There are many doubts about the suitability of families living in tiny homes, many of which are smaller than 300 square feet. However, we know it can and has been done, and for many of these families, the benefits of living with less in a smaller space seems to outweigh the potential difficulties.
While we hear often enough about nuclear families plunging into tiny house living, it's not that frequent we hear about intergenerational families living in a tiny home. But that's what Candice Ding, who moved to a rural area outside of Seattle, Washington 14 years ago, did by building a tiny house for herself and her mother, Baoying, to live in when the senior's apartment they'd applied for had fallen through. In Chinese culture, as in many other Asian cultures, it is not uncommon for grown children to live with and take care of their elderly parents.
For Ding, her handbuilt tiny home was a way to live affordably, while enabling her to take care of her mother. In an interview with Unlikely Lives, Ding describes how she designed and built her tiny house, which was based off a Fencl plan:
I’m thinking, “Oh, I like to knit. Oh, I like my cat. So I need to find a place I can knit, and also my cat can be with me… I’m just trying to collect everything that makes me happy. Everything! Like the pushable skylight. That’s how I started in my construction… I need to have a stove. I need to have a skylight. I want to have a movie screen. I want to have this, I want to have that.
When people talk about tiny houses, it’s about downsizing, it’s about getting rid of stuff. But me, it was about adding stuff, just collecting everything I like and cramming it into the house. Couple things I couldn’t cram in, I had to let it go. And the rest is what you see. So that’s how I designed this. I just made a list of everything that makes me happy, and then tried to find room for it.
Other interesting modifications include the fenced off balcony area, where Ding's cat can go outside. Ding also changed other parts of the Fencl plan to suit her needs: a steeper angle on the roof, an alternating stair instead of a ladder, a second bedroom and the operable skylight. Of course, there's Ding's large projection screen, used for entertaining.
Ding's tiny house has a sleeping loft with the large skylight, great for watching the heavens. That's where her mother -- who moved here from China where she was living in a 1,200-square-foot condominium -- sleeps. Ding sleeps in a smaller bedroom off the kitchen, and says that while her mother isn't as enthusiastic about the tiny house as she is, her mother is gradually warming up to it, even missing it when she went back to China for a visit.
What is most interesting is even the older generation is now seeing some benefits of living in such a way. Ding translates what her mother's thoughts are on the subject:
Momma say, in China, we think [that living in larger homes], “This is normal, this is way life should be.” Now my mom come back and she compared [the tiny house with the concrete housing typical in her area in China]. She said putting people in these concrete blocks is not a good life.
Now she thinks the advantage a tiny house has that a big house doesn’t have is, number one, you can move your tiny house. Second, we should take less from the earth. Instead of building bigger and more and bigger and more, we should appreciate nature, and try to take less. She thinks a tiny house can contribute in that kind of way.
It's a lovely story that shows how family bonds can be strengthened and evolve in such an unlikely way. Read the rest of the interview over at Unlikely Lives (it's part of their e-book "Life In A Tiny House") and check out Candice Ding's site on her home, Little Tiny House.