Photo courtesy of Guillaume Dutilh
Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard with their tiny house in Central Park.
Last May, Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard ditched their 9-to-5 jobs in Los Angeles, sold most of their possessions, and began a quest to live out their dreams as a travel blogger and photographer while towing their 20-foot-long, 135-square-foot tiny house across the country. They’ve visited national parks, taken the house on a ferry from Novia Scotia to Maine, and even driven it through Central Park and midtown Manhattan, documenting it all on their blog, tinyhousegiantjourney.com.
The couple swung through Richmond in November for an open house with the RVA Tiny House team (see page 40 for more info on the group), where we caught up with them for a chat and a house tour.
R•Home: What made you want to live in a tiny house?
Jenna Spesard: For us in particular, we were unhappy with the jobs we had. We were working just to pay the bills. We love to travel and knew that if we were going to go on the road and give it a go as a photographer/travel writer duo, we wanted to do it in a unique way. … We also liked the idea of simplifying our lives. Everything we own is in the truck or in the house.
R•Home: How did you go about downsizing to fit into a tiny house?
Guillaume Dutilh: I used to have a lot of hobbies … rock climbing, scuba diving, photography. We sold all of our equipment and decided we could rent it when we needed it. We kept our snowboards, and we store those on our ceiling. I switched to a much more compact [photography] system and sold my Nikon gear. The money I got from selling it allowed us to buy our truck. Most of what we sold went back into some aspect of the tiny house.
R•Home: When did you begin your tiny house journey?
Dutilh: If you call the build the journey, we started on Sept. 2, 2013, and finished the build on Sept 2, 2014. We built most of it in L.A. in my uncle’s backyard, then in mid-May we both quit our jobs and moved to Illinois, where Jenna’s family is from. We traveled 2,000 miles and parked it at her parents’ house to finish the interior.
R•Home: What was the greatest challenge you faced when building your tiny house?
Dutilh: Actually building it wasn’t the hard part. Making decisions with all of the overwhelming information to consider was. Things like “what kind of water heater?” … Figuring out how to make the bathroom work was also hard. ... It took us weeks to find a tub that would fit the space.
R•Home: Does tiny house equal tiny budget?
Dutilh: This house cost $30,000 in materials for us, which is on the higher end for tiny houses. One of the big criticisms people give the tiny house movement is that it costs more per square foot to build than a bigger house. Of course it does: It’s about quality over quantity. The difference between buying the cheapest and most expensive [materials] for something that is this size is not that much. You can really have quality in a tiny space.
R•Home: How do people react to the tiny house?
Dutilh: When we drive, we get continuous thumbs up. People stop to take pictures, and campground hosts have let us stay for free in some campgrounds because they have never seen a tiny house before.
R•Home: Where will your travels take you next?
Spesard: From here, we go to Charlotte and we will start making our way to Florida for the holidays. We will travel the southern border of the U.S. during the winter. We’re snowboarders, but we are afraid to tow this thing somewhere we might get stuck for a month because of the snow. Because of the nature of our project, we need to keep moving. We plan to go up the West Coast in the spring, and our goal is to be in Alaska by July.
R•Home: What are some of the challenges of living in a 135-square-foot house?
Spesard: You don’t have all of the amenities you would have in a larger house, and you’d better like the person you are living with because you are never very far from them! It may not be as luxurious as a 2,000-square-foot home, and I don’t have an oven, washer and dryer, a walk-in closet or soaking tub…. But these are things I sacrificed to be able to travel.
Dutilh: Who else can say that North America is their backyard?
Spesard: And we don’t even have to mow it.