High-tech, tricked-out tiny homes bring new meaning to the simple life

When people think of tiny homes, words like “simple,” “off the grid,” or even “cramped” probably come to mind.

And while it’s true that many tiny home buyers are seeking a simplified lifestyle that allows for more mobility, some are also unwilling to sacrifice modern technology and high-end finishes that make a tiny house a home.

Enter the trend of tricked-out tiny homes – small spaces loaded with big ticket items such as smart door locks and lights, retractable decks and roofs, high-tech solar panels, and reclaimed wood finishes. Who says that tiny homes need to be stingy on technology?

The Covo Tiny House Co., based in Portland, Oregon, is one of several tiny home building outfits across the country adding high-end finishes to suit the needs of clients who may not want to sacrifice things like functional kitchen appliances and the ability to plug their phones directly into a USB outlet.

It adds comforts and luxuries that you might not even see in an average home, such as a large desk lifter and Alexa-controlled lights, locks, and air conditioning. Covo’s “Mio” model prototype is about 300-square foot and features a 7-foot retractable awning that let’s in the light – and the outdoor party on the deck.

“What we wanted to do was make a tiny house for people who aren’t tiny home people.”

“What we wanted to do was make a tiny house for people who aren’t tiny home people,” said Robb Crocker, owner of Covo, noting that the home is perfect for the young professional who wants to work and play at home. “We installed things that we thought young people would want to work with.”

Crocker and his business partner, when conducting research for what to include the in prototype, asked people what they wanted in their tiny homes, including the kitchen. He was surprised to learn that microwaves and hotplates weren’t on the list, but having a range and refrigerator were extremely important. So, he added both, plus a combo washer/dryer unit.

“A big part of a full life is having a fully-equipped kitchen,” Crocker noted. “We wanted to make sure people could entertain.”

Add the retractable cupboards, black walnut butcher block countertops, and reclaimed wood shelving and trim, and the result is a modern, functional cooking area that’s probably larger than most New York City apartment kitchens. The Mio unit costs $79,900 – more expensive than the typical tiny home but a fraction of the cost of a regular home.

Tiny homes, Big Ideas

Covo isn’t the only company catering to those seeking more from the downsizing experience — other tiny homes are showing up loaded with modern technology and high-level design. A tiny house competition held last fall showcased some of the best ideas for small spaces, including fold-out murphy beds and dry flush toilets.

tiny homes stove
Kim Wetzel/Digital Trends

The 270-square-foot “Kasita” built by Jeff Wilson in Texas last fall features an Alexa Echo and Nest Thermostat as well as auto-dimming windows. Wilson described his tiny home to NBC News as “an iPhone I can live in” and envisions building more tiny homes that can stack vertically or horizontally to build space.

Think a tiny home isn’t a place for a jacuzzi tub? Think again. New Frontier Tiny Homes, which has been featured on HGTV’s Tiny House, Big Living, has a model called the ”Alpha” with a full-size soaking tub and shower inside, as well as high-end appliances, a washer-dryer combo, and a retractable garage door. Steps hide an eight-person fold-out wooden table. It’ll set you back about $90,000 – again, that’s a bargain compared to most full-sized homes.

There are even retractable tiny homes available. A company called Idahomes includes all the features of a typical tiny home, including a fold-out guest bed and a decent amount of storage. But the homes are different from others in that they contract with the push of a button, making it like a hybrid between an RV and a tiny home.

Will tiny smart homes become a thing? Some research shows that millennials are willing to pay extra for smart home capabilities. A tricked-out tiny home might be exactly what they’re looking for.