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When Less Is More: Living Like Tiny Royalty

Posted on Aug 8, 2019 in:
  • Build
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Small luxury kitchen

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. Tiny houses are becoming more and more acceptable, not just socially (i.e., the very popular tiny house movement), but also legally. In fact, King County recognizes 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 many benefits of tiny house living—the easy maintenance, inherent sustainability and affordability, land management advantages, and density—one aspect they often overlook is the potential luxury.

According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), the average kitchen size is 161 square feet (approximately 13 by 13 feet). states that “on average, a 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. The total expense varies depending on the size of the space, the quality of materials, and whether you change the layout of the room.”

This forces us to ask ourselves: with the average US house coming in at approximately 2,670 square feet, what are the spaces that we value most in our homes? What spaces offer the most function and what are the best ways to use them? Having space for the sake of having space leads to waste, reliance on cheaper materials, and copious amounts of unused space.

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

While some see tiny houses and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as austere and claustrophobic, the reality for many people living in them is increased freedom with less space and more amenities—paying for what they need or want, rather than space they never use. And now, forward-thinking kitchen and bath retailers are entering this market with gusto, helping potential tiny homeowners 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.

The bottom line is 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 to the tiny house lifestyle.


Dave Giltner is the marketing and operations director of Bauformat Seattle, 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 MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to


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