Arts & Culture » Space

Tiny-house living has pros and cons

Elgin couple Alex and Korie Veidel are part of the growing movement of people seeking simplicity in close quarters.

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Comedian John Mulaney has a funny bit about the typical house-hunting couple on HGTV (which he delivers in his smarmiest HGTV voice-over voice): "Craig and Stacia are looking for a two-story A-frame that's near Craig's job in 'the downtown' but also satisfies Stacia's need to be near the beach—which is nowhere near Craig's job! With three children, and nine on the way, and a max budget of seven dollars, let's see what Lori Jo can do . . . on this week's episode of You Don't Deserve a Beach House!"

When they were married two years ago, Elgin couple Alex and Korie Veidel had no intention of embarking on some unrealistic, high-maintenance house hunt replete with the stereotypical Craig-and-Stacia-style arguments over closet size and where to put the "man cave." They had other concerns—like not falling into financial ruin.

"We wanted to pay off debt and not accrue more debt," says Korie, 26, a former high school English teacher and now stay-at-home mom to their one-year-old son Abel. "Tiny-house living seemed like a good way to do that."

KERRI PANG
  • Kerri Pang

Typically constructed on a trailer with wheels instead of a foundation, tiny houses are part of a growing movement in which people seek to live simply in small quarters (around 500 square feet or less).

Korie and Alex, 23, a metal machinist and aquaponics enthusiast, did their research and came up with a list of specs for their first home together: "We wanted it to be not too big or too small," Alex says. "But mostly not too big."

"We also wanted a tall roof," Korie adds, "not the real steeply pitched roofs [common to tiny homes], but something more flat."

Other priorities: a king-size loft, a full-size couch for comfortable seating on the main floor, and a house that was built over the wheel wells, affording additional space.

They found the diminutive dwelling of their dreams on tinyhouselistings.com. A woman in California had built the 144-square-foot home herself, then decided it was too small for her. They purchased it, sight unseen, using their life savings, then hired someone to ship it from the west coast to Chicago's western suburbs. "Thank God it all worked out!" Korie says.

KERRI PANG
  • Kerri Pang

Tucked into a grove of trees at the edge of Alex's parents' property in Elgin, the tiny, portable house is parked adjacent to a chicken coop and not far from a small gardening shed. From a distance, it almost looks as if it's part of some kind of tiny village.

Inside are all the hallmarks of a cozy, well-equipped home: framed art and family photos, brightly colored throw pillows, a wall-mounted TV, Abel's playpen. In addition to a sleeping loft with windows, there's a meticulously organized L-shaped kitchen and a bathroom with a composting toilet constructed by Alex.

In fact, the whole of the Veidels' space is supertidy. From the bench with built-in storage to the magnetic spice rack, everything has a place. "And everything goes back in its place every single time," Korie says. "A little bit messy quickly becomes dysfunctional in a tiny house!"

KERRI PANG
  • Kerri Pang

They don't plan to live in such close quarters forever; in fact, the current plan is to transition into a small one-bedroom apartment to allow more space for their growing family. But they've enjoyed being de facto ambassadors of the now-trending lifestyle (even, incidentally, appearing on an episode of an episode of HGTV's Tiny House Hunters).

They neither sugarcoat or sensationalize their experiences. "People have really high expectations of you as a tiny-house owner, especially if they want to live in one themselves," Alex says. "They need your life to validate their dreams."

"[They] ask, 'What's the most remarkable thing about living in a tiny house?'" Korie says. "And I'll say the most remarkable thing is just how unremarkable it is."  v

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