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Tiny House

Issue 6IssuesNatureNature Issue 6Sustainability

“Drive up the laneway, past the barn on the right, keep driving up the laneway and you’ll see parking on the left. Walk back across the laneway and you’ll see the tiny house—that’s us!”

Carly Ellah outside of her tiny home

The directions that Carly Ellah gives to get to her tiny house, found on a farm outside of Guelph, are about as conventional as the house itself. Tucked away in the trees, thick with leaves, the tiny home that Carly, who used to work for Conservation Halton, shares with her husband, Mitch, is hidden. It isn’t until you’re standing right in front of the tiny house, with it’s front porch, flower beds and laundry line, that it comes into sight.

At about 200 square feet, their tiny home is, well, tiny, but, it doesn’t feel as small as most would assume. On the first floor, there is a kitchen and a table for eating, a living area with a couch and a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower—the largest shower that Carly has ever had, she says. The upstairs is set up like a loft, with a bedroom at one end of the house and a storage area, which they plan on turning into another bedroom, at the other.

“We never feel that it’s not enough space,” Carly says. “It’s a perfect amount of space for the two of us.”

What the tiny house lacks in space, it makes up for in storage—in the couch, in the ceiling, under the stairs and under the deck. There is also a small shed behind the house, which Carly and Mitch use to store their outdoor gear. Even with so much storage, Carly and Mitch did need to do some purging when they moved into the house about a year ago and there is still some purging to be done but, Carly says, it hasn’t been as hard as she thought it would be.

“One thing we noticed is that, when you start figuring out what you do need and what you don’t need, you don’t remember any of the stuff you got rid of,” Carly says.

Living with less is one of the ways that tiny houses are better for the environment but there are other ways that Carly and Mitch made their house more sustainable. The lights, the fridge and the other appliances and electronics in the house are powered using solar panels that they have set up. The water heater, the space heater and the stove use propane but, in an effort to reduce their use of propane, they bought a small wood burning stove to heat their tiny house in the winter.

“We always had sustainability in mind when we were building the house and we tried to use as much reclaimed material as we could,” Carly says.

The floor is made of the wood from old palettes, some of which were found on the side of the road, and most of the other features of the house, including all the windows, doors, sinks, faucets, fridge, stove and shower, were purchased used. Carly and Mitch spent about one year designing the house, preparing the construction plans and collecting the materials and then spent another year building it. They chose to build the house on their own because it was much cheaper than hiring a company to build it and paying for brand new materials. Building the house on their own also enabled them to make the choices that they felt were most sustainable.

“Tiny houses are more sustainable than most homes because it is a smaller space but it’s not the house alone that is more sustainable,” Carly says. “It also has a lot to do with the lifestyle that goes with the house.”

Carly and her husband have a garden, not far from the house, where they grow their own vegetables, and they store most of what they grow to eat through the winter. They even have their own chickens and are looking to get their own bees.

“We have adapted to the lifestyle of the tiny house, which is the lifestyle we always wanted anyway,” Carly says.

Those who want to live the tiny house life and build one of their own should be prepared to do some serious due diligence. Each of the municipalities in Ontario uses the Canadian Building Code to create their own rules and regulations but they are able to make amendments. This means that the rules and regulations around tiny houses in one municipality can be much different than in another municipality. In some municipalities, a tiny house in considered a temporary dwelling, like a trailer, which means that you can put a tiny house anywhere that you would be able to park a trailer. In other municipalities, the land that a trailer or a tiny home is parked on can’t be vacant, which is why many tiny houses are build on farms and in backyards—land that already has a permanent dwelling on it.

“Make sure you do a lot of research, find a property to park on before you start building and, if you plan to build it yourself, be prepared to work hard,” she says. “It’s a lot of hard work but it pays off in so many ways. We love our life.”

  • Inside the Tiny Home of Carly and Mitch Hoey.
  • Mitch watering the garden.
  • Vegetables from the garden.
  • Carly tending to her chickens.
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Last modified: September 19, 2017

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