Two locals plan to shrink eco-footprints by building small homes
The kitten wending its way around Jason Dietz’s and Gabriel Williams’ legs seems almost comically suited to its environment. The location is one of Dietz and Williams’ “tiny houses,” which is currently planted on an 8-by-20 foot trailer in a Felton driveway. A larger cat, one can imagine, might cramp the 160-square foot home.
Dietz and Williams are the founders, owners, and entire staff of Molecule Tiny Houses, a small Felton-based home construction company. The two brothers-in-law do almost all of the actual construction themselves, building each house to the customer’s specifications. With four tiny houses under their belts since they made the company a full-time endeavor in 2011, they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
“We just built one and we got a great response [from the community],” says Dietz of the custom-built houses. “It just took off in popularity. People are looking to simplify their lives.”
Simple is a word that fits the tiny houses, though streamlined works just as well. With nooks, crannies and lofts keeping the house compact and efficient, the builders’ underlying environmental ethos shines through in every aspect of the house’s design.
“For me, the biggest obstacle was the width,” says Williams. “That’s the constraint that influences everything. [The house is] on an 8-foot-wide trailer, so to design a house that doesn’t feel like a tube is the biggest hurdle. You have to try to not bite into the width of the space as much possible so it still has an open feel to it.”
That’s an issue that Dietz and Williams have neatly worked their way past. Windows are everywhere in the small house, and despite its current location in the shade of redwoods, the display house doesn’t feel dark or cramped. Well-placed lofts and inset shelves do the rest in making the minuscule home feel spacious. Both Dietz and Williams have backgrounds in construction and artistic endeavors (Dietz customized hot rods, and Williams was a professional ballet dancer), and it shows.
Dietz and Williams aren’t the first to build tiny houses—they have drawn plenty of inspiration from others in the field (there’s even a Small House Society that brings tiny house builders together and promotes their message of sustainable lifestyles).
“I’ve become infatuated with the whole tiny house movement,” says Williams, adding that they know of about a dozen other builders across the country. “We think that [tiny houses] are really a great answer to a lot of the problems that people are facing right now.”
Those problems are environmental ones. Dietz and Williams see the tiny house movement as an important stepping stone toward sustainability and carbon footprint reduction. The small size of the houses alone means that substantially fewer materials are needed for their construction.
“It’s kind of like a hybrid car,” says Williams. “Hybrids still use gasoline, so it’s not an answer, but it’s a huge step in the right direction. It’s a choice to use much less.”
This choice has to do both with the size of the house itself and the space within it. Less space means fewer possessions, and for the local builders, that brings with it its own sort of freedom. (Though, it should be noted that neither of the two men live in tiny houses themselves.)
“People who have lived in a 3,000-square-foot house, they come here and think ‘I could live here,’” says Williams. “It’s got kind of a Thoreauvian appeal, having your own little house on Walden Pond. It’s a way to simplify your life, to get rid of extraneous clutter that you don’t need, and to focus more on living as opposed to worrying about all the little details. I think simplifying is becoming a more attractive idea to more and more people. That’s the biggest positive factor that tiny houses have going for them.”
Ultimately, the pair says they are driven to build and promote these itsy-bitsy houses by a conservation mission.
“The whole reason we got into this was the sustainability aspect of it,” says Dietz. “We wanted to give the world an alternative because of the way that we’re extracting resources out of this planet. This isn’t by any means an answer, but it’s a really good alternative. Scaling things down, getting consumption under control—the amount of materials in this house versus a standard home is just a fraction. It’s a good thing.”
Learn more at molecultetinyhomes.blogspot.com.