Back in 2009, Dan Louche received a concerning phone call from his mom in Lakeland, Florida. A recent hurricane had caused leaks in her mobile home, and mold was starting to grow. She’d already begun experiencing respiratory issues, and her son knew if something wasn’t done soon, she could suffer serious health consequences.  

Louche lived in Georgia at the time, and couldn’t afford to buy his mom a new home, so he started thinking outside the box. Or rather, inside the box. A software engineer with no contracting experience, he decided to build a small domicile in his own driveway that he could take apart and somehow transport to her. 

“I was coming up with this idea to build some kind of shed that I could disassemble and take down to her. And when I’ve told that story to people, people are like, ‘So you were trying to build a shed that your mom was going to live in?,’’ he shared with Nice News. “And I was like, ‘No. I promise it was gonna be a really nice shed.’” 

As he was researching his project, he happened to see a PBS show about a 26-year-old woman named Elizabeth Turnbull, who built herself a tiny house on a flatbed trailer to live in while attending grad school. 

“That’s perfect,” Louche recalled thinking. He looked up everything he could about tiny homes, then purchased a trailer and started building, getting some help from his brother along the way. Per Insider, his excited mom chronicled the construction and furnishing of her new home on a blog, calling her son’s gift “the first step of a wonderful venture.”

And those words rang true for Louche as well. By 2010, he had founded Tiny Home Builders, teaching others like himself how to create their own mini houses. The company runs both hands-on and online workshops, offers free resources for builders, and sells five different plans for houses ranging from 12 feet to 32 feet, as well as trailers to build them on. The least expensive house, which includes “a 7-foot sleeping loft, a storage loft, bathroom with a 36-inch shower, kitchen, and large family room,” can be built for just $10,000 in materials, according to the website.  

In addition to showing newbies the ropes, Tiny Home Builders hosts a marketplace where interested buyers and sellers can browse and list tiny homes, and an interactive map of communities, mostly in North America, of locations that people can move to with their tiny houses. 

Courtesy of Tiny Home Builders

Since Louche started his journey, the tiny house movement has taken off in a big way: The small living spaces offer sustainable solutions for refugees, individuals experiencing homelessness, and those looking to embrace minimalist lifestyles.

“But I’ll tell you, with my mom living in the house,” Louche said, after noting the positive financial aspects of tiny homes, “the thing that I thought was the most impactful for her was just the simplicity and the joy that [it] brought her.”