Tiny home, tiny footprint

This cabin recently was delivered to a graduate student in Boston. — Submitted

WHITE BEAR TOWNSHIP — They’re on wheels and not much larger than a camper.

But with a lofted bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and even a front porch, Jim Wilkins’ rolling residences have all the elements of a traditional home — all cozied into less than 350 square feet.

After decades working in the construction industry, the White Bear Township entrepreneur now designs and custom builds miniature environmentally-friendly homes in his backyard workshop. He aptly calls his business Tiny Green Cabins.

Wilkins’ cabins provide a unique but expensive option for eco-minded cross-country travelers, city-dwellers seeking a cabin get-away, young adults looking for a portable first home and retirees wanting to downsize.

While miniature homes are gaining popularity, especially on the coasts, Wilkins says he is the only such home builder in Minnesota. He’s one of only a handful of independent designer/builders who will “take the time to listen” and custom-build each home to best fit its future owner, he said. He says he’s also the only such builder in the country offering what he calls “nontoxic homes.”

All his homes are made mostly with local natural and recycled materials. The nontoxic homes avoid any chemicals or allergen-causing natural materials.

Wilkins has designed 11 models and is working on several more. The smallest is just 19 feet long and 8 feet wide with a petite kitchen, bathroom, living room and closet on the main floor, plus a lofted sleeping area and a covered porch. At 333 square feet, the largest model adds a main-floor bedroom, room for multiple sleepers in the loft, and a fold-out deck. Prices have ranged from $26,000 to $80,000.

The tiny cabins all have electricity and water hookups. Toilets can be connected to a sewer system, or an incinerator or composting system can be installed.

The interiors have all-wood paneling and floors and feature creative storage spaces such as stairs that double as drawers.

The cabins are well-insulated, according to Wilkins (some use insulation made from recycled blue jeans) and several heating and cooling options are available.

One of his cabin buyers uses it as an arts studio adjacent to his Denver home. All his other buyers use them as their primary residence, including a North Dakota teacher who had had difficulty finding housing due to the oil boom, and most recently a graduate student in Boston who is now living in one in a relative’s yard. A Wisconsin furniture maker with extreme environmental allergies resides in a custom cabin that includes a decontamination chamber between the entrance and living quarters.

Wilkins cautioned that his cabins wouldn’t meet minimum size requirements for permanent primary residences in most communities; most users have licensed them as RVs or accessory buildings.

All the cabins can be pulled behind a pickup and are within road load limit maximums.

Wilkins lived in his smallest model cabin for nearly a year. The divorcee gave his main house to one of his sons and his family. Instead of moving into the guest house where he lives now, the elder Wilkins lived in a cabin on his township property until he sold the cabin.

“Someone issued me a challenge that if you’re going to sell small houses you should live in one,” he said. “And it was a great learning experience because it gave me an idea of where to change things.”

Wilkins started his business in 2008 after being laid off from his job as a construction estimator. The early months in the business were the most challenging, because he was “dumping money into it before getting anything out of it,” he said. He was also set back by a broken ankle, but used the recovery time to develop a voluminous website. All of his customers have found him via the Web, he said.

He was blessed, he said, to have steady work for the past few years. During the busiest of times, two of his sons helped with cabin construction.

He currently has no orders, but he’s starting work on his most popular cabin, and based on the number of inquiries he’s received, he said he’s “pretty confident” he’ll find a buyer.

Wilkins also sells plans and holds workshops for people planning to build their own small home. He noted do-it-your-selfers need to be well-educated because many building materials, even natural ones, give off emissions that can be harmful in confined spaces.

(60) comments

Jim Wilkins

There is a statement in the article about "expensive option for eco-minded ....folks" While tiny houses appear to cost more, it is important to remember that the cheapest thing you can add to a tiny house or any house is square footage. At the core of most houses you will find an electrical system, plumbing, heating, appliances, and structural components that are similar in one way; they are expensive. This core is housed in the relatively cheap volume that surrounds it. Because the price of extending core components outward to accommodate additional space isn't that high, and open space itself is priced next to nothing, square footage is next to nothing, square footage is (at face value) cheap.
Tiny Houses and small houses are micromanaged with subtractive geometry by taking out space that is not needed to arrive at a tiny house design.
The tiny houses often become "smart" houses by what people add to them; systems that allow the owner freedom of travel and ability to live off the grid if they so desire. They give people an option to live and pursue their passions by living small and living large at the same time.

Jim Wilkins

There will be Fall Tiny House Workshop September 22 and 23rd. Follow the link to the website for more information and to sign up. http://tinygreencabins.com/pricing-info/cabin-workshop/

hankyknot

I too have to take issue with the "expensive option for eco-minded ....folks" statement in this article.

Have you been to an RV dealership recently? There you would probably pay twice as much for a tin can that is really only a three season unit that is finished with metal and plastic everything.

Given the part time usability and the environmental nightmare construction materials of an RV, a tiny house suddenly looks like a very inexpensive and environmentally friendly option to me.

buzzman55

its a great idea for the person that can't afford to live in a trailor park or afford expensive rent costs but would like to buy a house. It looks ok to me and has me interested.[beam]

zinos85

There have been a lot many changes in the construction segment, the stress is now on constructing houses that follow then green concept and must be energy efficient. However, when it comes to bathroom we need features that would help us save another valuable resource water.

James Clerk

They have built their home on a brilliant idea its practical and most importantly it is built on a green concept. While doing any construction work including room additions we need to have a pragmatic approach to have better results.

Puerto Rico

350 square feet is big enough to give you that cozy feeling of a home. What interested me more about your designing is the touch of countryside in your home. In fact, this is one of the most wonderful home on wheel, I have come across ever since I started working for designing firm.

zinos85

This house is tiny but it looks simply neat and given the fact that it is eco friendly makes it even more appealing. While while working on land packages, it is vital to incorporate green features to save money and to save out planet.

James Clerk

A tiny home would be easier to maintain than a large one and not just that it would be much better option for the environment as well. But it hardly matters what size your house it should be clean with a clean bathroom.

Puerto Rico

A tiny home that is environment friendly too could be a great concept. But no matter where you leave in a tiny home or in a large home you must design it properly. Following home designing blogs or checking articles on interior design could help you get good ideas.

zinos85

When you have a great vision like this you are bound to achieve satisfactory results. Now that we are all conscious about environment there would be a huge demand for such homes. But it is also necessary to keep the home clean. I recently had Florida mold inspectors come and check mine.

James Clerk

They have a small house but the house is indeed very cozy. Given the kind of environmental issues we are facing we should opt for such houses, but to keep it safe they should consider Installing nightlights.

Puerto Rico

Such homes are great for the planet now as these hardly make an impact upon the environment. But it hardly matters what is the size of your home is small or big you must have the perfect plumbing service for your home. In Tucson area we mostly depend on the Tucson Plumber for dependable service.

zinos85

The home is tiny but lovely and it would be safe for the planet too. So there would be a great demand in future for home like this one.

James Clerk

Although for large families such tiny homes would be a problem but this is a great idea which could be emulated and used for larger versions. However, you should take every step to make your home convenient for living and beautiful as well, for my house when I installed windows and doors I went for Gilkey.

Puerto Rico

This home is so tiny and it is adorable we should be more aware of our responsibilities towards mother earth however, you can try different things to create a magical atmosphere at home such as using mood led light would be fun.

zinos85

Although this is a tiny home but this is making a great impact upon the planet. The more eco friendly we become the better. But in your tiny home you can create luxury areas by turning your Bathroom into a Spa.

Puerto Rico

It hardly matters what size your home is as long as you have great ideas to design it you can create stylish kids bathroom even in a small house.

Puerto Rico

The issue is now protecting our planet in every possible way. Although we love to live in a more spacious place this tiny home is just perfect for fulfilling all our requirements. When you install heating or cooling system in your home try to go for best service provider such as air conditioning Tucson.

James Clerk

It is one of the most amazing homes that we have seen so far and the home does inspire us to think differently. We should reach out for solutions that help us stay eco friendly. To create a comfortable environment in your home you must have the best heating and cooling system, I am from Colorado and for my home I went straight for Colorado Cooling service.

zinos85

The home is tiny but it does look great and above all it looks comfortable, the best part about this home is that it is safe for the environment. No matter what size your home is you have to make it comfortable and safe, for my home I went for Palm Beach Gardens roofing service.

Yvone

It's amazing how a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and even a front porch, can fit in less than 350 square feet. It is very practical, can be easily moved from one place to another. I was lucky to have the movers in Phoenix AZ when I moved into my new home, my kitchen only was the size of this house, imagine how much it would have taken me to switch homes without their help.

Puerto Rico

The concept is pragmatic and this should be emulate on a larger scale. However, when it comes to creating a comfortable environment in your home you should concentrate on getting the best heating and cooling solution, for my home I went for HVAC in Delaware.

James Clerk

The home is tiny no doubt but it is a comfortable home and most significantly it is safe for the environment. But small or big no matter what size your home is, you have to make efforts to make it beautiful, for my house I wanted to install beautiful doors so I went for exterior doors Phoenix service, they did a great job.

zinos85

The home is tiny but the home is no doubt very comfortable and most importantly the home is safe for the environment, but no matter which size you home is you have to be deft at managing flammable materials.

Puerto Rico

The home is tiny but it is doing a big thing for the environment. We should feel inspired by this new idea. However, in this home, some shades could be added, when I built my home I hired SW Sun Control for help.

James Clerk

Such tiny homes are going to be quite popular in the coming years. Although the size is quite small, these houses could be transformed in the way you want. I am planning on installing few cool decks in my home and I am looking for an efficient service provider who designs and installs decks New Jersey.

zinos85

This house looks so adorable, but is it going to be spacious enough for a large family? I don't think so. When I built my home in MD last year I had to make sure that it is big enough for my family. I wanted the best roofing solution for my home, so I went for one of the best roofing companies MD.

Puerto Rico

Such miniature homes are just perfect for those who have a small family. However, it is great to learn that the house is so beneficial for the environment. This home would lower the costs of the home owners especially when they install whole house water filter systems.

James Clerk

I think this concept is fascinating and so does my grandmother, ever since she saw this she is insisting on moving into such a home. Now, for her convenience she lives in a small house alone. Last week I bought her a walk in tub, I called up All American Walk In Tubs and they have done a great job.

zinos85

He should be congratulated for his tiny green cabin concept. It would take a while for everyone get accustomed to this tiny home concept. However, as a home owner I always look for energy efficient solutions, right now I am remodeling my home and I need a good Chattanooga doors company to install patio doors in my house.

Puerto Rico

What I love about these homes is the fact that, these could be moved from one place to the other without any hassle. I live in rented places so I have to move my base from one place to the other frequently. Thankfully I get help from A to Z Phoenix Movers every time I relocate, they take the stress out of the moving process.

James Clerk

Such custom made tiny homes are simply brilliant for the environment friendly people. I am planning on building one too, however, I would like to know is there space enough to build a bar at home?

zinos85

I loved the green concept but I think the homes should be a bit larger. It is ideal for couples or those who are single but it certainly can not accommodate a big family like ours. Whenever we relocate we look for big, spacious homes. Now we are living in Torrance, we have just finished remodeling our floor and we hired the best hardwood Torrance company for the job.

Puerto Rico

It certainly is great for those who believe in simple living. It hardly matters whether you live in a big home or a small one you should always keep it beautiful, consult blogs like http://blog.decorplanet.com/2012/04/creating-soothing-neutral-color-scheme.html for getting innovative ideas.

James Clerk

This is a nice, little, compact house for a small family. However, this house is surely not going to be ideal for all, but the idea is noble. What we could do is to try to implement idea on a larger scale. I just finished constructing my new home, now that winter only few months away I am planning on installing Rocky Mountain Roof Snow Guards.

zinos85

The tiny home concept is just brilliant. However, you should always get the best services for your house to make it a comfortable place. When I build my house last year I wanted a good flooring solution, so I went for carpet installation Phoenix service.

Puerto Rico

I love the idea of this tiny home which I think is easy to maintain. Having a big house could create a lot of problems for the home owner. I recently bought an old house and I had to change the roofing, a friends suggested me to go for http://denvertileroofing.com/, they have just finished work and they have done a great job.

James Clerk

I think it is a great idea to use recycled materials for building homes. I am remodeling my home and I have hired MyHouseDoctor for the job. I am planning on installing some green features in my home.

zinos85

You would not have any problem relocating if you opt for this house. I have to relocate quite often and every time I move, I forget to pack some essential items. This time I left the light bulbs and fixtures back at my old house, so I had to buy discount light bulbs at LightHouseSupply.com.

Puerto Rico

The home is so adorable and after reading about it I think we should consider switching to such small homes. I think he is an ingenious architect and he has done a great job.

James Clerk

The best thing about this house is the fact that it creates a comfortable home environment within a little space. You do not have to spend a whole lot of money on carpeting if you live in this house.

zinos85

The tiny home really looks intriguing to me, I think I will build one for myself. I know a few construction work and I do small repairs at home. Recently my front door lock needed to be replaced so I bought door locks from Jako.biz and replaced the old ones.

Puerto Rico

The concept is wonderful, I think if we could apply this concept on a larger scale then we would be able to create a better environment. My house is also small but I have taken care to make it comfortable, I even hired the best air conditioning Midland company for my house.

James Clerk

The home is comfortable but I think it needs to be a bit more spacious. The worst part is there is no garage, I love doing DYI projects so I need a big garage where I could keep all the tools in the garage organizers.

Puerto Rico

Although the house looks beautiful it is not sufficient for a big family. However, we could incorporate the green features in our homes. I work at a Plano foundation repair company and clients often make queries about green solutions.

zinos85

The tiny home looks adorable but it is certainly not good enough for a big family. You would need custom made furniture for this house. I have a spacious house and recently I bought some trendy furniture pieces from the best furniture store Athens GA.

Puerto Rico

The home looks really adorable and I think this would be a convenient option for those who do not have large families. However, the designer should have opted for Flat Roofing option for this home.

James Clerk

The home is beautiful and it is really good for the environment. But I would prefer a spacious house, right now I am living in a big apartment and I have invested a lot in its decor. I love exclusive products, recently I have bought seersucker bedding for my bedroom.

zinos85

Such tiny homes would be just perfect for people who do not need spacious rooms and who are always on the go. The house is quite adorable, I work for the Designer Premier, so far I have handled many challenging projects and I would love to deck up this tiny home too.

Puerto Rico

The tiny home looks good and it is just perfect for the environment. However, when building a home getting the right heating and cooling solution is essential. For my home I called up Temco Air Environmental for HVAC segments.

James Clerk

The home is indeed quite small and I do not think that it would be good enough for all. Since I have a large family I have built a spacious house and I installed carpet flooring by the best flooring company of carpet in Tucson.

patinson

This home is really amazing and it really feels great to know that it is so safe for the environment. But no matter what size your house is you have to buy the right furniture. For my house I bought some trendy furniture at a great price from McCall.

zinos85

Having a tiny home is not only beneficial for the environment it is also a great option for the home owners. You won't have to invest a lot of money for home improvement. However, you need to get the plumbing system of your house checked frequently, for my house I depend on the best
Mechanicsville plumber.

James Clerk

It is really hard to find a builder who would listen to your need and build you such a house as per your requirement. However, I am part of a kitchen design NYC company and we specialize in custom built kitchen designing, we always strive to provide the best service to the customers.

Puerto Rico

The home is tiny but offers great convenience to the owner. You just have to use your imagination to deck it up in the most beautiful manner. I could suggest an idea, you could create a nice setting in the bathroom, you just have to get decorative replacement shower drains at DesignerDrains.com for that.

patinson

Although the home is tiny, it looks so comfortable and convenient. It would look better if you install Velux blinds, you could now get affordable Velux blinds at skylightdeals.com.

Puerto Rico

The home is really tiny but it is really an efficient living solution. However, the owner should install elevated deck to make the house more convenient. If you are fussy about quality then you should consider elevated decks from ElevatedDeckSystems.com.

James Clerk

The home looks nice but it should have been a bit more larger. You certainly can not enjoy many facilities here, I love swimming and I simply can not do without a pool. When I bought my house I decided to build a pool, I visited CimarronCircle.com and hired their experts for the job.

Puerto Rico

I enjoy your article. Great job. keep it simple

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