This Portland Start-Up Custom-Builds the Cutest Tiny Houses Ever
After facing some hefty challenges—including finding a perfectly tiny door for their first-ever house—the custom-build tiny-house company Tiny Heirloom has hit the ground running. We sat down with Michelle Spiess, one member of the Tiny Heirloom clan, who gave us the scoop.
First the basics: What is this company and how did it come to be?
MS: Tiny Heirloom is a custom tiny-house business, based in Oregon City, started by my husband, my two brothers, their wives, and myself. The idea really started coming to life in January 2014. My dad was a contractor, and has been building since he was 17 and my brothers jumped on board in high school, so construction was already part of our framework.
We decided we wanted to make it easier for people to live small—we’ve always loved that concept. It’s all about living simply and reducing our carbon footprint. More than anything, this is what we wanted to accomplish when we came up with the initial idea.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced along the way?
MS: Getting loans. It’s nearly impossible to get loans for tiny houses, so we had to start brainstorming on what would make us different. We began doing research on trailers and mobile homes and found out that travel trailers are not considered a permanent residence. After we got through all the paperwork and legalities (which was not easy), we had to begin constructing our first tiny home. We thought it would take three months—no big deal—but it took six. We couldn’t find a door small enough! We had to commit to hours and hours of research on appliances. We’ve been learning as we go, so it should get easier from here on out.
What makes Tiny Heirloom different from other tiny homes?
MS: Tiny Heirloom is all about custom work. We will work with a client from start to finish so that their home doesn’t look cookie-cutter. People can pick their lighting, their flooring; they can decide whether or not they want their home to plug in our exist off the grid. We can set up a rain catchment for people who want to reduce their footprint even more. We are working with Rejuvenation and interior designers who our clients can work with. Rejuvenation can make custom furniture.
Building tiny homes seems more about an ideology rather than a means to make money. Why is this work important?
MS: We want to help people realize there’s more to life than our things. We personally like to work less and play more. The simplest things in life can give us the most pleasure. This is when we’re the happiest. Tiny houses give you that freedom.