Couple converts forest fire lookout tower into lofty 388 sq. ft. tiny home (Video)

Tom Hanny
© Tom Hanny

Afraid of heights and like your bathroom inside your house? Then you might not like living 40 feet off ground, as this couple does year-round in a fire lookout tower, which they now call home. But look a bit closer, and you might see that these two have built their version of an off-grid paradise, in what they call a "treehouse without a tree."

A few years ago, however, Dabney Tompkins and Alan Colley were living the mainstream American Dream in Dallas, Texas: a big house, nice car and good-paying jobs. But they felt something was missing, and eventually relocated to a smaller home in Portland, Oregon. But as they tell Zillow, all that changed when they learned about U.S. Forest Service's fire lookout stations from a book that "magically" fell on them during a ferry ride. Once widely used, many of these structures have fallen into disrepair or have been dismantled for more updated methods of fire-spotting such as satellites.

Tom Hanny© Tom Hanny

Fascinated by these elevated spaces, Tompkins and Colley began renting fire stations as weekend getaways. But eventually they decided to custom-build one for themselves, located on a parcel of 160-acres near Tiller, Oregon:

About a year and half ago, we decided to be totally irresponsible and quit our jobs and move here,” Tompkins explains. “We were just going to do it for one year because we thought this might just be too isolated, too boring, too rustic. But then we got down here and we started to meet people and really enjoy the rhythm of it.

Tom Hanny© Tom Hanny

Their 388-square-foot space includes a kitchen, an open living space, and a ladder-accessible master suite. Though it may seem small, there's also accessory areas like an outdoor deck with panoramic views of Umpqua National Forest, and a garden where they grow some their own food, so the two say that they don't feel cramped at all.

Tom Hanny© Tom Hanny
Tom Hanny© Tom Hanny

The home is solar powered, but there are some quirks: traditional fire lookouts didn't have bathrooms, so they built an outhouse on ground level, and put their shower outside on the deck. But for the couple, this is part of the charm of living so close to nature, says Tompkins:

My favorite time to take a shower is when we have snow outside and you have to walk barefoot through the snow on the deck. Then you turn that hot water on and that yin and yang of hot and cold — and looking out and seeing the meadow — it’s heaven.

Tom Hanny© Tom Hanny

The couple remark how beautifully quiet it is out here, without the urban cacophony to distract and wear one down. Having overcome what social expectations of what 'good living' looks like, this couple is redefining their own lives in unexpected but fulfilling ways, making this one of the more unique examples of tiny living we've seen. Read more over at Zillow.

Tags: Less Is More | Living With Less | Oregon | Small Spaces

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