The announcer on Tiny House Nation, a show dedicated to dream homes under 200 square feet, described Ashleigh and Cody Bartz as an “eclectic” couple. They were willowy and blond, with hip haircuts, vegan diets, and a pair of well-used bicycles.
Cody explained onscreen that they’d met in college at Bemidji State University, both studying art. He’d complimented Ashleigh on her socks.
“So I said… ‘thank you?’” Ashleigh said.
It was a match made in heaven. The two had both graduated by 2011 and traveled the world, falling in love with the idea of hauling everything they needed to survive in a couple of backpacks. They realized in 2016, two years into their marriage, that they wanted more -- or less -- than their two-bedroom apartment in La Crosse, Wis. They wanted the home equivalent of a backpack: a tiny house on wheels.
That’s when they applied to appear on Tiny House Nation, a show where experts John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin help aspirational tiny house dwellers construct the home of their dreams. Tiny House Nation doesn’t really pay for the construction, but they have deals with advertisers, which means the Bartzes would only pay taxes on free products endorsed by the show. A year and a half after applying, they were selected.
They hired Brooklyn Park-based Glenmark Construction to do the heavy lifting – constructing the actual home – and let Tiny House Nation handle the splashy elements that made good television. Cody’s a graphic designer, so he worked with an architect friend of the family and designed the house himself. He envisioned a 330-square foot structure shaped like a trapezoid, with a wide top tapering down to a narrow base. It was bookended by two lofts: one a bedroom, the other an office. There’d be a galley kitchen on the first floor, plus a bathroom and a guest bedroom the width of a twin bed.
Cody helped assembled the frame at The Sanctuary, a tiny house village in Ogilvie, Minn. in a matter of days. It wasn’t long until Glenmark Construction and the hosts of Tiny House Nation had taken over, and had a finished product to show them.
The final reveal of the new home showed the Bartzes beaming, trying to look at everything at once: the mounted indoor garden, the slanted staircase up to the bedroom, the kitchen already laid out with bowls of raw vegetables -- a bohemian dream. Then they received a big bawdy welcome from the hosts to “the tiny house community.” Hugs all around.
But a little over a week ago, the Bartzes’ mobile tiny home appeared again -- this time on Craigslist. The two are selling it for $77,000, just two years after it was built.
They don’t regret the time they spent living tiny. Yeah, it was hard to put a bike anywhere. And yeah, when they were living on a Hokah hobby farm, they once had to construct a temporary deck out of plywood to keep everyone from tracking mud everywhere. But then there were moments like the housewarming party, where 50 people and a portable pizza oven had lit up their little home and the wide open space around it. There was freedom in living with a little less.
There’s a number of reasons why they’re abandoning ship, Cody says. The biggest one is they’re moving to Florida. Ashleigh got a new job at a Montessori school there. They designed the tiny house to be mobile, but moving from Houston to Florida is simply too expensive. They estimate paying a hauler to get the home down there would probably cost $3,000. And, if after a year in Florida they decide they don’t want to stay, it’s another $3,000 to get back.
So they’re starting over, trying to recoup the cost of building the thing and moving right along. It cost them about $75,000 to build.
They’ve already got a serious offer, so Cody’s optimistic that it’s all going to work out. They’ll be house sitting for the first year while they’re in Florida. They’re not sure yet, when they get a Floridian home, whether they’ll go big or small.
More from Arts & Leisure