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BranchHill Tiny Home

A Tiny Home for a Perfect Retirement

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Mar 1, 2019

The economic and ecological benefits of tiny homes appeal to many different people from all different walks of life. RISE recently sat down to talk with David Hill, an (almost) 65-year-old retired marketing and fund-raising executive who recently built a beautiful tiny home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeast Alabama. Below, we share some of his insights on how his transition into a tiny house in a beautiful rural setting has made for a perfect retirement home.

BranchHill Tiny Home
Photo Courtesy of David Hill

A Quick Profile of BranchHill Tiny Home 

David’s tiny homestead is called BranchHill. The house is 28 feet long by 8.5 feet wide. Since he was looking for a place to settle down for retirement where he could spend time writing, he decided to put the home on a foundation, which allowed him to raise the ceiling height to 15 feet. The 273 square feet of the home thus feels much larger, due to the 168 square foot sleeping loft that rivals any master bedroom. While many tiny homes have relatively small sleeping lofts, David’s upstairs bedroom is surrounded by high-performance windows that look out into the surrounding woods. The beautiful solid wood flooring and ceiling panels along with the large windows combine to form a biophilic design that connects the house to its beautiful natural surroundings. A large outdoor patio increases the livable space of the home while creating a seamless transition to outdoor living.

tiny home deck
Photo Courtesy of David Hill

Q&A

Why did you come to decide that a tiny home was a housing alternative for your retirement?

I had followed the development of tiny homes for almost 20 years; when Jay Shafer built an 112-square-foot home and traveled with it across the country, introducing what is now called the tiny home movement. Always having lived compact, even in large homes, my gut said that I would be happy with a tiny home. Those years of following the movement—and its development completely online—a took a fortuitous turn when I returned to my Northeast Alabama high school class reunion. Timbercraft Tiny Homes was located in an adjoining town. I visited its location, met owner Doug Schroeder, and walked into my first tiny home. I was "at home."

Fast forward four months—it was over two years into my retirement—and the plan was set: Timbercraft would build me a tiny home and I would settle back near my hometown. Doug responded to my list of "requirements to do this thing" unflinchingly. Family heirlooms were to fill the house with my life and my memories. Doug's first design of that accommodation is the one I am living in now.

It is a 273 square foot cabin-of-a-home, exemplifying the quality of craftsmanship and attention to detail that I think makes Timbercraft an exceptional company to work with. Doug and his fine team built me home, yes; but more, this home—now that it is settled on three wooded acres backed up by a creek—visibly demonstrates an aspirational lifestyle.

tiny home driveway
Photo Courtesy of David Hill

How many people share the 273 square feet of your tiny home?

“BranchHill,” the name of my house and retreat, is my retirement dream come true. While I live there alone—which was my want, since I am a writer—adding a daybed to the main floor means that having company—which turns out to be often—is easy.

tiny home office
Photo Courtesy of David Hill

Have there been any challenges that come with transitioning into a tiny home?

Downsizing was not a challenge for me, but finding out, over time, that I need even less than I thought when I moved into the house has been a boon! Some folks might worry that you can feel closed in by a tiny house’s size; I took care of that by having 15-foot ceilings and 20 windows in the 28-foot space. At times, living at BranchHill feels like a cocoon (or a porch), given the natural light and its warmth; it also stays cool, because Timbercraft Homes are exquisitely insulated.

Do you have a favorite part of your home?

Its’ size. A lifelong friend, when I first told her of the project, said: “I am so glad you are doing this, David. You talked about a cabin in the woods when we were teenagers.” Also, my necessary customizations, and Timbercraft’s team’s ability to design the house around them. My antique oak roll top desk and soaring 12-foot book shelves surrounding it are the biggest single feature, but designing room for family antiques and hand-wrought pieces—not to mention using antique wood from a family friend’s long-ago-deconstructed farmhouse on the open kitchen shelving and handmade items from family members—makes BranchHill one big hug. I wanted my home to feel like a cabin, but not to be “rough-hewn.”

tiny home wainter
Photo Courtesy of David Hill

Anything you miss from living in a “regular size” home?

For me, since I clearly have the mindset (which I think it takes) to live small/tiny, never having to wonder where something is, makes life simpler. Deciding what to let go of has proven to be a benefit, rather than an issue. An example: I love to bake. My kitchen has what would be a counter-top oven in a regular-sized home. There is only one baking container that will not fit in the oven, and it was one I might use a couple of times a year. Shrug: I just won’t bake that anymore. My 12-cup Bundt pans turn out spectacular pound cakes, cookies are a breeze when I use the convection settings, and pies: from Southern classics (chess, buttermilk, custard) to fresh fruit, “mile high” pies, I can bake them all!

Did you have any financial problems getting financing for your tiny home?

For me it was easy to purchase a tiny home; it was not unlike purchasing a luxury vehicle of some sort. I used tiny living advocates online to help me find insurers in Alabama. Since I chose to have my house built without wheels and on a foundation, finding a property on which to settle the cabin was crucial. Timbercraft provided every service along the way: building the foundation, having the house transported, and tying it down (with multiple stabilizers buried six-feet-deep). 

What advice could you offer to people interested in living in a tiny home?

  1. Make sure you have the mindset to live small. No matter how much online searching you do to find your dream home, visit a builder and go inside! I had no idea if my over-six-foot frame would feel comfortable until I walked in my first tiny house.
  2. Location, location, location. I chose to have my home permanently settled, so property had to be found. Even that proved hit-or-miss until I ditched a realtor, sad to say. Until the rest of the world catches up to the benefits of living small, most residential properties have a minimum size and building restrictions. (My desire for woods, water, and the mountains, placed me well “off-grid” with those restrictions. If you plan to live on the road/travel and have not done so before, finding where tiny homes are accepted is crucial. I have heard that it can be tough.) 
  3. Start looking for home insurers early. Again, using online tiny living advocates is great. They are a simple online search away!
  4. Once you have chosen the home that you will live in, start imagining yourself inside, think of your day-to-day activities, and consider what you will need—and what you can let go of—to be content. In our fractious economy, non-profit thrift stores and their customers can benefit from what you no longer need. Plus, if you choose, you can get a tax deduction.

Anything else you would like to add? 

This is just my take on all of the tiny home construction shows on television: while all of the extravagant bells and whistles that you see in these homes might be appealing, consider how they might “live” a few months or years from now. The fanciest things we included in BranchHill included a drop-down table at the end of the ten-foot solid maple kitchen counter, two slipper doors (for the bathroom and the back room that has the daybed), and rollers on the ladder that leads to the sleeping loft—so it can be stored every day out of the way and out of sight. Easy.

The process, for me, was ideal. Finding Timbercraft just months after retiring led the way to what is already, and what should continue to be, a comfortable, easy “third act” of life. I am a lucky, lucky man.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2020-06-18T12:26:45+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.