Tiny homes come out of the woodwork in Tupper Lake

TUPPER LAKE – A new rustic furniture business on Main Street is veering into the tiny house market.

The tiny house movement, as many call it, is a trend of living more simply and efficiently in a downsized dwelling with typically no more than 400 square feet of living space. The movement has popularized in recent years thanks largely to several TV shows and documentaries of people living small, usually with some degree of creativity to avoid sacrificing everyday comforts.

This spring, Pete Boushie and David O’Brian opened Touch of Wood on the corner of Main and Washington streets to sell handmade wooden furniture and decorations. Boushie noticed the rising popularity of simple, small homes and decided to cash in on the trend by building his own.

With about a month’s work, Boushie has almost single-handedly completed his first unit. The 350-square-foot home on display in front of his shop has space for a bedroom, two lofts, a bathroom and a kitchen. Once furnished, it will have a sink, shower, toilet, fridge, stove and countertop. The home’s interior is lined with different shades of stained wood and a convenient layout to maximize space.

O’Brian and Boushie said the unit has passed code inspection for electric, water, septic and insulation, but some members of local planning and zoning boards haven’t completely agreed with their approach to selling it.

“They didn’t want the house set out in front of the store because they thought it was going to obstruct traffic vision and the signage on the corner,” said O’Brian. “And a couple of them complained because we’re in the furniture business; we’re not home manufacturers, so to speak.”

Village Code Enforcement Officer Pete Edwards said the owners need special permission before they continue building and selling units on the property.

“If you look under special review uses for that zone, manufacturing is not a special review use, nor is it a permitted use,” Edwards explained. “So they need to first go to the village Zoning Board of Approvals to get their variance. Once they’ve gotten that, they can go back to the Planning Board.”

Edwards confirmed that Boushie and O’Brian will meet with zoning board members again at a town hall on June 22.

Boushie said a handful of locals have already expressed interest in the home.

“This is to me, more or less, a good thing for a young person or couple,” he said. “Instead of going out and buying a $50,000 pickup truck, they could afford something like this with money to spare.”

Due to limited space, Touch of Wood will only be able to generate up to two houses at a time on their commercial property, but Boushie said he would contract on-site building for anyone who wants a tiny home constructed directly on their property with an eight-week turnaround.

Boushie was partly inspired by Adirondack White Pine Cabins in Saranac Lake, a producer of small wooden cabins since 2001. Joe Plumb, a foreman at the company, said tiny homes have generated more interest in the business, but he doesn’t associate their product with the trend.

“I like the tiny house thing because of the creativity people use, but there’s a big difference between our product and a tiny home,” Plumb said. He explained that their cabins are geared less toward compact size and more toward customization. Their standard cabin has a living space of 399 square feet.

“Regardless, we’ve seen an uptick in business since this whole tiny house craze started, and more people have been coming in and asking about tiny homes,” he added. “I think it’s more of a West Coast thing because of the relaxed building codes and warmer climates.”

Adirondack White Pine Cabins has a home on display along the highway like Touch of Wood, but the business builds the units in a separate industrial space instead of on site like Boushie and O’Brian. The Saranac Lake company is booked for this year and is confirming orders for 2017 and 2018.

The average tiny home is about 2,000 square feet smaller than the average single-family house completed in 2015, according to U.S. census data.