Big ideas build tiny houses

In a country where bigger is often synonymous with better, homeowners all around the U.S are ditching their not-so-humble abodes for a simpler lifestyle.


Built on a foundation of environmental and financial concerns in the early 2000’s, the Tiny House movement has taken affordable living to a new level.  

Jay Shafer and Greg Johnson set out on a mission to bring simple, affordable housing to Americans under the support of the Small House Society, a company they co-founded in 2002.  Nearly fifteen years later, Tiny Houses can be found all over the world.

While the average size of a Tiny House is merely two hundred sq feet, these simple homes are far from mundane.  The typical house is built with modern amenities like refrigerators and hot showers, and cost between twenty and forty thousand dollars.

These compact cottages can also provide a secure and cost effective alternative for frequent travelers.  Just ask Charlotte, NC resident Ryan Mitchell who discovered Tiny Housing after the economic recession of 2008.

Mitchell documented his journey from office worker to world traveler through the Tiny Life, his blog that features frequently asked questions, advice for fellow builders and pictures of his progress.

“You hear time and time again, ‘If you could do anything, what would you do?’” Mitchell remarked in a recent video post, “the crazy thing is, what’s a thought exercise to most people is now my life.”

Last year the movement built itself a home in Atlanta.  In June of 2015, the Atlanta City Council approved legislation for studies to research the practicality of Tiny House construction throughout the city.  

The overall interest in the movement was obvious to Atlanta Native Will Johnston, who fed the flame and grew his monthly meetup group, Tiny House Atlanta to over one thousand members in a little over a year.  

Meg Bhagat, Will Johnston and Kim Bucciero work together as the heads of Tiny House Atlanta. Photo courtesy of Will Johnston

Johnston quit his corporate job in 2012 before setting out to backpack around New Zealand.  It was there that he was inspired by the minimalist lifestyle he observed throughout his travel and brought it with him back home.

“When I came back to Atlanta, I really liked the idea of not owning anything.”  Johnston said, “I stumbled upon the Tiny House movement, picked it up and just ran with it.”

Fast forward two years, and Johnston’s group is the largest Tiny House division in the nation.  But it’s not all about the building for him.

“I always say, the movement is bigger than just the houses. They’re just the tip of the iceberg.” Johnston said, “There’s this bigger discussion that we need to be having as a society.  Why are we making everything so expensive?”

These days Johnston can be found giving talks around the country detailing his choice to live tiny.  He urges people of all ages to know the possibilities of the simple life.  

“You don’t have to be an expert to make a difference.”  he said.