Tiny Home Living, Newfoundland Style

Small living has always interested Jon Soehl. Small apartments, small cars, very small homes – they enthral him. His fascination with tiny has culminated in the Bonavista, the first tiny home from his new company, Driftwood Dwellings.

It’s very small – as small as he could possibly make it, partly as a personal challenge and partly because he wanted to build the tiniest of tiny homes. Yet, despite its small size, it doesn’t feel cramped or confined when seated at the table inside, likely because of the white walls and nearly 11-foot high ceiling.

Is it possible for two people to live comfortably in 130 square feet of space? After a summer of living in the tiny home overlooking the waters of Upper Amherst Cove, Jon and his girlfriend Alex have found that, yes, it’s an enjoyable experience.

Jon, an engineer with a background in construction, knew he wanted small, and knew he wanted it to be capable of true off-grid living – something that wouldn’t require a generator for electricity needs. The house is wired to operate on 12 volt DC, 120 volt AC, and propane. This past summer, they used an existing electrical supply, but the house is ready for connecting to a solar power source, as well.

Being truly off-grid capable was on Jon’s must-have list, and he spent quite a bit of effort to realize his goal.

In the bathroom, that means using a composting toilet. In the kitchen, the stovetop is propane, and the fridge is a special unit capable of accepting a 12 volt, 120 volt, or propane power source.

Even the roof was designed to be off-grid friendly. The monopitch slope and metal cladding are intended to optimize water collection for times when a water source isn’t available.

A very small woodstove – it’s about one cubic foot – is big enough to heat the space. And while it’s undeniably cute, with all the cozy benefits of a wood stove, it has a more practical purpose as well – wood stoves don’t rely on an outside energy source, like electricity or trucked-in oil, making them the perfect off-grid heat source.

This tiny home, like many its size, was built on a trailer base. That opens up some interesting possibilities for using the tiny home as a multi-location cabin. It could, for instance, be placed on a waterfront site for half the year, where you could enjoy boating, fishing and swimming, then be moved to serve as a tiny chalet at the base of a ski hill, where you could enjoy downhill and alpine skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports.

But there are some caveats to this mobile cabin lifestyle. Despite being on wheels, it isn’t portable in the same way an RV is. It’s much heavier, and wouldn’t be the sort of thing you’d want to tow around to campsites.

Unlike an RV or trailer, which is built with a thin shell and other weight-savings items, this tiny home is built with wood stud construction, plywood sheeting, and full insulation. It’s built like a house, but smaller.

An 18” bumpout over the trailer hitch is used as a nook for the bathroom sink, clearing up valuable floor space in the small three-piece bathroom, which has a composting toilet and a small but functional shower. The bumpout also has two doors accessed from the exterior that hide the electrical system and provide some extra storage space.

Outside, the house is inspired by colourful saltbox homes, while the inside draws inspiration from Scandinavian design, with its use of white, wood accents, and plywood. Combined with the tall ceiling, the design choices give the interior a sense of size that belies its tiny footprint.

Every part of this cozy space has been carefully considered. A low bench runs the length of one wall, adjacent to the table, serving as extra seating or as a shelf while also covering the wheel wells that intrude into the space.

The table is built-in and draws inspiration from boat and RV design, with the table dropping into a ledge in the benches to transform into a guest bed.

The stairs rise from behind the bench, extending up beside the kitchen counter to provide kitchen storage.

Upstairs, the loft holds a queen bed. A low, boxed-in shelf prevents accidentally rolling off the loft, while providing a storage space and shelf surface in the tiny bedroom. The pitched roof slopes toward the foot of the bed, leaving enough room to sit up in bed for reading or watching a movie. The question of where to place dirty laundry is tidily answered by an elastic mesh net attached to the wall.

Both Jon and Alex have found that living in a tiny home has made them reconsider what they need as essentials, and forced them to tightly edit their possessions, since there simply isn’t enough room to accumulate excess stuff.

It has, says Jon, been liberating to realize he didn’t need as much stuff in his life as he once thought he did. After a few months living in the tiny house, he has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“Living simply has been great,” he says.