When Laura Yates, MS/MPA’16, came to Bloomington in 2014 for the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs’s grad program, she brought The Little Leaf, the 220-square-foot house she built by hand.
Yates wanted a place to live while attending school that wouldn’t distract her from her course work and would be an alternative to spending money on rent.
“I knew I wanted to design and build the house myself,” says Yates, so she did a lot of research and attended a tiny house workshop to understand the process. “I had to learn a lot about structural integrity. There are also lots of resources online, and I have family with construction experience.”
When Yates told her friends and family about her tiny house idea in early 2014, she wasn’t sure how they would react. At that time, you couldn’t find programs on TV dedicated to the “tiny house movement,” which advocates living simply in small homes. Turns out, everyone was excited for Yates and wanted to help.
Yates says she spent about five months building the house on her uncle’s property in Plainfield, Ind. He had all of the tools and taught Yates a lot of skills along the way. A professional electrician and plumber, who were family friends, helped too.
“I feel really comfortable fixing things, because I know everything about the house and the process of putting it together,” she explains. “When the water pump went out, I knew exactly where it was and how to fix it.”
Because building costs were low, Yates was able to splurge on the birch paneling and doors. Well-insulated windows and glass doors supply natural light, save on electricity, and make the house feel more spacious and open.
“When I go to sell the house, I hope I find a buyer who will love it as much as I do,” says Yates. “Building the house by hand gave me a special connection to my home.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine.