Tiny Homes: How Arkansans are living large in smaller houses

In a time where bigger is thought to be better it is unusual to meet someone who chooses to live in a house that could be the size of most our rooms. But these Arkansans say going small is the best thing they've ever done.

"She said she wanted to build a smaller home and I asked her how big she was looking at and she said 600 square feet," said Bret Franks, President of Bret Franks Construction Incorporated.

It's an unusual request that more and more Arkansas construction workers are getting. Affordability, maintenance and simplicity are among the reasons. Then there's always wanting something different.

"I don't like anything cookie cutter," said Caroline Howse, a homeowner.

And there's nothing cookie cutter about Caroline Howse's home. Caroline, her husband and one-year-old son live in an 1,100 square foot home in Conway.

"It's charming and it's cozy. It feels like a house," said Howse. "It doesn't feel like just a bunch of rooms put together that might not be used," she said.

And it's different than where the howse's used to live. A nearly 2,000 square foot home that they said was more than what they needed. This small home provides the necessary space but not without some tough decisions.

"We use every square foot of this house," said Howse. "Once you move in you realize really quickly what's important to you," she said.

Tiny homes, Caroline's home isn't considered tiny, but it's the closest thing to the newest craze sweeping the country. Truly tiny homes, 400 square foot houses, are popping up in the Northeast and West coast as people are choosing to simplify their lives and finances. Tiny home builders like Scott Stewart says the spike in his business is due to the downturn in the economy.

"People are losing their houses everyday and this is a good alternative," said Stewart. "I get calls like that every week," he said.

And this alternative is being taken up by increasingly more Arkansans. Stewart, who built this 450 square foot home in Heber Springs, says most Southerners aren't quite ready to go this small.

"They're not as tiny on the houses mostly here in the South but it's getting more and more that way all the time,"

Contributing to the increasing amount of local interest is Jessica Hair of Cabot. She lives in a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home. But she's considering a major downsize for a simple reason.

"We sat down and we thought we don't need this," said Hair. "We don't need 1900 square feet," she said.

Hair says she felt an emptiness even with such a big home.

"So I sat down with my husband and we really said if what we're doing is not working then what if we do the opposite?" said Hair.

The opposite was a much smaller home, 1000 square feet maximum. What convinced her? a tiny home in the Hillcrest known as the Little Home in Little Rock. Bret Franks, the builder, says the small house is making a big splash here. It's a welcome change for constructors.

"Business right now is booming," said Franks. "I've got more than I can handle right now and it's a good thing, finally," he said.

Frank says the recession has shown Americans bigger isn't always better.

"I think it's going to take off, I mean, I think that's where our future is," said Franks.

And as far as the future goes, for Caroline there's no move in sight.

"Being 1,200 square feet it doesn't really matter too much to me anymore because we are able to make it work," said Caroline. "I wouldn't change my pick for the world. I love this house," she said.

Another popular feature that adds to the appeal of these homes is that they are energy efficient and most are built with recycled materials. Experts say it's everything many Americans are looking for nowadays.

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