Magical Miniature Tour

  • Novice carpenter Ella Jenkins built her dream house atop an 18-by-7-foot trailer.

    Novice carpenter Ella Jenkins built her dream house atop an 18-by-7-foot trailer. | Photo by Mitch Tobias

  • She chose pine floors and ceilings and sheep's wool insulation.

    She chose pine floors and ceilings and sheep's wool insulation. | Photo by Mitch Tobias

  • The kitchen's space-saving dish rack and denatured-alcohol stove.

    The kitchen's space-saving dish rack and denatured-alcohol stove. | Photo by Mitch Tobias

  • The bathroom's horse-trough shower.

    The bathroom's horse-trough shower. | Photo by Mitch Tobias

The porch post fashioned from a manzanita bough found on a hike, the horse trough turned shower, the storybook window trim, the plum-branch coatrack, the ocean-view sleeping loft--everywhere you look in Ella Jenkins's light-filled 120-square-foot house (and there are a surprising number of places to look), you notice her artistic and downright clever flourishes. And this self-described girly girl had never hammered together anything in her life before starting on her house, which she calls Little Yellow.

While getting her B.A. in traditional harp and Gaelic singing at Glasgow's Royal Scottish Academy of Music, Jenkins happened upon an online video about an 89-square-foot Tumbleweed Tiny House Company abode and excitedly realized that building one could be her ticket to a sort of freedom after graduation. She spent a year planning--whittling down her possessions, busking for funds, poring over building plans--then attended one of Tumbleweed's home-building workshops. Jenkins got to work in her mom's driveway in Frazier Park, California, in September 2011, and every morning for the next 12 months, she says, she'd wake up feeling overwhelmed. By afternoon, though, she'd have thought her way through the latest construction issue and started tackling the project of the day, with some help from her stepdad.

Finally, Little Yellow hitched a ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to a rented grove south of San Francisco. In exchange for reduced rent, Jenkins cleans out the stalls of her nearest neighbors, horses.

"How many other 25-year-olds are able to cover all their expenses by working just a few days a month," says Jenkins, who recently started presenting her own Tumbleweed workshops. She spends her days swimming in the Pacific (sans wetsuit), playing music, sewing clothing, and making jewelry out of found sea glass and abalone shells. 

She's since added a woodstove and a tiny fridge (tucked under the house), but otherwise her plan has been perfect. Among the many magical moments in Little Yellow's story: Jenkins met her boyfriend, Zac, a metal fabricator, three days after moving here, and he now lives in Little Yellow, too, along with their rescue dog, Lobster. Yet it doesn't seem crowded at all. 

 

  • WHAT I LIKE
    "I am in love with this house," Ella Jenkins says. "It's compact and contained--like a hug."
  • LESSONS LEARNED
    Jenkins at first decided not to have a fridge, but finally got one after the icebox and zeer pot methods resulted in "too much moldy food."
  • On the Web Read Ella Jenkins's blog at littleyellowdoor.wordpress.com and watch a video of her playing harp in Little Yellow.

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