Family of three builds their own off-grid tiny house in Hawaii (Video)

Stephanie Betsill
© Stephanie Betsill

With real estate prices on the rise, more and more people from various walks of life are seeking alternatives to onerous mortgages or paying high rents just to have a roof over their head. Firefighters, yoga teachers, seniors and families with kids are some of those who are aiming to 'right-size' things and live in smaller, more efficient spaces that are cheaper to build and maintain.

Based out of Hawaii, the Fontanillas are yet another family that's chosen to go tiny. Having grown up in Maui, Zeena and Shane Fontanilla wanted to own their own home after getting engaged, but were leery of taking on loans or enriching a landlord. So in 2015, the couple decided to build their own tiny house homestead, complete with a solar power array and rainwater harvesting system, working nights and weekends over a period of two years. As you can see in this video tour, the final result is absolutely lovely:


tiny home from Zeena Fontanilla on Vimeo.

Zeena FontanillaZeena Fontanilla/via

The 360-square-foot home is built on a 26-foot-long gooseneck trailer that the Fontanillas constructed themselves, as they were unable to find one that fit their needs. The process of building their home, while managing the details of their impending wedding, was an evolutive journey in itself, as Zeena tells Design*Sponge:

My husband grew up in a family of builders so he always had the dream to build his own home. I don’t think he imagined it to be this small, but I think this was the perfect size for our first build together. This project was the best premarital counseling we could’ve asked for. Prior to starting our project I knew many joint decisions would need to be made. ‘Many’ was an understatement, try one billion decisions needed to be made. Let’s just say our communication skills are top notch.

Inside, the 13-foot-tall ceilings are accentuated by the clean palette of colours and materials. The layout was perfected by the couple keeping up-to-date on tiny house design ideas gleaned from television shows and websites. In particular, the home features plenty of windows to bring in sunlight, a well-lit living room, two sleeping lofts (one for the couple, and another for their baby), a galley kitchen and bathroom.

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

We particularly like the baby's loft, which located over the gooseneck and is accessible via a short ladder, and protected with a self-built, patterned wooden partition -- the couple's solution to closing off this space without visually shutting it out from the rest of the home.

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

The galley kitchen has been configured to sit under the master loft, consisting of the larger counter and stove on one side, and the sink and refrigerator on the other. All of the home's appliances were chosen for their energy-efficiency, in order to reduce electricity use.

Zeena FontanillaZeena Fontanilla/via

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

The bathroom, located under the master loft, holds the home's washing machine, plus a shower and composting toilet.

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

Moving up the storage-integrated stairs, one enters the master bedroom, which does have a partial wall and a hinged half-gate to close it off. This space also has Zeena's mini-office, situated in a comfy corner outfitted with pillows and rugs.

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

Here's the family's 3,200-gallon water catchment system, which they built themselves. The solar array in the back has photovoltaics mounted on a custom adjustable rack which can be moved as the sun's path changes during the seasons.

Stephanie Betsill© Stephanie Betsill

Talia Decoite© Talia Decoite

In total, the couple spent about USD $45,000 to build their home (compared with local home prices that average $500,000), with the house sitting on land that's rented from a family friend. To find out more about their build, or to follow the family's tiny house journey, visit the Fontanillas and on Instagram.

Family of three builds their own off-grid tiny house in Hawaii (Video)
This family's self-built tiny house is part of a small off-grid homestead out in Maui.

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