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.
Illustration by Matthew Billington Credits: Illustration by Matthew Billington
|This content is vetted by medical experts |
|This story was originally part of "Stand and Deliver" in the September 2015 issue. |
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Carrot, Ginger and Quinoa Pepper Jacks Credits: spabettie
Who says you have to carve a pumpkin for Halloween? We squash that idea with these creative alternatives.
These little guys are the perfect hiding spot for Halloween treats.
Find instructions at Just Putzing Around the Kitchen.
Pineapples have been a hot trend in decor for awhile now so why not make them a part of your Halloween display too?!
Find out how at A Subtle Reverie.
Line your front steps with these fun-shaped alternatives to pumpkins.
Find out how from Martha Stewart.
Carve an avocado skull inspired by this creative DIY from Katherine Sabbath.
Serve these carrot, ginger and quinoa stuffed peppers at a Halloween feast.
See the recipe at spabettie.
Cherry Chocolate Chunk Brownies<br>Photography by Jeff Coulson Credits: Cherry Chocolate Chunk Brownies<br>Photography by Jeff Coulson
Bars and squares make a fun addition to any cookie exchange.
Tested until perfect.
Get the recipe: Butter Tart Squares
The pride of Nanaimo, B.C., these bars have a crumb base layered with a creamy custard filling and a chocolaty topping. Best served at room temperature, the bars keep well refrigerated or frozen.
Get the recipe: Classic Nanaimo Bars
Enjoy these Australian squares just as they are, or dip them in a mug of hot cocoa for the ultimate treat. While they're traditionally made with sponge cake, our version uses easy-to-make chocolate pound cake instead, making them a sinfully indulgent dessert for chocolate lovers. To retain their moistness, store the squares in the fridge.
Get the recipe: Double Chocolate Lamington Squares
Sweet-tart cranberries are cooked with a hint of orange to make an easy jam-like filling, then sandwiched between layers of crisp almond pastry. Freshly ground almonds are crunchier than the storebought ground variety, so whirl whole nuts in a food processor for the ultimate nutty crust.
Get the recipe: Cranberry Almond Squares
A thick layer of creamy mint icing is sandwiched between a crumbly chocolate cookie base and smooth dark chocolate ganache in these irresistible squares.
Get the recipe: Mint Chocolate Squares
The inside-out version of this classic square offers a classy white chocolate top with a rich dark chocolate centre. Use a vegetable peeler to make the chocolate shavings.
Get the recipe: Reverse Nanaimo Bars
These layered bars are like three desserts in one! Using a candy thermometer ensures you have the right consistency of caramel (not too soft and not too hard).
Get the recipe: Gooey Peanut Butter Squares
If simplicity is your style, look no further than these six-ingredient squares, made with ingredients you'll likely already have on hand. If you prefer, use seedless raspberry jam instead of strawberry.
Get the recipe: Crumble-Topped Jam Squares
A smooth and silky no-bake filling comes together in a matter of minutes for this easy crowd-pleasing treat. Be sure to top the squares with peanuts quickly, before the chocolate sets.
Get the recipe: Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake Squares
Each layer of these bars is a delicious treat on its own; together, they become the star of any goodie tray. To make them gluten-free, be sure to use oat flour that's labelled as such. If you choose not to use pasteurized egg whites, whisk a fresh egg white until frothy and measure out one tablespoon.
Get the recipe: Sugared Pecan Fudge Squares
Vanilla wafer cookies, raspberry filling and white chocolate lighten up the traditional colour – and flavour – of the classic Nanaimo bar.
Get the recipe: Pink Berry Nanaimo Bars
Classic pecan pie gets a bite-size makeover with these crunchy pecan-packed squares. Toothsome shortbread is the perfect base, adding a delightful contrast. Chill the squares before cutting for a smooth, easy slice.
Get the recipe: Honey Pecan Pie Squares
Trust us, these easy-to-make squares will be the hit of your holiday parties and family gatherings. Wrap them in cute little boxes and hand them out as hostess gifts at all of your festive get-togethers.
Get the recipe: Chocolate Toffee Hello Dollies
Sweet glac? cherries and vivid pink icing give these sumptuous brownies a nostalgic retro look. Make them a couple of days ahead, then spread on the fruity icing just before serving.
Get the recipe: Cherry Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Sweet butterscotch squares hide a layer of crystallized ginger and velvety milk chocolate. These are pretty when packaged as gifts and are the perfect holiday treat to add to a bake sale.
Get the recipe: Ginger Butterscotch Squares