Watch: Meet the couple who built their own tiny house for £30,000 during lockdown
A couple who built their own small yet functional house for £30,000 during lockdown have become part of the growing 'tiny house' movement in the UK.
Grace Stringer, 26, a gin distillery manager from Worcester and her partner Craig Jukes, 32, a part-time gin distiller/DJ, spent their weekends working on the project with family and a carpenter having decided to construct a house on Stringer's parents' farm.
Having bought the 'shell' of the property, a wooden frame, from Tiny Echo Homes in September last year, the couple spent every weekend for six months designing and building the rest of the house.
They now share the property, affectionately named Tiny Blue, with their puppy Nellie and say the home has given them financial independence.
"As soon as I came across tiny houses, I knew it was a project I wanted to undertake," explains Stringer.
"Overall, Tiny Blue was a project from the depths of my stubborn attitude, I had a lot of people trying to talk me out of it.
"However, I was determined to prove people wrong and show tiny living is more than possible.
"It also has given me financial freedom at the age of 26 because I completely own my own house which is such an amazing position to be in."
Stringer says it took six months to do the actual build, with the couple spending a total of £30,000, with the DIY-savvy couple opting for budget-friendly furniture from Ikea and B&Q.
"A lot of the cost was because wood and anything DIY related was like gold dust during the pandemic and shipping because we couldn’t go into shops," she explains.
The couple moved into the house, which sits on Grace's parents' farm near Droitwich, in September, and are loving life in their tiny new pad.
"I spend more time with the doors open, in the fresh air - I have only essentials around and I don't have unwanted or unneeded clutter," Stringer adds.
"I love the simplicity of life and I enjoy the small things so much more!"
What is the tiny house movement?
Stringer and Jukes have become part of a growing movement of people opting to downsize the space they live in, but advocates of the trend say it is about more than just living in a small pad, with people choosing to embrace a whole tiny life philosophy and the freedom that accompanies it.
“The tiny house movement is a form of minimalist movement, and it’s sweeping across the globe," explains Ross Counsell, chartered surveyor and director at GoodMove.
“It’s both an architectural and social movement which involves downsizing and living with less."
While the definition of a tiny house isn't set in stone, experts say it is typically a home with square footage between 100 and 400 square feet.
Since the 2008 financial crash, the tiny house movement has really taken off in the US, spawning an entire TV series, Tiny House Nation, and a huge social media following with the YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House clocking up over four million subscribers.
While there are an estimated 10,000 people living in tiny houses in the US, it is thought there are fewer than 200 in the UK, but the movement here is now gaining momentum, thanks, in part, to the pandemic.
“The effects of the pandemic can still be seen throughout the housing market today," explains Counsell.
"Lockdowns created a shift in buyer behaviour, as the separation from friends and families meant we are now prioritising experiences and time spent together over physical purchases."
Watch: Stylish tiny house plans we're coveting right now.
Coupled with house prices in the UK reaching record highs, Counsell says many buyers now prefer to spend their money on holidays or eating out with friends, rather than on inflated property prices and bills running a larger house – hence the reason tiny houses are gaining momentum.
"Furthermore, the lower upfront cost of buying a tiny house is even more attractive, as millennials look for alternative ways to enter the property market," he adds.
The rising costs of rental properties may also have contributed to a growth in tiny house living.
"Much of the conversation around the property industry at the moment is that the cost of renting is rising and becoming more and more unaffordable," explains Duncan Kreegers from https://tabhq.com/.
"Purchasing homes remains difficult for young adults who can’t afford the rising house prices, or want to commit to the long term debt.
"As a result, many are turning to the alternatives of tiny homes with tiny home owners getting creative and converting vans, sheds, huts, and even shipping containers into places to live."
But the movement is about much more than just downsizing or getting on the property ladder.
“As well as the financial side of things, tiny houses offer both a more sustainable and mobile way to live. Many young professionals don’t wish to commit to settling down in one area, and with many of these tiny houses being on wheels, it offers a nomadic way of life where people have the freedom for relocation that a regular property does not offer. With environmental issues becoming a focal point in popular culture too, the need for less energy means that living in a tiny house is also a more sustainable option.”
It's this sustainable benefit that is proving an attractive prospect for many wannabe tiny house dwellers.
"'Tiny homes’ has a specific meaning, describing eco-conscious dwellings that reflect the desire of their owners to live a more resource efficient and low-impact lifestyle," explains Dr Caroline Brown, a planning expert from Heriot-Watt University.
She believes the tiny home movement seems to have grown up in tandem with societal understanding of global environmental problems.
"Often located in rural or semi-rural settings, tiny homes are designed to be low-impact and energy efficient homes where owners can live simple lives in harmony with nature," she explains.
"There is a strand of aspirational eco-chic in the tiny home movement, and some of the homes are beautifully designed and worthy of a feature in an architectural journal."
For anyone planning to scroll through some of the 2.3million #tinyhouse posts on Instagram to plan their own small dwelling, Dr Brown has one word of warning.
"Although micro-homes and tiny houses may be cheaper overall, the price per sqm is higher than in the rest of the housing market," she explains. "This actually helps to push prices up across the board worsening affordability."
And, while a tiny house might suit the eco-lifestyle you want to lead, the realities of living in a tiny space can quickly dull the appeal.
"One couple I interviewed about living in a micro-flat told me how they became obsessed by fridges because the one in their glossy waterfront apartment was so small," she adds.
"After a year of living in a tiny space, they had just found a new place to live: a three-bed semi with a giant fridge freezer."
What about planning permission?
According to The Switch tiny homes do not have a specific planning permission category, which means many may fall under regulations that apply to mobile homes.
The overall rules are that mobile homes can be sited on a property without needing planning permission if:
They are not being used as a primary living space.
They are no bigger than 65ft in length and 22ft in width.
This is because planning laws do not consider a mobile structure, like a mobile or tiny home, as changing or developing the land around it.
Always check with your local planning authority before embarking on any tiny house build, however.
According to George Clarke, architect and presenter of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces, says the ins and outs of planning permission can be somewhat complicated, and may depend if you're planning on building a permanent or temporary home.
“If you’re creating a permanent dwelling, it doesn’t matter whether it’s tiny or big, you’ll need planning permission," he tells Living etc. "However, if you’re creating a temporary home, without foundations or footings, so it makes it clear to the planners you can move it, you might not need planning permission. Though always check with your local planning authority."