By JIM COLLAR
APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — Jeff Levenhagen is filled with all the anticipation one could expect from a first-time homeowner waiting to unlock the front door to his custom-built house.
Levenhagen, though, has an extra hurdle to clear before he’ll finally move in.
The 29-year-old Appleton man first needs to find a parcel of land to put it before hitching his house to the back of a truck and hauling it to the Fox Cities.
“It’s not going to be as big as some houses,” Levenhagen said, “but I don’t need more than this.”
Levenhagen is the proud new owner of a tiny house. It’s a growing earth-friendly movement, and there’s likely no better descriptor for Levenhagen’s dwelling that’ll arrive with just 190 square feet of living space.
He insists he doesn’t need a foot more.
He’ll have a living room, bathroom, bedroom and a kitchen. There’s closet space.
He had the house built to his liking with hardwood floors, cedar siding and a covered front porch for relaxation on summer days.
He’s happy to pay rent on a parking space for the house as he finishes a degree at Fox Valley Technical College. He’s been looking at RV parks and said farmland could be a good possibility should he find a willing owner. He’s been researching whether municipal ordinances would allow him to set up in a big backyard or driveway.
The compact style of living isn’t for everyone, but after some research, Levenhagen determined the tight quarters would provide the right fit for his wants and lifestyle.
The tiny houses are affordable, sustainable and require a simpler style of living. Levenhagen is at a place in life where he’d rather build his savings account than a collection of material goods. His house is costing him about $30,000.
It’s a matter of having enough rather than extra, and Levenhagen cited the bedroom loft above his kitchen and bathroom as an example.
“I can kneel in there, make my bed and move around,” he told Post-Crescent Media. “It feels like a bigger space than it is.”
The tiny house movement has drawn its share of attention in recent years.
The homes and their residents are the subjects of the show “Tiny House Nation,” which airs on cable network FYI.
For many, it’s a social statement against the “bigger is better” phenomenon that’s taken over housing in the U.S. in recent decades. Several communities are turning to the concept as a means to address homelessness.
Madison is among them, becoming home in 2014 to a tiny house village created as a project of nonprofit Occupy Madison Inc. The village, which has four tiny houses to date, was put up at the site of a former auto repair shop.
Many of those making the move to tiny houses build their own. Levenhagen turned to North Park Cabins and Park Model RVs of Minocqua for construction.
It’s a 22-by-8-foot house and was built on top of a trailer.
Steve Humblet, owner of North Park, said he’s had a number of different projects and requests through the years, but “this is probably the smallest we’ve done for actually living in.”
It’s been a challenging project, knowing they aren’t building a weekend getaway spot. Creating a full-time home required getting the very most from every available inch.
“Smaller doesn’t mean simpler,” Humblet said.
Levenhagen expects to graduate in May with a natural resource technician degree and he’s not sure yet where his career will take him. He’s considering a move out west.
“I’ve always been interested in nature; in being outside,” he said.
Wherever home might be, the spacious yard afforded by nature is more important to him than whatever comforts rest within the four walls.
Many might wonder for how long they could take comfort in such a small amount of living space, though Levenhagen has no worries. He’s done it before.
He spent two years teaching English in South Korea after earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He had two different apartments while overseas, and “both were smaller than my tiny house,” he said.
He really only needs sufficient parking space and says his house would provide a great example of sustainable living.
He’ll get his electricity from solar panels that’ll keep a charge on two deep-cycle batteries. The bathroom is equipped with a composting toilet. The shower and sink will draw from a 15-gallon water storage tank, and he’ll rely on a high-efficiency wood stove to keep the well-insulated home toasty in the cold months.
For Levenhagen, there’s a sense of freedom where others might get a tinge of claustrophobia.
“Wherever I go, I can just take my house with me,” he said.