Paul Herboth is a general contractor who engineers and builds things for a living. So when his daughter and wife came to him with the idea to build a tiny house on wheels, from scratch, Herboth didn’t bat an eye.

Never mind that it would be the first tiny house he’d ever made.

“I like a good challenge,” Herboth said. “And seeing something go from zero to finished is very satisfying.”

About a year after starting the project at his Angwin home, the Herboth’s tiny house is done.

Boasting about 185 square feet with a 65-square-foot sleeping loft, full bathroom and other amenities, Herboth said he’s proud that the tiny house is both functional and stylish.

“It’s got all the wonderful details of a whole house but it’s much more compact,” said Herboth. And, “it’s really cute.”

According to a November 2018 CNN story, more than half of Americans would consider living in a home that’s less than 600 square feet, according to a survey done by the National Association of Home Builders. And among millennials, interest increases to 63 percent.

“Tiny is inevitable,” said Soren Rose, founder of Klein, which in 2017 began seeking out renowned architects to design tiny prefab homes.

The tiny house is built on a two-axle car trailer bought in Santa Rosa from a trailer dealership, Paul Herboth explained. From there, the family used upcycled materials including metal framing, siding and wood finishes.

One key design element appeared by chance.

At the Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity Restore in Fairfield, they found a 1929 Wedgewood stove that would fit perfectly in a corner of the main living area.

“It was originally a gas-wood combo stove with oven but all the gas parts were rusted,” explained Herboth. “I pulled that out and installed a sink where the gas burners were.” Now the stove features a stainless steel sink with contemporary faucets. The oven is converted into storage.

The kitchen countertops are walnut with a “live” or unfinished edge. “It’s real nice,” he said.

Bench seating is located below a bay window in the main living area.

The home features electricity, a tankless water heater, heating and a full bathroom with tub.

“That was designed by the gals,” he said of his wife Mary and daughter Saira. Because the home is meant to be driven to its final destination and then hooked to power and water, he plans to install a regular flush toilet. However, a composting toilet is another option.

There were some challenges along the way.

“I’ve never worked on this particular kind of job before,” said Herboth.

Notably, the home had to fit on the trailer. There was a lot of detail work that went into such a small space. And he didn’t want to just build a plain box. “This is a bit more ornate. It looks good.”

Neighbors and friends have already admired the structure, he said. “It feels great” to hear their compliments.

The plan is to sell the tiny house, said Herboth. The price is currently listed at $72,400.

One tiny house website, godownsize.com, estimated that there are around 10,000 tiny houses in Northern America. Approximately 1,400 new tiny houses are built each year.

The average price of a tiny house is around $75,000.

How much did he invest into the project?

“Ohhhh, I don’t actually know,” he said. “I kept track for about the first three months. I’m going to probably be surprised,” but he estimates closer to about $40,000.

His wife is especially happy with the tiny home, he said.

“She says, ‘Why we don’t we get a piece of land we’ll just keep it?’”

As for Herboth, “I don’t know that I would choose a tiny house to live in. I’m used to a little more elbow room but I do like the idea of simplifying our lives.”

And seeing the final design come to life, he’s encouraged that tiny house living can still be aesthetically pleasing.

He’s not exactly sure who will buy his tiny house.

“I figured it was something someone might want.” Perhaps someone who wants to install an accessory dwelling unit at their property?

The city of Napa has created a streamlined permit process meant to encourage more residents to build accessory housing units, commonly nicknamed “granny” or “in-law” units.

“If someone is in that situation, they are going to like this,” said Herboth.

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You can reach Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.