Greg Parham's Tiny, Happy Houses
In his Durango workshop, this architect builds tiny homes on the go
You can say you don’t want one of Greg Parham’s tiny houses, but we’ll have a hard time believing you. Fact: Big things made small are charming, and there’s something even more irresistible about small things made beautifully.
The homes built by Parham, architect and owner of Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses, fall into the “tiny houses on wheels” small-residence category (yes, there really are tiny-house categories). The homes, built on trailer beds, are designed to be easy to move; the largest model Parham offers is a spacious 30 feet by 8.5 feet.
Designer Greg Parham
Parham didn’t start small. He taught himself building and renovating as a teen (at 15, he converted his mom’s attic into a bedroom), went on to study architecture at the University of Texas at Austin and then worked with an Austin firm before moving to Durango in 2012. There, he got a job with Sun Peak Builders, where he worked on full-sized structures, doing “a little bit of everything,” including design, working with clients, learning about green materials, pouring foundations, and doing budget estimates.
Parham’s passion for tiny was born after he started looking for a place for himself in Durango. “It was pretty expensive, so I was renting. I wanted something of my own, so what seemed to be a good idea was to buy land outside of Durango and build a cabin. That was sort of my vision, and then I saw a story about the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses company. I knew right away I was going to build my own tiny house.”
Parham calls The Boulder “the tiny house that really launched the business.” Customers are drawn to its clean, contemporary lines and reclaimed corrugated tin and cedar siding; Parham is proud of its pared-down, easy-to-haul design and affordable price ($35,000).
Parham liked the simplicity of the small-space lifestyle and the freedom implicit in living with fewer belongings, reducing housing debt and being able to move his home around. He built himself a snug and sunny 151-square-foot cabin on wheels with office space, a loft bed and a rustic look, and the experience inspired him to focus full time on designing and constructing small spaces.
Parham is committed to working with clients to incorporate their design visions, like these pickled white pine tongue-and-groove walls and vintage-inspired barn light.
“It’s not just my business; it’s my passion,” says Parham. He and his team have built more than 30 homes. Each one is custom made, or, as Parham says, “built from scratch.” There are classic Colorado cabins and mini moderns with sleek curved roofs and custom-built French doors. There’s a gambrel-roof home that looks like a tiny barn, and a slanted-wall guesthouse whose owners asked for a touch of steampunk/industrial flair. (Parham delivered with a striking angular design; a corrugated-metal and wood exterior; and closet rods, towel holders and railings made from repurposed pipe fittings.)
The warm wood of Harmony Haven is a mix of beetle kill pine, cedar, oak plywood and reclaimed barn wood. Storage shelves and cupboards are tucked under the double staircases that lead up to a loft bedroom on one side and the owner’s loft office on the other.
Parham’s designs have the appeal of backyard playhouses, but they’re built for real life. While some of Parham’s builds are used as guest spaces or vacation homes, most are the owners’ primary residence, so the interiors have to be masterpieces of finding a spot for everything that’s needed. There are drop-down kitchen tables, slide-away coffee tables, loft beds, hanging sofas, and drawers and storage built into every nook and cranny. There are also kitchens with stoves, fridges and running water, and elegantly tiled bathrooms.
Harmony Haven’s seating area is just below the overhead loft office. The sofa was designed for maximum storage; almost invisible drawers form the base of the custom-built banquette.
“When I built my house four and a half years ago,” says Parham, “people really saw tiny-home living as roughing it, but now there are all these bells and whistles. About 50 percent of the places we build even have washers and dryers, and about 30 percent have dishwashers.”
Parham has plans to upgrade from his tiny space sometime soon. “I designed my house for one person and one dog,” he says, “But I met someone, and now it’s me, my dog, my wife and her dog, and for two dogs and two people, 151 square feet is a little cramped, especially in the winter.” His next home? “I’m thinking not twice the size of this place but close. Still definitely a tiny house.”
Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses’ costs vary based on size, design and materials, ranging from about $23,000 to $100,000 for finished homes, less for finish-it-yourself partial builds.