Tiny: Dreaming Big and Living Small

Smaller is better, say Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller.

And they’re out to prove it to the world.

Smith embarked on a back-to-the-land quest in 2011, buying five acres in Colorado with the intent of putting down roots at the age of 30.

Influenced by the writings of Thoreau and Ed Abbey, he was intrigued by the tiny house movement, and began– with no construction experience – to build his own.

“It started out as a way to be a homeowner with my own place up in the mountains, and with connections to one secure place in the world,” he says. “In a way I could afford it, but it was environmentally smart too.”

Before long, Mueller showed up to help out.  “A tiny house seemed the perfect solution,” she says. “It’s on wheels, so it counts as a temporary structure — regular building codes don’t apply.”

It took a year – from May 2011to May 2012 – to finish the 133-square-foot structure on its 20-foot-long flatbed trailer. At seven feet wide and 19 feet long, all it lacks is plumbing, since the land is off the grid. But that’s no problem.

“We haul water in,” she says. “There’s a camp shower and we heat water for it – it’s kind of like camping in a way.”

The house remained on the land for about a year, before Smith moved it to Boulder and a friend’s back yard. Then the pair did something remarkable: They made a one-hour documentary film about their tiny house and six other individuals and families who live in them. Interviews with experts are woven into the footage.

“It’s about home and what makes a good home,” she says. “It’s a magical word but it can be hard to define,” she says.

“We set out to make a short film to tell an interesting story, but it turned into a feature length film distributed internationally,” Smith says. “We wanted to get people to ask questions about how to incorporate your values into a structure you live in.”

Released on VOD and DVD on June 3, Tiny: A Story about Living Small is now running at #4 on the iTunes Top Documentary list.

As they seek to define their place in the world, Mueller’s now taken a job on the East Coast, and Smith, on the West. But their tiny home still beckons.

“I’m in New York and he’s in L.A., and the tiny house is halfway in between us,” she says. “We’re still trying to figure out work and where to be, but I know at some point I’ll be back in the tiny house, and Chris does too.”

There are, after all, lessons to be learned there.

“In New York what I’ve learned is similar to building the tiny house — it was the process of having a dream, and actually seeing it through,” she says. “It’s the experience of knowing what we’re capable of.”

And that’s no small matter.

For more information, go to www.tiny-themovie.com.


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