Last week, the Clayton home building group took their “Low Country” tiny home prototype to the Cashiers Designer Showcase in North Carolina. The event attracted interior designers and builders from around the region to explore new trends.
“People were very excited,” said Jeffrey Dungan, whose company designed the prototype. “It was almost like a childlike response, even with people who are 70 years old. I don’t know quite what it is, there’s this youthful exuberance when you talk about tiny homes and when they get to actually stand in one.”
Most people were surprised it did not feel like a “playhouse” and that it was actually really comfortable, said Dungan
“I could have sold it 15 times. People pulled out their checkbooks and offered money on the spot,” said Dungan of the response to the low country-inspired tiny house.
Dungan, a renowned Birmingham, Ala.-based architect, has partnered with Clayton building group, a division of Clayton Homes and one of America’s largest homebuilders, to bring luxury tiny homes to the housing market that the architect would not ordinarily reach.
The “Low Country” model tiny home, which was showcased in Cashiers, is 396 square feet and retails for $96,000.
“Clayton approached us to design a series of five homes and this is the first one that they’ve actually constructed,” he said. “Instead of me designing all of them, I have a talented crew that works with me, so everybody took a day to sit around and sketch, look at inspiration and share ideas. We took the best of the bunch and pursued those.”
In addition to the “Low Country” there are four different models in the series: Adirondak, Saltbox, Marseille and Cloudbreak. They range in size from 386-399 square feet.
The designers looked at different styles of architecture across the country and in Europe. “We looked at the low country in South Carolina, the Saltbox in New England, the Adirondacks in upstate New York, the French countryside, and beach huts in the Bahamas, Cape Cod or Malibu.”
“We really loved the whole attitude of being at the beach and escaping and that’s what little houses are about,” said Dungan. “Cloudbreak was inspired by beach style, surf shacks and places that sell beer and Jerk chicken in the Bahamas.”
“It’s more about designing much more meticulously, designing by the cubic inch rather than by the square foot,” said Dungan, who is more accustomed to designing high-end residences with a minimum of 7,000-8,000 square feet.
Planning and then manufacturing a small home off-site comes with its unique set of challenges according to Dungan. “Everything was a little different,” he said. “There were the restraints of working within 400 square feet — it couldn’t be more than 12 ½ feet wide to get them down the road or more than 12 feet tall to go under bridges.” This led to the modification of roof pitch in some cases.
Dungan admits to never watching shows like “Tiny House Nation”.
“When I started this study, what I reacted to was how DIY they looked,” he said. “There was a lack of overall elegance and sophistication in a lot of what I saw.”
Dungan hoped to bring the elegance and sophistication of his firm’s work into a tiny place. “I wanted the quality of the Faberge egg with details and wonderful materials,” he said. “Because you are doing something small you can afford to work with better materials. I was very impressed with Clayton’s joinery, the craftsmanship and just the materials themselves I didn’t feel like I was in a less nice space than I was accustomed to.”
Inside the prototype they opted for reclaimed materials such as the ceiling beams and the hardwood floors, and used for wood for the ceilings and vertical ship lap for the walls so there is no Sheetrock at all.
The exterior is clad in poplar bark siding with cedar shake on the roof.
Dungan said it is economical to heat and cool and the windows have the highest insulation value.
“In all of the designs we were very mindful of the 3-D space,” said Dungan. “The vaulted ceiling created wall space for additional storage and sleeping space. It can sleep up to six or eight people and that totally blows my mind.”
They may be small in stature, but do not lack for amenities. The “Low Country” accommodates eight — two in the bedroom, two in the loft area, two on a fold-out couch and two bunks. There are large French doors that open out onto a covered front porch, a full-height pantry, as well as a dishwasher and stack washer and dryer.
The architect likened the production of the “Low Country” prototype to making pancakes.
“When you are cooking your pancakes if you don’t get the heat and batter right for the first one, you adjust it,” he said. “For our first pancake, it was a heck of a good one and I’m hoping that our second and third ones will be even better.”
And Dungan said a website is in the works, where buyers can customize their home. Choosing from a myriad colors, materials and exterior options. “It will give people the flexibility to personalize their tiny home,” he added.