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Building big love in a tiny home

Tiny House Expedition

Alexis Stephens and Christian Parsons have made their tiny home work for them.

Most couples I know wouldn’t consider sharing a studio apartment. When my partner and I decided to move in together, we weighed the options of my centrally located studio versus his slightly distant one-bedroom. We ultimately decided on the latter, thinking the lack of walls and personal space would be a deal breaker.

Other cohabiting city couples have similar concerns. "What if we’re in a fight? What if you get food poisoning?" They find comfort in having a wall.

What can the intimacy-fearing and space-obsessed learn from couples who embrace a tiny-house lifestyle? I wasn’t sure. So I asked.

You lose private space, material possessions, separate bathrooms and full-size appliances. But what do you gain?

For the most part, the tiny-house owners I spoke to found the financial freedom from moving into smaller quarters directly benefited their relationships. And for the lack of sectioned space and stairways, they seemed pretty happy.

OK, but what if you need alone time? Everyone needs alone time — even happy, healthy couples.

"I think there have been those occasions where I’m so angry that it frustrates me to hear him doing stuff in the house," admitted Alexis Stephens, 33, who lives in a 130-square-foot tiny house with her romantic and filmmaking partner, 41-year-old Christian Parsons. "Some sulking has happened, but it’s a good time to encourage going outside the house for a walk. The outdoors is the biggest room available."

"Quicker conflict resolution through less stewing," Stephens agreed. In the tiny house "you can get away from each other a little bit — you could go in a loft or outside — but for me, it affects the energy of the whole house. We’ve gotten to a point where we know something is up and it’s better for us to talk about it to resolve quickly."

How do you make the small space conducive to you as a couple?

For A.J. Zamora, 43, who lives in a Napa, Calif., tiny house with her wife, China Rose, 38, keeping their spare time rituals alive was imperative to their design. Rather than lofting their European queen-size bed, they built a mechanical bed that lowers down from the ceiling and rests on top of kitchen counters so they could enjoy weekend lounging.

"We knew we loved relaxing together and we felt (a loft bed) could mean feeling cramped in your own space and not wanting to spend time in it," China Rose explained.

But what if the relationship doesn’t work out?

Tiny houses aren’t exempt from breakups. Filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Carson Smith decided to build a 124-square-foot house in Colorado in 2011 and made a documentary about it called, Tiny: A Story About Living Small. The film and tiny house were both relative successes — the documentary hit the indie circuit, the house still stands strong today — but Mueller moved to New York after a month and the couple broke up a year later.

"We started working on the film and we both were super invested in and it occupied both of our lives," said Mueller, now 32. " And for me, I was just excited by the prospect of seeing a house come together from scratch. I was curious about his process: his figuring out where he wanted to be, settling down in a home for both of us, talking about our relationship. It wasn’t until the house was almost done that I was like: I don’t know if I can live in this space with another person. I wasn’t one of the people who was drawn to it because I was so excited about the lifestyle. It was something I fell into through him."

— The Washington Post

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