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san juan tiny house

The Most Creative Tiny House Ever Built

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Jun 28, 2019

On a national level, Americans now collectively carry $13.29 trillion dollars in debt. That figure most likely results in a lot of sleepless nights and premature graying. In terms of homeownership, the average American household owes well over $180,000 in mortgage debt, while the average household yearly income sits at just under $60,000. While home ownership is widely seen as a solid investment, one analysis finds that foreclosure filings were reported on one out of every 215 homes last year. 

Opting for homes with a smaller square footage can not only reduce a home's environmental impact and carbon footprint; it can also radically diminish (or even eliminate) the burden of mortgage debt. A recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders finds that more than half of all Americans would consider living in a home less than 600 square feet. Among Millennials, the percentage increases to 63 percent.

It’s no surprise that tiny home communities are popping up in nearly every state in the U.S., helping people interested in tiny home living deal with its sometimes complex zoning and building code regulations. In economic terms, tiny house homeowners experience about 55 percent more savings in the bank than the average homeowner. While more than two out of every three tiny house homeowners have absolutely no mortgage debt, the increase in popularity of tiny homes has led to a rising number of financing options and alternatives. 

With tiny homes continuing their ascendant as a housing alternative for everyone from young families to retirees, Greg and Stephanie Parham, owners of Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses, are seeing a boost in business. Their Colorado-based company has a philosophy built on the notion that shelter should be a place of pride and comfort, yet one of simplicity and affordability. 

The San Juan 

Greg Parham says he caught wind of the Tiny House Movement in 2011. After he and Stephanie moved to Colorado, they started their own tiny house company, building each home from scratch. Unlike the owners of other tiny home construction companies, Greg says, he and Stephanie actually live tiny as well. 

tiny house living

At first, Greg, Stephanie, and their two dogs lived in a 16-square-foot model they built in the spring of 2013. “Although it met basic living needs and was dirt cheap for our first two years together,” Greg says, “it was a little cramped for that many occupants. We knew at some point we would design and build a larger tiny house. In between build #1 and #62, we learned a thing or two about tiny house design, and attempted to integrate as many of these lessons into the design goals as possible.” 

rocky mountain tiny house

The result was the San Juan, Greg and Stephanie´s personal tiny house which has traveled more than 5,000 miles to different tiny house festivals across the country. Besides serving as their personal living quarters, the San Juan is a model house they use to showcase their building talent. We asked them a few questions about their home.

reclaimed wood tiny home

You wanted to connect your tiny home to the San Juan Landscape. How did the local landscape influence, inspire, or shape the building of your home?

Stephanie: The reclaimed barn wood ray featured on the front side of the house reflects the vast quantity of sunny days we have here in southwest Colorado. The wave of the roof is symbolic of the waves of the San Juan and Animas rivers. The blues on the back side of the house represent the various hues of the distant mountains at dusk. The inside features a southwest/Native American motif since the native Ute, Southern Ute, and Navajo people remain important in this area. Our counters are made from mesquite, a gorgeous and durable desert wood, and inlaid with Arizona turquoise. The San Juan would likely feel at home in any part of the country, but it was important for us to pay homage to this unique part of the country, where the desert meets the mountains. 

tiny home kitchen

What can you tell us about that beautiful roof?

Stephanie: A curved roof line was appealing to us because we had the time [to create it]. Many people love the idea, but creating a curved roof is labor intensive and expensive. A lot of tiny houses these days are "boxy," and that didn’t suit our taste. 

tiny house roof

Greg: The roof is a good case of form follows function. It is quite common in tiny houses to have a shallow roof over the loft for more headspace, and then have the roof steeper over the other portion to reduce volume, materials, and add style. This is normally accomplished by building a 3/12 dormer over the loft and then transitioning to a steeper 10/12 or so gable over the other parts. Flashing dormers is a nightmare, and very angular, so with the curved roof I could achieve the same effect without all this crazy flashing, while making the transition from steep to shallow very easy on the eyes.

tiny house round window

What reclaimed/recycled materials were incorporated into your home?

Stephanie: Most of the reclaimed materials were used on the exterior siding: the local reclaimed corrugated metal and the barn wood. Even the shakes were left over from older projects, so we were able to put those to use. On the interior, the flooring was milled from 200-plus-year-old elm barn beams, and we also used some antique fixtures. 

tiny home bathtub

What unique, creative storage ideas did you incorporate?

Stephanie: One was finding a unique way to stow our bed in the ceiling and bring it down at night to have a main floor sleeping area. The loft got old for us in the old tiny (home). Other favorites are the dog food storage in the bench for the dining table, the toe kick drawers for important paperwork and warranty items, the pullout pantry, and the drawers for shoes under the platform when you first enter the house. 

tiny home pantry storage

The San Juan is bigger than your previous tiny home. Why? 

Stephanie: Our original tiny was never designed for more than one person. It was Greg’s first ever tiny house: 16’ x 7.5’ compared to now our 26’x 8.5’. Tiny house ideas have come a long way in ingenuity for longevity. When Greg and I were married, we knew we would need a larger home to accommodate two humans and two dogs. We also wanted to build a unique home to advertise our capabilities as a tiny home builder.

tiny home loft

As a family that lives in a tiny home and builds them commercially, what advice do you have for people interested in downsizing into a tiny home?

Stephanie: The biggest thing is to be really picky about your design and your builder. There are a ton of builders out there doing great work, and some not so much. I would also recommend selecting a custom builder over a one-size-fits-all builder. Before moving into a tiny, I recommend first living in a small studio to help with the downsizing process. I also recommend attending tiny home festivals. You get to meet tiny-home dwellers and builders. You can also step inside a tiny and ask a ton of questions!

Living in a tiny home can add so much richness to your life. I love that it allows me to live in an amazing town I couldn’t otherwise afford, and to do more of what I love. It’s not for everyone, but if this is your dream I say, start planning and make it happen.

tiny house moutain
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: 2020-07-14T18:58:22+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.