The Tiny House That Love Built

With thoughtful design and ingenious storage, 624 square feet goes a long way.

While some couples might balk at the suggestion of designing just one room together, Lauren Shumaker and Scott Mooney are no ordinary pair. She’s a construction engineer, he’s an architect, and they’re both wickedly creative. So much so that they collaborated to design an entirely unique dream home together.

Oh, and it’s only 624-square feet.

The custom dwelling was built with the help of TaylorSmith Sustainable Construction in the enviable Richmond neighborhood of Portland, OR. Though the home is close to music venues, restaurants, and some of the best shopping in the city, what makes it so special is its clever design and sleek structural features.
“We both lived in many compact-sized homes over the years, but they weren’t as well laid out as they could have been,” says Shumaker. “We knew with simple tweaks in the design, we could make small-space living function well for both of us.”

The couple worked together to design a home that catered to their specific needs — for example, an integrated dog door leading to the bedroom.

Built-in storage lines the outside of the house, providing ample space for outdoor equipment and bicycles, and generously sized windows wash every last inch of the home in natural light.
All that sunshine did end up including one slightly unpleasant and unforeseen aspect, however.

“We opted to put a window in our shower enclosure for more light [and] air movement,” Shumaker says, “but water accumulates on the ledge and if we had to do it over again, we would probably avoid putting a window in that location.”

You live, you build a custom compact home with your spouse, you learn. That’s how that saying goes, right?

Less is more

Despite the singular design snafu, the home is a triumph for the couple. The personalized space allows them to live in a beautiful home that’s truly their own.

“We’re interested in living simply, economically, and sustainably, so living in a small, well-designed space fit our lifestyle,” Shumaker explains. “My partner and I love our new house. Functionally, it works great for both of us as there’s equal closet storage, it’s easy to clean, and compact yet has enough storage. Neither of us feels like we’ve had to make any compromises in our ability to live comfortably together.”

And something that helps to maintain that comfort? The classic “less is more” approach, according to Shumaker.
“We’ve found paring down is always the best policy, and we continue to be diligent regarding what comes in the house,” she says. “While we were previously living together in a smaller space, we still found ourselves going through round after round of purging before we moved into the new house.

“Fortunately, this enabled us to be thoughtful with what we introduced into our home, and now we’re happy to not have to worry about any additional clutter beyond what we use most frequently.”

Ask any aspiring home designer what romance looks like, and visions of tidying guru Marie Kondo and custom closet spaces would probably dance through their heads. If fairy tales were modernized, minimalism and clean design would surely be part of every couple’s happily-ever-after.

But in our real world of endless dream house Pinterest boards and wistful home design shows, the Shumaker-Mooney family doesn’t take their labor of love lightly.

“We feel lucky to have been able to see this through,” Shumaker says. “We love how the process of designing and building this home brought us closer together as a couple, [and] being able to enjoy the space we put so much heart into is the icing on the cake.”

Photos by Olivia Ashton Photography.