Mostly sunny

Thinking big, building small

  • Austin Hay, 16, is building a mini-house on top of a trailer that he can use as portable housing during college. Photo taken at his home in Santa Rosa, California on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Like many 16-year-olds, Austin Hay doesn't know yet where he'll attend college.

He still has two more years at Analy High School, where he wrestles, plays baseball and excels in math.

But whether he ends up at Cal Poly, the University of Oregon or anywhere in between, Hay already knows where he'll be staying — in the tiny house he's constructing in his parents' Santa Rosa backyard.

Tiny House Market Booming


For the past year, Hay has been pouring time and money into building the 130-square-foot structure atop a double-axled trailer — a mobile foundation that means he could be hauling the home around for years.

"I am going to be living in it in high school, college and hopefully afterwards," he said, dismissing the idea of a stop in the dorms along the way. "I'm not really big on sharing my room with people."

Such homes are far from being gimmicks, according to Jay Shafer, the Graton-based godfather of tiny homes who is profiled in the latest New Yorker magazine in an article subtitled, "The rise of the tiny-house movement."

Hay already is proud of learning to live small.

From the outside, his home looks like a robust shed on wheels. But step inside and it's clear he is building a house, not a hut.

The floor is neatly laid with oak hardwood snagged from a salvage yard for $20l. A fridge is plugged into one of 13 electrical outlets, chilling bottles of Gatorade. And nearby a stainless-steel sink and oven stove await installation.

Eventually a shower and composting toilet will complete Hay's domestic needs. But for now he uses his parents' bathroom at night before climbing into the tiny home's loft, where he has slept for the past three months.

© The Press Democrat |  Terms of Service |  Privacy Policy |  Jobs With Us |  RSS |  Advertising |  Sonoma Media Investments |  Place an Ad
Switch to our Mobile View