Emily Gerde and her husband Justin were sick of working overtime to afford their dream home in Prior Lake, so they decided to downsize.
All the way down to 325 square feet.
The Gerdes are part of the tiny house movement: homes between 100-400 square feet, and a simple, efficient and sustainable lifestyle. On TV, shows the movement has inspired include "Tiny House Nation" and HGTV's "Tiny House Big Living."
And the Gerdes will be featured on the May 16 episode of "Tiny House Big Living."
How the Gerdes got into tiny houses
Emily Gerde told BringMeTheNews she was introduced to the tiny house movement by her sister in-law. The two watched tiny house shows on TV, and Gerde said she was inspired to make the switch after the stress of home ownership and work reached a critical point.
"At the time, I was running daycare full-time, raising my newborn and also coaching gymnastics, all of that just to be able to afford the 2,000-square-foot home we were living in," Gerde said. "We were working so much that we could never enjoy the house. One day we realized, 'This isn’t worth it.'”
But who should build it?
Emily's sister-in-law recommended Blaine-based builder Jim Wilkins, after seeing his work featured in a local news segment.
Wilkins founded Tiny Green Cabins in 2007, following rapid downsizing in his part of the construction industry. He got inspired to build them after reading a book about tiny homes, and has spent some time living in one himself.
"When I started the business, there was about 14 tiny house builders nationwide, and now there’s over 200," Wilkins told BringMeTheNews.
And expectations have changed too, he said.
"The challenge comes from trying to pack everything into a tiny house that people want from a large house," Wilkins explained. "The philosophy of the architecture behind tiny houses is that you subtract everything that you don’t need in a big house to get down to what you absolutely need, but that’s changed from 2008-2009 when we started. Now they want all the bells and whistles too, and you have to find storage for a lot of stuff."
The Gerdes' home
Wilkins said Tiny Green Cabins plan to build about seven homes in 2016. Prospective buyers can choose from five pre-made models or opt for a completely custom job.
The Gerdes chose a pre-made model, and Emily Gerde says she worked with Wilkins directly to help design the house around the needs of their family. Wilkins' special touches included in-floor "smuggler" storage and a medicine cabinet for the bathroom that converts into a window.
"Once Jim got the frame up, we started helping right away," Gerde said. "It was just Jim and couple of family friends working together, so it’s a real small family operation."
Then came HGTV
Gerde says she reached out to HGTV about a chance to appear on "Tiny House Big Living" last fall as Wilkins was assembling the frame of the house. The show's producers found the project to be a perfect fit, and sent a crew down to film several times over the course of the house's construction.
"They did about seven weekends, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for filming," Wilkins said of the show's producers. "Then they set up a GoPro for still shots. Every five minutes it would take a picture, so they could see the progress of the build that way. Then they boiled all that down to about 22 minutes somehow."
Emily, Justin and their son moved in on May 8, and she says things are going great so far. Adjusting to the loss of 1,700 square feet hasn't fazed the Gerdes in the slightest. The only problem so far?
"Trying to figure out the appliances," Gerde said laughing, "We haven’t really figured out the washer-dryer combo yet."