ST. PETERSBURG — At the St. Petersburg Tiny Home Festival, even the dogs are smaller than average. You try rooming with a greyhound in a 168 square foot home made of old wooden pallets.
On Saturday, hundreds of people flocked to the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center for the two-day festival to check out one of the hottest trends in real estate: living tiny.
Some were there to buy. Others looked to rent or show off renovated school buses or repurposed shipping containers. One family of five displayed an old bloodmobile that they use as a full time home. They call it “Half Pint.”
All came out on a rare Florida day that felt like spring to enjoy the novelty of the 30-some tiny homes on display. (Warning: only a few people can fit in a tiny home at once, so lines can get pretty long.)
Small dwellings offer the benefit of affordability and a decreased environmental impact, proponents argue. Still, it’s unclear how precisely tiny living became a full-on phenomenon.
By 2:45, the grounds were at capacity, forcing a few dozen enthusiasts to wait for their chance to enter. If you’re planning to go Sunday, get there early. The festivities start at 10:00 a.m. at the St. Petersburg College Allstate Center. If you buy tickets online, they’re $5 cheaper than at the gate.
When you get there, be sure to check out these five homes:
1. Cruising Caravan
Asking price: $25,000 or best offer
Size: 27 feet (16 feet of living space)
Company: DIY Tiny House Guy
Colby Biondo spent more than a quarter century in the marine industry before he got into the tiny home game. He brought his fourth tiny home, the nautical-themed Cruising Caravan, to the Tiny Home Festival with the hopes of selling it. The unit features a series of shelves lined with trinkets salvaged from discarded ships surrounded by a flat screen TV; a full bathroom and a small kitchen. The unit’s bed lives in the ceiling, but can be lowered with an ingenious homemade pulley system.
Biondo hopes to use the profits from the Caravan, in which he currently lives, to outfit a “Skoolie” — converted school bus. He wants to travel the country and help aspiring tiny dwellers realize their own dreams.
2. Tiny Studios Bungalow
Asking price: $42,350
Size: 20 feet
Company: Tiny Studios
This bungalow is perhaps the most upscale tiny home on display at the festival. Inside, a tasteful corner sofa basks in the ample natural light offered by the unit’s wide open windows. The kitchen is just a few arm’s lengths away from the living area, but the layout feels orderly and comforting.
Tiny Studios homes, made of once-used shipping containers, are customizable and luxurious. The most expensive unit, the 480 square foot “Villa” goes for $90,000. They could make the perfect beach shack if you’re willing to spend a little coin.
3. Little Blue Traveler
Size: 18 feet, we think — it has never been measured
The Little Blue Traveler is not for sale. At least not yet. Michelle Mattson and her husband, Travis, wanted an affordable way to travel the country with their two teenage sons. They bought an old school bus for $860, then outfitted it with a DIY couch that turns into a bunk bed; a junk yard fridge and a storage rack up top.
They haven’t needed the storage rack much, Michelle said, so on cool nights in the American West, they’ve used it as an “observation deck.” At the Grand Canyon, the family camped atop their vacation home on wheels.
4. Backyard Cottage
Asking price: $25,000
Size: 15 feet
People buy tiny homes for all sorts of reasons. Some want to outfit a personal space — think of the dreadfully named “man cave” or “she-shed.” Others want to give their relatives a place to live that’s close, but not too close.
Bonaparte, in Sarasota, is a tiny home retailer that tries to offer whatever the small dweller might want. They’ve got several homes on display at the festival, but be sure to check out the backyard cottage. It’s a neat structure outfitted with crisp pine, an electric stove and an impressive bathroom. And as far as retail options go, it’s one of the more affordable tiny homes if you’re looking to buy.
Asking price: $40,000
Size: 24 feet
Company: Tampa Bay Tiny Homes
The NextGen is the most spacious-feeling tiny home at the festival. Walk in and you almost don’t notice the gas stove or fridge because of the spacious loft that covers most of the top of the house. The unit for sale at the festival normally goes for about $60,000, but Tampa Bay Tiny Homes is offering $40,000 because it’s already hosted family camping trips for the company’s Brian Zmich and Herb Dorsey.
Dorsey, a St. Petersburg native, thinks "ultra-functional" tiny living has the potential to transform the Tampa Bay housing market.
“My goal since I’m from here is to really solve that affordability problem here locally,” Dorsey said.