Looking for a home on one income in just about any part of the United States is a challenge, and the hot market of chilly Boulder, Colorado, is no different. Jen Gressett, a graphic designer, copywriter and photo editor, didn’t want to lose the life she had built in a location she loved after a big change, so she found a way to carve out her own luxurious space that fit her outlook and bank account.
Meet the Expert
Origin Story: Sticker Shock Prompts Creative Solution
Gressett was married for 18 years before divorcing in 2018. She loved the Boulder, Colorado outskirts where she and her family lived and wanted to stay in the area. At the time, the average home price in her area was well over $600,000, and some are selling for more than $1 million now. “No way I could afford to stay in the area on a single income, and I definitely wasn’t interested in getting married or cohabitation anytime soon!” she says.
Love at First Sight, With Bumps Along the Way
While searching for a way to stay in her desired location on a budget, she came across a tiny home with a modern farmhouse interior. “It had shiplap, tall ceilings, French doors and even had a real bathtub,” Gressett says. “This is when I decided I absolutely wanted to get a tiny house.”
She ended up buying a tiny home shell from a builder she found on Craigslist, a choice she regrets. After months of no progress on completing the home and a price quote that ended up being a pipe dream, she called in MitchCraft Tiny Homes to finish the job. The shell had been exposed to the elements for almost two years, so there was a lot of repair work before they could finish the inside. The tiny home ended up costing about $170,000—$20,000 over what she had intended to spend, but it had everything she needed and more.
Despite the extra costs, Gressett adores the way the home turned out, with a light, open interior that looks much larger than its actual 34-foot-by-10-foot size. Wood on the ceiling and the floor give the home continuity and definition, and the mostly white color scheme, with black fixtures as accents, adds extra brightness.
Her kitchen counter wraps around to create a dining space, with a larger, rounded area on the end giving Gressett space to work from home. She even has a pullout shelf under the cabinets that serve as her printer station. Every single inch of the home is completely planned for maximum efficiency and style to fit how she lives and the aesthetic she adores.
Fighting the Water War
When building the home, Gressett was worried she would have trouble finding a place to park it, but that was the easy part. Her biggest challenge in her tiny living journey has been a battle between Colorado’s frigid winter weather and her water system. And this past winter, the weather won for three weeks over a three-month period. “I didn't realize it would be quite this difficult to keep water flowing,” she says. “It definitely has me thinking about relocating the tiny to a warmer location if I don't find a better solution next winter!”
Unexpected Benefits of Going Small
Gressett loves her home and says she could definitely live in it forever. She can deep clean the home in 30 minutes and is forced to be more mindful of what she brings in. Her trash option is just a kitchen-sized waste can, so Gressett has to consider everything in a purchase, including packaging. That has led her to buy locally more often. “I don’t buy anything unless I know exactly where it is going to live in the house,” she says. “If it doesn’t have a space, I’ll just end up constantly moving it out of the way or tripping over it.”
I don’t buy anything unless I know exactly where it is going to live in the house.
She also loves that she didn’t have to sacrifice amenities just because she reduced the scale of her living space. “I have all of the luxury items I wanted—a fireplace, soaker tub, quartz countertops and a king-sized bed,” Gressett says. “It's everything I need on a more manageable scale, plus I can move it anywhere I want.”