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.
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Tired of the same old mashed potatoes? Mashed potatoes don't have to be boring! Add a burst of flavour to your mash with these 10 flavourful mashed potato recipes!
Sweet potatoes are a well-known superfood and an excellent addition to any holiday dinner. This dish can be assembled a day in advance. Just sprinkle it with streusel at the last minute and pop it into the oven.
Get the recipe: Sweet Potato Mash With Pecan Streusel
If you're making this recipe ahead of time, choose a large shallow ovenproof dish, which will decrease the time needed to warm it in the oven while the turkey is resting.
Get the recipe: Crunchy Parmesan-Topped Double Potato Mash
The secret to crispy salmon skin is cooking the fish 90 percent of the way through on the skin side, in a nonstick pan! Don't try to turn the salmon too early; if it's sticking to the pan, it's not ready to turn. Potatoes mashed with spinach, tarragon and horseradish make the perfect accompaniment!
Get the recipe: Crispy Salmon on Braised Vegetables and Spinach Mash
This twist on shepherd's pie features smoky, spicy chorizo and flavourful Oka cheese. A casserole this large will take several days to thaw in the fridge, so don't worry if it's still a bit firm after thawing for a day. The partial thawing just allows it to reheat a bit more evenly.
Get the recipe: Pork Pie With Oka Mash
Korean cuisine is renowned for its spicy fermented cabbage (kimchi) and beef dishes. Here, juicy beef tenderloin and creamy potatoes mixed with pungent kimchi use that inspiration for an East-meets-West entertaining meal that's as special as it is tasty. Serve with crisp stir-fried vegetables.
Get the recipe: Soy-Ginger Tenderloin Steaks With Kimchi Mash
Take mashed potatoes (a favourite comfort food) to soaring new heights with the simple addition of goat cheese and garlic. You might want to make a double batch for a crowd – it will fly off the table.
Get the recipe: Garlic Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
We boost the flavour of this potato purée with olive oil and fresh parsley. On another night, make this dish with fresh sole fillets or scallops instead of the salmon, and call it the catch of the day. Serve with lemon wedges.
Get the recipe: Lemon and Caper Salmon With Herbed Potato Mash
Looking for a change from plain old mashed potatoes? Spruce up your holiday table with this seasonal side dish. Buttermilk and Dijon mustard add pleasant tang and creamy texture (without the addition of cream). To avoid a gluey purée, do not overmix. Fresh chives add a festive hit of colour.
Get the recipe: Parsnip and Potato Puree
Rutabaga, also called turnip, is an often overlooked (but tasty) root vegetable. With a texture similar to potatoes, rutabaga is delicious mashed or roasted. It is available year-round and stays fresh thanks to its waxy skin. You can use a sharp knife to peel the skin away, or buy the vegetable already peeled and cubed.
Get the recipe: Pan-Fried Steak With Horseradish Rutabaga Mash
Slightly sweet and peppery turnips hold their own in this extra-creamy mash, adding a welcome hit of flavour to the classic comforting side. Make it ahead and simply pop the dish in the oven to reheat before your meal.
Get the recipe: Roasted Garlic Potato and Turnip Mash