HILLSBORO, Kan. — Kyle and Danae Schmidt are building their dream home: a tiny house.
Once it’s built, the Schmidts plan to live comfortably in about 200 square feet of space that will include two lofts on either end of the house. Floor dimensions measure 7 feet by 24 feet, and the roof peaks at 13 and a half feet.
“You’ll walk in the door,” Danae said, describing the floor plans. “We’ll have a couch of some kind. The TV will go on the wall.”
The first loft — their bedroom space — will extend over the pull-down front porch.
“Then on the other side, we’ll have another loft,” she said, adding that stairs will provide access to the second loft, with space for storage and overnight guests. “Pieces of the kitchen will be nestled under the stairs. There will be storage under the stairs, cabinets and fridge in the corner — then a little bathroom in the back.”
From idea to reality
The idea of tiny-house living started with Kyle.
“About four years ago we had a friend that told us about tiny houses,” he said. “And I said, ‘Sweet, I want to build one.’ It’s purely that I just want to build one. They just look awesome — little gingerbread houses, I guess.”
The Schmidts, who both grew up in Corn, Okla., were married in 2009 shortly after graduating from Tabor College. Last year they lived in Thailand as team leaders for TREK, a 10-month discipleship and U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches mission program.
When they returned to the U.S. in September, they decided to settle in Hillsboro.
“Sometime in the fall, we had come back from TREK, and God is messing with our control of our lives — it’s wonderful, really it is,” Danae said. “So we get back here and just through a process [Kyle] starts talking more seriously about [building a tiny house]. ‘We should think about this,’ he’d say. ‘No! We should not think about this.’
“But God just kept on working on me through different things.”
Danae’s change of heart came one evening when Kyle asked to show her his tiny house plans. Initially, she said, she just got mad and went into the living room.
“I pick up my book that I’m reading, which is Radical by David Platt, and I read the chapter on surrendering your stuff and your money and your whatever,” Danae said. “That was just like God saying, ‘Wake up, I’m talking to you.’ Like it was, ‘OK, this is definitely from God.’ ”
She said she recognized two reasons for her resistant attitude: wondering what will people think and not wanting “to give up stuff.”
Then when Kyle hit a deer while driving their car, Danae said she realized that while she was thankful her husband wasn’t hurt, the thought of losing the car made her very anxious.
“And so that was a huge reality check for me, too,” she said. “That sort of started the process of seriously talking about what it would be like for us to live [in a tiny house].”
Tiny house living
The Schmidts began their tiny house adventure when they purchased a 24-foot trailer and framing plans from Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Colorado Springs, Colo.
They estimate the cost of materials, including the trailer, plans and appliances will run less than $20,000.
“You design for what you need,” said Kyle, who works for Heritage Home Works in Newton, a remodeling and custom-home company. “If you don’t want to climb stairs, you prioritize a bedroom on the main floor.”
Construction began in May and is done primarily on weekends.
“I don’t have a realistic view [of when the house will be completed],” Kyle said, “but I’ve heard different ones say it takes about 500 hours.”
Friends have helped with designing the floor plan, installing beams, raising outside walls and attaching the roof.
“Kind of a side-note desire for us is to build community,” Danae said. “And even as we’re building the structure, it’s bringing people together.”
The Schmidts acknowledge that living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone.
“We personally want to just pare down and live simply, but we want to encourage other people to evaluate what they value,” Kyle said. “Whose kingdom are we building? Are we building our own kingdom? If so, maybe we should re-evaluate and say we should be building God’s kingdom and stop focusing on our own.
“For us, what we want this house to be first is an encouragement — not that they should go and build a tiny house themselves, [though] that would be awesome — but just to evaluate what they value.”
They’re chronicling their adventure at schmidts2x.wordpress.com under the link “Tiny Living.”
There Danae writes: “We’ve learned that [God] continues to ask us to surrender pieces of our lives to him, and when we do, we find ourselves doing crazy things, like building a tiny house. But it’s also the best adventure ever.”