Jay Shafer Cover

My guest today needs no introduction, but for the uninitiated, Jay Shafer is largely credited with sparking the modern tiny house movement when he built a little house on wheels and launched the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company about 20 years ago. In this interview, Jay will fill us in on what he's been up to lately, riff on the sad state of housing policy, and talk about his latest home: a super lightweight tiny house on wheels that weighs less than 2,000 lbs and cost about $5,000 to build.

In This Episode:

  • Why was Jay inspired to put his first tiny house on wheels?
  • Camping in his own back yard in Iowa City and the conversations with zoning officials
  • Are current housing laws even in accordance with the Constitution?
  • Let's talk about insulation and R-value
  • The danger of using un-vented heaters in small spaces: your house needs ventilation, even in winter
  • How the zoning laws were changed to accommodate tiny houses
  • Tiny houses survive natural disasters better
  • Legal THOWs in LA is a bittersweet victory
  • Not all zoning officials are evil: there is a lot of red tape that prohibits them from adopting tiny houses
  • All about Jay's new tiny house: 50 square feet, designed to add a bathroom or kitchen, when needed
  • Advanced framing, better insulation methods, and keeping costs down
  • Jay's plans for his tiny house plans
  • How do you contact Jay and why is he reclusive?
  • Where do modern THOW manufacturers go wrong and what pitfalls can they avoid?

Links and Resources:

Guest Bio:

Jay Shafer

Jay Shafer

Jay Shafer has changed the way we view housing. For more than 20 years he has been demonstrating how superior design and social justice can be achieved with less space. As the pioneer of the tiny house movement, he has introduced us to a truly sustainable housing option. Shafer has spent over a decade living in self-built homes of less than one hundred square feet.



More Photos:

Photos of Jay's current tiny house courtesy of Bryce Langston

Jay's tiny house amid the trees

Tiny homes need maintenance, too




Workspace, bed, and plenty of natural light






Plenty of room for books





Beautiful woodwork on the ceiling


Want to know what Jay is reading?

Photos of Jay's original tiny house, the Epu, courtesy of Kristen Dirksen




Flower boxes make it look homey

The bedroom in the loft – a big change from his current home where the bed is at ground level

Plenty of storage


More than adequate storage for books and clothes


Jay showing off his closet

The view from the front door



Shower over toilet

Jay loves windows- the bathroom window provides ventilation and natural light


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