An Incredible, One-of-a-Kind Expanding Tiny House

updated Apr 14, 2019

An Incredible, One-of-a-Kind Expanding Tiny House

updated Apr 14, 2019
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Name: Chloe Barcelou, Brandon Batchelder and Cosmos (AKA Mr. Nose) the free-roaming rabbit
Location: New Hampshire, USA
Years Lived In: 1 year, owned

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This tiny house doesn’t seem real. Inspired by steamer trunks, caravans and vintage train cars, it took creative couple Chloe Barcelou and Brandon Batchelder two years to build by hand and from scratch. For only $20,000! Even more amazing, this home on wheels expands. As Chloe and Brandon — who run the film, theater and photography set design company B&C Productions — explain, this tiny house isn’t always teeny tiny: “When it’s traveling, we fold in the office wings and collapse the loft. In this mode, the house is: 8 ½ feet wide, 12 ½ feet tall and 18 feet deep. When it’s fully opened, it’s about 15 feet wide, 15 ½ feet tall and, still, 18 feet deep.”

“For us, a tiny house was the solution to a kind of financial equation we had been struggling to solve. To build our careers and our portfolios, we needed time to create and the finances to procure the resources we needed to do so. We were inspired by the tiny house movement. Here were people choosing to live smaller and get outside more; they were traveling, saving money on bills and spending it on living. Their homes were creative and charming, each unique like the handmade homes of colonial days, and — as if this weren’t enough — they were environmentally friendly. We didn’t so much make the decision as the decision made us. It simply made perfect sense,” describe the couple on their website, about how they started down the tiny living path.

(Image credit: Morgan Karanasois)

While the way this home looks is absolutely unique, the fact that it expands makes it one-of-a-kind, as well as a little mind-boggling: “If you’re unfamiliar with pulleys and hoisting setups, our contraption may seem a little complicated, but the way it works is actually pretty simple when you break it down. It’s like lifting up a table by its feet, only we used rope and pulleys to do the lifting. There are four legs, and four pulley setups. Four ropes run along paths to one spool. Turn the ship wheel, and the spool gathers rope. Because the four ropes are gathered on one spool, they gather at the same speed and therefore hoist each leg at the same speed.”

Something interesting to note is that even though the couple have squeezed their lives into a tiny home, they made sure to craft two separate work spaces. Passionate about their careers, they each wanted to have dedicated space to be creative. These are the two spaces that “fold-out” when the home is parked.

The fact that their home is filled to the brim with things to look at might seem at odds with their financial philosophy, but both Chloe and Brandon are wizards at finding and adapting cheap (and free) items into their home. The kitchen is a hodgepodge of cleverly incorporated finds. The detail that makes me laugh the hardest is the shower door window: a Crock-Pot lid found for a $1.

Of course, it wasn’t just about saving money. Saving stuff from landfills was important to the couple when building this home, as well.

“We also care very deeply for the natural world and wish to do everything in our power to help keep it full, healthy and wild. It’s our mission to spare trees, and the ecosystems they create, from being unnecessarily harvested by salvaging discarded wood and other materials whenever possible, reducing not only the carbon cost of processing fresh trees or other raw materials, but the energy needed to process salvageable materials in a landfill.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Resourceful, Eclectic, Bohemian,

Inspiration: Steamer trunks, caravans, old clipper ships, vintage train cars and Tudor-styled timber framing.

Favorite Element: It’s hard to say, because nearly everything in the home is hand-made by Brandon and I, and therefore each item in the house carries special memories. Though, we especially love the “rabbitat”, which is what we call our free-roaming rabbit’s (“Cosmos”. AKA “Mr. Nose“) home in the floor. At an old apartment of ours, Cosmos learned he could sneak through a missing board to enter the cabinetry under the kitchen sink. You’d go to grab a can of soup and there was this big rabbit… Anyway, he seemed to enjoy the space so much, we thought we’d create one for him in the tiny house. It not only creates a safe hiding space for him; it keeps his food and litter box out of sight. He loves it, and it never ceases to be hilarious, watching him go in and out of his own tiny home, like Jerry (of Tom & Jerry).

Biggest Challenge: Aside from simply designing and building our house, we’re always searching for that perfect place to park it: good place, good price, good people. Until we’re ready to buy our own land, we must rent it from others, and it’s tricky finding those who have the right space and the will to lend it.

What Friends Say: I’m sure some of our friends think we’re crazy, but most have had a warm reaction to our house. It’s not for everybody. Some are enchanted and inspired, and others can’t imagine living in such a small space. Our favorite reactions, however, are from the people who truly understand that it wasn’t simply about building a tiny house for us, or adhering to a kind of minimalist dogma; it was about creatively solving our particular problems. When our home inspires others to do the same, to have hope that it’s possible, it’s an amazing feeling.

Biggest Embarrassment: We estimated it would take us four months to build, but, over two years later, we’re still at it.

Proudest DIY: This is the hardest question, because the whole house is DIY. However, we were ecstatic hoisting the roof for the first time. Up to that point, our hoist was a contraption in theory only. It was also very windy, and we didn’t know if the roof would just fly off… When it went up, and we saw how steady it was, and how much more room we gained, it was truly wonderful. We’re also proud to note that our house is made almost entirely out of recycled and salvaged materials. Our timber-framed “beams” for example, are made from 2×4 boards we recycled from a film set Brandon and I built and tore down, after filming was completed.

