Those traveling down SR207 on Friday night may have noticed a bit of congestion around the St. Johns County Fairgrounds. Parking lots were full and cars were lined up on either side of the major highway as people piled in for the rare chance to see and tour the wide range of over 90 tiny houses on display at the Florida Tiny House Festival.
The Tiny House Festival originated in Georgia with the Georgia Tiny House association but public interest in the uniquely-designed micro homes exploded and they expanded into the United Tiny House Association when they decided to take their show on the road to Florida. The show featured a wide range of homes, from converted semi-trucks with former furniture-hauling trailers, to micro homes less than 100 square feet that made every day feel like a camping trip. Everyone living tiny was invited to showcase their homes, from those hauling the traditional steel-frame on a trailer, to those who had lovingly restored vintage campers into full-time functioning homes.
But why go tiny in the first place? It takes a lot of courage to give up the American dream of 2,500 square feet and a white picket fence for an average of 200 square feet on a trailer. For most people it’s the sense of financial liberation that comes with owning a smaller living space. Depending on whether you build it yourself or contract it out, tiny houses range from just $8,000 up to $80,000. Even at the higher end, it’s a fraction of the cost of most new homes on today’s market, allowing many people to live without a long-term mortgage hanging over their heads. Renee McLaughlin is one such owner, who traded out her 3,300 square foot house for an 87 square foot micro-camper and now lives almost expense-free by parking on a family lot in Iowa.
Another reason for the tiny house love is the freedom it offers. The ability to travel and park wherever you want to live is a huge bonus to many, while others enjoy the simple time saved not having to keep an additional 2,000 square feet of home cleaned and organized. Brian and Beth Ann Bukowczyk are two such tiny tourists who have converted a 1988 Bluebird bus into a fully-functioning solar powered home and use it to tow their vintage Volkswagon Beetle as they roam.
Perhaps it’s also the idea of living in the past and experiencing life as it used to be. One such tiny houser lives in a home replicated from the plans of an actual Victorian 1860s home that is filled with period-correct interior decor and features a false piano that folds out into a bed.
In the end, the type of tiny house anyone chooses is up to them. The Tiny House Festival showcased ready-built storage sheds suitable for conversion into homes, prebuilt steel frames on trailers ready to be finished, and fully finished and appointed homes of all shapes and sizes, from pull-along teardrops to traditional campers to sleek modern bohemoths that look more like high-end mobile homes complete with full baths and kitchens. Vendors offering details on sustainable structures such as green building with steel and insulation, composting toilet systems, and solar power systems were on hand to give options for going off-grid, while live music accompanied fantastic food trucks offering gourmet crab cakes, homemade Argentinean food, and more.
For those who stayed through the weekend, the festival featured a lineup of speakers dedicated to instructing and informing people about the various aspects of tiny living; organization, whether to stay on- or off-grid, where to source materials, how to get permits, and ideas for innovative design to make the most of your tiny space.