The Tiny House Is Finding a Home

Cabinscape puts their tiny houses on the radar.

Mica interior looking toward bed
Mica interior looking toward bed. Cabinscape

There was always something idyllic and romantic about tiny houses; they were a little place of one's own, theoretically affordable, and mobile. I fell hard for them and tried to make a business out of them, but all the people who wanted to buy my MiniHome quickly found that they had nowhere to put it. Although the codes and the rules in many places have changed to make them legal, this remains a problem; most tiny homes are all dressed up with no place to go.

Mica view from kitchen
Mica view from kitchen. Cabinscape 

This is why I am so intrigued and impressed with Cabinscape, a Canadian company with a number of cabins scattered around Ontario. These all have a place to go, beautiful properties with great views, "custom designed, low impact and ecologically sound tiny cabin rentals for intimate wilderness escapes."

Mica Exterior view
Mica Exterior view. Cabinscape 

Because they are on wheels, they can be towed in and then placed on proper foundations with lovely decks. Because they are tiny, it becomes much easier to be off-grid; not much electricity is needed to run a few LED lights and a fan in the composting toilet. Because they are vacation rentals, there is no need for big fridges and appliances. All these attributes of tiny homes make it possible for Cabinscape to use properties that would be far more expensive to develop conventionally, if they could be developed at all.

Many people who are interested in tiny houses don't mind a bit of a hike, are willing to squeeze into a small space, and are less likely to balk at a composting toilet, even a Separett urine-diverting one which takes a bit of getting used to, especially for men who have to sit down to pee. But putting in a conventional toilet would require a full septic and water system; under Ontario regulations, greywater from the sink can go into and approved pit in the ground.

Mica bar view
View of the bar and kitchen from exterior.  Cabinscape

And the designs! They are lovely, really well thought out. I was immediately impressed with the Mica Cabin which I first saw on Tiny House Talk, It packs a lot into just 20 feet. Of course, it helps to have such a glorious site; guests will likely be spending most of their time outside. They have a few intriguing idiosyncrasies; I am usually not a fan of glass garage doors as windows, they often rattle and don't seal very well. But I love it here, it just opens it all up and makes the exterior extension work like a dining room table. There is a fold-down table inside too.

A bed! Not up in a head-banger loft!
A bed! Not up in a head-banger loft!.  Cabinscape

While there is a head-banger loft accessible by a ladder, a good chunk of main floor space is used up by a double bed. This is perhaps the toughest design decision in a tiny house, but lofts are really problematic. In my MiniHome you would fry up in the loft on a summer night; even with lots of windows, there was not enough air movement through the screens, and if you removed the screens you got eaten alive by mosquitoes. Ladders are tough to negotiate at night, and if you are operating this for guests, it's nice not to have them falling out of lofts. The designer has to sacrifice places to sit or dine, but again, if the weather is nice guests might well be outside. For a couple of nights, there is enough space, and it's the right choice.

Mica view toward sitting area
Mica view toward sitting area. Cabinscape 

Hot water, heat, and cooking are done with propane; it just takes too much energy for a solar system to handle at a reasonable cost. I am not fond of this from an environmental point of view, but a tiny house uses a tiny bit of the stuff, and it makes it all possible and affordable. Off-grid electrical systems still require care and management; Cabinscape tells its guests:

As an off-grid, solar-powered cabin, energy conservation is key. Please turn off lights when not in use, especially when you are outside of the cabin. Drawing too much energy may cause you to lose power, so please be mindful of your consumption.
Mica deck
Mica deck and view. Cabinscape 

So I ask again, as I do every time I write about these things: Do tiny houses make any sense? Cabinscape shows how they can. The Tiny House concept is perfect for being pulled in to remote off-grid locations. The Tiny House audience finds the small spaces to be a feature, not a bug. The hardest truth of the whole tiny house movement is that you can't separate the concept of the tiny house from the land where it's parked, and wow, have they found land.

In the 20 years since I started working in and watching the tiny house scene, I do not think I have ever seen anyone put it all together so well. See them all at Cabinscape. Tiny House Talk did a lovely tour: