Utopia is the new, and forever, tiny house of Gina Blanchard and Ross Grajewski’s in Aptos, California. They moved in on the last day of March 2014, so there would be no rent to pay in April. In fact this young couple in their early 30’s won’t have rent to pay again, nor a mortgage either. They will be able to apply the money they used to pay rent with, to pay for land that they own. Pretty sweet!

Gina explains she heard about tiny houses when her “best friend’s mom took some books out of the library as a suggestion for something to put on the land purchased. We fell in absolute love with the Tumbleweed Tiny House book.” They found inspiration from this book and too from dozens of videos, specifically anything with Ella Jenkins, and Becky of Becky’s Homestead. They researched as much as they could just to be sure this was what they wanted before taking the leap.

Gina and Ross’s tiny house.

Office area

The land purchase went through January 22nd 2014 and building began quickly and in earnest so that they could move in before April. That is nine and a half weeks! The house is of their design, but based loosely on Jay Shafer’s design: the Fencl. Gina describes the concept of Utopia as being inside out. This is because they decided to think outside of that box. They choose to put both the kitchen and the bathroom outside and leave all the inside space as office, lounge, storage and of course a sleeping loft. They wanted a bigger kitchen that wouldn’t fit in a tiny house. Explaining, “we had spent so much time in an apartment where we couldn’t move back to back in the kitchen that we swore we’d never go back to that.” And with the kitchen, bathroom and infrastructure being supplemental structures, this kept the cost of the house at around $10K.

Outdoor kitchen area

Despite the very fast time line, the process of building was not without hitches. Ross was working most of the time and unfortunately he badly sprained his ankle and was on crutches. Gina says, she “didn’t know the first thing about building a house, so most of the job was done in several weeks” that Nick and Cathy (Ross’ parents) visited. They remain grateful for their help because it was her “first time learning how to use ANY tools and some days I wanted to do little more than pity-cry over how tired I was and how many bruises I’d hammered into my fingers.”

These tiny housers, were helped significantly by best friend Jeff, and his family. As mentioned above it was his mom that turned them on to the idea, but Jeff, his dad and his sister Anji were also rocks when it came time to get the work done. Between the four of them they provided the loan for the land, purchase and delivery of many of the things that the couple would need to make their house a home and they also did a lot of physical work. Gina describes each of them as a Godsend to the couple. They were very generous with money, time, labor and friendship.

After that fast and furious build, Gina recalls it by saying “It’s not easy. You can do it, but it’s not easy. Almost everyone will tell you your idea is silly and impossible. It’s painful and sometimes it feels like you want to cut corners, but don’t. Get a support group and don’t lash out at your significant other… Whatever it takes, wherever you land, however it works, this is SO worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. ”


Laura Moreland is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings.  She lives in a tiny woodland cottage near Kingston Ontario with a pack of dwarf dogs.  Her woodsman ensures that she never accept apples from old ladies.  You can learn more about Laura through her website “Tiny House Ontario” here.

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