Tiny House

Jay Shafer’s Stunning $5,000 Tiny House

Jay Shafer is the Godfather of the modern tiny house movement. I say the modern movement, because for the vast majority of human history, we have lived in small, simple shelters. It was almost 20 years ago that Jay designed and built his first 90 square foot (8m2) tiny house on wheels and that moment sparked the very beginning of the tiny house movement and a trend towards reclaiming the human right to affordable simple shelter.

The affordability factor is a big one. In recent years, we have watched the average price of a tiny house on wheels creep up as the movement grows, more builders get involved and the spec of tiny homes ever increases. It’s not uncommon for a tiny house on wheels to now cost over US$100,000 – still a relatively tiny price tag compared to the cost of a ‘normal’ house in some areas, however still a price too far out of reach for many.

Nobody knows this better than Jay, who has experienced homelessness several times in his life. It was for that reason (amongst many others) that for his new home he wanted to design something which would go back to the very essence of what the tiny house movement represents. A small, simple, beautifully well designed home which is affordable and easy to construct.

Jay’s new home is extra tiny and stripped back to the basics. It’s roughly 7 x 8 ft (2 x 2.5 meters) and contains a day bed / couch, a small desk, lots of storage space and a sleeping loft. There’s no kitchen and no toilet (for these he uses shared ammenities at his tiny house parking spot) but this stripped back version of a tiny house has a material cost of only $5,000. Simple to construct as a DIY’er (together with the help of some YouTube videos) this means that with this new design, someone can have the basics of a home for a fraction of the cost of renting. Jay’s vision is that there would be communities of homes like this one, all set up around shared communal infrastructure such as a kitchen and toilet block.

Stepping inside Jay’s tiny house, you immediately get a sense of being home. That’s thanks to some incredibly good design from a man who has had 20 years to contemplate the form and function of a tiny house. In ‘The Small House Book‘, Jay describes the use of sacred geometry to create a well proportioned home which gives the essence of home. And it does. Looking a Jay’s new home as well as his back catalogue of impressive tiny house designs, they all have that very quintessential look of home. Jay is an artist and considers his home as a way to live within his art.

Aesthetics of home are an important element for Jay who writes “the selfish squandering of valuable resources and the emission of toxins without any worthwhile purpose are always corrupt and unsightly. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but an oversized house is an ugliness we all have to contend with.”

This was a really exciting tiny house tour for me. Jay Shafer was the man who first inspired me to build my own tiny house on wheels. His insights into this housing revolution years ago planted a seed of promise, adventure and a better lifestyle and brighter future for me. It’s wonderful to now be able to share one of his new designs and hopefully help to inspire a whole new generation of tiny house builders. Be sure to watch the full video tour above, as we explore Jay’s new home and the principles of good tiny house design.