Photography by Michael Dyrland
"Being indebted to a bank for the majority of my life was never my plan."
Stevie Quinney was tired of her Vancouver lifestyle. Only 22 at the time, she was paying $700 a month for a bedroom in a shared basement suite and struggling with student loans. Then, she started reading The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir by Dee Williams, a tiny house guru of sorts, and something clicked. "It sparked the idea that I could move to a small house, that it was doable," she says.
So doable, in fact, that she contacted her mother in Winkler, Man., about 90 minutes southwest of Winnipeg, and told her that she wanted to move back home and create her own little house—out of shipping containers. Her mom and her stepfather were immediately on board, but the real seal of approval came in March 2015, when, for Stevie's birthday, they bought her two shipping containers to get her journey started.
Steve Quinney in the kitchen of her small house in Wrinkler, Man.
More and more people are embarking on a similar path. Covering everything up to 1,400 square feet (see Small Talk, page 54), the tiny house movement has been gaining momentum. But what's the big attraction?
It's a few things, explains John Infranca, assistant professor of law at Suffolk University's law school in Boston and research affiliate at the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University. "We've got a demographic trend of people living in smaller households," he says. "People live as singles for longer periods of time, married couples delay having children or aren't having children at all, seniors are living longer after being widowed and people are divorcing at higher rates. These smaller households are drawn to smaller homes."
At the same time, he says, there's a movement toward owning less "stuff," which has been made easier by technology, as we don't need as much space to store books, music and movies as we once did. Finally, there's the environmental aspect. "The idea of a smaller footprint and less energy-intensive usage is attractive to a lot of people."
That was certainly the case for Stevie. "I've always been conscious of being eco-friendly," she says. "I really like the idea of not having more than you need."
She also liked the idea of owning her home—no mortgage—and designing it to suit her lifestyle. With the shipping containers already purchased, Stevie started researching floor plans online. She'd never done one before, but after looking at some container-house layouts, she drew her own and sent it to her stepfather, who refined the drawings even more.
Stevie built her small house out of two shipping containers given to her by her mom and her stepfather.
He helped with construction as well, along with his brothers, all of whom had experience building sheds, workshops and barns. "They knew a lot about how to do the plumbing and electrical work, so we didn't have to hire anybody," says Stevie. Six months and about $50,000 later, she moved into her 600-square-foot home.
At first, it was rough going. Unlike tiny homesteaders in California or Oregon, Stevie had the Canadian climate to contend with. "The first week, the pipes froze, so I was hauling water from my mom's home," she says. And because there wasn't time to install the wood stove she bought, she had to use a small electric shop heater through the winter. But eventually, warmer weather arrived, and now, Stevie says the place is looking good. "It's really nice. I've got all of my furniture, and my living room is set up."
Beyond the physical comfort of her own home, though, she feels a great sense of accomplishment. "I'm at a stage now where many people my age are getting married, buying houses and having children. It's wonderful, but it's also very expensive," she says. "Being indebted to a bank for the majority of my life was never part of my plan." She values flexibility and life experience over a big house and a mortgage, and she believes that even more tiny houses are on the horizon for those in her age group and younger. "This small house movement is turning into a very big thing."
The home looks out over the Manitoba Prairies.
The pros and cons of tiny living
Affordability: You can build your home for much less than the cost of a regular-size home—think anywhere from $5,000 to $70,000, as opposed to more than $1 million in Vancouver or Toronto—and live mortgage-free. Low utility bills: Your heating, cooling, electricity and water usage will cost less than in a regular house.
Planet-friendly: Little homes use fewer resources and take up less space. In addition, many owners use solar power, compost toilets and other environmentally conscious options.
More social time: A tiny interior space may send you out into the world more often. The local coffee shop, for example, could become your home office, or you may be more inclined to go out with friends.
Land costs: Your house may seem like a steal at first glance, but land costs could bring the overall expense of your home to much more than you imagined.
Little to no storage: A tiny home is not for those who like to collect books, shoes, clothes or knickknacks. There's just no room for nonessentials.
Less personal space: Though some families do live—and thrive—in small homes, many people would struggle with sharing less than 500 square feet of space with more than one person.
Crunchy-Top Blueberry Muffins <br /> Photography by Mark Burstyn Credits: Crunchy-Top Blueberry Muffins <br /> Photography by Mark Burstyn
Photography by Katherine Holland
The ET Canada entertainment reporter and HGTV Canada host is a fitness buff who loves chocolate. Here's a sneak peek at her workout routine, meal ideas and exercise playlist.
