CJ stands in front of his family’s new tiny house as it makes its way to property in Amador County. An El Dorado Hills construction company built the house in Cameron Park. Courtesy photo

Cameron Park Life

Building this tiny house is a ‘big’ deal

By From page A1 | July 04, 2017

Tools used in home construction don’t typically include cameras, microphones and special lighting but a home built by Gottschalk Construction earlier this year was anything but typical. Crews working in a Cameron Park horse barn were building a tiny house and they got help from perhaps the most famous tiny house experts — Tiny House Nation stars John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin.

The episode “Tiny tech-Free Retreat” aired June 24 and shared the story of a Menlo Park family that wanted a getaway home where mom Christina and dad CJ could bond with their two young children, JJ and Maddox, free from digital distractions.

“We want to get away from the craziness of the Silicon Valley,” Christina told Cameron Park Life, who joined the family and Tiny House Nation crew on location one drizzly February day. “We’ve liked the tiny houses for years.”

The couple ultimately moved their home to property in Amador County that overlooks an orchard and “gets the most beautiful Amador sunsets,” Christina said. They reached out to Tiny House Nation when they started the process of going tiny and the show’s producers connected them with El Dorado Hills-based Gottschalk Construction.

The 330-square-foot house on a trailer was the first tiny house construction company owner Greg Gottschalk had ever built.

“It’s challenging because I’m trying to pack so much into a small space,” said Gottschalk, who has been in the construction industry for 35 years. “It’s also fun to try to problem-solve the issues that come up.”

Challenges tackled when we spoke to Gottschalk included making sure the installed wood stove was up to code and lowering the home’s floor after crews started so the trailer wasn’t too tall.

Having an expert like Giffin on hand was extremely helpful, he added.

“Zack is very knowledgable and he does a lot of the work himself,” Gottschalk explained. “It’s been fun because he knows construction and we can speak the same language. We work well together.”

The family’s home features two lofts and a main living space with a kitchen, living room and a large bathroom that also doubles as Christina’s get-away sauna — that’s right, a sauna in a tiny house. The master loft features a skylight that allows Mom and Dad to stargaze and watch the moon. The kids’ loft includes a safety rail, toy storage and two cozy beds for the little ones.

The tiny house also includes those Zack Giffin specials like seating in the sauna that folds down from the storage cabinets on each end of the large bathtub, an outdoor dining table that folds up and blends with the home’s siding and features a bench that’s stored under the trailer’s frame and a little lending toy shop (in the shape of a tiny house, of course) where JJ can discover new toys and lend some of his out so other children can play with them.

At the end of the episode both Christina and CJ said they loved their tech-free retreat as it’s a great way to connect with their children and nature.

Of being on the popular, national television show, Christina said, “It was definitely a different experience. Fun but exhausting and something we will likely never do again. I think it’ll be a fun memory for our family.”

So what’s life like now that the family has this tiny retreat?

“It’s cozy and tiny. With nice weather we can open it up and spend a lot of times outdoors,” Christina said. “We’ll have to see how cold and crowded it feels in the winter.”

The family enjoys temporary tiny living while still having their larger home. “For us, it’s our sanctuary from our busy work/school lives in Silicon Valley,” Christina said. “I think actually living full time in the tiny house would be hard, especially with our two young boys.”

While this tiny house only has part-time residents, across the country many people are making the move to tiny living, Weisbarth said, explaining that people want to leave a smaller footprint on the environment.

Giffin, who has a tiny house and has helped build more than 70 of the little homes, said he sees a tiny home as a tool — whether the reason is to protect the environment or, as is the case with CJ and Christina, to get closer to family and nature.

“(Tiny houses) help you make connections with the people you love and yourself, living with the idea that time is the most precious thing,” Giffin said.

“It’s really not about living in the smallest space possible,” he explained. “It’s about what you need for happiness.”

Noel Stack

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