While Jeff Turner's quaint, 64-square-foot cottage turns the heads of tiny home enthusiasts everywhere, it was originally built to solve a very inconvenient problem. Turner, a former building inspector and general contractor originally from Richmond, Va., purchased property in the western mountains of North Carolina back in 2003 in order to build his own house, explains Tiny House Design. Yet after many rainy weekends spent camping on-site in a tent while planning the construction, he and his wife quickly realized that their patch of land actually exists in one of the few temperate rain forests on the East Coast. Therefore, the couple would routinely wrestle with a wet tent, "only to set it back up in the garage to dry out so we could pack it up again a few days later," Turner tells SF Globe.
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Sick of this messy hassle, Turner decided to build a more permanent structure to lay their heads during the house-building journey. Using reclaimed materials and performing the labor himself, Turner estimates to Tiny House Design that the small house only cost roughly $1,500 to erect. According to his Flickr page, he completed the abode, which he affectionately refers to as "the Shanty," in June 2004 and immediately basked in the luxury of having a dry place to sleep. 


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However, Turner's Shanty caught the attention of local officials, who claimed he'd "built a structure in their flood plain without their knowledge and without a permit," he explains to Tiny House Blog. Therefore, in June 2005, he decided to move the structure before the county forcibly removed it, placing it on a concrete foundation high enough to withstand a 100-year flood. (He later elevated the foundation of his large house in the same way.)

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Turner tells Tiny House Blog that while he, his wife, and dog resided in the Shanty, it could comfortably hold a queen-size bed and flat-screen TV. They also relied on a marine toilet. However, Turner tells SF Globe that, "My favorite design aspects of the small home are the built-ins. I used them whenever I could to add storage. There are the shelves in the dining room with the rolling ladder, the storage under the stairs, as well as ... the built-in dresser in the bedroom under the sloped ceilings." What the Shanty lacks in floor space, it certainly makes up for in nifty nooks.

In addition to its charming sloped roof, the Shanty contains passive solar features to make it more energy-efficient. Turner tells SF Globe that he aimed to take "advantage of the sun's energy by strategically placing windows where they can harness both heat and light from the sun for free." (He later applied these designs to his main house as well.) On his Flickr page, Turner states that the strategic solar elements actually keep the interior of the Shanty 20 degrees warmer than outdoor temperatures, even during winter months with heavy snowfall.

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Now that Turner's larger house is complete, the Shanty is primarily used as a garden shed (although it still contains a futon). He laughs when asked whether living in the small house was at all claustrophobic, telling SF Globe, "We were usually so beat (from construction) that we were asleep as soon as we hit the bed. We also didn't spend much time in the Shanty." Still, there's no arguing that this 8-by-8 abode offered the couple much cozier amenities than a wet nylon tent.

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And for those individuals interested in constructing small homes of their own, Turner offers this advice. "Build it larger than 64 square feet," he tells SF Globe. "While many people think they could leave the world behind and live in a tiny house, most, I think, would not survive for any length of time. I do think that a home the size of a detached garage could be very livable and would be easy on utility bills, taxes, and maintenance." 

Turner's love for architecture shines through the thoughtful details of each of his homes on this lush North Carolina property. However, his passion for this mountainous region of the country, no matter how wet with rain, appears to run even deeper when listening to Turner recall with nostalgic glee the night Appalachian State's college football team historically upset Michigan. While he apologizes to SF Globe for this spontaneous sports-related tangent early on in our interview, ("When they won, the place went crazy"), it only makes his affection for the Appalachian land where he laid down roots ever clearer. A full-time home, a Shanty, and a whole slew of years later, Turner's labors are clearly full of love.