Escalante Village, a tiny-home community south of downtown Durango, is proving to be a popular option with residents of diverse ages and backgrounds who want to save on housing costs by going small.
In some cases, villagers are trading traditional homes for less than 300 square feet of space to gain more financial freedom.
“We want our money to improve our lives, not just pay for our basic necessities,” said Skippy Totos, a new tiny-home resident.
The village, which will have 24 homes when complete, has become a bit of a tourist attraction, developer Bob Lieb said.
Basic RVs and mobile homes can’t compete with the diverse styles of tiny homes, and that attracts residents to the lifestyle, he said.
“People are into living less expensively and more minimalist,” he said.
Durango’s village is part of a national rise in the popularity of tiny homes, which has been growing for more than 15 years, said Art Laubach, founder of the Colorado Tiny House Association. The homes are particularly attractive for young people with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt working for entry-level wages, he said.
Escalante Village has drawn young adults, middle-aged adults and seniors who were attracted to their tiny home for differing reasons, including lower living expenses and the flexibility a truly mobile home provides.
Retirement livingMary Kaye Rios, 63, and Chuck Rickards, 67, moved to Durango from Florida this year to live in a 240-square-foot home, a change made possible by the affordability of the village.
Lot space rent in the village is $500 plus utilities, or about half what some residents in town pay for a one-bedroom apartment, Rickards said. It’s also far cheaper than some RV parks in Florida, which can charge $1,000 for lot space rent, Rios said.
The transition to the tiny home wasn’t a challenge because Rios was never attached to possessions, but combating clutter is a constant challenge, she said.
“The hardest part is trying to keep from accumulated things,” she said.
Even stocking up on everyday items such as paper towels can pose a problem, Rios said.
“You go to the store a lot more,” she said.
Cooking also needs to be done on a slightly smaller scale.
For example, the couple recently bought a 16-inch pizza, but it wouldn’t fit their convection oven, so they made it into calzones, Rios said.
For Rios and Rickards, tiny living is their long-term plan because it will give them the flexibility to divide their time between Durango and Florida, where their family lives.
Cross county travelEscalante Village residents Noah, 42, and his wife, Kate Arvidson, 34, lived in a Chicago condo before deciding to purchase a 230-square-foot tiny home for traveling the country.
In their custom, solar-powered home, the couple traveled for about a year visiting 20 national parks, Noah said. If he had to do it again, he said he wouldn’t do it in a tiny home.
“If you are going to be packing up on a daily or weekly basis, they are just not ideal for that,” he said.
The couple learned to function like a “well-oiled machine” and could set up their home in 1½ hours, but it still took them far longer than RV travelers, he said.
An RV is also preferable for regular travel because they are built to keep appliances in place during travel..
In one instance, the couple forgot to strap down their fridge, and it shifted across the floor of the house while they were on the road. When they opened the front door of the home, they came face-to-face with the fridge, Noah said.
They were lucky because it could have fallen through the front door, he said.
Now, settled in Durango, the couple expects to live in Escalante Village for a few years before buying property and perhaps an older home. They may renovate a house while living in the tiny home. When it comes time to move into a larger home, they may turn their $80,000 tiny home into a vacation rental, Noah said.
“Living tiny wasn’t going to be our end-all be-all,” he said. “It was kind of a refresh for us and a way to get out and see the world and save some money.”
Living together, separatelySkippy Totos, 53, and Michelle Kimbro, 51, moved into two tiny homes that face each other and share a deck in Escalante Village so they could live together but have their own space.
Kimbro’s home is spotless and bright, with a bay window and white walls. Totos describes his home as a “lair,” with an overstuffed leather couch and “shabby chic” cabinets under construction.
The separate homes allow the married couple to have more personal space and “me time” that they didn’t have before, which is an intentional aspect of the living arrangement, Totos said.
“We had to make an agreement in the beginning that it was going be OK to kick each other out to say: ‘I need some space,’” he said.
Before moving into the new homes, Kimbro owned an 1,800-square-foot home with a large yard.
The sale of the property near Florida Mesa Elementary school freed up Kimbro’s finances and her time, which she was spending cleaning the house and caring for the large yard.
“She wanted to downsize to make her life simpler,” Totos said.