• The big tiny-house movement is a social and architectural concept advocating for minimalism and downsizing of houses
• The modern pioneer of tiny house culture is Jay Shafer and he founded two companies, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and Four Lights Tiny House Company
• The main faces of “Tiny House Nation” are John Weisbarth, Zack Giffin, and David Foxx
• By the end of the first season, the houses were being constructed in about 10 days
• Zack Giffin started a non-profit organization called Operation Tiny Home which focuses on providing housing for US military veterans
“Tiny House Nation” is a reality TV series produced by the A&E media giant, in which adherents of the tiny-house movement – in the show mostly singles or couples – apply to have a very small house built for them. Each episode features one specific home being built, usually from the ground up. The construction times and quality vary throughout the show, but most of the episodes show the majority of the building process.
The show started airing in 2014 on A&E’s child network FIY, with episodes per season increasing incrementally until the latest one. The show started with eight episodes in season one in 2014, 18 episodes in season two in 2015, 22 episodes in season three in 2016, another 22 in 2017, and lastly only 14 in 2019. The fifth and most current season was aired on A&E instead of FYI. Thus far its production team has pushed out a total of 84 episodes.
Other networks also took a liking to the show after seeing its general success among the public, with Netflix buying the rights to stream it on their platform in 2019, as well as National Geographic starting to air it in 2020. Both of these media giants contributed greatly to the show’s popularity, meaning its next seasons will likely enjoy a much greater audience.
The big tiny-house movement
The tiny-house, or small house movement, is a social and architectural thought concept that calls for essential minimalism, advocating for the downsizing of average American houses. Due to more and more space being required by for standard houses in the US, this movement has begun to gain a lot of traction in the recent years, especially with the release of “Tiny House Nation.”
Specifically, the average size of a US home went from approximately 1,780 square feet (165 square meters) in 1978, to almost 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) in 2007, and onward to 2,662 square feet (247 square meters). This noticeable growth in living quarters outlined the glaring issue of material prices, which just kept going up. Being unable to keep up with the costs, many people opted to live in a small or tiny house.
Although they sound the same, small and tiny houses are terms with particular definitions that vary in magnitude. Namely, a ‘small house’ is a home with between 400 and 1,000 square feet (93 and 37 square meters) in total size, whereas a ‘tiny house’ sprawls across less than the minimum of a small house, sometimes being even as low as an unthinkable 80 square feet (7.4 square meters).
The movement was inspired by the building of shotgun shacks, which took place between the 1860’s and late 1920’s, ending with the Great Depression in the 1930’s. These domestic residences were no more than 12 feet (3.5 meters) in length, and they were mostly meant to mass-accommodate black Americans after they’d been given rights to home ownership. Most blue collar families in the south of the US lived in shotgun shacks, especially in New Orleans.
Small and tiny houses were properly defined and took-off in the 1970’s, when famous artists including Allan Wexler started exploring the idea of choosing a compact space for everyday life. Being cost effective, and since the 1970’s also apparently modern and unordinary, tiny houses slowly started making an impact the market, although they still have a ways to go before they’re able to compete with their regular counterparts.
#TinyHouseNation meets the Big Easy when John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin join Harry Connick Jr on Harry today!
The style itself is thought to be inspired by 19th century naturalist, poet, philosopher and essayist Henry David Thoreau, through his book entitled “Walden” from 1854. There have also been other works of similar inspiration later on, such as Lloyd Kahn’s “Shelter” from 1973, Lester Walker’s “Tiny Houses” from 1987, and Sarah Susanka’s “The Not So Big House” from 1997, which advocated for the ‘counter movement’ of smaller houses, which aided a lot in the eventual rise of the idea among the general public.
Finally, the modern pioneer of tiny house culture is known as Jay Shafer, who created and lived inside of a 97-square-foot (8.9-square-meter) house, and later designed the first ever plans for tiny houses on wheels, allowing the home mobility of a trailer combined with the relative comfort of an actual home. He eventually founded the Tumbleweed Tiny House company in 2002, and later the Four Lights Tiny House Company on 6 September 2012, both of which focus on building small or tiny houses.
In “Tiny House Nation,” the compulsory building requirements are much closer to tiny than small houses, with the maximum area allowed being no bigger than 500 square feet (46 square meters). Lastly, although tiny houses seem cheap at first glance, their prices range between $30,000 and $50,000, with the more ‘luxurious’ going way beyond the higher average.
The cast of “Tiny House Nation” and the show’s progress
The main faces of “Tiny House Nation” are John Weisbarth, Zack Giffin and David Foxx, all three of whom are skilled carpenters and construction specialists with years of experience in homebuilding. Together they move around the US and create small or tiny homes for random people, according to the latter’s specifications and preferences, covering a sizable portion of the clients’ construction costs.
Although it’s stated on apartmenttherapy.com that “Tiny House Nation” misrepresents the construction time of tiny houses, which sometimes takes up to six months, the show itself does show the genuine construction time without false narratives.
