Less than 40 minutes from Smuggler’s Notch, Jay Peak and Stowe, a tiny little house sits in the middle of a snowy field.
“It could be the ideal ski house because I could conceivably move it to follow the snow,” says owner Ethan Waldman. Working with his friend, designer Milford Cushman, Waldman made sure the 232-square-foot house was mobile. For instance, the tile in the shower is made of copper roofing panels so they wouldn’t crack. And at 7 feet, four inches wide and 20 feet, 6 inches long, the house is the maximum size allowed on Vermont roads.
But, as Waldman is the first to admit, “It’s kind of a pain to move.” So far, there’s been no need to go anywhere.
The idea for the house started after Waldman returned from a 2011 bike trip across the country. At 26, he quit his job and decided to downsize. “Biking across the country, I realized just how little I needed to get by,” he recalls. During the trip, he’d stayed in some tiny houses. He showed kit designs to Cushman, but the family friend shook his head. “I told him we could do better,” Cushman said. Though he regularly designs multimillion dollar homes in Stowe, Cushman is a former Outward Bound instructor who lived for a while on a boat. “I love working on small spaces and thinking about efficiency—that’s a greater challenge for an architect than building something big.”
With the help of a local builder, they constructed the house complete with kitchen, a loft bed with windows for stargazing, a composting toilet and heat. After much sweat equity, $30,000 in materials and another $12,000 in labor, Waldman had himself a home.
“One of my goals was to downsize my life,” he says. “I don’t buy as many things and my house doesn’t cost much to live in so I have more freedom to work fewer hours.” Waldman can backcountry ski right out his back door. Skis stay in an outbuilding. Ski boots get tucked into bins under the “couch.” His loft bedroom has shallow open closets. Waldman and his girlfriend also often stay at her apartment in Burlington, but he considers this house his home.
Rather than return to a job, Waldman chose to work as a tech consultant, and has become an expert on tiny homes. In his book Tiny House Decisions and on his blog (www.thetinyhouse.net) he covers everything from how to heat a tiny home to how to find places to both park it (the subject of his second book, Tiny House Parking) and secure it.
“Yes, tiny houses do get stolen,” he admits. It’s easy to see why.