We had the pleasure of connecting with Tarus and Yolanda of Nelson Manor Vacation Rentals to talk about their new venture, The Potomac Tiny House.
THTB: Please introduce yourself to our audience. Where are you located? Greetings! We are Tarus & Yolanda and we live in Maryland, minutes away from The Nation’s Capital. Located near the National Harbor and the MGM Casino, which is the entertainment epicentre in our area.
THTB: What inspired you to build a Tiny House? Is tiny living more of a dream or necessity for you and your family? Like most we were intrigued with the growing exposure via TV, Social Media, etc and it makes logical sense for a couple like us. We are months from being “empty nesters” and are planning accordingly for future streams of income. We are downsizing our living from a large, single family home. Our primary resident was a viable solution for a family of four, but needed to be reevaluated as we enter the next phase of our lives. We are avid travellers and live life to the fullest. A Tiny House (TH) provides FLEXIBILITY where we can reduce our “footprint”, reduce utility expenses and also presents revenue generating opportunities as a rental.
THTB: Is there anything from your youth growing up/family experience that may have also played a role in your decision to live tiny? I grew up in NYC, so my current living situation is a stark difference from where I was raised. Presently we live in a quiet, cul-de-sac with ample space to listen to birds chirp, watch nature and enjoy the solitude of a quiet environment. NYC apartments require you to be creative with storing all your possessions. My wife, Yolanda was born and raised in the small town of Reading, PA in a row home. She shared space with her two parents and three sisters, which ultimately prepared her for living simply and with limited items. Both parents working, living minimally, sharing quarters with siblings, reusing and recycling were a way of survival at times. We came from a time where people did not throw away what was broken, but things were fixed and reused.
THTB: Describe your previous home. It’s a 3,500 sq ft single family home, we intend to continuing living in the main house with our daughter until she leaves for college, which is soon.
THTB: What concerns, if any, did you have in your decision to go tiny? Our main concern was how we intended to finance this investment. We felt with an unstable US environment why not diversify our investments with the expansion of present offerings, so we sold some stock, got rid of my Harley which sat more than I rode it and then started the project. We never cared about how our acquaintances viewed our decision as most were not in the same situation as us. Most have the same size home as we have or larger, but also have young children which eliminates their relating to us on our financial decisions. We are the only people, in our demographic, who have made the switch to constructing a tiny structure in our community. Consequently, we can see the wheels turning as our friends now are seeing the bigger picture and the bottom line.
THTB: How did your family and friends receive your decision to go tiny? In the beginning many thought we were crazy and believed it was a fad we were following from HGTV. We had various intended uses for this space once it was constructed and saw great value in this investment. For the most part all of those people got their “Ah ha” moment after walking thru the threshold of The Potomac Tiny House and witnessing the possibilities. They realize the unbelievable potential once it all settles in.
THTB: Did anyone make any comments or express any concerns specific to being a person of color? No, I think our acquaintances always knew we were non-traditional in our pursuit for happiness. When we look back we were the young ones who hung around older folks who provided a wealth of knowledge from their life lessons. Evolving from not having anything can be a challenge when someone goes against the implied paradigm that more is better. We had to traverse this obstacle with understanding that we have moved on from a younger stage in our lives. Frankly speaking we go to the beat of our own drum, we’re not huge fans of what society thinks…. Unless they want to pay bills. (smile)
THTB: Who designed your home and how did you determine the design for your tiny house? How long did you spend working on your design? We designed our TH and we’re willing to be flexible throughout the build process. Although we can easily incorporate additional storage for long term stays, this unit is more built to include space and awesome amenities during someone’s visit to the Nation’s Capital. Our outdoor living space is what compliments the TH as the patio doors expand to a peaceful environment.
We selected a 12×22 Amish shed, which allowed us time to sit for a few weeks and draw out ideas on the floor. As each stage progressed we were open to exploring the possibilities of modifying the basic studio apartment feel, we then incorporated a loft, with standing room, which put the icing on the cake.
THTB: How long did it take to begin to build once you’d made the decision to go tiny? We worked thru two years of Tiny House Nation before we pushed the button. We’re young parents of young adults (ages 18 and 21) and we agreed that each monumental occasion warranted a well-deserved “appreciation gift” to contribute to the main ingredient for our growth…. Us. After Junior left the coup, we installed an Endless Swim Spa as we are avid swimmers and triathletes. The vision began to fall in place because we felt we deserved the accolades and enjoyed our backyard SO MUCH. We installed the naked shed about a year ago and then moved in phases; foundation, framing and the finish, which extended over 3 months.
THTB: What was involved in building it- DIY/Partial DIY/Builder? How long did the entire project take? It was a combination of DIY/Contractor and took one year. I “rolled the dice” and went with a contractor we had used on a previous project on the main home.
THTB: What, if any, challenges did you run into? Rushing to try to complete by Winter 2016. We wanted to validate that our tiny structure was stable enough to endure a northern winter and allow us an opportunity to troubleshoot any pressing issues that arose.
