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Florida's tiny house movement embraces some big ideas

Let's get small

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Adam Money looks deceptively boyish, with a surfer's tan, blue eyes and a ready smile. Now in his 30s, he could be paying a big mortgage on a suburban ranch home, but instead Money is restoring a kitchen in the clubhouse of the RV park he owns, Orlando Lakefront. He's built several tiny houses in this mobile home community, bought a few more, and he gazes at them lovingly, like family, as he tours the property.

From Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando Lakefront looks like any other ordinary mobile home park. But these tiny homes, like the movement itself, are secreted inside the more conventional picture of Americana. The standard American dream is a job and a house and a yard and a dog and a kid or two, but Money would rather build a neighborhood, one tiny house at a time.

Tiny houses are trendy, and yet they're nothing new – wetuash, wattle-and-daub, log cabins and soddies were the original American tiny houses. Giant houses are still rising at a furious pace, and if that's your choice, there's nothing wrong with displaying your success writ large. For more and more people, however, something's missing, and a big empty house is small comfort.

Money's College Park tiny house village started on the western edge of Lake Fairview and is bit by bit spreading inland, back into the park. Money gambled on his intuition that people crave the look and feel of a traditional house; the brightly colored tiny houses strut like tropical cocktails in between weathered old mobile homes.

He pauses at the edge of the lake. "My first tiny house was that one over there," he gestures with pride. It looks like the back of a U-Haul truck – and indeed that's what it is, repainted cinnamon-orange and nestled into an oak-shaded wood deck. "Elaine liked that spot, so I converted a used trailer into a house just for her," Money says.

Cynthia Aimo, a retired attorney and one of Money's early buyers, lives in a sunny yellow tiny house perched on the shore. She's busy cleaning it while her friendly dog watches. "Mainly, I wanted something I could manage without gobbling up all of my time," she offers from the doorway, vacuum cleaner in hand.

Aimo's choice to stay small was deliberate: "It is a liberating feeling, not having a huge house hanging over my head, or a big rent check every month."

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