Santa Rosa ‘tiny house’ is a millennial couple's dream come true
With many couples, the marriage might be over before it ever begins if they had to share only 160 square feet of living space.
But the forced togetherness of living in a “tiny house” has not deterred Kieran Murphy and BreAnna Rathburn, who are happily going ahead with their planned wedding next month and then winging off to a honeymoon in Greece made possible, in part, by all the money they’re saving by living small.
The couple built their miniature, rustic modern home off designs created by Rathburn, who just completed her degree in interior design at Santa Rosa Junior College.
While other young millennials struggle to make rent and fear that homeownership may remain forever out of reach — the median price of a home in Sonoma County hit $627,000 in June — Murphy, 30, and Rathburn, 24, not only own their own home, but they own it free and clear. And at $21,000 it cost less than many cars.
At 8 feet wide and 20 feet long, it is the size of a smaller motor home, and, like a motor home, sits on a trailer and meets all the requirements for the road as if it were a trailer, complete with license and reflectors. That’s a good thing. For the moment, the couple is temporarily set up on the property of a friend in a rural area of the county, where they are hooked in to his solar power and well. (They use propane for cooking and to power a small wall-mounted heater). Until they are ready to move forward with Murphy’s plan to lease land for his wine label, “Tiny House Vineyard,” (tinyhousevineyard.com), they will remain rootless and moving around.
“It wasn’t necessarily out of the question or part of the conversation,” Murphy said of the prospect of buying a conventional home. “For us, it was just about doing something completely different from everybody else. Bree has inspired me to travel more. And so, not having a mortgage, and not having those big expensive bills, allows us to save money for more fun things.”
To make it feel airy, the house has eight windows, all reclaimed and unique, from an antique Victorian window above the kitchen sink to a big aluminum picture window above a built-in bench seat that fills the little space with light, brings in afternoon breezes and keeps it from feeling claustrophobic.
They designed the house to accommodate the windows they had already collected, which made it more difficult, but they wound up spending only $300 for all the windows. The front door also is glass to let even more light in.
The couple, who have been together for nearly five years, began planning their house in 2013. It took Rathburn 18 months to come up with the final design, after looking at different tiny house floor plans and, as she said, “taking what I like and making them our own.”
As a student, Rathburn was able to download a free student version of AutoCAD, and experimented.
During that time, they managed to save 75 percent of the costs, and came up with the final 25 percent during the eight months they spent building it, on weekends, with help from Rathburn’s stepfather.