Grad Student Builds 180 Square Foot Mobile Home

A grad student doesn’t mind living in tight quarters but she wants to be mobile.

Alicia Harris and her father, Paul, built this 180-square-foot mobile home, now located at Cottonwood RV Park in Columbia, Missouri. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

Alicia Harris and her father, Paul, built this 180-square-foot mobile home, now located at Cottonwood RV Park in Columbia, Missouri. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

With plans to graduate from Missouri University in May, Alicia Harris found an unique way to satisfy her aspirations to be mobile and own her own home.

Harris lives in a 180-square-foot house, built on a flatbed trailer, in Cottonwood RV Park north of Columbia with Roscoe, her 120-pound Great Dane, reports columbiamissourian.com.

Despite its small size, her home has a kitchen, a bathroom, shower, bedroom, and living area — even a closet and bit of other storage.

Harris finished building the house with her father, Paul Harris, in May 2013 and lived in it while interning in Amarillo, Texas, for two months last summer.

The two spent seven months creating the portable house, complete with electricity and plumbing, atop a 7.5-by-18-foot flatbed trailer.

Paul Harris used his years of construction experience to bring the idea to life. He created his own blueprint based on the layout of a model house by Tumbleweed Tiny House — a company that builds and delivers custom houses.

Alicia Harris calls for Roscoe as she climbs down the ladder from the loft bedroom. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

Alicia Harris calls for Roscoe as she climbs down the ladder from the loft bedroom. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

The purchase of a Tumbleweed Tiny House costs $57,000 to $66,000, and Paul Harris said his daughter’s house used about $22,000 of supplies.

Even with the option of eliminating months of hard work, Alicia Harris didn’t want to buy one, she wanted to build one.

“What makes it so meaningful to me is that we built it,” she told columbiamissourian.com.

They had help from other family members and friends, but the project especially brought Harris closer to her father. She spent a lot of time riding horses with her mother, “so building the house was a great way to spend more time with my dad,” she said.

Tiny houses have been a growing part of the movement toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Harris wants to travel a lot so the most attractive aspect was the mobility. But she has no complaints about the sustainable qualities her house offers.

“A perfect example: My first month’s electricity bill was $4, and the second one was $10,” she said, “and that was living in Texas in the middle of summer.”

When Harris first moved in, she was worried that Roscoe’s size and lack of room to run around inside would make the change difficult.

“He’s handled it really well actually,” she said.

“There was one time he started biting at the wall because he started getting anxious after being inside too long, but other than that he’s been good.”

The shower and bathroom in Alicia Harris' 180-sqare-foot house is across from the kitchen. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

The shower and bathroom in Alicia Harris’ 180-sqare-foot house is across from the kitchen. (Credit: Peter Marek/ columbiamissourian.com)

Harris has to make sure that Roscoe gets plenty of exercise, so she brings him to work at Fox Run Stables — where she cares for the horses.

The move forced Harris to make some big lifestyle changes.

“I don’t really buy many groceries anymore because when I bring something in, I need to take something out,” she told columbiamissourian.com.

“I had to learn how to live with much less.”

Debby Richman, a marketing spokeswoman for Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, said the lifestyle began to gain traction in 2008 when the economy was troubled because people were looking for ways to avoid a mortgage and minimize electric costs.

Tumbleweed has seen the number of people interested increase every year. The firm didn’t sell any houses in 2012 but sold 25 in 2013 and expects sales to quadruple in 2014, Richman told columbiamissourian.com.

Worth Pondering…

I hope you dance because…

Time.

Time is a wheel.

Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along.

Tell me, who wants to look back on their years and wonder where their years have gone.

—Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers, I Hope You Dance

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