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article imageOffbeat Artist: The Man With Big Dreams to Build Tiny Homes

By David Silverberg     Jun 24, 2008 in Lifestyle
Could you live in a house under 100 square feet? How about going luxurious with a 774-square-foot home costing $154,000? Architect Jay Shafer designs tiny homes for people who only want the basics out of their living space.
Digital Journal — Jay Shafer lives in a 96-square-foot home in Sebastopol, Calif. It looks like the butt end of another house, and comes complete with a double-burner cooktop and two-person loft. His entire bathroom moonlights as a shower stall. His kitchen table is folded under his desk, saving even more space.
Shafer enjoys living in homes smaller than most people’s closets and he’s built a company founded on the principle that tiny is beautiful.
Shafer, 42, designs houses ranging from 65 to 774 square feet, compared to the average U.S. home size of 2,400 square feet. His company, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, has built 120 houses since 1997. Tumbleweed follows Shafer’s own philosophy: all you need are bare necessities.
Tiny Home
Designer Jay Shafer designs and builds small homes for people. This is 96 square-foot residence.
Photo courtesy Jay Shafer
“The only style considerations building our homes is function,” Shafer tells in an interview. “We take out all the things you don’t use often. We take away the frivolous extras.”
Who would’ve thought that a dining room is frivolous? It’s one of the first rooms Shafer cuts from the blueprint. People use the dining room only several times a year, Shafer says, and it’s more economical to eat in the kitchen. “I don’t like the formality of a dining room,” he adds.
Shafer also gets rid of “transitional areas” such as stairwells and long hallways, which he views as inefficient and wasteful. He doesn’t include a washer and dryer in his designs because he thinks more home owners should “outsource” certain activities, like visiting a Laundromat.
Tiny Home
Designer Jay Shafer designs and builds small homes for people.
Photo courtesy Jay Shafer
Tumbleweed’s little homes range in price from $36,000 (65 square feet) to $154,000 (774 square feet). A mid-range home, at 117 square feet, is priced at $47,000.
Customers vary from newlyweds to 80-year-old retirees, Shafer says. They want a tiny home for one of three reasons, he’s noticed: an addition to their current regularly sized residence, perhaps as an artist’s studio; a vacation cottage near some water or mountain ranges; or as a full-time home to enjoy the simple life. Walden would be proud.
The motivation to downsize your living space can free up time to enjoy other activities, he notes. Instead of worrying about cleaning all those extraneous rooms, and paying to heat a large house, you can spend money on yourself instead of your home, Shafer says.
But what about families who might want a smaller home? Tumbleweed designs larger houses to suit those needs, Shafer says. The 774-sq.ft home has added bedrooms, for instance, and a large front deck. There is no one size that fits everyone, Shafer is quick to point out.
Tiny Home
The loft in Jay Shafer's home is big enough to sleep two. Shafer's home is only 96 square-feet.
Photo courtesy Jay Shafer
Shafer said he’s getting married soon but it seems unlikely two people can fit comfortably in his Lilliputian abode. He’s got it all figured out. “She has her own 450-square-foot home in the orchard behind my own house,” he declares, “and I’m fine with that. It’s great to have our private space.”

A tour of Jay Shafer's tiny home

Offbeat Artist Series

This is the last profile in a four-part series on unique talents who are rattling the artistic cage. Every day, readers learned about a new rebel artist. See below for the other artists in the series.
Other Offbeat Artists:
- Phil Toledano, photographing the faces of phone sex: Ever wondered who makes a living being a phone sex operator? In an intimate photo book, Phil Toledano captures the people behind sensual fantasies.
- Jason Kronenwald, bubble gum portrait maker: Jason Kronenwald sculpts portraits of blonde celebrities using gum...and only gum.
- Arvind Narale, the master of topsy-turvy art: It's hard enough to create beautiful drawings. But Arvind Narale stretches the craft by creating two images in one portrait.
More about Shafer, Tumbleweed, Home
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