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Crawford company is big on tiny houses

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Photo by Kami Collins April and Colin MacGregor stand in the doorway of the tiny house they built at their business in Crawford. The home is small enough that it was built inside a large shop. It was built on a 24-foot trailer and is about 200 square feet

It was a rush to the finish line last week for Colin and April MacGregor of Crawford, owners of Broadtail Builders, a custom home design and construction business, as they made the finishing touches on a home that was heading to Oregon first thing this week. The home was the couple's first tiny home they designed and built.

The home is only 200 square feet. It features a loft sleeping area, a full bathroom and kitchen, laundry facilities, a dining table with benches, an entertainment center, a sofa which can fold down into a double bed, and a nook for a home office. While April is the main designer, this project was a marriage of the MacGregors' expertise and the client's needs. For instance, the kitchen area is smaller to allow room for the office space. Colin fixed the problem of not enough counter space in the kitchen by crafting a cutting board that fits over the sink, allowing for more room to work. Storage areas are built into the staircase which leads up to the loft. The couple who commissioned the home have a dog, and asked Colin to build into the top tread of the staircase a doggie step.

They and their crew built the home from framing to finishing. The only thing they subcontracted was the electrical work. "We're very proud of being local, using local materials, and hiring local labor," Colin said. Colin and April strive to build not only functionable homes, but artistically beautiful living spaces that are more "home" than "house." They also strive to use as much reclaimed material as possible. "We've always thought about what we can do to be more sustainable," Colin explained.

The average American home is 2,600 square feet; a tiny home is typically somewhere between 100 and 400 square feet. Americans can also spend an average of 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 of their take home salary on housing, whereas 68 percent of those who live in tiny homes have no mortgage at all.

For a lot of reasons, for a lot of different people, tiny homes just make sense, Colin said. Nationally, tiny homes are one of the new hot ideas for sustainable housing for those in extreme poverty or for those who are homeless. But tiny homes are growing in popularity amongst many different demographics, and not necessarily those in lower income brackets. For instance, the home they finished last week that was headed for Oregon was commissioned by a couple, each of whom have recently earned their master's degrees. They are facing a lot of student loan debt and they want to start a family, Colin said. The couple made the decision to scale down their living arrangements, live in a tiny home for about five years while they pay down debt, and then start a family. "Tiny homes are good solutions for people in their 20s and 30s who don't want to go into a lot of debt for a house," Colin said.

"Affordable housing in this country is a crisis, and tiny houses are a solution," April said. There is also a convenience factor to tiny houses that can't be ignored, she said. A tiny house can be used as a luxury, private guest house, or as a smart investment for those looking to get into the housing rental business.

The MacGregors' tiny homes can be designed on the full spectrum, from a very basic, no-frills, basic shell of a home, to a custom-designed, higher end, move-in ready model. The great thing about tiny homes, though, is even the high end caps at about $100,000, April explained.

The homes are constructed on trailers, typically on a 24-foot trailer, but sometimes up to a 32-foot. When completed and delivered to the customers, the homes can either be placed on a permanent foundation, or kept on the trailers and used similarly like an RV, Colin said. Some tiny home owners travel; others live in the home while it's on the trailer while they are building a bigger home, and then use the tiny home as a guest house or mother-in-law suite once construction on their traditional home is completed. "Tiny homes really give people options," Colin said.

It's a mostly "mindful" demographic who seek out tiny homes, Colin explained - either financially mindful, environmentally mindful or spiritually mindful. "When you simplify your life, you can really focus on other, more important things," Colin said. Having a lot of possessions - a house full of furniture and knick knacks and stuff piled in closets - can be distracting. "When you live simply, you don't need much to be happy," he said.

The MacGregors know what they're talking about. They have a 7 year old son, Akash, and the family lives in an 800 square foot home - a luxury space compared to the size of homes Colin and April design and build, but miniscule compared to the average family home. "It's a commitment," Colin said, a choice his family consciously made. Living in a tiny home isn't for everyone, and it definitely isn't a spur of the moment kind of decision.

For those who are ready to take that step, Broadtail Builders is on Facebook and Instagram, and can be found at www.broadtailbuilders.com.

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