THTB: What was your process for simplifying your life and getting rid of your excess possessions? How’d the process feel and do you consider yourselves minimalists? We saw the full potential of our home as an investment and wanted to introduce it as a revenue generating resource. We started downsizing once our oldest child graduated from high school and agreed that if it hadn’t been worn or used within a date range it had to go. It was very liberating to downsize the excess items we had, but we are not minimalists yet. A fully booked vacation rental unit gives us greater flexibility at this stage in our lives to become minimalists.
THTB: Are all of your belongings in your tiny home, do you have storage elsewhere? No, we still live in our main home, but we are working to keep one room and the garage as storage for our personal items. We intend to live in whichever rental unit is not in use; the tiny house, basement or main level.
We haven’t moved into the smaller home, as we’ve started the Nelson Manor Vacation Rentals and intend to use our home investment as our retirement fund. We are learning about the real “value” in our time together & those material things that are not needed. The difference between a want and a need. If we are not using it on a regular basis then there is no need for it.
THTB: What do you love most about your new home? What are some specific touches you decided on, aspects of the interior and exterior that make this home a true expression of who you are and your personality? Any special features? We love the overall “Moroccan-Style Cozy Cottage” luxurious look and feel. There are two separate spaces, one that is quiet and the other more entertaining. The loft provides a separation of space for privacy especially when we want to read, write, listen to music, birdwatch or watch a separate TV. We added a fireplace, dedicated wifi signal for streaming & smart plugs to remotely manage electricity. It also doubles as a “Pool House” when guests need to shower, use the bathroom and change wet clothing from the back yard. Our windows allow for natural light into the house along with our handcrafted pine ladder which provides safe access to the loft area. It also brings a rustic part of nature, inside.
THTB: Any regrets about your decision to live tiny, anything you’d do differently? No regrets. We suggest consulting with someone who has taken the leap and can offer great insight. If we were planning to live in it full time we would have gone with a tiny house builder.
THTB: Did you use salvaged or reclaimed materials in your build? If so, how’d you go about sourcing those materials? We purchased items in the clearance sections at Home Depot and Lowes. We looked at places where reclaimed wood, doors, windows, cabinets and appliances are sold to help cut costs. We also sourced places for surplus items and haggled.
THTB: Is your home mobile? Do you plan to travel with it? What is your tiny house parking situation? Our home can be lifted and taken to another location, if we choose to move elsewhere but it is not on a trailer and is meant to stay where it is for now. We have the unit on our property.
THTB: Is your home on or off grid, eco-friendly, green in any way? Do you use a composting toilet, if so how was that transition? Our home is not completely off grid, but that would be a wonderful addition. We do have a composting toilet, which I enjoy and use for the extra time to sit and read Facebook. (smile). We also used eco-friendly insulation and energy efficient lighting.
THTB: So much of society focuses on having more and making more to have more, success looks like bigger, more, better. Often people of color are focused on having more when they begin to make more because they haven’t had, somewhat like the Jeffersons’ “Moving on Up” lifestyle. Why have you chosen this path instead? Choosing this path already makes many in our demographic perceive us in a strange way due in part to those things you mentioned. We believe a person’s reaction to “going tiny” depends upon what stage in life they are in. We are finding most young single travelers and empty nesters are more receptive to the idea of “going tiny”. Those who are younger with two or more children are not as open to a tiny life style in this area. We find that many people have difficulty living without the “wants” and their need to “keep up with the Jones’.” It is a mindset specifically affecting the African American community in this area. What many fail to realize as people is the purpose of our property is for collateral to build wealth; not just a place to sleep. Practicality and conserving your resources can allow for more time in life for loved ones and really doing the things that bring happiness. As you age, time is so much more precious as it is not promised.
THTB: Do you plan to live in your tiny home long term or is it a temporary solution for a bigger plan? Our tiny home’s purpose at the juncture is to generate revenue as a temporary vacation rental. In the case of an emergency (natural disaster, extended power outage, zombie apocalypse) we can also bunker down to a central location. I’m sure as we grow older it will also turn into our Retirement Home. (smile)
THTB: Where do you see the tiny house movement going? Where do you see the movement going for people of color? As this movement grows it will bring people back to developing supportive, sustainable communities. I’m hopeful PoC homeowners who possess land explore leasing space to interested tiny house seekers; this allows everyone to benefit.
THTB: Why do you think more POC haven’t joined and/or are reluctant to join the TH/Tiny Living Movement? We’ve heard “It’s a white thing! PoC are reluctant to join the TH Movement due to the traditional factors of being caught in the bigger is better mindset; tiny living is a direct contradiction to those ideals. Also, there are only a handful of “trailblazers” leading the efforts in exposure within our communities. It’s helpful that more celebrities (Deion Sanders/Lil’ Jon) are building and showcasing their THs.
THTB: Do you have any advice for future tiny home owners/builders or dreamers? GO FOR IT! Before you build test drive tiny living if possible via a rental. It takes adjusting, especially if you don’t have an outdoor space to help ease the transition. Also approach friends who may be interested in letting you park on their property. Traditional home owners should consider providing resources (space/electric/water) to allow TH owners to lease resources on your property. If we could create and share on a quarter acre imagine the possibilities as a revenue stream with a couple of acres.
THTB: Any thoughts or comments specifically for PoC? Think of your long-term goals and don’t follow the status quo that bigger is better.
You can connect with Tarus and Yolanda on Facebook to book your stay at The Potomac Tiny House!