tiny house built with scraps
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
September 11, 2020 ·  4 min read

How one couple built a 300-square-foot expandable tiny house on just $25,000 using scraps from a film set and the town dump

Financial freedom is something that we all aspire to achieve, but for most of us, it is something we can only dream about. This New England couple decided to take back control over their finances by building themselves an expandable tiny house using entirely recycled materials  – this is how they did it.

Scrap Metal Expandable Tiny House

Chloe Barcelou and Brandon Batchelder are movie film producers in New England who spend a good amount of their time designing and building movie sets. In 2015, they decided that they were tired of constantly feeling stressed out by money and rent, so they set out to build themselves a mobile expandable tiny house. (1)

They began designing and building a 300-foot expandable tiny home, with one small catch: they had a very small budget.

“We would pay our bills, and whatever little money we had leftover, we used on materials,” Chloe explained. (1)

In order to afford materials, they had to get creative. They used plenty of leftover materials from movie sets they had worked on and then got everything else from the town dump’s recycle center and things they found legitimately on the side of the road.

From start to finish, the build cost $25,000.

The Build

One of the easiest parts about this build was finding the land to build on. Chloe and Brandon put up a Craigslist ad looking for building space, to which a couple replied and allowed them to use their back yard for free.

The hardest part about building this home was the wintertime. New England had record-breaking snowfall in 2015, and the cold made it very difficult to work. They were filming for HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living, which meant that despite the weather conditions they had no choice but to keep working.

“We had a giant tarp, which we used to clip around the outside of the house, and it was constantly tearing off in the steady winter wind,” Chloe recalls. “We used a kerosene heater to take the edge off, but, still to this day, we’re very cold-sensitive. I think the combination of the snow, cold, and stress has left our nervous systems forever changed.” (1)

Having to pay for everything upfront in cash also made it difficult, as they essentially lived paycheck to paycheck during the build. The financial freedom that the house has provided them after the fact, however, was worth it.

“In the long-run, it’s been great, because now we own it free and clear.” she said (1).

Read: A ‘Fundamental Shift is Occurring’ as People Flock to Tiny Homes

The Design

The couple had to get creative with the design of the house for more reasons than one. First were the financial constraints. Only being able to afford recycled materials and items reclaimed from sets meant out-of-the-box thinking and solutions.

Some Thrifty Examples in the Expandable Tiny Home Include:

  • A shower they built from $25 of scrap metal
  • They saved 700 two-by-fours from their first film in 2014 to construct faux hollow-“beams” for the home’s French Tudor-style frame.

The other constraints are vehicle size limitations according to the Department of Transportation Road Regulations. Mobile homes larger than the 13.5 by 8.5 feet wide need to be expandable. When parked, the home opens up to be 15.5 feet by 15 feet in size.

To expand the house, they used:

  • A series of block and tackle pulleys
  • Custom black pipe fittings
  • A ship’s wheel

The expansion gives the couple extra headroom in their loft, two office spaces that pop-out like cardboard boxes,  and a space for a fold-out all-seasons tented deck.

The Interior

Most of the tiny homes you see are all about minimalist design – clean, modern, and clutter-free. Chloe and Brandon’s home is anything but that. Being described as cottage-core or “steampunk”, the home is an eclectic combination of things. They include thrift store finds garage sale treasures, vintage-inspired pieces, and hand-made items from recycled materials.

The extra space in the loft accommodates 14 windows to provide incredible 360-degree views and plenty of natural light.

Lastly, the interior also includes what they have dubbed the “rabbitat”. It’s a built-in space under the stair to their kitchen for their pet rabbit.

The couple has lived in the house for five years now, which has provided them with enough time and experience to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what they can improve upon. One thing is for sure, these two creative minds aren’t finished yet.

“We’re technically still building out the interior of our home, so we have lots of fun additions to make,” Chloe said. (1)

We can’t wait to see what the couple does next with their incredible expandable tiny house.

Keep Reading: Man shows the inside of his tiny home in the woods