Eco-Design Tiny Homes Retiree's Sleek DIY Off-Grid Tiny House Has Its Own Coffee Bar This self-built tiny home has an abundance of clever design ideas. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Updated August 18, 2021 04:14PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Living Big In A Tiny House Share Twitter Pinterest Email Eco-Design Tiny Homes Architecture Interior Design Green Design Urban Design Many people may be under the impression that tiny houses are only for energetic and adventurous youngsters looking to downsize in order to gain greater financial freedom. But that's not necessarily the case, as there are a growing number of Boomers and other people of retirement age who are embracing tiny houses for a number of reasons—perhaps as an extra source of income, or as their own custom-built wheelchair-accessible tiny home where they can gracefully age in place. For retiree Mark, he chose to build his own tiny house as a home to live comfortably during his retirement years, following a busy aviation career as a helicopter pilot. Mark first got wind of the tiny house movement some years ago when his daughter sent him an article about it. After some time of planning, designing, and building a home specially tailored to his needs and tastes, Mark's off-grid tiny house is now parked on a farm near Taupo, New Zealand, where he happily does part-time farm work that fits his pared-down lifestyle perfectly. We get a tour of Mark's exceptional self-built home via Living Big In A Tiny House: Mark explains his motivation in going tiny: "[Tiny houses] first got my interest [because of] the innovation in building a little space and what you could do. I originally started thinking about the tiny house idea because I was just interested in simplifying life and having a more simple and minimalist lifestyle. That just really appealed to me, as I was getting older and approaching retirement, and this is a way of achieving that." Living Big In A Tiny House Clad with a combination of locally sourced macrocarpa timber and black metal siding, Mark's steel-framed home measures 8 feet wide by 24 feet long, and 14 feet high. There is an additional storage 'shed' located over the trailer tongue, as well as an easy-to-disassemble outdoor deck made with three modular sections. One of the biggest expenses of building the home was the extensive solar panel system, which cost about $17,000 to purchase and install. However, this system is robust enough that Mark can run most of his appliances simultaneously without issues. Living Big In A Tiny House Upon entering inside, we come into the main living space, where the high ceilings provides a sense of openness that isn't possible with conventional RVs. Living Big In A Tiny House Mark has chosen a mix of various timbers—eucalyptus wood floors, Japanese cedar ceilings, white shiplap walls, birch plywood cabinetry, bamboo counters—to create a modern yet warm space that is further personalized with touches like Mark's fly fishing equipment and other mementos. Living Big In A Tiny House For seating and for the occasional overnight guest, Mark has created a convertible sofa-bed that also integrates storage underneath, and which can easily turn into a bed whenever necessary. The home is well-insulated under its walls, and all Mark needs is a compact Wagener Sparky wood stove to heat the home. Living Big In A Tiny House The kitchen is the star of the show: here, Mark has put a lot of design thought into constructing a beautiful yet functional area. There is a full-size sink, a compact dishwasher drawer, stove and oven, an apartment-sized refrigerator, and lots of storage space in the cabinets and drawers. Living Big In A Tiny House There is a breakfast bar that Mark can use to eat on, watch movies, or work from, using a laptop or the big flatscreen monitor that is hung from the sleeping loft. Living Big In A Tiny House A good portion of the kitchen storage can also be found integrated into the staircase. Perhaps the most ingenious part of the design is Mark's coffee bar and coffee drawer, which conveniently pulls out on their own drawer slides, eliminating the need to dig around at the back. Living Big In A Tiny House In addition, there's a hidden under-floor storage cabinet here that makes the most of the leftover space between the trailer axles. Living Big In A Tiny House Upstairs, the sleeping loft feels cozy but well-ventilated, thanks to the four operable windows. Living Big In A Tiny House As Mark explains, the wardrobe shelving at the foot of the bed is removable, so that the bed can be installed first. Living Big In A Tiny House Underneath the sleeping loft, we have a relatively huge bathroom behind the pocket door, thanks to Mark's clever placement of the washing machine in the built-out nook and "shed" over the trailer tongue. In doing so, he creates more space in the bathroom, which already has a composting toilet, a sink and vanity, and a substantial shower stall in one corner. The walls are covered with fully waterproof panels, which are easy to clean. Living Big In A Tiny House In total, Mark's self-constructed home cost about $69,000 to build, including the cost of the solar power system. Mark adds that his tiny house journey has taught him a lot: "It just teaches you that you don't need too much in life. I mean, that's the main thing in this whole downsizing lifestyle, that's what a lot of it's about. So for me, my life's changed a lot, because I was living in conventional, bigger-sized home and had a busy lifestyle, and now since I've downsized, it's just simplified things so much. I've got less expenditures, it's a cheap lifestyle, and living out rurally, which I enjoy."