For example, Zack Giffin built his own tiny home years before joining the show, and has plenty of experience with crafting them. Along with John and David, and many other cast members, he is able to execute complicated constructions of highly customized small and tiny homes in approximately two weeks.
The nine episodes of the first season took a total of eight months to plan and then film, though most of that time was spent on moving around the US for each separate construction, and planning its execution; some houses were finished in just a few days. The crew actually numbers in the hundreds, even though the three aforementioned men are the stars of the show. This means that even though they do most of the work themselves, they have a lot of helping hands on the set, such as extras who carry the materials and organize the tools, as well as clean the area regularly.
By the end of the first season, the houses were being constructed in about 10 days, though this took a toll on Zack and the other two. He would often have to stay up way longer and get an average of three hours of sleep during filming days ust to keep up with the schedule. This had to be done in order to maintain the show’s popularity, as its main selling point was the actual speed at which the homes were being created.
However, fatigue caught up with the crew by season two, and they weren’t going to repeat the same sleepless process. Hence, the 18 homes built during its run-time were mostly finished in eight days, but this came at a cost. Certain shortcuts were being taken, the builds were being compromised, and not every part of the construction process was clearly shown. Inevitably, this made the show feel less original, but still maintained the wow factor, thanks to the construction speed presented.
Zack, the main builder, had to step away from the framing and building processes in order to focus on another aspect of the show, which definitely impacted customer satisfaction in the long run due to the lack of quality, but the crew still made sure that each project was completed on time, so as to not leave their customers disgruntled.
In season three this schedule was sped up even more, at which point a good amount of work had already been done on the house by the time the filming started. Although this left much more to be desired by the audience, the houses were of much higher quality thanks to the intensity of work being lowered. Zack then had to pull only one all-nighter per build, instead of the usual many, which allowed him to have much sharper focus.
By season five the show had evolved into much more focused and original builds, working exclusively with professional tiny house builders, and clients who delivered highly creative ideas and tangibly unique design specifications. This jump in originality helped the show do much better on television, gaining a greater interest in the audience. At their best, the crew were building entire small or tiny houses in approximately five days.
The show wasn’t ever officially canceled
Even though the sixth season is yet to come out, “Tiny House Nation” is still listed as one of the ongoing shows on A&E’s website, and there’s been no official statement from the company about the show’s ending. This means that the next season has either been delayed, or A&E’s admission is greatly overdue. In either case, the fans have a possibility of anticipation.
Due to numerous cases of controversy, however, many of the fans thought that the show was indeed canceled after a few lawsuits and public scandals. While this may have indeed slowed down the production, there’s been no official comment from the production team about the impact these dramas may have had on the show.
One such example is the case of the Richards family of four, whose Ben and Rebecah moved out of Los Angeles so as to settle in a custom tiny home in Nashville with their two children. They ultimately ran into Mike Bedsole, who owns the Tennessee-based Tiny House Chattanooga construction company. They made a deal with him after he explained that his houses are built out of non-toxic materials, even including wall installations. He presented them with the idea of being featured in “Tiny House Nation”, and having some of their construction costs covered by A&E.
They gladly accepted and were looking forward to their new home, but everything soon went downhill. It first turned out that Bedsole didn’t allow the couple to have the trailer that holds the house be bought by the show’s producers, meaning they had to take the cash out of their own pocket, which really isn’t standard procedure in “Tiny House Nation.”
This is a tiny home! More news articles need to showcase beautiful examples like this and stop focusing on Tiny Shelters that are being used for temporary housing because it confuses the conversations as it relates to zoning law. Nice work Nick and California Tiny Homes! https://t.co/gAbMfymbX1
— Zack Giffin (@ZackGiffin) September 11, 2022
The couple did buy the trailer, and after Bedsole received over $47,000 in home construction materials from the production team of the show, he refused to tell the couple the final cost of the build. They later found out that the materials used in the construction weren’t actually non-toxic, and the trailer was registered in the name of Bedsole, not theirs.
Bedsole eventually ceased communication with the couple completely in early 2019, after a list of more than 70 items remained to be addressed. Later on, it turned out that Bedsole was being evicted from his property, and since the trailer that their tiny home was on still belonged to him, the judge ruled that the Richards family would have to vacate the premises. As a result, they remained homeless after actually paying for their house.
While this isn’t the direct fault of the “Tiny House Nation” production team, it’s still great controversy related to their show, and has done the opposite of contributing to its popularity, some believing that the show is over, due to too many scandals, though this is not the case.
What Zack, John and David are doing today
While John Weisbarth and David Foxx generally disappeared out of the spotlight after season five of the show, Zack Giffin has remained fully in the industry, more dedicated than ever to building as many tiny houses as he can.
He recently started a highly rated national non-profit organization, with the aim of helping people obtain a reliable and comfortable home, who would otherwise end up in the street or living in dreadful conditions. The organization is called Operation Tiny Home, and focuses mostly on providing housing for US military veterans. He still creates most of these houses himself as of September 2022, and is poised to be welcomed back to the big screen at any time.