Spend time viewing Sangita Patel's Instagram account and you'll notice a pattern: Sprinkled liberally among fashion blogger–worthy glamour shots, photos of celebs (thanks to day job No. 1, ET Canada entertainment reporter) and a pic or two of Canadian design stars (from day job No. 2, host of HGTV Canada's Home to Win) are videos and photos of the TV personality killing it at the gym. Her regular #FitnessTuesday posts o er a sneak peek at her exercise routine, whether it's an at-home arm workout or a group CrossFit class. She started the hashtag as a way to motivate herself and others to meet their health goals, and it's de nitely made an impact on her 17,000-plus followers. "Someone sent me a direct message about how she lost 20 pounds by following #FitnessTuesday!" she says. at's why Sangita is the perfect person to kick o a new column about women living their healthiest lives. Read on for meal ideas, workout songs and the best way to eat a banana, ever.
Favourite exercise: "I normally hate cardio, but I love skipping; I love doing double unders."
Least favourite exercise: "Burpees are the worst, but I know I have to do them because they're so good for you."
What's on her workout playlist: "I love loud music. Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' is one of my favourite songs to work out to."
Hydration tips: "I sip water with lemon all day long."
Breakfast: "I have a protein shake with a shot of espresso in the morning. I take that on the road, and that's my morning start."
Lunch: "I'll usually have an omelette or hard-cooked eggs for lunch, or sometimes I'll have soup because I need more sodium in my diet."
Dinner: "I tend to have some carbs in the evening, which isn't necessarily the right way to do it. But I love basmati rice, and I love quinoa with chicken. I just try to eat before 7 p.m."
Healthy dessert: "One really easy, healthy dessert is taking a banana, slicing it open, spread- ing on some good peanut butter and a little bit of dark chocolate, wrap- ping it in foil and baking it for a few minutes."
If giving up burgers and cheese forever just doesn't seem possible, take heart: going mostly plant-based means you get serious health benefits and the flexibility to indulge now and then. Here's how, with tips from Dana Shulz of the Minimalist Baker.
There’s lots (and lots, and lots) of evidence on the benefits of eating vegan—but we don’t think it’s overstating things to say that making such a drastic dietary shift can be overwhelming. And we’re not the only ones, if the popularity of “vegan-ish” eating is anything to go by. A mostly plant-based approach that’s flexible enough to accommodate the occasional burger, chicken wing or slice of cheesecake, this diet plan has found fans in Jamie Oliver, whose Meat-Free Monday posts always look delicious, New York Times food guru Mark Bittman, who wrote a whole book about it, and Dana Shulz, the culinary mind behind the popular food blog Minimalist Baker.
According to Dana, whose new cookbook, Everyday Eating, features 101 easy-to-make vegan dishes (like her Thai quinoa meatballs, pictured above), a mostly plant-based diet doesn’t have to be hard work. “It’s really just about making sure you get plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and other plant-based protein sources. I think when you break it down like that, it isn’t as intimidating,” she says.
It definitely doesn’t mean subsisting on a few lettuce leaves. “I am a quantity eater and was raised by two very enthusiastic eaters. Feeling satisfied by my meals is very important to me, so salads for dinner just won't cut it. My recipe inspiration comes from having a big appetite,” she says.
Want to give vegan eating a try? Here’s her best advice:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
“Meal prep ahead of time (like on Sundays), so you aren’t stuck without options during the week, when you come home starving and need something to eat,” Dana says. “Also, make sure you do research when traveling so you have some idea of where you can get vegan options.”
2. Try anything once.
She recommends doing a deep dive into vegan food blogs, flagging any dish that looks interesting. “Try a lot of recipes and narrow down your favorites, so you have an arsenal of easy, go-to meals that you love and enjoy,” she says.
3. Know your swaps.
Use flax or chia in place of an egg. (Check out Dana’s how-to.) Instead of using ground beef for tacos, season and cook quinoa, then bake until crispy. And just because you’re eating less dairy doesn’t mean Parmesan-free pasta. Make your own vegan Parmesan by combining cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and sea salt. (Here’s the Minimalist Baker recipe.)
4. Stock your pantry.
You’ll have to re-think your grocery shopping plan, but don’t get intimidated—Dana says you can’t go wrong by stocking up on a few staples: “My top 5 vegan essentials are flax seed meal, nut milks, nut and seed butters, a variety of legumes, and dates,” she says. “I don't go for things like vegan junk food or other things in the processed realm. Eating plant-based is not about fake meats, $9 organic soy milk, and sprouting your own beans. It’s about eating a variety of plant foods to feel whole and well.”
5. Choose the right tools.
“For prep, having a food processor is a must because it makes sauces and date caramel so easily, and if you have the grater attachment it can shred up carrots, potatoes and vegetables in no time,” Dana says.