Christopher & Merete's Truly Tiny
Home on the Range

House Tour

Name: Christopher Smith & Merete Mueller
Location: Hartsel, Colorado
Size: 127 square feet
Years lived in: 3 months; Own

Christopher and Merete own a tiny house on some of the most beautiful land in Colorado. One hundred miles southwest of Denver, fifteen minutes down a gravel road just outside Hartsel, sits a 127 square foot home. It's cozy, efficient and costs hardly anything to power, but most importantly: it's theirs. Christopher always wanted to own a home in the mountains but never realized how near the possibility was until he started reading about the "Tiny House Movement".

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A filmmaker and graphic designer (who had never before built anything), Christopher welcomed the challenge of designing and fabricating his very own home from scratch. They gathered inspiration from blogs such as Tiny House Blog, Tumbleweed Houses and Tiny Tack House, among others. Utilizing local salvage yards, thrift stores, a handful of hardware stores and IKEA, the couple was able to build the home for much, much less than a new build or renovation project.

Christopher and Merete spend as much time as they can in their tiny home and hope to someday soon make it their permanent residence. For more information, check out Christopher and Merete's film "TINY", which chronicles the couple's adventures from research to completion, out this summer.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mountain rustic with industrial accents.

Inspiration: The Colorado landscape and the mountains that surround the land. We wanted a space that would constantly invite us outside and remind us of the natural beauty that surrounds it. Being up in the mountains can feel cozy and expansive at the same time, and I think that influenced out design choices.

Favorite Element:

Christopher: I like the trim around the windows and the finish woodworking. I felt like that aspect of building the house that was most creative and cathartic.

Merete: The windows. During the building process, installing the windows instantly transformed the structure from a wooden box to something that actually felt like a house. Since there's a high window-to-wall ratio in the house, the windows are a major design element, each framing a different angle of the landscape that surrounds us, and inviting a bit of the outside world inside. The curtains add color and pattern to the house.

Biggest Challenge:

Christopher: Every step of building the house was a challenge — mostly because I didn't know what the heck I was doing. But I think if I had to choose one part, I think the electrical system was most intimidating.

Merete: Driving the house from the building site in Boulder up to the land here in Hartsel, which is about 125 miles away, was a bit challenging. We didn't move the house until that morning, so we had no idea if it would fall off! Luckily, everything went smoothly. The drive from Boulder to Hartsel usually takes about 2.5 hours, but took us about 8 hours that day, since we were stopping constantly to film shots of driving the house down the highway for our documentary.

What Friends Say: So far our friends have been excited about the tiny house and interested in it. Sometimes they still laugh when we mention the "tiny house" because it's such a strange concept, but we think it really inspired a lot of them to take on their own DIY projects. Summer is a great time to have people over, because everyone can pitch tents.

Biggest Embarrassment:

Christopher: There are dozens of small mistakes that I notice daily. I'm not sure anyone else would ever notice them, but I'm embarrassed nonetheless.

Merete: We really tried to use reclaimed materials as much as possible in the construction of the house. One of the first things that we bought, long before we knew anything about building, were 5 of our downstairs windows. The guy at the recycled supply lot told us that the windows we were buying were vertical windows, but it turned out that they were horizontal. We thought that it didn't matter, that we could fit horizontal windows in vertical spaces, but it turns out that it doesn't work that way! Windows leak if you don't install them the way they are intended. So, at the last minute, we had to buy two new windows from Lowes, and patched up one of the window holes with that oddly-shaped triangle window near the kitchen.

Proudest DIY: Um, building a friggin' house!

Biggest Indulgence: The soy-based spray foam insulation was one of the most expensive aspects of the house, but is well worth it. It has a high R-value, which is important up here in the mountains, and the product is also a fire retardant and keeps moisture to a minimum.

Best Advice: If there's any project that you'd like to tackle — anything from building a house to smaller DIY weekend project — just do it! Starting is at least 60% of the battle. Commit and you will finish. Any big project is do-able if you break it down into a series of smaller projects.

Dream Sources: We got a lot of inspiration from looking at photos of other tiny houses, cabins, and house boats. Some of our favorite inspiration sources are:
Tiny House Blog
Tumbleweed Houses
Shelter Pub
Tiny Tack House
Improvised Life

And of course youtube came in handy for all those last-minute building tutorials. The folks at Tiny Revolution have some great ones.

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Resources of Note:

PAINT & COLORS

    • EXT: Sherwin Williams exterior stain,"Blue Shadow"
    • EXT Trim: Behr exterior stain,"Natural Redwood"
    • INT: Blue Stain Pine (a.k.a."Beetle Kill Pine") tongue and groove paneling. Covered in only a thin clear varnish for protection.
    • INT Bathroom: Behr interior paint,"Polar Bear"

ENTRY

GREAT ROOM

    • Reclaimed Hardwood Flooring: Local ReSource Yard
    • Karlstad Loveseat in Korndal dark gray: IKEA
    • Propane Sailboat Heater: Dickinson Marine
    • Desk/Table: Made by Merete using leftover reclaimed hardwood flooring
    • Storage Stools: Target
    • Far Wall and bookshelf: Reclaimed barnwood, Craigslist
    • Main Walls: Blue Stain/ "Beetle Kill"Pine
    • All artwork made by family and friends
    • Storage cabinets: Made by Christopher using leftover panels of Beetle Kill pine
    • The throw blanket on the loveseat was woven by Merete's aunt

KITCHEN

    • Wall Storage, IKEA
    • Magnetic knife rack, IKEA
    • Kitchenware: A combo of IKEA and local thrift stores. We like to mix and match.
    • Alcohol-burning Sailboat Cooking Stove: Cookmate
    • Farkost Track Lighting: IKEA
    • Refrigerator: Avanti AC/DC Superconductor Refridgerator
    • Numerar Countertop, IKEA
    • Curtain: Handmade by Merete. Fabric from Fabricate! Boulder, CO

Sleeping Loft

    • Sultan memory foam mattress IKEA
    • Quilt: Merete's grandmother sewed it by hand. It used to be on the bunkbed that Merete slept in when she visited her grandparents in Maine as a kid.
    • Light, Home Depot
    • Curtain: Handmade by Merete

BATHROOM

    • Composting Toilet: Homemade
    • Shower Basin - Mop Basin
    • Copper Piping Shower Curtain Rod: Materials purchased as local hardware store
    • Light: Home Depot
    • Hardware: IKEA
    • Frack mirror, IKEA
    • Shelf: Reclaimed barnwood
    • Door & Window curtain: Curtain: Handmade by Merete. Fabric from Fabricate! Boulder, CO

OTHER

    • SolMan Portable Solar Generator: Sol Solutions
    • Home was built on an 8'x20' flat-bed trailer
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Thanks, Christopher & Merete!

(Images: Ashley Poskin Portrait: Kevin Hoth)

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Re-edited from a post originally published on 7.16.2012 - AB

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