By Donna Peak
At the 2017 International Builders’ Show (IBS), I had a chance to sit down with two of HGTV’s most popular and trusted real estate/renovation pros, Jonathan and Drew Scott (aka, the Property Brothers), and I had one burning question on my mind: What do they think of the “tiny house” movement?
“Being human giants, almost every house feels tiny to us,” jokes Jonathan (he and his brother tower at 6'5"). “To see how tiny living feels, Drew and I filmed a digital piece called ‘Tiny House Arrest’ where we spent 24 hours in a tiny house with my two dogs, and we learned it’s really not realistic. It’s a fun craze that’s a novelty right now, but tiny houses are illegal in most jurisdictions because they don’t meet the minimum code.”
“If there were more tiny houses that did meet code, especially with cities getting to be more and more expensive, that would be great,” adds Drew. “But there are smaller homes that are becoming more functional. For example, a space where you have living, kitchen and dining all off one space, that makes sense — but it’s the lack of code compliance in tiny houses that bug me.”
However, the brothers point out that there are lessons to be learned from these bite-sized abodes. “Taking the positives from what you see in tiny homes, like multipurpose spaces and multifunctional furniture pieces — that’s the stuff I do like,” says Jonathan.
“I’ve lived in condos that are less than 500 square feet that have worked,” Drew admits, “but laying out the space to maximize its use is the key. We took a project that was a 690-square-foot, poorly designed house and reconfigured it so that the rooms were flexible and it felt very spacious.” Drew’s advice: The smaller you go, the more important it is to work with a design professional to squeeze out every bit of functionality from your square footage.
In one of the brothers’ spin-off series, “Property Brothers: Home on the Ranch,” the duo took a 500-square-foot, rundown log cabin with choppy rooms and a poor floor plan and transformed it into a practical, even elegant, one-bedroom, one-bath home. “The project was for a ranch hand working the property, and now — 2 years later — all the ranch hands argue over who gets to stay in it, they all like it so much,” Drew says with a laugh.
“That cabin had history, too,” interjects Jonathan. “It was built on indigenous lands but had fallen apart because it wasn’t being used or maintained. It was going to be destroyed, but some family friends purchased it from the First Nations folks and brought it to their property where it sat for about 30 more years. It was falling apart again, so this renovation was us rebuilding it yet again.”
“We grew up on a ranch and were around log cabins all the time, so we have a great appreciation and respect for this type of architecture. It was great to take that house, revitalize it and make it functional.” Drew adds.
If there’s one piece of wisdom the Scott brothers would share it’s that small does not equal dull. “The thing I love about log homes is that you don’t have to eliminate all of the character, whether it’s in the structure itself or certain features, when you go small. It’s the way you utilize and combine the space with new design elements so the house is more functional,” shares Drew. “Anyone who feels that a log cabin is ‘a place that’s great for a couple of days but I wouldn’t want to live in it’ hasn’t been in a log house that’s incorporated modern functionality. With smart design, a small log cabin can be a fantastic full-time home.”