Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

The tiny house movement comes to Los Angeles

by Take Two®

Jenna Spesard with her tiny house outside KPCC. Guillaume Dutilh

Maybe a little like our waistlines, the size of the American house has been growing and growing. In the 1970s, the average house was about 1,500-square feet. Today, houses are closer to 2,500-square feet.

Countering this desire for ever more space, there's an established movement to build and inhabit small houses. Really small houses. Big enough to hold only the most basic necessities. With rents higher than they've ever been in Southern California, some Angelenos are building their own tiny houses as an alternative.

L.A. residents Jenna Spesard and Guillaume Dutilh are about 80-percent finished building their own little house in Westchester, but they brought it to the KPCC studios to give us a tour.


Interview Highlights:

There's a tiny frying pan in your kitchen that looks like a toy!
"Right, that's sort of like a novelty item that Guillaume's grandmother got us. It's about big enough for one egg, I would say. But, you know, you're going to get a lot of tiny things when you have a tiny house, and it sort of brings the charm into the home."

Also, only one room pretty much.
"We have a bathroom and loft, but it encompasses the kitchen, and it encompasses the office and the living room and the closet."

The closet looks like its made of very old fruit crates?
"Absolutely. We got those creates down in Venice, and we decided to make a staircase out of them so it actually has a dual purpose of storage and staircase to get up to our loft."

Have you had to downsize your wardrobe?
"Yeah, we have immensely downsized our wardrobe. Guillaume is still in the works of downsizing. It's an ongoing process. Every time you buy something, you have to get rid of three things."

Where's the bathroom?
"Well, it's still being built, but it's actually behind this wall in the very back of the house. There's going to be a standing shower and composting toilet."

Why try and live in a space this small?
"Well,  to redefine the American dream in a way. Today, houses are basically unaffordable in big cities, and we didn't want to get stuck into a 30-year loan and live paycheck by paycheck to make sure that we can afford our house that we barely use. We decided to take another approach. I am a photographer, and Jenna is a writer, and we aren't planning on making a lot of money, and we want to still live nicely in a little place that feels cozy and warm. So we decided to build this little house and put it on a trailer and maybe travel with it."

Why is it on a trailer? Why not just set down root somewhere?
"Well, building codes is one answer. There's law that, I think, the international law is that you can't build something about 220-square feet in international building code on a foundation. So in order for this house, which is about 140 square feet, to be able to be a dwelling, it has to be on wheels, because RVs and travel trailers don't follow the same building codes as structural homes."

Is this actually on the larger side of some of the tiny houses?
"Well, they go down to, like, 77-something square feet, depending on which trailer you build. We figured we're going to live in here — both of us and our dog — so we needed kind of like amenities and comfort zone. So we decided to go on a 20-foot trailer, which ended up being 120-square feet."

How much does it cost to build and how much time?
"So we started back in September, so about eight months, nine months ago, and we're probably a little over $25,000 in."

Do you feel there are things you've given up?
"Yeah, I mean, I think I'm going to miss having a full size oven, a full size refrigerator, a washer, dryer, a dishwasher, things like that. I mean, you could get those in these tiny homes, but you have to allocate the space for it, and it's a little bit of a sacrifice. We wanted it to be more open, so we're going with minimal kitchen appliances, a mini-fridge, a two-burner stove, and I think that will be a difficult transition, but, you know, it's also part of the lifestyle."

You're not afraid that you'll drive each other crazy?
Jenna: "
Yeah, that's definitely a concern, but I always say the outside of our house is like an external room, and if we need some space, we'll just go for a walk."

Guillaume: "The door is not that far." 

Find out more about Jenna and Guillaume's progress on their blog, Tiny House Giant Journey.

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