Big possibilities with tiny homes

·4 min read

May 22—Many have probably seen tiny homes on television and wondered about downsizing and living in one — the little kitchen and bathroom; the loft or reverse loft lower bed; the shiplap and other cool finishes; and storage in stairs and every possible space.

They can be customized to a buyer's needs and moved to a tranquil spot.

The movement of going tiny with a tiny home hasn't gone away.

As people re-evaluate their living and working situations and reprioritize what's important in life coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, tiny homes can serve a multitude of needs for a homeowner or a commercial business.

A local builder, and owner of Switchgrass Tiny Homes, has built more than a dozen tiny homes and is expanding into commercial builds for training and other purposes.

He's also looking into renting tiny homes for commercial uses, such as farmer's markets and other events, and also building a tiny home community in the Champaign-Urbana area, with city and investor interest.

Switchgrass Tiny Homes owner, builder Byron Denhart, who builds tiny homes in a building shared with RSS Redimere on Kickapoo Drive outside Danville, has been working on four builds this month getting them ready to roll away.

Switchgrass has been featured on HGTV's House Hunters (Season 159, Episode 12) that first aired in Feb. 2019 and DIY's Tiny House Big Living (Season 8, Episode 12).

While COVID-19 has made tiny home inquiries increase, the impact on the materials supply chain has meant he's had to wait longer for materials, such as refrigerators, cabinet pulls and other items.

He'll shop multiple local stores in Vermilion and Champaign counties, to find things he needs when certain stores are out of something.

The four builds Switchgrass has been finishing up, include two commercial builds for a major retailer. This nationwide retailer already had one build from Denhart and used it for training purposes, but also gift wrapping during the past holiday season.

A blue 22-foot tiny home is for a Chicago woman, who plans to move around.

A green 22-foot tiny home is for another woman and her dog in Iowa.

He can build up to a 32-foot gooseneck tiny home.

Denhart got into building tiny homes in 2016.

It was after frustrating months of trying to find another job that led him into it. Denhart has a construction project management background and has a degree in industrial design from the University of Illinois.

Denhart, who had been living in Urbana with his wife, Jessica, and 5-year-old son Jackson, is a new St. Joseph resident.

The name for the business came from central Illinois' plains and prairie grass, grassland.

Denhart said he found warehouse space to build tiny homes through his friendship with Dean Carlton of Danville. Denhart knew Carlton from having owned a hot air balloon.

Denhart also uses flat tracks for sliding doors in the tiny homes from Carlton's Leatherneck Hardware in Danville.

"We want to support local if we can," Denhart said.

Denhart subcontracts the electrical, plumbing and HVAC work, and has three others who help with the builds.

One of them, Stan Remole, said of the tiny homes "it's pretty cool."

As a lifelong self-employed construction worker, it's nice to work in the winter inside a building, he said.

Denhart works with customers and their budgets to build their dream tiny home, picking paint colors, countertops, fixtures, flooring, siding, roof, lights and other details such as using recycled materials, and appealing to their interests such as with a bigger kitchen, need for a work station or having an electric fireplace.

He starts people with a custom build questionnaire to find out about their likes, such as if they like to bake, and what they want out of their tiny home.

The homes can cost $60,000 to $65,000 for 22-footers, and up.

His tiny homes have been taken to the Colorado Rockies, 8,000 feet up; Tennessee; Los Angeles, Calif. and elsewhere.

With the tiny homes, Denhart's commercial builds have included a tiny home/coffee house.

The size and complexity determine time frame for a build. A smaller one can take about two months, he said.

Customers are all ages and live all over, he said.

People may look to a tiny home for financial freedom. They don't want a mortgage and they want little utility bills.

They also may want to declutter their life, and go out and experience life more.

Others could also use tiny homes as an investment, by renting them.

"Everybody has a different story," Denhart said of why they are looking into purchasing a tiny home.

For more information about Switchgrass Tiny Homes, visit its website at www.switchgrasstinyhomes.com or its Facebook page.