Q: I love modern cabinets and finishes and appliances, but with the sky-high cost of buying in Seattle, how can anyone afford both the real estate and the work required to make it your dream home?

A: The rules of housing are changing across the country. Extra-small houses are becoming more and more acceptable — not just socially (i.e., the popular tiny house movement) but also legally. In fact, King County views tiny homes as “an affordable and efficient method of providing housing.”

Current building and zoning codes do not specifically define or specially regulate tiny houses, other than requiring they meet all general housing standards.

While it’s common to hear people extol the benefits of tiny house living — the easy maintenance, inherent sustainability and affordability, land-management advantages and density — one aspect that’s often overlooked is the potential luxury.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) says the average kitchen size is 161 square feet, or approximately 13 feet by 13 feet. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the average kitchen remodel costs $23,723, or $150 per square foot. Most homeowners spend between $12,567 and $34,972, or $75 to $250 per square foot. Costs vary depending on the size of the space, the quality of materials and whether you change the layout of the room.

So, with the average U.S. house measuring approximately 2,600 square feet, which rooms do we value most in our homes? Which spaces offer the most functionality, and what are the best ways to use them? Having space simply for the sake of having space leads to waste and reliance on cheaper materials, as well as copious square feet of unused space.


An average kitchen might cost $23,000 to remodel, but a tiny luxury kitchen can be had for as little as $10,000 — including a speed oven; a magnetic induction cooktop; a fridge/freezer; modern cabinets; a sink with faucet and backsplash; a washer/dryer combo; a built-in television; and an integrated telescoping hood. With less space, you can afford to choose quality over quantity to create a luxury kitchen for half the price of a mediocre one.

While some may see tiny houses and backyard cottages as austere and claustrophobic, the reality for many people living in them is increased sense of freedom; with less space and more amenities, they are paying for what they need or want, rather than space that they never use.

And now, forward-thinking kitchen and bath retailers are entering this market with gusto, helping potential tiny home owners design and select cabinetry and appliances that fit their measurements, and helping match their needs with potential solutions that they may not be aware of.

If you’re ready to jump into tiny house living to save money, help the environment, or upgrade your furnishings and appliances, there is now a whole industry of builders, remodelers and luxury retailers ready to serve you. It may be time to treat yourself a tiny bit better.


Dave Giltner of Bauformat Seattle is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 2,800 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.