Tiny House Living with Lucas Cummings
The tiny house before me is approximately 13.5 feet tall and 22ft long. It smells of freshly cut wood and paint, having been coated in a thin layer of warm orange just 10 months ago. The space seems homey and open for being so small. The home sits on a 2 acre property in deep south-east Portland. Walking around the property, one may hear the sounds of water coming from a creek flowing near by, an occasional dog bark, or the smell of surrounding trees that would put the giving tree to shame with their presence and magnitude.
The house I speak of belongs to the 20-year-old college student named Lucas Cummings and his pit-bull mix puppy, Manny. I asked Lucas to sit down with us at MINIM to learn about the his experience moving west from New Hampshire, the inspiration of his tiny house, and the process of building it.
Interview: Riley Roderick
What in the hell made you decide to live in a tiny house?
The whole idea came from a lot of things, but one big reason was just that I realized that in college, I am trying to live as sustainably as possible and live simply/comfortably. I thought, "how can I avoid paying so much money for dorms, housing, etc.?" I also wanted to allow myself to stand out. So, I thought of the tiny house movement which I fell in love with because you are totally simplifying. I’m a single dude with a dog. I don’t need a whole lot.
Did you live in the dorms at all?
I lived in the dorms for two semesters, then immediately moved out. I was couch surfing until I finally broke ground on the house.
A lot of people doubted you on building your home. In fact, I remember one guy, who said he wanted to live with you, actually bailed when it came time to build the house. How did you keep moving forward despite the doubt?
There was obviously a lot of doubt behind the whole idea. I remember one of my buddies back at home telling me “Dude it’s a great dream, but your not actually going to build your own house, be a college student, take care of a dog, and build relationships.” Maybe it was a pride issue at first where I was thinking, “I can do this. This is a dream for me.” Then it came to a point where I just fell in love with the idea, the tiny house movement, and what it means to me. After that, it was no longer a task but a love.
What is your building experience?
I had a little experience working with my dad and I helped someone build a tiny home with their friends. But I really had no clue what I was doing. There was a huge learning curve. From where I was last year, to now taking contracting work, I have really come a long way.
What was the building process from start to finish?
It started one year ago, summer of 2016, which was my sophomore summer. It was a productive summer and I put a stupid amount of hours into it. I built the frame in three days. I had it insulated and put sheetrock on it. The rainy season became the slowing point. I was definitely getting discouraged about how fast I was going because I wanted to finish that summer. But once school came, I was basically camping in the tiny house, sleeping with three sleeping bags and using a wood stove I found on the side of the road.
What are the dimensions of the house?
The dimensions are 22ft by 8ft 6 inches, which is the exact road regulation for width, and has a max height of 13ft 4 inches. It has two loft bedrooms, a small living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. It has all I need and nothing more.
Talk to me about your solar power rig.
I have two solar panels on the roof where I get all the electricity I need for my fridge and all my lights. I also created a converter where it can switch into your 110v and 120v, so I can charge my computer and other electronics.
What was your previous home like in New Hampshire?
I grew up middle-upper class and was pretty materialistic. I had a closet that was twice as big as my sister's with a shirt for every day of the month. I once counted 34 pairs of shoes and finally realized that I didn’t need all of this shit. Once I got to Portland, I threw away all of my old stuff and started fresh. My closet is probably four feet by four feet and that’s all I have. It definitely forces me to do my laundry a lot more.
What is the future timeline for the house?
As soon as I graduate, I want to sell it to hopefully buy a sailboat and head down to South America for a few years. Timeline is fairly short, but I can totally see myself building another one pretty soon. If I could do it over, I would do it so much differently because I have learned so much.
What kind of person does it take to live in a tiny house?
I’ve seen all kinds of people living in tiny houses. I see young couples doing it to help save money, then you got your hippy climbing dudes who spend 60% (of their time) outdoors, and then you see very well-off people who are sick of over-consuming. That’s what has been so cool, is to see how different these people are.
What was your family’s response to building the house?
The idea was in my head when I was sixteen. I remember my mom bought me a book junior year in high school and it was always a dream. But there was this one day during freshman year where I called my mom and told her this is going to happen. She was like “Okay. Do it!”
And what was it like for her to come and see the house for the first time?
It was pretty powerful for her to see it. She came with this present that was a box that I made when I was twelve. It was the first thing I ever built by myself. Inside the box there was a piece of felt that said “So far.” She explained that this was the first thing that you ever built, and now I am standing in the home that you built yourself. It also represents how far I’ve come at 20 years of age and how much farther I am going to go. I just remember both of us kind of weeping the first few minutes both of stood there.
The dude who bailed, is he jealous?
He has never come to see the complete project
Anything else you want our audience to know?
When talking about MINIM and the tiny house, I love the idea of combining several things into one. Same with the tiny house: you have to learn to convert my sink in between a wall that acts as a bathroom and kitchen sink. Just the idea of giving an object or product as much purpose as possible is an efficient way to live. Love the idea that this brand is supporting.
Before the interview with Lucas, I couldn’t help but wonder: wouldn’t you miss being able to sprawl out on the floor? Or consistently warm showers?
I realized that he doesn’t think of what he’s lacking by living in such a minimalistic space, but rather what it makes room for in his life. By confining his physical needs to the smallest amount possible, Lucas allows for the breadth of the world to be home for him and Manny. Living off the grid in a tiny house can be an uncomfortable transition at times. You’re giving up the material things that make you feel secure and safe, but you're also opening yourself up to a new form of contentment and recognition of life's true essentials.