You’ve seen them popping up everywhere, tiny homes the size of your mom’s garden shed. Maybe you’ve seen them on a trailer in a parking lot, in transit. Or perhaps your neighbor just put one in his backyard and is renting it out on airbnb.com. It seems like everyone is talking about tiny homes, from major media outlets to gossip over the back fence. What if the American dream of the last 75 years — of bigger yards, bigger mortgages and mini-mansions — is upside down? What if needing less living space equals more personal and financial freedom?
About 350 attendees to the Tiny House Conference will gather this year at the Crown Plaza Resort, April 1 – 3 to discuss this and other topics, such as how to downsize your life, buy land, budget and design small homes, as well as learn about tiny-home building techniques. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet and network with other tiny-home enthusiasts or mentor those who are thinking about getting started.
The conference “began several years ago out of a growing need for a space that tiny home owners could gather as a community,” explains Ryan Mitchell, the event organizer and managing editor of the Charlotte-based lifestyle blog The Tiny Life. The choice to bring the conference to Asheville this year was a natural fit for Mitchell, an alumni of Western Carolina University and UNC Asheville. “I love Asheville, I lived there for five years and tiny houses are very popular in that area. There’s a mentality in Asheville that just aligns with many of the philosophies that we embrace in tiny-house living, like sustainability and environmental sensitivity. Also we try to alternate the conference location each year between the East Coast and West Coast. Last year, we were in Portland, Ore., so this year it’s Asheville.”
Tiny homes are self-contained living spaces that typically run between 150 and 350 square feet. They can be designed for traveling on a tow-behind trailer or built on foundations like more traditional housing. Among their diverse uses, they can be arranged into clusters to form micro-villages as a response to calls for higher urban density and more affordable housing. They can re-invigorate aging mobile home parks or be custom-designed for those who want to live remotely and off the grid. Or they can also be owner-built to fit match the owner’s personality, incorporating recycled materials (for example, a repurposed school bus). Or, in contrast, they can be designed to use state-of-the-art structural insulated panels and incorporate international aesthetics to waste less space, as done by Project Wosho.
Conference organizers plan to have at least eight tiny homes, with their builder/owners onsite, available for tours by attendees during the April 2 session day. Since each house is “as unique as it’s owner” according to Mitchell, attendees will have the chance to ask about specific challenges and solutions to living the tiny lifestyle directly from people who are making it work on a daily basis. Speakers will include tiny-home and -lifestyle experts from all over the country, including local Asheville authors Laura and Matt Lavoie, who write passionately about building and living in their tiny home here on their blog Life in 120 Square Feet.
In addition to two tracks of speaking schedules to choose from, attendees will have the opportunity to attend Tool School, which offers hands-on instruction about all the major power tools you’ll need to build and maintain a tiny home. This session is recommended for first-time builders and is taught by experienced builders.
The conference and the model tiny homes will not be open to the public, however. Registration has closed for this conference, and home tours and speaking events will be available for ticketed attendees only. However, there will be a mixer on Friday night, April 1 at the Crowne Plaza Resort’s hotel lounge from 7 – 8 p.m. that will be open to the public and provide a chance for anyone interested to meet with speakers, builders, designers and other attendees.