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Local Tiny Home Builder Enjoying Big Attention

Updated: 07/07/2014 5:53 AM
Created: 07/06/2014 10:51 PM KSTP.com
By: Tim Sherno

According to the U.S. Census, the average home built in 2010 was just over 2,100 square feet.

However, a growing number of people are choosing to live in much smaller homes, as small as 400 square feet, even smaller.

Dan Dobrowolski is a tiny home builder. He says choosing smaller is getting bigger.

"There's been a movement that is now picking up speed of people who are saying, 'Wait a minute, I don't need to live in a McMansion,' I want to down-size," Dobrowolski said.

Dobrowolski owns Canoe Bay, a resort outside of Chetek, Wisconsin. He designed and constructed a small home and installed it on the property.

"It just happens to be on wheels, so you can take it anywhere," Dobrowolski said.

The home, called Escape, was soon featured in a tiny home blog and went viral. It was featured on websites and blogs worldwide. 

Now, Dobrowolski says the website for his homes gets up to 20,000 hits each day and his home design has been featured in magazines as far away as Australia and Japan.

The homes are built in a factory on a trailer and configure to federal standards for a classification of mobile home called a park model.

Dobrowolski says the even though the homes are built on a trailer they're build like a traditional house. "It's framed the exact same way." A park model can be no more than 400 square feet. Escape is 400 square feet, but Dobrowolski says it was created to feel much larger, "People come in and they go, 'wow!'"


The homes feature luxury details like heated bathroom floors and premium appliances. Cost? Dobrowolski says the prices varies based upon a customer's specifications.

"It starts at $79,000, if you want to load it up with every possible thing you can get it's about $167,000," Dobrowolski said.

While many areas allow park model homes to be placed on a property without restrictions, many urban municipalities have zoning limitations on homes on wheels. Dobrowolksi says one option is to remove the wheels. "You can get it, that exact unit, as a modular home in which case it can go almost anywhere, unless they have square footage restrictions." Some municipalities have minimum square footage requirements.

The homes are of particular interest to younger customers currently priced out of the first home market, or, who are still paying off college debt and unable to afford both a loan payment and a traditional home payment. Dobrowolski hopes mounting interest in these homes will push cities to reconsider current zoning "Our hope is that over time municipalities will become more progressive."

In the meantime, according to Dobrowolski, business is booming. He is currently expanding his production capabilities and hopes to eventually produce 200 each year.

Dobrowolski's Escape home is credited with expanding the perception of smaller homes, adding luxury to utility. Pointing to a home under contraction on his factory floor, Dobrowolski agrees that his Escape home has helped advance the tiny home movement, "That's a game changer. I'm not saying we started out saying, 'We're going to change the world,' changing the world is tough. But that, that, changed things."

The Escape home can be viewed at escapehomes.us.


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