Our Experience on Tiny House Nation

May 13, 2015

Vince, Sam, and Isis

It’s the summer of 2014 and we get a call from an enthusiastic and determined couple named Vince and Sam. They are from Philly and have a plan for their future that they believe will bring them happiness and financial stability as they launch their careers in medicine. They had done their research and were ready to start the process of building a tiny home. So we scheduled a time to visit and discuss a design. We conducted our typical design interview and got started on a concept. They made our job easy by providing the below rendering of what they wanted (notice the similarity between this and the final product!). We said our good byes and sent them on their way back to Philly.

On their return trip they called to let us know they had applied for Tiny House Nation and had already received some correspondence! Giddy and inspired, they let us know that if things progressed with Loud TV (the production company) they wanted us to be the builder. Naturally, we agreed! After several weeks of back and forth, we learned that Vince and Sam had been chosen for an episode of Tiny House Nation! What now??? Well, we learned that we had one month to assemble a plan, a team that could travel, and a house. There was no time to waste, so we started working right away with Jessica and Kevin from Loud TV on a design. We sketched this drawing based on Vince and Sam’s original design and then Jessica and Kevin gave us their ideas. There was a tremendous amount of collaboration right from the beginning. The beautiful part was that because we had already started the design process with Vince and Sam, they were able to lay claim to many fundamental features of the home. Here is the 2.0 sketch of Z Huis:

The plan was simple: build the shell at our shop in Asheville, then drive it up for the shoot in NJ. Much of the build process at our shop was captured by a camera guy we called “Johnny Muscles”. He would show up in a black BMW M3 with super sporty camera gadgets in 007 cases and get to work. . . all business.


Johnny Muscles filming Jenna

Solar, courtesy of Appalachian Energy Solutions

After 3 weeks of hustle, we were ready for the trip north. Here we are hooked up to the Wishbone truck. It was not the Z Huis yet, just the “Green Monster”. It was a beautiful drive, and without incident. The next morning we pulled up to the shoot location, right on time.

Green Monster ready for the voyage


That’s the spot right there

Everything after this was a blur. We had 7 days to complete the house and no enlisted help beyond the Loud TV crew. We were out of our neck of the woods and had no subs to call on. The next day there were lots of cameras, boxes, and people around and an overwhelming sense that we had a big job ahead. Loud TV had a solid construction crew, headed up by Zack Giffin. On a side note, I don’t think we can overemphasize how much Zack does for this show. Beyond his great creativity, skill, and work ethic, he’s just an all around good person. We truly enjoyed working with him and getting to know him. His helpers, Erick and Andrew were also great to work with. We were also joined by Brent Starck, a friend a collaborator from Asheville. He is responsible for all of the amazing patterned plywood in the Z Huis. Here is his company, Drift Studio.

The shoot location was picturesque. . .it was not at all what we thought South Jersey would look like;-) The owner of the land we were on was very gracious to allow the shoot to occur on this property. However, after a few days of full blown construction and production, it became clear that it was more of an ordeal than the land owner had anticipated and that we would need to find another location. . . fast! Here we are hitching, lifting phone lines, and following the camera crew to a new site.

Loud TV’s production crew on site

Hitching up. Gavin, the camera man behind showing us how Aussie’s say hello, was a never ending source of one-liners and punchlines

Josh lifting phone lines

Zack on the roof ensuring safe passage

This was somewhat of a crisis, not represented on the show. Having to move locations was certainly unexpected. As it became clear we had to move, everyone looked at each other for ideas. We had nothing. Until, that is, my dad came back to the site with a gentleman he had met at Home Depot, named John Dormann, of Dormann’s Custom Plumbing. After hitting it off with my dad and learning about our situation, he offered his property as a new location to conduct the shoot. John’s place had functioning workspace, plumbers, a neighbor electrician (Dan Fuss), connections to “Big Dan”, of Total Construction, an HVAC specialist brother (Mark Dormann), and a lovely family. John and all of his friends and family helped us through the long days and nights to get Vince and Sam’s home done on something of a schedule. Thank you John Dormann. . . and my dad Gerry Brown!

New shoot location, Dormann’s Custom Plumbing

12-15 hour days at the job site were typical. The camera crew spent only a portion of the time at the job site. They spent most of the time with Vince and Sam. On the days that the full crew was present, there were inevitably a lot of starts and stops to the building progress so scenes could be shot. My dad and I were actually involved in a few scenes and it was kind of fun! John and Zack were great at making you feel comfortable with the situation. Nonetheless, repeating conversations in an authentic way is a skill most of us non-TV folk aren’t accustomed to. We did our best.

Below are some additional pics from the last stretch of the build. Everyone pulled together to get the home TV ready.

The reveal! It was incredibly satisfying to see Z Huis parked in the middle of that field. We pulled it in the night before the reveal, turned on the lights, and marveled at its off-gridness. Work was done all night prior to the reveal to get Z Huis homey and sparkly. We were still building at this point. A countertop had to be put in, trim had to be placed, and blinds had to be hung. Cleaners came in the morning of and did their magic. The reveal was. . . well, if you haven’t already, you should watch it to find out! The episode is called “204 Sq Ft Climbing Gym“.

As we drove home from this 12 day event we were utterly exhausted, but filled with a huge sense of accomplishment. I remember telling myself throughout the experience: “this is tiny house bootcamp”. That’s really what it is. They even send a plaque:

We thank Vince and Sam for calling us last summer and including us in their adventure! We would do it again in a heartbeat.


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