Nine and a Half Week Utopia

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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Category : Blog

16 Comments → “Nine and a Half Week Utopia”


  1. beck

    May 03, 2014

    I’m wondering about the kitchen. Doesn’t it get ransacked by animals and rodents? I would love to hear about how that issue is addressed. Love the idea of an outside kitchen. Like a tiny teardrop camper. :)

    Reply

  2. Charie Tennant

    May 03, 2014

    Where is the bathroom? How did you put it outside? Photos please. Great place!

    Reply

  3. katee

    May 03, 2014

    I love this idea of an outdoor kitchen…I would like to take that idea and apply it to my home now but living in Oregon would not be such a cool place to do this….
    Thanks for the post.
    katee

    Reply

  4. Gina Blanchard

    May 03, 2014

    Thanks Laura for immortalizing our little slice of Paradise. Thanks for the inspiration to get the blog started as well, so that I can continue adding and sharing pictures with those who are interested in our ongoing project!

    Reply

  5. Gina Blanchard

    May 03, 2014

    Somehow my comment got deleted- oops! Thanks for featuring my house!

    Reply

  6. Sue

    May 04, 2014

    love this whole idea and am amazed that you (1) found land in Santa Cruz county and (2) were able to build this legally! Fantastic! Do you give lessons???

    Reply

  7. SHERRY

    May 04, 2014

    I LOVE AN OUTDOOR KITCHEN, AND I THINK YOURS IS BEAUTIFUL…I WAS WONDERING HOW YOU WERE GOING TO PROTECT YOUR APPLIANCES AND OTHER ELECTRICAL BITS FROM THE RAIN AND SHORTING OUT?…THE WIND AND RAIN HAS A WAY OF BLOWING “SIDEWAYS” ON OCCASION AROUND HERE….THANK YOU

    Reply

  8. Robin

    May 04, 2014

    Very cool and inspiring article, especially about the family all pulling together. I love stories of families lending a helping hand to the next generation.

    My thoughts:

    1) “Forever House?” ONLY the young can use words like “forever”. Does “forever” mean that it will a) forever be a tiny house, or b) the young 30-something couple will forever live there until “Death Do Us Part?” I’m curious about the answer. Are kiddies an option?

    2) Outdoor kitchen is an awesome idea for 10% of the U.S.? 30%? I can just see an outdoor kitchen in Arizona with a haboob roaring through or Maine with 100+ inches of snow! LOL

    3) This house is going to open up the discussion again of “Is a tiny house “tiny” if half of it or more is located outside the tiny house. Let the debate begin. ;)

    Anywho, I’m happy that they’re happy. <3

    Reply

  9. alice h

    May 05, 2014

    Outdoor kitchens require extra precautions in bear country and raccoons and other critters can wreak a lot of havoc as well. That said, there are a lot of advantages, especially during canning season. I have a tiny indoor kitchen and a place under cover outside to cook too, especially stuff you don’t want to smell for days afterwards. Screening for bugs and having tarps you can hang as needed for that sideways rain are handy additions.

    Reply

  10. Mark

    May 05, 2014

    Interested in the zoning laws in Aptos, CA. Are you hooked to city water, and sewer or do you have septic. What kind of acreage go you have and are there other tiny homes in the area.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Reply

  11. Zac

    May 06, 2014

    How inspiring. Way to think outside the box. Way awesome.

    Reply

  12. Terri M

    May 06, 2014

    Hi, I live in Aptos and would love to see your house. Can Gina and Ross get in touch with me, please, if they’re willing to show their beautiful house to a fellow tiny house enthusiast? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Gina Blanchard

      Jun 26, 2014

      Hey :) Yes – sorry. You can certainly email me. clevergirlname at yahoo.

      Reply

  13. dewhit

    May 10, 2014

    Four walls and windows and a door unit and it is a secure functional room.
    The heavy lifting is done with the roof and floor. Build one wall a month ?
    The current set up just creates future problems.
    Raccoons, skunks, bears and possums would be regular guests with that here.

    Reply

  14. Gina Blanchard

    May 10, 2014

    We have no bears here. Just thought I’d say that because it’s ever a popular concern.

    Reply

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