We are SO excited to introduce you to Trevor Gay and Mary Benasutti! They were literally our very first hOMe plans customers (I’m pretty sure the order came in within 45 seconds of us opening the store) and to see their completed and stunning rendition of hOMe wells our hearts with pride and joy. Since that time, we have had the privilege of meeting them in person and have quite fallen in love with them. They are a beautiful couple, doing great things in the world, and they capture the essence of the tiny house movement in every which way. They have a wonderful website, HeartOfItAllHouse.com that chronicled their build and that posts top notch articles on living tiny. Without further delay, world, meet Trevor and Mary:
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELVES
We’re Trevor Gay & Mary Benasutti of the “Heart Of It All House”, located in Dayton, Ohio. Mary is an Airforce vet, now in school to become a Veterinarian. Trevor is a marketing guru, entrepreneur and field producer. We built our own hOMe with the help of our awesome family in early 2015! We’re accompanied by four furry friends: Cleo, Merry, Kiki, and Jinx- our cat children.
WHAT DREW YOU TO LIVE TINY?
(Trevor) At the time, in 2011, I was living in a house I had intended to buy as an investment property with my girlfriend (at the time) on the outskirts of Cincinnati. It’s a lower end neighborhood, plenty of trouble and chaos in the surrounding area. I was driving an hour minimum each way to work and back. Even with big goals and high hopes, my work life and home life at the time, weren’t really “adding up.” One day when I got home from work, I was plopped down on the couch after coming home from a long commute of rush hour traffic, scrolled through Facebook, and saw what looked like a really ornate and cool looking little shed on wheels. It was a post about Jay Schafer and the tiny house movement. From what I can remember, time stood still while I dove into his story, way of living, small houses, and the freedoms that came along with downsizing. From right then, I was hooked. Overall, the thought of having less and doing more is what sucked me in. A mere 4-1/2 years later, and I’m building the tiny house of my dreams!
WHAT DID YOUR FRIENDS/FAMILY THINK WHEN YOU TOLD THEM YOU WERE GOING TINY?
I’m fortunate enough to have very cool and supportive family. Luckily, my now fiancé, Mary, didn’t even need much convincing or coaxing to downsize and build a tiny house either. They all thought it was most certainly “extreme,” but never doubted or discounted the idea. Truly, how can anyone rationally take a jab at reducing your footprint, saving money, and spending your time doing other things than paying for your material belongings. I laid out the plan, and it just made sense.
WHAT WAS YOUR DOWNSIZING PROCESS LIKE?
At first, I thought the downsizing process was going to be a breeze. After starting our relationship, I bought a 1,190sqf house in Dayton, Ohio. 2 bedrooms, 1.5 bath, large galley kitchen, living room, dining room, finished basement with a laundry room, small work room (for all of my bike stuff), a huge unfinished attic, and a sweet 2.5 car garage with a fenced in yard. We really only used a few rooms in the house: family room (couch), kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and the garage. I was a marketing/team guy for two bicycle companies, and also a rider myself, so I have tons of bicycles, parts, and gear (11 bicycles and a room full of expensive bike parts, and 3 different large bags of riding gear, to be specific). Mary’s belongings were much more simple than mine. Most of the furniture in our house belonged to her and we sold all of those pieces in a house/garage sale.
We started our downsizing process with what we thought was the most logical: clothes. After many rounds of donating, giving away, and throwing away all sorts of clothes…. We thought we were doing well…. Until we moved into the tiny house. It wasn’t that the tiny house had limited storage; it was that we could see how much excess we actually had. Overall I don’t think we had to downsize much compared to most families or households. We had a garage sale to sell our tables, chairs, etc., we donated clothes, all of that- but we’ve been in our tiny house for 6 months and we’re still downsizing.
DID YOU HAVE ANY FEARS ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO MOVE TO TINY ONCE YOU MADE IT?
Even from inception, the benefits outweighed my fears about downsizing to a tiny house. But of course, just like most tiny goers, I was afraid of things like: where will I put the house, what happens if I suck at building and its unsafe, how will we pay for it….and most importantly: How will I even know if we can live like this without trying it. All of those fears have been erased or heavily filtered until its time for us to move our house to a new location.
HOW DID YOU COME ACROSS THE hOMe PLANS?
hOMe is very special to me (us). I had spent so much time searching for the “right” layout and plans since that day in 2011 that I discovered the tiny house movement. I knew it was going to take the right layout and design to tip me over the edge and say “Yep… that’s it. Lets do this.” Yet again, I think I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw an absolutely beautiful tiny house interior photo that just completely stopped me in my tracks. It was modern instead of rustic or “shabby chic” looking. Even from the single image I was staring at, it had plenty of storage with tall upright cabinets and plenty of windows to let an excess of light in. Without even seeing more, I fell in love. This was hOMe. I literally counted down the seconds on the TinyHouseBuild website timer until the plans were released and available for purchase. Maybe it was the extremely good looking gentleman playing guitar in the loft that sold me….
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR TRAILER FROM?
