Small and Super

Go inside a Gig Harbor tiny house

Tiny homes may seem like a new fad due to recent hype, but the tiny house movement has been around for more than a decade. In fact, the Small House Society — a group that gives a voice to owners of small homes — began in 2002.

Gig Harbor-based contractor Brett Marlo Design and Build has created a prototype tiny house model to showcase the possibilities of tiny house living.

“We are passionate about quality of life,” said Brett Marlo DeSantis, who owns the company. “That is why we studied (tiny homes) for years before we decided to commit and invest.”


Benefits for tiny house living include mobility (move your house instead of your stuff), smaller impact on the environment, and affordability. Tiny homes sell for a fraction of the price than larger homes, requiring less financing. A mere 29.3 percent of U.S. homeowners own their properties free and clear, while an estimated 68 percent of tiny homeowners are mortgage-free.

“I think what is going on is there is finally a shift in consciousness where people want to have experiences rather than be tied down to a conservative life of debt,” DeSantis said.

Tiny homes appeal to most to baby boomers who are on the cusp of retirement and ready to downsize, as well as millennials who lived through the recession and want to live simply, according to DeSantis.

“The smaller the house, the closer the family!” — Brett Marlo DeSantis

“Previous generations saw real estate as a big investment; now you have to ask, ‘Do I want to sink all my money into something that is not as stable, or do I want to live my life and spend my money on having these great experiences?’” she said.

DeSantis hopes to sell most of her belongings in the near future so she and her two young daughters (7 and 10 years old) can live in her tiny home prototype.

“It’ll be close quarters, but the smaller the house the closer the family!”


Tiny House Fact Sheet

  • 204 square feet
  • 8.5 feet wide
  • 24 feet long
  • 13.5 feet high
  • 8 solar panels
  • 6 adults can sleep inside, with two loft beds and a flip-down couch

The Exterior
The street-legal trailer is custom-made for a tiny house. It meets Department of Transportation height and width restrictions and can be towed by a 1-ton truck.

A jack system is integrated into the trailer’s frame to support the weight of the home and to counterbalance a slight incline, ensuring the home is level.

The compartment in the front, over the trailer’s tongue, houses two propane tanks for heating and cooking, with extra space for storage.

A gray water tank collects used water from the sink and shower.

A rear panel compartment houses the home’s nerve center; most notably this panel controls the solar power. “We call this the flux capacitor — from Back to the Future — because that’s what it looks like,” DeSantis said. Additionally, she can plug her Nissan Leaf into the solar power hub to charge her car.

The Interior
Storage shelves double as stairs leading up to one of two overhead loft beds.

A minibar and barstools provide a table with a view. The window is removable so diners can enjoy the breeze.

The kitchen backsplash doubles as a magnetic dry-erase board.

Radiant heated flooring keeps little piggies warm during dreary Pacific Northwest days.


The Lofts
The space in each loft can accommodate a queen-sized mattress or smaller (like this full-sized mattress).

The small window in each loft can be opened for ventilation or removed for speedy egress with a collapsible ladder in the event of an emergency.

The small wall-mounted fireplace/heater is capable of warming up the entire house quickly.


The Bathroom
The standard-sized shower can be used inside, or water can be diverted to a showerhead on the house’s exterior for rinsing after a swim.

Depending on the budget, many tiny homes can be equipped with a compostable toilet in the event that a septic system is unavailable.

Translucent sliding panel doors provide privacy while still illuminating the bathroom with natural light.

This tiny home comes with everything including the kitchen
sink, which is where the homeowners will brush their teeth or wash their hands, as space does not allow
for a bathroom sink.



is the managing editor of South Sound magazine. Email her.
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