In case you haven’t heard, the tiny living movement has taken Colorado by storm. Returning for its third year, the Colorado Tiny House Festival will showcase its best roundup of tiny homes made by Coloradans, feature prominent speakers and host workshops on how to simplify and declutter your life this upcoming weekend. Featuring nearly 50 tiny structures, food trucks and live music, the festival seeks to educate, break down stigmas and build a community for those interested in tiny living.
Event organizer Art Laubach, award-winning tiny house builder Luke Kamtz and Denverite Erika Kessler-Ison, who lives in a mountain-themed home with her partner, dish on what makes tiny living a rewarding challenge and dole out advice to those considering the lifestyle. Read on to get the inside scoop of what to expect at this year’s festival and exclusive interviews.
Art Laubach is the Event Organizer and Executive Director of the Colorado Tiny House Association.
Laubach’s inspiration for the festival stemmed from a lack of a tiny living community in Colorado. “There became a need to have a festival in Colorado when the Tiny House Jamboree moved to Texas in 2017. The instant feedback from the public was like writing on the wall — they were pretty unhappy and voiced that there needs to be a festival in Colorado,” he said. As such, Laubach and his team, as tiny house builders themselves, agreed to take on hosting a festival themselves. Ever since their first festival in 2017, public reception has been overwhelmingly positive — inspiring them to keep growing and making it better.
303 Magazine: Can you tell us your personal connection to tiny homes?
Art Laubach: As a tiny home builder, as well as someone who lives part-time in an RV and organizes this festival, I’ve seen the positive impact this minimalist lifestyle has had on countless people.
303: How would you characterize the tiny living community in Denver and Colorado in general?
AL: There are a lot of efforts by individuals, groups and even a few legislators, to create some affordable alternative housing options for people in Denver and Colorado, but there are still hurdles to overcome. Colorado is primed to be a leading state in the tiny house movement, as Colorado has more tiny home builders than any other state in the country and is a massive hub of the tiny house movement. It’s time for us to lead the way in legislating great, safe and affordable housing options to the people who desire or need it, which should include tiny houses.
303: What do you do in your work as Executive Director of the newly formed Colorado Tiny House Association?
AL: We just formed the Association earlier this year with the goal to educate people at all levels and locations in this great state about alternative and affordable living options, and to work towards making Colorado, as a whole, legal for ADUs and tiny homes. We hope to work on removing any misguided negative assumptions and stigma attached to the “tiny living lifestyle” with education, including an understanding of the actual economic and social impact it has on a community, property values, and related concerns.
303: Would you recommend this lifestyle to others? What advice do you have for people considering the tiny home lifestyle?
AL: For people considering the tiny home lifestyle, I say – try it out! Many have said it’s freeing and liberating. We encourage you to come to the Colorado Tiny House Festival and step inside a bunch of different tiny house options in a single day, or weekend, and see what you think! Rent a tiny home on Airbnb or at a tiny house hotel like WeeCasa in Lyons. Start downsizing, start decluttering, and think about what you really use on a day-to-day basis. Ask yourself how much room do you really utilize in your standard size house? You’ll find out it’s much less than you think!
Luke Kamtz is the owner of Kamtz Tiny Home Living Company.
The winner of the 2017 and 2018 Best in Show at the Colorado Tiny House Festival, tiny house builder Luke Kamtz is the true definition of entrepreneurial spirit. Inspired by the challenges presented in building such a small space, he is excited by the prospect of how, sometimes, a matter of an inch or two can make or break a project. “I’m always looking for new and exciting things to do and build. Tiny homes are a challenge to create spaces for everything that is usually in a typical full-size home into small square footage space,” Kamtz explains. He has plenty of advice for builders seeking to break into the tiny living industry.
303: How does it feel to be the winner of both the 2017 and 2018 Best in Show at the Colorado Tiny House Festival?
Luke Kamtz: Awards and recognition are always great for sure! What really gets me excited is when my Tiny Homes are getting toured by people that are either considering going tiny or not and comment “I can see myself living in this!” Building a home that can be functional and enjoyable to live or stay in is my goal with my tinys.
303: What’s your creative process for designing and building these homes?
LK: My process is probably much different than most because we don’t do a full build plan before we start building. We decide on size and a basic floor plan and then start building. Along the building process we start to implement the full design. This way adjustments are easily made to make everything work as good as possible.
303: What advice do you have for anyone considering the tiny home lifestyle? Any advice for people building their own?
LK: I don’t live tiny myself so I’m not sure I can give full advice on living in one. With that said, I think really figuring out what’s important and what’s not. That includes spaces, belongings, and what isn’t necessary to have in your tiny. DIY build is tricky. I would make sure a lot of research is done on the structural side of the build to make sure it’s safe to go down the road if it’s going on wheels. From there, building as close to Residential Building Code as possible is what we do. Lastly, have fun doing it!
Ray and Erika Kessler-Ison
Ray and Erika Kessler-Ison are a Denver-based couple living in a tiny home.
Erika Kessler-Ison and her partner, Ray, had been interested in the thought of “living tiny” before they really even knew that a tiny house was. “The thought of owning an average size home has always been intimidating and unappealing to both of us. With the rising cost of housing in Denver, we needed an option that was truly affordable, allowed for flexibility, and didn’t require endless maintenance – that’s where a tiny home fits in,” she said. While the Kessler-Ison’s love owning their own home and the lifestyle of being able to live anywhere, living in a mini space as a couple certainly comes with its own challenges. Here, she provides smart tips and tricks to organize your space.
303: Did you build your own home? What was the process like?
Erika Kessler-Ison: We designed and built our home. We purchased a trailer and steel frame kit which is put together like a giant Erector set. The roof is the only other part of the build that was contracted out— we have an Interlock Roof System that required professional installation. Everything else was done by ourselves and the friends and family we occasionally bribed to come help.
The process was slow, due to finances and time restrictions, but it allowed us to learn new skills along the way and really become familiar with the space. From start to move in (because we aren’t completely finished with it), it took about five years to build and we have been living in it full time for one year.
303: How do you organize your space so that you both have everything you need?
EK: After moving multiple times, including to and from North East England, we really learned what kinds of things we needed and really wanted to have as opposed to what kinds of things were just the “stuff”. It’s easy to downsize when you know how to prioritize your belongings. That being said, we are NOT minimalists by any means! When designing our home, we knew storage was an absolute necessity for the things we wanted to hold onto.
Organizing space in a tiny home can be tricky, but rather than adding spots for storage that can eat up space to move/sit/stand, it’s more about utilizing space that might be wasted (i.e. under the couch, under the stairs, underneath the trailer, utilizing vertical space, etc). We learned too after moving in what was working and what wasn’t. The house is evolving with us as our needs and priorities change.
303: What advice do you have for anyone considering shifting to the tiny home lifestyle?
EK: BE PATIENT. It’s a steep learning curve, whether you are building or transitioning to living in a smaller space. Learning to live intentionally is a process.
303: Can you describe your house? Are there any unique features?
EK: Our house is meant to be a “modern mountain home.” The exterior of the house is very unique — the style is a modified saltbox, where the roof pitch is much steeper on one side. We have a copper colored roof and a bright blue dutch door. We also have multiple places in the house to hang a hammock! The most commented feature of our home though is probably the penny floor in the bathroom.
Whether you are looking to simplify your life or just want to tour dozens of homes, more information about the Tiny House Festival and ticket purchases can be found here.