The tiny houses are coming!

Laura & Matt Lavoie in front of their tiny home. Photo by Great Dream Photography

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 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.”

The (tiny) house that Laura & Matt Lavoie built.  Photo by  Great Dream Photography
The (tiny) house that Laura & Matt Lavoie built. Photo by
Great Dream Photography

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.


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7 thoughts on “The tiny houses are coming!

  1. James

    Prediction: Five years from now these tiny houses will have depreciated to the point that they will be worth less than half of what people are paying now for them.

    • henry

      Some may. It could also be like cars, some higher end better built more tech savvy models hold their value real well and classic desirable models even grow in value. Then it will also depend on where the tiny home is located. Too many possible variables to say they will lose half their initial cost.

    • Laura M. LaVoie

      Thanks for your comment. It may be interesting to note that both the tiny house and the land you see pictured above are completely paid for – which is an added benefit of reducing expenses by living tiny. We don’t intent to ever sell either, but we’ve already seen the value on the land raise significantly from when we bought it. Of course, we bought it just as the real estate bubble burst in 2007.

      No two tiny homes are different, however, and that means that others will have a vastly different experience than we do.

  2. Q Johnson

    “You’ve seen them popping up everywhere..”

    No, no I haven’t really. Even the HGTV show brands it like such. Where are these homes? They’re not exactly my cup of tea but people are talking about them as if they’re as common as Starbucks.

  3. Jeff Fobes

    AB-Tech students will be participating in the Tool School component of the conference. Here’s the press release from AB Tech:

    WHAT: Tool School for Tiny Home Construction Conference
    WHEN: Friday, April 1, 2016 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
    WHERE: Dogwood Building, Room 180, A-B Tech Main Campus, 340 Victoria Road (behind Bailey Student Services Building)
    WHO: A-B Tech’s Continuing Education, Construction & Sustainability Programs and the Tiny House Conference

    A-B Tech’s Continuing Education and Construction & Sustainability Programs are collaborating to present the first Tool School as part of the Tiny House Conference. Approximately 45 students from the conference are expected to attend in order to learn about the tools used in tiny home construction. Several instructors from Curriculum and Continuing Education will teach students about individual tools and safety at five different stations.

    A-B Tech’s Continuing Education Department also is now offering an affordable class on Tiny Home Construction called Six Building Blocks for Success. Following is the course description from our Spring/Summer Continuing Education Schedule, which was mailed to households and posted on our website last week.

    Tiny Homes: Six Building Blocks for Success:
    This two session introductory course is oriented to
    persons interested in joining the Tiny House movement
    and industry. Whether you are looking at designing a
    product, manufacturing or fabrication of tiny homes,
    six well founded guidelines will be presented to help
    you successfully focus your planning. Topics include:
    the impacts of the residential building codes, residential
    zoning ordinances, sustainability, material selections,
    fabrication methods and lifestyle considerations. This
    class offers a slide presentation with examples for
    discussion. Come prepared by bringing your questions
    and examples of your intentions.
    T, 6/14-6/21, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m, SEF-6453-600WT
    RM 431, Ferguson Ctr. (AHWD), Asheville Campus
    Fees: Course: $49
    The Tiny House Conference included Tool School in its schedule of activities for the East Coast Conference here in Asheville this week:

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