by John Rowe
Patrick Cornell first came to Crestone in 1973 with a group of folks looking for the Rainbow Gathering that was held that year in Utah. Although they missed it by several hundred miles, Crestone (the Baca was not even here then) and Valley View Hot Springs left a profound impression on Patrick. He never forgot this place and re- turned a few years ago to make this his home base for his next series of adventures. He owns property in the Baca and lives close by in a small homemade house and is con- templating building a home on his property. The 900 square foot mini- mum for Baca homes has given him cause for pause as Patrick lives alone and feels he does not need that kind of space. And neither does his daughter, Melia, apparently, as Patrick decided to build her a tiny home for her and her daughter and Melia was all for it. This became an especially timely endeavor as they found out soon after starting to build that Melia was pregnant with her second child.
Patrick had been paying attention to tiny homes for a while now and describes himself as a good “common sense” builder, if not a professional one and felt he could pull this off, both physically and financially. Patrick is attracted to tiny homes for their relatively low cost, ease of building, small foot- print, and mobility. They are also much warmer in the winter than any RV, cooler in the summer, and live more like a regular house than an RV ever does.
He began with a new “Big Tex” dual axle trailer with a 7000lb. load capacity that cost $3500. He took off the plank floor, installed cross braces, put in R30 rigid insulation, and reinstalled the floor on top of that. The floor, ceiling, and walls are 2x4s and 2x6s, all joined together with brackets and screws- there is not a nail in the home anywhere. This is for maximum stability when being towed down the highway. Patrick used ordinary building materials and recycled ones as they were available to keep costs down. He weighed everything with a bathroom scale and in planning, had the 7000lb weight limit in mind at all times. The dimensions on Melia’s home are 8’x20’ by 12’ high. The law allows a 13.5’ top height (Patrick thoroughly re- searched the rules and regulations for a home that is to be towed down the highway) and Patrick wanted a tall design in order to build a comfortable loft for sleeping and storage that still allows for an eight foot ceiling on the main floor. This allows for a sense of spaciousness one could never get on a cab-over camper bed or the like.
There is a full size bath tub, shower and toilet, and compact clothes washer in the surprisingly large bathroom along with a on- demand hot water heater. The kitchen is homemade and has everything you need and nothing you don’t. There is room for a couch and a coffee table to eat on and kick back and put your feet up on.
Patrick is particularly excited of what he did with windows and the entry door. He found a 100-year- old door at Habitat for Humanity for $15 that he thinks looks great. He also found a number of large and small $300 windows for $15 each and put several in Melia’s home. The effect of all that glass is a sense of spaciousness not often found in tiny homes. And, of course, there are those phenomenal Crestone views to take in. And all these windows do not make it more difficult to heat; good insulation and a $100 portable electric heater keep things comfy in the winter.
The home is topped off with an ordinary asphalt shingle roof and sheet siding and simple 2×3 window trim. The overall effect is one of a small neat house that looks like many conventionally built houses, only much smaller.
By using recycled materials, homemade cabinets, and ordinary Home Depot type stuff, Patrick was able to keep the price of the home down to $16,000, much cheaper than many tiny homes. He also kept the weight down to 6800 lbs. He says that if additions cause him to go over 7000 lbs., he will just beef up the suspension on the trailer. And if it gets too heavy to pull with his full-size Ford pickup? He just smiles, shrugs and says, “then I’ll just get a bigger truck.” He built Melia’s house in about a year and estimates that he could build a second one in six months, now that he knows what he is doing. And he is a man in his mid-sixties.
Patrick found building his daughter a fine home for her and her children to be gratifying in many ways, particularly because he describes himself and Melia as “not really very close until we be- gan building her home together and now that has changed in a way that means a lot to me.”
Patrick and Melia have moved her home to Camper Village which is the only place in the area that is available to them. He is aghast that the lot rent is $450/month for such a tiny space and is disappointed that neither Crestone nor the Baca will accept houses this small, even if they look nice, like Melia’s does.
He wishes that the POA “would change to approve houses of at least the 400-500SF range. I think that would diffuse so much of the animosity that comes with owner/builders in the Baca not having the money or time to finish their homes in a timely manner, or sometimes at all.” Is he angry then with the POA? “No”, Patrick has no personal axes to grind with the POA and says, “the POA is necessary, we don’t want Crestone looking like KZ Estates.” He just thinks that this one change could move mountains in regard to attitudes toward the POA and make it possible for young cash-strapped families to build and own their own homes. And they can always expand later, as many of our fore- fathers and mothers before us did. Like so many of us in our sixties, Patrick does not want seem to want to slay any dragons (in this case, the POA), he only wants to nego- tiate with the dragons, wish them well, and build a nice future for himself and his family.
And considering how few young single mothers can afford their own homes as Melia now does, I would say that he really hit it a lick.