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Living the small life: West Mich. residents featured on HGTV show

Becky Vargo • Jun 3, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Teresa Crawford said it was her idea to build a tiny house, so she had to make sure the man who she was seeing was on board before they went past their third date.

“I was thinking of doing it for a while,” the Belmont woman said. “I like to travel.”

David Crawford was living in a 1,800-square-foot house at the time, but he liked the idea of becoming debt-free and being able to see the country.

So, the relationship thrived, the couple became engaged and purchased a fifth-wheel camper, which would eventually become the base for their tiny home.

The Crawfords’ little house was featured on HGTV’s “Tiny Homes, Big Living” on Memorial Day.

The Crawfords applied to be on the show.

The reveal was made to David’s brother, Joel Crawford, and Joel’s wife, Lisa (Highstreet) Crawford, who is a former longtime Grand Haven resident.

The Crawfords say the episode, “Newlywed snowbirds build tiny nest,” can be purchased on iTunes or Amazon, but will likely air multiple times over the next year on HGTV.

Teresa, a nurse, said it took a lot longer than they anticipated to complete the project, which is parked at her parents’ Grand Rapids-area home.

“We both work full time,” she said. “It’s been nights and weekends.”

“We did pretty much everything ourselves,” David said.

David, his father and stepfather all have building backgrounds, which came in handy and was important in keeping to the $35,000 to $40,000 budget. The Crawfords said their final cost was $40,000.

Before they married — on June 6, 2015, in Grand Haven’s Duncan Memorial Park — the Crawfords purchased a 37-foot-long fifth-wheel camper manufactured in the 1980s.

“The camper was in bad shape. We just needed the trailer,” David said. “We got it for a good price.”

That was in February 2015.

The Crawfords demolished the camper, tearing it all the way down to the frame.

With the help of Jaren Nash from Green Apple Design, they came up with a plan for their new home, which would make it feel spacious and accommodate David’s 6-foot height. That included 9-foot ceilings in the great room, a large shower and a queen-size bed in a first-floor bedroom.

Although the appliances are apartment-size, there’s room for two people in the kitchen area, which includes a microwave oven that swings out from underneath a Brazilian cherry countertop/table.

David, part owner of Arktos Meadery in Grand Rapids, also installed a tap so they can do beer or mead on tap.

The kitchen contains a 20-inch gas range and the smallest refrigerator they could find that still had an icemaker in it, Teresa said.

“Our couch pulls out into a bed and the entertainment center is the stairs to the storage loft,” David said.

The 280-square-foot home (counting the loft) has 17 windows and a set of French doors opening onto a 7-foot deck 

“If everything comes in right with our weight, we will have a motorcycle strapped on back,” David said.

They guessed the weight of the home to be about 13,500 pounds. David said his Ford F250 diesel pickup truck was rated to pull more than 15,000 pounds.

The new home is not aerodynamic, so when they do travel, it will be slow and steady, he said.

The Crawfords moved into the home Memorial Day weekend.

They are still in the process of tweaking the home, but they hope to move it to a campground in Alto in a couple of weeks.

Once the weather turns cold, the young couple plan to take their time traveling to Arizona, where they will stay in a campground for the winter. David said they can do this because the company for whom he works is headquartered in Arizona. Teresa plans to become a traveling nurse.

Eventually, the Crawfords hope to buy a piece of land and park their home on it. They are encountering difficulty with this due to local zoning laws that include minimum square footage requirements.

“So, even if you own the land, you can’t live in a tiny house,” David said.

The Crawfords have agreed to live in the house for at least two years, and maybe longer if they like it.

“It’s a good way to save up money,” Teresa said. “We plan to eventually build a small house.”

Right now, it’s fun, the Crawfords said two days after moving in.

“There’s no room for messiness,” David said. “It’s definitely going to be an adjustment.”

But they don’t plan to spend a lot of time inside.

“We wanted to be outside, backpacking and hiking,” Teresa said.

Lisa Crawford said she was surprised at how much room there is inside the house.

“It was really open and airy,” she said after the reveal.

Even with the four family members and three or four production people, it didn’t feel crowded, Lisa said.

Lisa also noted that she was impressed with the craftsmanship and thought she might like to trade places once her in-laws are done living in the home.

Joel said he thought his brother and sister-in-law would do just fine in their tiny home.

“They’re both busy career people,” he said. “I don’t think a small space will bother them too much.”

About the tiny house

Trailer: 37 feet long

House: 30 feet long; 8 feet, 5 inches wide; and 12 feet, 2 inches tall.

Number of windows: 17

About the HGTV show production

— Camera crews were on-site five times.

— The first taping was in November 2015.

— Crew came from Denver and Detroit.

— Filming included the framing, the deck going on the back, the cabinets and shower, and then the big reveal.

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