Buying our trailer was probably the biggest challenge or difficulty we had. Just in the past 8-10 months, with the boom of tiny houses, trailer options are much more abundant than they were last year (2014). We had outrageous quotes for custom trailer fabrication in realm of $7k-$8k dollars. This was really frustrating and nearly halted the project, entirely. Eventually, we found Tennessee Tiny Homes and ordered our trailer through them. We ordered upgraded axles and added on some steel support flanges. Originally we wanted to build the sub-floor into the trailer (to gain a few inches of overall headspace), but “settled” on our trailer and got started with the build. I think this is probably the only area that we would change if we could do it all over again. Just to have a more specific trailer frame setup, closer to what the hOMe plans call for.
HOW MUCH OF THE BUILD DID YOU DO YOURSELVES?
We did everything except for the spray foam insulation, standing seam metal roof, and our wonderful painter friend Blake, sprayed the interior with his paint gun. The rest was all built by myself, father, Mary, mom, Mary’s father & grandpa, and the help of a few friends who pitched in to help us out when we had to move faster with the build. My dad has a hefty amount of building experience where as I haven’t built any residential structures, etc.
WHAT WAS THE BUILD PROCESS LIKE? WHAT WAS A HIGH AND A LOW POINT?
The build process was unforgettable. We started building one week before Christmas of 2014. I had always wanted to do some sort of big project with my dad- what could be more meaningful and important than building a house together? The entire process went pretty smooth overall. I remember kicking ourselves for starting so late in the year. We were framing and doing the exterior during an extremely brutal spell of -15° below zero cold weather. I really relied on the digital 3d sketchup portion of the hOMe plans for most of the build while reverting back to the blueprint plans for overall references. I think there were definitely more high points than low points. Being a part of the “Tiny House Big Living” TV show definitely put some serious pressure points on our schedule and workload. Just a week before we were scheduled to finish our house for the big reveal, Mary, my mom & dad, and I were pulling a few 18-20 hour days getting things finished up. During one of those tough nights, in the wee hours of twilight, we were walking around like zombies barely knowing what task to complete. We were running on hope, dreams, and too much caffeine. I heard a wimper and a quiet scream, then Mary came walking out of the house with the saddest and most desperate look on her face. With tears bubbling up in her eyes, she raised her hand and showed me that one of the powerful double latch hinges had closed and locked onto the thinnest part of her hand. We had to pry it off with screwdrivers and be careful not to tear part of her palm off. That…. Was a rough night! Haha
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE TV SHOW THAT CAME TO YOUR TINY
The TV show was awesome. We talked to the production company through a social media casting call. They loved our story about building at the farm so we could be closer to my parents’ animal rescue, Wild Again, and casted us for the show. Being on the show most definitely stretched us thin. I already had high hopes of finishing the build in 5 months without the show, only building on nights and weekends after work, but the show sped up our timing even faster. It was truly the ultimate accountability partner to get the house done on time. The production crews were all fantastic and fun to work with. As long as you don’t mind being patient while working with the camera crews, I would definitely recommend Tiny House, Big Living.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING IN hOMe FOR AND WHAT IS IT LIKE?
We’ve been living in our hOMe since May 29th, 2015. I look forward to spending every minute possible at home. It’s incredible. Its literally everything I wanted in a tiny house (Disclaimer: Andrew & Gabriella aren’t paying us to say this 😉 hahaha). The amount of light the 14 windows let in is incredible. We’re lucky to have a serene rural setting for our house, so our views are incredible throughout the seasons. For the most part, I enjoy living in our hOMe even more so than our “regular” house. People always ask us what we’d do differently if we could start over and none of it has anything to do with the house. I might adjust a few things here and there, but we absolutely love living in our house. And so do our four cats!
WHAT ARE PEOPLE’S REACTIONS WHEN THEY SEE IT?
We usually get the same reaction- something along the lines of “Wow! It feels like so much more space than I expected!” Its been so much fun to show friends, family, and even “strangers” their first tiny house experience.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT FOR YOU GUYS? I UNDERSTAND THERE WAS A MARRIAGE PROPOSAL ON THE TV SHOW?? WILL YOU CONTINUE TO BE INVOLVED IN THE TINY HOUSE COMMUNITY IN AN ACTIVE CAPACITY?
It was really awesome being able to preserve and share our proposal on the TV show. We’ll be getting married in the fall of 2017 (or possibly sooner). In the mean time, Mary is going to school to become a Vet while I’m freelance field producing for one of the tiny house TV shows. We’re also working on some tiny house related brands that we hope pan out for a future reveal. I definitely want to stay involved and active in the tiny house world. I’m planning on some regional speaking engagements to share and educate people on our journey of downsizing and how they can do the same. We hope to do more and share more on our website and YouTube channel, Heart Of It All House. We’ll also see everyone at the 2016 Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs!
I just want to say a huge thank you to Andrew & Gabriella for everything you two have done. We purchased the full set of plans and the DVD set. Living in this house is allowing us to do more with less. Its truly a dream home. Thank you for being such honest and humble people!