By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
The tiny house movement isn’t foreign to Missoula, but it’s not every day that an open house takes place at a tiny home near you.
Max Hewes and Nick Nelson with Hayseed Homes in Victor brought their 192-square foot house to Missoula recently to showcase the perks of downsizing. Bigger isn’t always better, they say, and in a city where home prices continue to climb, they’ve developed a solution to affordability.
“We go around the Northwest and build small houses out of reclaimed materials,” said Hewes. “This is the first one we built. We designed it ourself. The other ones were all commissions, but this is the first one where we totally got to make it up.”
Hewes and Nelson are two of several Hayseed team members who belong to the Cascadia Community Builders Cooperative. The members bring unique talents to the upstart operation, from reclamation and deconstruction to carpentry and design.
“We’re based in Victor and we’re hoping to stay in Victor,” said Hewes. “All the materials are local. It all came from Home ReSource and Heritage Timber, so hopefully it will stay right around here.”
Seated in the back of a truck recently, the two considered their latest design. The project represents their third tiny home, one that took 1,500 hours to complete.
With a covered porch measuring 24 square feet, the home offers a total of 216 square feet of living space. The structure rises to a gambled roof and the exterior is covered in wood reclaimed from a century-old abandoned blacksmith shop in the Bitterroot Valley.
Nelson said the team worked with Heritage Timber of Missoula to deconstruct the old shop and reclaim every piece of reusable wood. Reducing waste is one of the team’s mantras.
“In new construction, everything has to be brand new and it’s really material intensive,” said Nelson. “This is almost entirely reused materials. In new construction, you get dumpster after dumpster of waste. With this, we had basically the back of the truck with the topper on it.”
While the exterior offers a rustic charm, the real surprises wait inside. The siding is finished with tongue-and-groove pine salvaged by Heritage Timber and restored by the Hayseed team. The cabinets they found at Home ReSource in Missoula and Habitat for Humanity in Hamilton.
The sleeping quarters sit in the loft accessed by an iron ladder mounted outside the bathroom. The kitchen comes complete with a stove and refrigerator, and while the quarters are small, the space is completely functional, fitting the tiny-home philosophy.
“It’s moving away from a life of clutter and moving into a life where you have what you need and chase your dreams in other ways,” said Nelsen. “You have space you use in your house, and if you don’t use the space it just fills up with stuff. Here, you have a nice big kitchen, a nice big bathroom and a nice big bedroom. What more do you really need?”
Hewes described the project as labor intensive, one that involves careful design to make good use of space. New materials were used during construction, he noted, including the roofing and the bamboo flooring.
The electrical components are also new, along with the plumbing, though the toilet and kitchen sink were also salvaged from Home ReSource and restored to a like-new finish. The structure sits on a towable trailer and meets state codes dictating heights.
“This couldn’t be the only house on a (city) lot, but as an RV, it’s not considered a permanent structure,” said Hewes. “If you already had a house on the lot, you can put this on the lot and park it as a camper, so it’s not going to bring up your property taxes. It’s built as an RV. It plugs in. You run a hose to it, and it has a sub-panel, so you just run a cord to it and you have a functional house.”
Hewes said Hayseed found its roots in Humboldt County, California, near Arcadia. Home to Humboldt State University, the region faces housing issues similar to those in Missoula, though they believe their new product offers a solution.
“There’s not enough housing – and it’s always getting more and more expensive,” said Hewes. “We thought any college town really has a great potential for this. You can buy this and put it in your yard and rent it to college students and it would never be empty.”