Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons built their tiny home on wheels two years ago. In that time, they’ve traveled 25,000 miles and have visited 27 states. The open road and a tiny rolling house have been the couple’s home ever since.
“It's been amazing. At one point, we broke a wheel heading to Burning Man, and we were lucky to get a replacement from a kind local on a Native American reservation. We had a great time at the festival. There we randomly connected with a long distance runner/race director, who gave us a spot to park behind his warehouse in San Jose, which we did months later. After the festival we're at a car wash, cleaning off layers and layers of dust from our tiny house, and we met a guy from Tahoe who offered to show us around and bought us lunch. We wound up parked at the most beautiful spot in Squaw Valley," recalls Christian Parsons.
"We've just been traveling around the country, networking with the greatest people, from random encounters to tiny housers. The tiny home community is pretty tiny itself.
If anyone is truly living the romanticized tiny-house life, it’s these two. For two years, they’ve been traveling as journalists, photographers, advocates and documentarians of the small-home movement.
"Some of our paying work is for Home State Apparel. They make different shirts with each state on them that say 'home.' We take photos and videos of people in each state we travel to, to explore what makes home, home," explains Alexis.
Their particular mini home is a 130-square foot DIY dwelling on a 20-foot trailer. It's eight feet wide and 13.3 feet tall. The trailer is pulled by a U-Haul truck. (U-Haul is one of their sponsors.)
The micro dwelling has two lofts, one that they call the “master suite,” which has a queen bed, and the other, which has a twin. There’s a toy box on a pulley for Stephens’ son and many of the other creative features you’d expect to find in a home the size of many people’s living room.
“I’ll be honest: It’s important for us to have our own space. We have what we call a ‘one-and-a-half-butt kitchen.’ If one of us is in the kitchen, you can’t get to the bathroom,” Stephens laughs.
They figure that they built about 80 percent of the home by themselves under the guidance of a friend who is a builder, using mostly reclaimed materials including milled wood from trees that came down in a tornado.
There’s a lot of conjecture around the feasibility of permanently living in tiny homes, on account of the legality. Stephens and Parsons travel to tiny-house festivals and take part in outreach. That often means attending town council and city planning meetings where tiny-home legality is being discussed, as well as educating the growing tiny-home community at gatherings as to how to approach their own towns to make progress in making tiny homes legit dwellings.
Attending so many meetings and workshops, they’ve started to document the movement. They currently have two film projects going. The first is a three-part series called “Living Tiny Legally.” The second deals more with the culture and community experience.
Most notably, they attended and documented a hearing of the International Code Council (ICC), which accepted the Tiny House Appendix written by their colleague Andrew Morrison.
We were the first film crew ever allowed to film the ICC public hearings. Many of the code officials were very behind the new guidelines, which are a great step toward legalizing tiny homes as primary dwellings across the entire country. One code official even sang a song in support of tiny houses, after he made his points," Alexis added.
Parts one and two of “Living Tiny Legally” explore the benefits of living in a moderate space and also the objectives to doing it long term within the law. Both are on YouTube. The third part will lay out the ways forward and workarounds for this community.
“Tiny houses clean up quick, but they mess up quick too. You don’t ever see that in the magazines. But we love it and we love the people we meet,” says Stephens.