How Tiny Home Living Supports Well-Being

In this Q&A with the Chief Design Officer of Wind River Tiny Homes we discover why, for some, tiny-home living aligns with a healthy lifestyle.

January 4, 2023
The tiny home movement that began 10 years ago hasn’t gone away. In fact, the pandemic only amplified the desire for some to embrace a smaller footprint and downsize. When Travis Pyke encountered the idea of the tiny home in 2012, he was intrigued and it wasn't long before he began building one for himself. That tiny home became the first home he and his wife shared, and it was also the seed of an idea that turned into Pyke’s design/build firm for custom, hand-crafted tiny homes.

Today, Pyke is the CEO and Chief Design Officer of Wind River Tiny Homes, where he encourages people to tailor their homes to their life (and not the other way around). Because, as Pyke said, downsizing doesn’t have to mean giving up what matters. In fact, there’s nothing small about living tiny.

The homes that Wind River Tiny Homes builds are different from your standard tiny homes in that they are custom dwellings, with premium materials throughout. With six tiny home models ranging between 250 to 450 square feet, the tiny homes feature Marvin Essential windows as well as Marvin Elevate Sliding doors—key additions to making each tiny home feel more expansive and brighter inside.

We sat down with Pyke to learn more about the tiny home trend, and to find out more about how well-being aligns with a minimalist lifestyle.
Q: Please share a little background about your origins as a builder and Wind River Tiny Homes.

My first introduction to homebuilding came when I was in seventh or eighth grade when my family and I built our own log cabin. I grew up drawing maps and buildings, and I have always been really interested in architecture and construction. I felt like I had a good idea of how it all worked. Throughout high school and college, I worked for contractors and remodelers learning a bunch of different trades.

I always had a desire to be an architect, but the academic piece scared me away because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in college. I ended up working in a bunch of different trades instead. Then in 2012 I heard about the tiny home movement. I knew building a tiny home was something I could easily do myself, taking all that knowledge and skill that I'd acquired over the years. I bought a trailer and just went at it. I spent about 14 months working nights and weekends building the Wind River Bungalow, which is technically the company’s first house as well as the first house my wife and I lived in.
Q: What do you think inspires this desire in our culture to downsize and live smaller, a trend that we've seen rise over the last decade?

From the moment I learned about the notion of a tiny home, I fell in love with the concept. It’s all about embracing something that’s just the right size and attainable. Minimalism is not for everyone. There are several people in my life—friends and family—who would say that a tiny house just isn’t for them. That's something we've never pushed. We don’t say, "Everyone needs to live in a tiny home." But I do think it provides another option for a lot of people who have been pushed either into renting and living in a condo apartment or buying or building a big house.

Tiny homes and the tiny home trend fit a need to elevate the value of experiences over the value of stuff. They want to have freedom. To be untethered from clunky, large things and spaces and to prioritize experience in life—whether that's travel, times with people versus maintaining stuff and navigating clutter. You can, in a sense, experience life in a freer way when you have less.

At Wind River, our motto is "less house, more home." When you live in a tiny home, you're not tied down to big mortgages and big homes that must be maintained. And now, especially in the wake of the pandemic, people are rethinking their lives. With increased work-from-home options, there’s even more reason to get creative about living situations. We’re starting to see a lot of people moving out of the cities and more into rural areas, buying land, wanting to experience being off grid.
Q: Are you seeing more people moving out of the cities with their tiny homes or establishing their tiny footprints in urban areas?

Since the tiny home movement began, more tiny homes are popping up in urban areas. It’s been happening at a slower rate, though, because of issues like zoning and regulations, which vary state-by-state, city-by-city, and county-by-county. It comes down to whether they're allowed in more urban footprints. But it's becoming more common with the housing shortage that we have in all the major cities in the country. We're having to fit more housing options into some of these areas that can't just build apartments and townhomes. So, I'd say urban tiny homes are growing, but for most of our customers, I would say their tiny home is more of a getaway. It's either on personal property or a friend's or family's property.
Q: How do you see tiny home living affecting well-being?

Being in a clean, open, clutter-free environment that's well-designed and aesthetically pleasing affects my well-being by improving my mood and my overall attitude. So, for me, when I think about tiny home living, I would say if the tiny home has good design and is clutter-free, it can boost your spirit and energy. You’re not tied down to a bunch of stuff.

Even though my wife and I don't live in a tiny home anymore, we still think about our 1,500-square-foot home as if it was tiny. We go back to the mental space of when we were in the tiny home and we purge things that we're not using. It’s very Marie Kondo. We ask, "Does this bring joy? Do we use this?" We're always trying to get as close to minimalism as is possible.
When you share a small space with a spouse or family member, it can be hard. For some, it actually might not be good for their well-being. But for my wife and I personally, it really was. In fact, we would do it again in a heartbeat. Living in a tiny home forces you to communicate more and deal with conflict, so for us and our emotional well-being, living in a tiny home was a good thing. I think it builds stronger relationships.

Another key piece of my wife’s and my story is this: It was important for us to become debt free. We had shared debt from school, wedding, credit card, and vehicles. But after a year and a half of living in the tiny home, we were able to save money and erase our debt. We were proud that we stuck it out and were able to achieve that goal. This ties into financial well-being.

I also think tiny home life gets you outside more and being outside is great for your health and well-being. As beautiful and nice as a tiny home can be on the inside, it still pushes you to be outside more and live an active lifestyle.

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