Less is more. Simplify your life. Downsize.
While browsing the self-help section of any bookstore or skimming the cover of a Real Simple magazine, you’ll see these phrases used to bait the average overburdened and time-starved working-class citizen. But for Johanna and Tom Elsner, those phrases ring true. About the start-up of their new tiny cottage and home company, Perch& Nest, Johanna states, “Less is more is a common phrase used in the tiny house movement.” It means, “less home and material items to care for financially and physically, which equates to more life experiences and time with loved ones.”
But Johanna and Tom Elsner aren’t living in a tiny house. By contrast, the 1890s farmhouse they’re in the process of renovating has room to spare, and dwarfs the tiny house builds surrounding it. But the fact that the Elsner’s aren’t currently living in a tiny house does not diminish their passion in building them. In fact, next year they plan on building a tiny “dream” home on wheels of their own for travel and show, an American Gothic incorporating vintage and reclaimed finds.
The Elsners have been restoring homes and cottages for more than 10 years, but the transition from general residential construction to custom tiny home and cottage builds has allowed them to pursue their dream, as well as spend more time at home with their children. Perch&Nest was born out of their mutual desire to be craftsman and makers.
Johanna states, “It has meant that Tom and I are able to finally hone in on these passions we have been refining for years: carpentry, home design, reclaiming/repurposing materials, and helping others see how great a home can be without spending a fortune.”
At Perch&Nest, Johanna does “everything besides building,” which includes design, project management and customer service. Tom is the craftsman, with skills deeply seeded from an apprenticeship with his grandfather, a master carpenter. He makes mobile tiny homes on wheels (or, THOWs) solid enough to rival those on foundations — which is a major concern amongst the THOW community.
Many issues can arise if the homes are not built correctly and utilizing international building codes, such as electrical malfunctions, water damage and even theft. (For an example of a tiny house gone wrong, read Tiny House Lessons: Buyer Beware at liveafastlife.com).
Since the switch to a home-centered work environment, the Elsners have noticed they “are starting to feel less stressed and really enjoying our work.”
Clients will often stop in the house for coffee while checking on their builds, and the “kids will bring snacks to the shop.” The Elsners truly feel that their tiny home clients are part of the family.
“We are getting to know some great people in this intimate building process, and our children are seeing us help others build their dream homes.”
The tiny house movement is still relatively small but growing, and its ideals capture a diverse segment of the population — from retirees in search of a home that won’t stress an already tight budget, to college graduates looking for the mobility a THOW affords.
The allure of the tiny house is easy to understand: The average person will spend at least 15 years at work just to pay off the mortgage on a traditional home. Many tiny homeowners are able to purchase their homes outright, and can choose career paths where salary is not a mitigating factor.
A unique example of a Perch&Nest client comes from a woman in Virginia who wished to purchase a tiny home so she could care for her ailing parents. She planned to park it in their backyard to maintain her own space. The prefabricated tiny homes that she had been researching online didn’t meet her specific needs. The Elsners helped solidify and finalize her plans, and in six weeks time were able to build the house she had imagined. More details about that specific build are available on their website.
Johanna and Tom stand behind their work, and pride themselves on creating custom homes that will last a lifetime. And though the entire Elsner family won’t be living in a tiny house full-time, their son Aiden, 11, already has big plans for his own.
“We told him we would help him build his home throughout high school so that he can take it with him to college,” Johanna remarked. “He will go to college as a debt-free homeowner who helped build his own home.” Look for their new line of Heritage Homes on wheels in early 2016, featuring tiny takes on classic designs such as Craftsman and Art Deco.
Perch and Nest will be raffling off a New Years Weekend Getaway for one lucky winner who will enjoy a two nights stay in one of their fully furnished custom homes. The home will be stationed in the Village of Wildflowers, a tiny house community in Flat Rock, NC, just outside of Asheville. All proceeds benefit the Tiny House Expedition, a documentary in production partially sponsored by Perch&Nest. Raffle tickets will be available for purchase beginning Dec. 1 on their website as well as Facebook page. They will also be for sale during Krankies Craft Fair, where a Perch&Nest THOW will be available to tour!
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