Biggest Indulgence: For us, space is a huge indulgence. Since our tiny house expands to be nearly twice its size when parked, we get the benefit of high ceilings, and a lot of wall space and opportunity for storage. We use our expanding sides as respective “offices”, so we have a “his and hers” sides. Both of our desks in these spaces are custom, and handmade, and our next DIY project is our office chairs: they need to be reupholstered and get wheels!

Best Advice: Know yourself and build it to your liking and in your own way – rely on your strengths, work around your weaknesses. Don’t expect people to understand and encourage you. If they wanted to build your dream house, they would be you! If you decide this is the right thing for you to do, put on the blinders and do it. Your doubters may come around when you’ve succeeded, but not before.

P.S. Start looking for land immediately.

Dream Sources: Benjamin Moore paints saved the day time and time again, in the artistic process of decorating the tiny house. They’re the only paint company I could find that makes a weatherproof, oil based gold metallic paint. I also used their beautiful “pearlescent” finish on the front door and all of our 18 windows.


Benjamin Moore — Modern Masters Flash Gold

Black rug— Ikea (no longer in stock)

Couch cushion — Handmade, using recycled foam from a renovation. The slipcover is custom made from vintage fabrics I also recycled (they were originally curtains in a film I designed).
Sheepskins — thrifted.
Pillows — The pillows comes from an assortment of places. Most of them have been found at thrift store and yard sales, have been gifted to us by friends & family, or are custom made.
The Moroccan Wedding inspired pillow (rear, right) — HomeGoods.
The Peacock pillow (right, front) — Pier 1 Imports.
The white pillow with Moroccan inspired bedazzlements — Pier 1 Imports
Colorful Crochet Blanket — Anthropologie
Mirrors above couch — Walmart
Curtains in loft — Custom made with fabric bought at Hobby Lobby
Colorful lanterns —
Chandelier — Custom, handmade & one-of-a-kind, bought at local antique center.

Stove — Magic Chef, vintage from the 1950s. Bought off Craigslist.
Countertop — Handmade by Brandon using free, recycled Mahogany cut into strips, then glued and screwed together. The feet of the counter-top are vintage bedpost’s we repurposed (also free) and the sink is handmade from Indonesia (a generous gift from a friend). The three small drawers under the counter-top were also free, salvaged off an old sewing machine.

All cabinetry was recycled and salvaged and cost us a total of $28. The ornate cabinet over the sink was actually a side table we found free off the side of the road. The cabinet over the stove is a bookshelf we turned upside down that we found for $8 at a flea market. All the cabinetry was then given a “color-wash” paint job using Benjamin Moore and Modern Masters paints.

The shelving under the cabinets are an assortment of repurposed materials including wire baskets (which now hold our soaps and sponges above the sink) and a copper drying rack which has been remade into a hanging plate rack.
Our hanging pot rack is made from black pipe.

Bedding — Eileen Fischer
Lace bedspread — vintage, found at an antique store.
Chandelier — Custom, handmade and one-of-a-kind, bought at local antique center.

All books — found on or from local book retailers.
The tall pine tree decorations — from Starbucks. I used to work as a barista, after Christmas these decorations were to be thrown in the dumpster, but I saved them, and now they have a happy spot in the tiny house loft.
The mushroom decorations — handmade by me (Chloe Barcelou)
The leather trunk — Hobby Lobby
The ornate black wooden frame — Hobby Lobby

Bathroom door — a salvaged shutter.
Bathroom towels — Pendleton
All cabinets in bathroom have been found at junk shops, then given a custom paint job by me.
Our on-demand water heater — Maury
Copper sink: handmade from Indonesia, also a gift from a friend.
Curtains — Ikea
Toilet seat — Vintage (very “Free People”, in my opinion!)

Desk and accompanying bookshelf — handmade by Chloe and Brandon
The vanity lights — Home Depot
The small desk chair — vintage, found at a flea market
Rugs — vintage, found at a flea market
Larger “comfy” chair — found at a junk shop (will be reupholstered in the future)
Sheepskin on chair — Ikea
Flower chandelier — found for $5 at a scrap-metal junkyard.
Curtains — thrifted
Flower garland across window — handmade by Chloe, using coffee-paper filters and spray-paint.
Flower lanterns across window — Target (a gift from years ago)
Clothing shelving — all custom made using black pipe and plywood.
Trunks with bras and clothing (next to chair, also known as the “bra box”) — Hobby Lobby

Desk — custom made by Brandon using plywood and black pipe.
Desk chair (authentic, vintage) —f ound at flea market
Large “comfy” chair — found at junk shop
Clothing storage — made from plywood and black pipe
Rugs — vintage, found at flea markets
Curtains — found at a junk shop for $3
Basket from Target — Nate Berkus (no longer in stock)
The two steamer trunks seen in the photos, have been found for free at our local dump’s “swap shed.” Brandon intends to rebuild his clothing storage using these steamer trunks to create a unique “armoire.”

Made from 100% junked scrap metal and the door is made of wood and a CrockPot lid.

Thanks, Chloe and Brandon! You can also check out Chloe’s Facebook page.

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