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Making a tiny house a home

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So there’s no basement to hold the breaker box and on-demand water heater – so what? This mini-utility shed at the end of Kevin Terry’s tiny house is built of Lebanon cedar matching the rest of it. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Markita and George II Murray’s kids, from left, Genaya, George III, Gionna, Jamari and Gerrodi strike a pose in front of the touring tiny house at 84 Lumber, which is priced at $49,844. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Deciding a tiny house is too small for her five kids – Genaya, George III, Gionna, Jamari and Gerrodi – Markita Murray still says, “I loved it” about the touring tiny house at 84 Lumber. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Markita Murray steps off the mini-porch at the touring tiny house at 84 Lumber, which she wanted to see because she’s a big fan of the HGTV show, “Tiny Houses.” JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Musician-turned-carpenter Kevin Terry says his construction of a tiny house as his first home owned with his wife Mandy is a “learn-as-you-build” project. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Kevin and Mandy Terry bought plans for their tiny house from a Chattanooga company that manufactures the houses, and then customized the plans to include cedar from Lebanon. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Making the tiny house Kevin Terry is building with his wife Mandy feel much more spacious is this wall-wide picture window at the living-room end of the cedar-sided future mini-home. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
“We both like the show, ‘Tiny Houses,’ and I want one of these,” says Ked Marsh, looking up at the loft as she inspects the touring tiny house at 84 Lumber with Chris Kelly, not shown. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
See the cedar! Beautiful grain and a pleasing fresh fragrance from the Lebanon-milled cedar that comprises the ceilings and walls of Kevin and Mandy Terry’s tiny house give it that “new home” look and smell. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

The cedar of Lebanon is a prime component of a tiny house being built just down the road, in Murfreesboro, by a local couple who plan to make it their home.

Another tiny house visited the same city for a single day this past week, at 84 Lumber - but another one has come to stay a little longer, because it's being built in a Murfreesboro front yard.

Thanks partly to the popular HGTV show about them, tiny houses are trendy all across the country right now - and Middle Tennessee is no exception.

Kevin Terry visited the touring tiny house Monday with his mother-in-law Kimberly Strader, but not just to see one. Terry and his wife Mandy currently are building a tiny house to be the first home they own - and he was looking for ideas.

Grooving, planing cedar

Terry's house is similar in size to the touring one, but he chose to use local materials whenever he could. As a result, most of his walls - inside and out - are Eastern Cedar.

"We bought it from Grant's Cedar Mill in Lebanon," he says. "He doesn't do finish cuts, though, so I had to do the grooves and planing myself." All Terry's walls are done with tongue-in-groove cedar panels.

The flooring, meanwhile, will be re-purposed red oak barn wood purchased from Eagle Reclaimed Lumber in Murfreesboro. That company does create finished lumber, so the flooring is ready to lay in place as it comes from the lumberyard.

"We could have gone cheaper," Terry says of the barn wood. "But we want it to be a quality home we can live in for a while."


Terry, who plays the cello professionally and also produces music in Nashville, acknowledges that his tiny house has been a learn-as-you-build project - although he did have a little carpentry experience growing up in Texas.

"I helped my stepdad build a couple of barns," he recalls with a grin. "But that was mostly handing him the wrench or hammer."

When their "first home" is done, the couple will sleep in a loft with a fragrant cedar ceiling and walls to a lullaby sung by rain pelting the green tin roof.

Their living room will seem to include the entire outdoors, since most of the end wall is an anything-but-tiny picture window. "We'll build a bench across that window," Terry says. "It will be big enough to sleep another person, with storage space underneath."

'Green' features

The tiny house also will feature a composting toilet, an on-demand water heater, and a propane range built to be installed on a boat, with two burners and an oven so Terry can still bake bread - even in his future home's close quarters.

That and the use of compressed, spray-applied insulation inside the walls will make Terry's tiny house very "green" and energy-efficient - as well as "in style."

Meanwhile, 84 Lumber now offers four different models of the little gems, and brought a touring tiny house to Tennessee for interested people to check out Monday at the company's location on NW Broad Street in Murfreesboro.

John Starceski, a marketing specialist with 84 Lumber, accompanies the house and explains its advantages to folks who come see it.

Hey - compact quarters, by definition, will keep a lid on your inner pack rat.

Crisscrossing the country

"We started out in 84, PA, near Pittsburgh," Starceski says. Then he took the little house to Cambridge, O, Martinsville, IN, and Louisville before bringing it to Murfreesboro Monday - after which it headed south to St. Augustine.

The little houses are popular with retirees and young people, Starceski says. The touring one on display Monday has 154 square feet of floor space including a sleeping loft, a ¾-bath, living area, kitchen and front porch, according to Starceski. It sells for $49,884.

84 Lumber also offers three other models including two that have two "bedrooms."

Chris Kelly and Ked Marsh visited the tiny mansion Monday afternoon - and were favorably impressed. The little house grew on them, they said.

'I want one'

"We both like the show, 'Tiny Houses,' and I want one of these," Marsh said. "When we first pulled up, he said, 'It's a shed.' But it's very efficient, and the shower's really big. I'm glad we came."

However, Cathy Watts seems to think the tiny house is a little too tiny.

"It reminded me of a camper, and I could live in it for two weeks as a camper, but I couldn't live in it," Watts said. "It's cute, very cute. I wanted to see how they crammed everything into it."

With five children in tow, tiny house visitor Markita Murray says she plans to wait a while to try living in one of the mini-houses.

"I loved it," Murray said. "We watch it on TV all the time, so it was good to get to see one."

'Make it a treehouse'

One of her daughters thinks the house would make a great playhouse. "I want it in a tree," elementary student Gionna Murray said.

But mom says no, or at least not now. "I told 'em when they go to college, my husband and I are going to live in a tiny house," Murray added, "and we're going to pull it and go to Hawaii and live in it there."

The dual use of space like the storage bench/bed and careful planning of detail are key components in making tiny houses be homes - not campers, Terry says, showing off his own cedar-built tiny house.

In fact, he says some people have asked him why he doesn't just buy a camper - but Terry has a question of his own to answer that.

"Why don't you just color in a coloring book instead of painting an original picture?" he asks. Indeed, with Lebanon cedar on their creative "palette," Kevin and Mandy Terry are designing their own original work of art - one they can live in.

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