Tiny Houses. As tinyhomebuilders.com, a website focused on the popular movement towards smaller living spaces, explains, such homes tend to be under 600 square feet. Martha Bjornson, an Onamia resident, moved into her current home just under a year ago, and at 500 square feet, her living space certainly qualifies as “tiny.” It lends itself to a lifestyle Bjornson appreciates. For her, it’s not just a “tiny home” but a “home to grow older in.”
Bjornson first moved into her tiny home 11 months ago. She wasn’t a stranger to the neighborhood, as she had previously lived in a house across the street. After sustaining an injury from a fall on the staircase, she decided that home was no longer a good fit for her.
She explained that the property went on the market when the former owner passed away. The property was acquired by the Onamia Alliance Church, and Bjornson then acquired it from the church. “It was a teardown,” she said. Initially the city had been unable to give her a building permit because the site was too small for a home by county standards. As a wall of the former house had been standing, however, she was able to get a remodeling permit to build off that wall and within the old house’s footprint.
When it came to the construction of the house, Bjornson worked with a local contractor to draw up the floor plan. After this planning, the contractor then carried out the construction of the house. In total, the construction on the house took about a year, she said, though she added that closing on the property itself had taken a long time–around a year and a half–as there wasn’t a clear title. During this time, she resided at a senior living complex.
Part of Bjornson’s desire to live in a tiny house came from her time living in senior housing. “I just wasn’t happy there,” she said. “You lose a lot of your freedom in an apartment building … It’s wonderful for those who need it, but I’m too independent.” Freedom, independence and privacy were all benefits Bjornson said her small house afforded her. She also noted the other advantages, including a low heating bill. This benefit came, in part, from the house being built on a heated slab. “It’s easy to clean,” she said, “easy to heat.”
And the space posed no problems for entertaining guests, she added. “I entertain a lot.” The adjoined garage, built on its own 200 square feet of the slab, could serve as a dining/sleeping area if need be. At one occasion in the last year, she hosted around a dozen family members in the space. “I’ve found no disadvantages living here,” she said, “and it’s definitely got advantages over an apartment. I can decorate how I want. I can paint. I can do the wallpaper.”
There were a handful of projects around the property that still needed work, including storage, beside the house, unfinished Sheetrock in the garage and a storage cupboard in the living room. “There’s always something to do,” she said. “But I don’t need to worry about a furnace shutting down, a water heater quitting, or windows needing replacement.” Above all, she wanted her home to be user-friendly for senior living. Wheelchair accessibility has been taken into consideration for the house’s design. Bjornson said she was aiming for dependable housing and foresaw the tiny house serving her for the next decade.
Bjornson is an individual with perspective on what she needs to meet her needs. “I see no point in living alone in a three bedroom home,” she said, referring to her former house across the street. While her small house may be a small oddity along the streets of Onamia, Bjornson is an older member of the community who knows exactly how to make that space work for her.