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Features / Tiny house is big hit with owner

House is eco friendly and practical

Karen's tiny house. Photo: Karen MacKelvie.

WHEN Stromfirth woman Karen MacKelvie decided how best to make use of her yard without planning permission for a summer house, she hit on the idea of a “tiny house” on wheels.

Incredibly, less than two-and-a-half months after Caithness based craftsman Al Whitworth began work on Karen’s unique dwelling, the tiny house is now nestling in her garden at the gable of the house.

The wooden cabin – which is about the size of a large caravan, 20ft by 8ft – has all the mod cons, with toilet, two-ring burner, sink with hot and cold, wood burning stove/oven and even a shower/bath, all on board and all unique to ‘Tiny’.

Karen said: “I have all this ground in front of my house – the gable end of an old croft house that has got no windows in it. It’s got no view and I never get out into the garden properly. So I wanted to build something in the garden and putting it on wheels meant you don’t need planning permission.

Karen is delighted with her tiny house. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News

“So I started looking up “tiny homes” and you realise what a fad it is – people building things all over the place. I had already asked a friend, Al Whitworth, who used to live in Eshaness, whether he would help me, so he gave me a bit of mate’s rates so we set about planning and constructing.

“I could see all was thinking about the materials he was using and thinking about the environment.

“We came to the curved roof and single sheet corrugated iron and that seemed the simplest, really just keeping it minimal, easy and light.”

Karen says on Facebook: “There’s no words can express what a pleasure it has been, working with Al Whitworth of Atlantic Drift Woodcraft. From design to siting and everything in between – a true craftsman and grafter.”

Continuing the rustic theme, Tiny is cedar clad and should prove pretty weather and rot resistant.

View from the box bed. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News.

Tiny is also provided with a number of windows, giving excellent views of Stromfirth in all directions.

The structure is surprisingly spacious given the amount of amenities built-in. Karen plans to add a sofa in the future.

The trailer for Karen’s tiny home was purpose built so it could be towed by a pick-up just like a caravan.

The journey north was a bit of an adventure as Tiny was towed by pick-up from Skerry, near Thurso, to Scrabster, then maneuvered onto the ferry, towed to Kirkwall and thence north to Shetland by ferry again. Tiny was put on the back of a truck for the final stage and lifted into position by jib-crane.

Karen said: “I was gripping the sides of the car, holding my breath as we drove past things, but I was also looking at people’s faces as we drove past and they all seemed quite comfortable passing her.

“We had a laugh coming up through Orkney we were placing bets on what it would weigh on the weighbridge. The trailer can take 3.5 tonnes and it weighed 2.5 tonnes including the trailer so I have got a tonne of stuff I can still put in here.”

A wooden sink is another unique feature. Photo: Peter Johnson/Shetland News.

Among Tiny’s unique features are a wooden sink that was carved by Al from an old dough bowl. There is also a natural ash frame surrounding the entrance to the box bed which is accessed by folding steps. Under the sleeping quarters is a six-seater table and storage.

Tiny is fully insulated with sheep’s wool on the floor and Kingspan offcuts in the walls. With the stove burning, the cabin is cosy, to say the least.

The structure was built from the “ground up” on the trailer rather than being built separately then plunked on the trailer.

We’ve arrived in Shetland with Tiny House! The journey went fine and we even weighed her at 2.6te, nearly a ton under the limit, and close to what I’d calculated which is a relief.Here’s a video tour of the inside for those who couldn’t come to Skerray on Friday. And to the 15 or so people who did come, thanks for all the kind comments.

Posted by Atlantic Drift Woodcraft on Sunday, 26 May 2019

There was a great deal of interest locally as Al built Tiny, so they decided to have an open day at the end and 23 people came to have a look. Karen also plans to have an open day at Stromfirth.

Tiny sports an old house door with window panes that was chopped in half to make it into a “stable” door.

The eco-temp boiler is housed in an external cupboard and works off LPG and is fed by a spring at the back of Karen’s house. The LPG also fuels the two-ring burner.

Tiny is also wired for electricity and boasts an incredible 70mbps broadband throughput (tell the rest of Shetland) which means it is ideal for use as an external office.

Even more cooking potential is provided by a Windy Smiddy light weight wood-burning stove which has an oven and large hotplate attached.

The wooden bath is based on a Japanese ofuro soaking bath and is surmounted by a large sprinkler shower head to give a quick and easy option.

Continuing the eco-theme, a sawdust toilet is built-in and the contents can be added to the compost heap when necessary.

Tiny came in just £8 over the £15,000 estimate, though Karen emphasizes this is a “friends’” price and follow-ups are likely to be more expensive.