me the freedom to live our own way of life. Freedom from debt, freedom from many worries, freedom to do what we want. This house has given us new friends, experiences, and a different outlook on life. This journey has been truly life changing, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Lots of lessons were learned and we both have grown from our experiences.

Tiny…it’s kind of a big deal!

It’s absolutely a big deal, Malissa. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights and experiences with us!

Published by in Exclusive Interviews, on March 14th, 2014


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