Honey, I Shrunk the Home

Durango’s Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses was a pioneer in the business of making pint-sized homes.

Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses’ San Jaun model has a curved metal roof atop about 160 square feet of living space. Greg Parham built this one and installed all the bells and whistles. Courtesy Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses.

When Greg Parham founded Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses in Durango in 2013, he literally had to write the book on building functional, mobile, downsized houses. At the time, there were only about 15 tiny builders in the country. My, how things have changed. Today, there are about 300 tiny home builders in the U.S., all riding a wave toward sustainable, affordable living. Parham himself has been living tiny ever since starting the company, and many others have jumped on the bandwagon with him; since 2013, Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses has seen exponential growth.

How it all started

“I couldn’t find rentals in my budget, or afford to buy anything, so I put out feelers to friends that I was looking for a cheap piece of dirt to build a cabin on. A friend sent me a link to something about tiny houses and I thought, ‘That’s what I’m going to do.’ I had an architecture degree from the University of Texas, and had always done carpentry, so I met with the business development center here in Durango, and got it going as a business.”

Early challenges

“These days you can buy a trailer tailored for tiny houses, but back then you couldn’t, so we ended up designing our first 30 or so trailers. We had to figure out how to insulate the bottom, how to make the attachments, how to run pipes and wiring. There wasn’t a book back then; we had to write the book ourselves. We started out doing two houses a year, then four a year, then seven to 17 today. Some companies today do 50-100 houses a year, and there are people who sell tiny house fixtures or run social media about tiny houses.”

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How he’s unique

“We tend to be a little more affordable because I’m in Durango, not in the Front Range we don’t have to pay for an expensive shop. Also, a lot of builders are very set on interior style and don’t vary a lot from it. We get more creative with our houses, many of which—35 to 45 percent—are here in Colorado.”

The upsides and downsides

“The main benefits of a tiny house are financial freedom and mobility, the ability to pack up your house and move somewhere. Some people buy a house and use it like an RV, considering gas money to be their rent. Then there’s people who do it to minimalize their footprint and live a simpler lifestyle. But if you are used to living in a larger house and own a lot of stuff, getting rid of it is a process. And parking is the other big issue. I advise customers to try before they buy. Tiny houses aren’t for everyone.”

Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses
777 Sawmill Rd., Durango