Woman Builds Hawaii Tiny Off-Grid Vacation Home for $11,000 (Video)

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Bedroom showing large windows and a sliding glass door
Julie Fitts

Those of us who live in snowbound areas often dream of a tropically located second home, a place where we can escape to when we can't face the prospect of yet another ... day of shovelling snow. Yet, for many, financial constraints are typically a barrier. For tiny house builder and dressmaker Kristie Wolfe of Boise, Idaho, that path to sunnier climes began with an experiment to save money by first building a Tiny House on the Prairie, and then, from the money she saved by living with less, moving on to build a second, off-grid vacation home in Hawaii. Check out her captivating story as filmed by our friends over at Fair Companies:

Cost to Build

Exterior of the tiny home showing the trampoline swing and steps to the second level
Julie Fitts

A self-professed "capitalist hippie," Wolfe describes how she had a wake-up call to eschew the materialist life during her late twenties:

In February 2011, I built a “tiny house” using reclaimed materials, for a total $3000. This was brought on because the thought of living in an apartment complex with 300 neighbors, who would all have the same floor-plan and Pier One furnishings decorating our white walls, literally made my stomach turn.
I originally planned to live in the tiny house for a year as an experiment, but almost instantly I adapted to my new space and enjoyed the forced simplicity that living in 97 sq. ft. requires.

Wolfe later found land to park that first tiny house for $5,000. Her vacation home in Hawaii cost about $11,000 to build, plus another $4,000 for flights, truck, rent and food, over a period of two months -- all of it on land that she purchased for $8,000. Most impressive of all is that she built part of it with her mom (that's one heck of a super-mom), and the interior details are creative, thoughtful, elegant, and all done on a small budget.

Clever Additions

Bedroom with a bed and sliding glass doors
Julie Fitts
Doors to the porch
Julie Fitts
Bed with mosquito netting
Julie Fitts

Everything was custom-designed, and Wolfe's home is entirely off the grid, capturing rainwater and solar energy to run her home. There are some amazing ideas, like her DIY toilet and washbasin combo that uses one water source (as you flush the toilet, water that is used to flush comes first into the basin for handwashing -- pretty brilliant). Best of all, the home is elevated off the ground, leaving an open ground floor where she made a DIY hanging bed using a trampoline.

Suspended bed swing made from a trampoline
Julie Fitts

Some may argue that having a second home is wasteful and antithetical to living with less. Yet, Wolfe's story is inspiring in the sense that she was able to achieve her dream on her own terms, in a manner that is as self-sufficient as possible. There's also more financial freedom too, as this second home will also an extra source of income; Wolfe plans to rent it out when she's not there. Wolfe's sense of adventure, and willingness to experiment and explore different ways of living are clear, and it's an admirable thing. Check out more of her story over at Tiny House on the Prairie, this article from Tiny House Magazine, Fair Companies, and if you're planning to go to Hawaii, Kristie's tiny home is available for rent via Airbnb.