Dion Cowe and her boyfriend, Ben Sawyer, live in a house that’s barely wider than your average garden shed. The couple, based in Carmarthenshire, south west Wales, are the proud owners of a tiny house that’s just 28ft by 8ft.
It may sound like a claustrophobic’s nightmare, but the couple insist sharing the space – free from excess material goods – is wholly liberating.
“The only thing that has surprised us about living tiny is how freeing it feels,” says Cowe, 24. “It’s effortless.”
The home is built on a track with wheels and contains a micro-kitchen, wood burner, composting toilet, shower, bed on a mezzanine level, small sofa, some Instagram-friendly houseplants – and not much else.
“We both try our best to live a sustainable lifestyle and tiny living ties into that ideology perfectly,” says 30-year-old Sawyer. “It also helps us greatly with working towards financial freedom. Knowing that our outgoings are at a minimum, it takes the pressure off having to work silly hours.”
Tiny houses have steadily gained attention in recent years, helped by shows like Netflix’s Tiny House Nation, which aired in summer 2019.
The show focused on American families moving into micro properties, but in the UK, it’s rare to find anyone downsizing to such a degree – partly due to confusion surrounding planning permission for tiny houses.
The tiny homes that do exist are often quirky holiday homes or back garden Airbnbs, rather than full-time abodes.
Decoding the regulations posed a major challenge for the couple when they started their build last March. And despite Sawyer and Cowe’s father both working in carpentry, the build itself was also difficult. It took six months from start to finish – “which honestly felt like six years” – but it was worth it.
The pair are used to living in close proximity and have spent much of their six-year relationship travelling in converted vans. They briefly rented a standard, two-bedroom house, but it didn’t feel right.
“We came to the realisation that neither of us were prepared to fully settle down, in the traditional sense,” says Cowe. “We felt that the money we were spending on rent could be put towards something way more beneficial.”
The tiny house cost a total of £35,000 to complete and the couple took out a loan for the upfront cost. They’ll pay it back over four years, with their monthly repayments around the same amount they were paying in rent.
Adjusting to this new way of living was apparently smooth-sailing. But what do they do if they need some space, or (heaven forbid), have a row?
“We’re not going to lie, we do exactly the same as everyone else,” says Cowe. “We shout a little and have a contest of who’s right and who’s wrong and then we often just avoid one another for a little while – Ben will often read or play music and I will turn to baking.”
“Also there are some incredible walks around where we are in Carmarthenshire,” adds Sawyer. “So one of us, or sometimes both of us, just escape into our backyard to soak up some peace and tranquillity.”
Dare I ask about the toilet situation? “The loo is very close, in fact everything is very close!” says Sawyer. “At first we both thought this was going to be an issue. But it’s safe to say that the waterless Separett composting toilet has saved our lives – enough said.”
On the plus side, the home is easy to maintain. There’s never a long list of household chores and barely any cleaning to be done.
Space is tight for two people and requires serious organisation; everything has its own place and bulky gifts at Christmas and birthdays are an absolute no-go.
Perhaps surprisingly, the couple have chosen to reduce their space even further by sharing their home with two pets.
They rescued their cocker spaniel, Willow, a few years ago and built the home with her in mind. “She has become our best friend – wherever we are, she is. She was in our thoughts throughout the whole design process, so much so, we even built her bed into the stairs,” says Cowe.
“It might be a little crazy, but we halved our wardrobe space, so she would have her own cosy corner in the house. Who needs to hang up trousers... right?”
Cinnamon, a lionhead rabbit, is a new addition, re-homed by the couple at the end of last year. She has her own teeny tiny home, built by the couple, that sits in the garden, but she spends most evenings in the house.
“If you ask me, there is always more room for pets!” Cowe insists.
Friends and family have been fully supportive of their nomadic lifestyle – the tiny house is situated on a plot owned by Sawyer’s parents, but the couple hope to take their home on wheels for a spin in the near future.
But although they’re in love with their creation, it won’t be a forever home. “In our eyes, nothing is forever,” they say.
“We always have a plan in motion. We would love to travel some more and maybe one day move to New Zealand but living tiny is more than ideal for us at the moment.”
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