A man's home should not be a castle - or even a modest tract house - say advocates of very small houses including Jay Shafer, who builds homes so little they can fit into most master bedrooms.
The college art professor-turned small home designer is building "tiny houses" - some just 100-square-feet - in west Sonoma County.
Four months ago, Shafer moved from Iowa to a region ripe with potential customers and fellow exponents of thinking small.
While radical to some, very small houses could be a solution to soaring home prices. Affordability is one reason more Northern California residents are showing interest in Shafer's homes.
Shafer's one-man Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is gaining national attention. A 100-square-footer priced at $25,000 for a Montana family is nearly complete. He has a 140-square-footer at $30,000 under construction for a Seattle couple, and orders are backing up on the company's Web site.
"Three or four people a week come in to look over my place and the buildings. Hopefully I'll build a subdivision some day," Shafer said.
Some customers seek to minimize how they live. Others want a guest house or vacation cabin.
Jensine Olsen and friend Greta White found Shafer at work on the property he rents near Occidental. Shafer's model is the 60-square-footer he lives in, having towed the house on a trailer behind his pickup across the country.
"I love the wood inside. It has a lot of light," said Olsen, a San Francisco resident who said Shafer's homes are ideal if she can find a small rural lot in Northern California. "By seeing this, that's going to tell me where I want to be. I want a place where nature is my house - and not my house."
Shafer contends his homes have everything to live comfortably, even though they are a fraction of the size of the ever larger million-dollar "McMansions" going up in Sonoma County and across the country.
"It's a big house with all the unusable parts removed," he said. "I hope people will look at their 4,000-square-foot houses for two and maybe reconsider how they're living."
Differences are notable. So is the price.
The half-dozen homes Shafer has sold so far range in size from 60 square feet to 750 square feet and in price from $25,000 to $80,000.
The houses can go on trailers or foundations, rely on water tanks and compost toilets or utility hookups.
Outside features include cedar or galvanized steel siding, metal roofs and front porches.
Inside is pine paneling, oak floors, dual pane insulated windows, cushioned sofas and pull-out seats, two- or four-burner ranges, stainless steel countertops and sink, shower, and propane-fired heater.
The bedroom is a loft separated by a ceiling from the living room, kitchen and bathroom spaces. Total height is shy of 13 feet - so they can clear highway overpasses.
Delivery costs $2 per mile from Shafer's workshop.
Shafer's move to Sonoma County makes delivery more affordable for the core of customers he expects from California and the Western states.
Seattle residents Bob and Gail Tarleton will pay about $1,500 in delivery costs for one of Shafer's houses compared with up to $6,000 for a cabin on a trailer from a Virginia company.
The couple went with Shafer over a dozen other manufacturers of small cabins or homes.