Transformation: Boring Garage to Fabulous Tiny Home

Have you ever imagined that your old, boring garage in the backyard could actually be turned into a cool new home? If not, that’s exactly what Seattle-based artist, designer, and welder Michelle de la Vega has done with her 250 square feet small garage — after a great makeover she turned it into the practical and adorable retreat that you see below. Although the place is small (make that very small) it still manages to fit in a fireplace to warm the room in those cold and damp Seattle evenings, a rather comfy suspended bed built on the house’s beams, along with other clever space-saving solutions. All these make this mini home look … grand. And chic. And adorable. And functional.And speaking of being functional, most of the fixtures and the furniture were custom-made for the house or were salvaged or re-purposed by Michelle.

In most towns, a building permit isn't required for a structure of 120 square feet or less. However, these small structures are considered sheds or workshops. Full-time living in a tiny building is generally not allowed. Some people live successfully "under the radar" but it's risky. A grumpy neighbor or diligent official could make your tiny life untenable. To be a legal residence, a structure must be built in accordance with local building codes. Most states have adopted the International Residential Code for One- and Two- Family Dwellings. However, there is great diversity in the specific versions. Scroll down to see the US map. In addition to the IRC, a state, county or city may have additional codes that must be followed. Rare exceptions do exist. This book, No Building Codes, written in 2010 by Terry Herb, provides information on areas where building codes are absent or rarely enforced.

If a tiny home on its own land isn't possible, explore building your tiny house as an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or granny flat in the backyard of an existing home. Here's a handy guide on How to Build a Tiny House (ADU), written by The United Way in Brevard, NC. While the information is specific to Brevard, much of it would also be applicable to other states. Be sure to check zoning in your neighborhood as only some areas allow ADUs. Some people recommend the book, Cracking the Code, but it's not a complete reference. The author himself has experienced quite a few challenges. It's important to do your own research. My tiny house has successfully been situated in backyards (with friendly neighbors) and an RV park (with a welcoming attitude).

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