Bay Area

Tiny House Rises From East Bay Parking Lot

In a time of rampant building and tech-money monster mansions in the Bay Area, the wee house under construction across a couple parking stalls in a Walnut Creek office complex seemed about the size of a millionaire’s tool shed.

Instead, the tiny structure-in-the-making was the subject of an upcoming edition of the show Tiny House Nation, and the future home for Robert Smith III and his girlfriend Yvonne Blanchard.

“It’s an eight by twenty-four, fully functioning single family home,” said contractor Hunter Miley, whose company Total Property Solutions was hired by the show to build the house.

Inside the parking lot outside Miley’s office, a team of workers was racing to finish the home’s exterior in time for the pending arrival of the show’s camera crew. Miley said the entire build would take about 12 days with his crew putting in 16 hour days.

The roughly 200 square foot home might’ve been short on space - but it was filled with the staples of a regular home; a kitchen, living room and bathroom — with a couple bedrooms upstairs. The house was built on a trailer which its new owners planned to haul to a friend’s property in Livermore.

“There’s a lot more of a thought that has to go into how you utilize space,” said Miley who previously helped build another small home for Tiny House Nation.

Smith said the idea to apply to the show followed the death of his father in a motorcycle accident. Smith III and his sisters were forced to sell the family home — subjecting himself to the Bay Area’s skyrocketing rents. He said he and Blanchard were paying $2300 a month for an apartment only slightly bigger than his new small home.

“It’s freedom really,” said Smith III, who paid about $45,000 for the house. “It’s becoming more financially free.”

Blanchard and Smith visited the construction site for the first time last week. Miley gave them a tour of the small wood-framed house — which was essentially accomplished the second they stepped inside. Blanchard said the smaller than normal accommodations would force the couple to pare down their belongings.

“I have to get rid of a lot of my clothes and some of my shoes,” Blanchard said, adding that the loss of stuff was worth the gain of home ownership.

“It comes down to do you want to own a lot of stuff?” asked Smith III. “Do you want to keep working to pay for all of that stuff? Do you even use all the space in your house.”

Despite the home’s less-than-generous proportion, it included a rooftop patio and a guest bedroom. Miley said it’s an example of a national trend of downsizing.

“We just live in this big expanse,” Miley said. “The bigger the house, the more stuff you get.”

Smith III said the beauty of the trailer-mounted house, is that it could eventually be relocated to other areas with minimal fuss. He said without a big monthly rent, he hoped to take some time off work to mourn his dad’s recent death. As for the small footprint of his house — he said there are other tangible benefits.

“We’re not going to lose things as easily,” Smith III said. “There’s only three counter-tops it could be on.”

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