See inside the 104-square-foot tiny house that helped a Canadian photographer 'house-hack' his way into living for free

Mackenzie DuncanCanadian photographer Mackenzie Duncan lives in a tiny house on Vancouver Island.

  • A “tiny house” typically ranges from 100 to 400 square feet, less than a sixth of the size of an average house.
  • Canadian photographer Mackenzie Duncan lives in a tiny house on Vancouver Island.
  • He lives by a zero-waste philosophy, owns four plates, and doesn’t have a TV.

As real estate prices continue to rise, many people are opting for smaller spaces and, ultimately, simpler lives. Tiny living isn’t just an Instagram trend, but rather a way into a more budget-conscious, eco-friendly lifestyle.

Typically ranging from 100 to 400 square feet, compared to the average of 2,598 square feet for new US houses built in 2013, tiny homes not only require less resources to build, but produce only about 7% of the carbon-dioxide emissions of a full-size house, according to the American Institute of Architects.

Living in a space as small as your typical two-car garage isn’t all that difficult, at least for someone like Canada-based photographer Mackenzie Duncan, who will tell you it’s certainly more glamorous than living in a van, which he has also done.

Although tiny house living isn’t without its challenges, Duncan told Business Insider that the little bit of extra work he’s had to put in is well worth it in the end.

Duncan started building his rustic cabin on Vancouver Island a year and a half ago, after getting a taste of tiny living in a converted van.

Mackenzie Duncan

“I just pretty much learned that you can house-hack your way into living for free,” he said.

Because Canada doesn’t require a builder’s permit for any detached building that is less than 107 square feet, he capped his little abode at 104, which technically classifies it as an accessory.

The cabin is in the backyard of a bigger house Duncan co-owns and rents out to several tenants. It’s about a 12-minute bike ride to downtown Victoria on a third-of-an-acre plot of land.

Mackenzie Duncan

Duncan is still in the process of hooking up solar energy, setting up a self-contained composting toilet, and finishing up construction on his outdoor shower. For now, he borrows electricity and hot water from the big house.

Duncan is a self-proclaimed morning person and wakes up around 6 a.m. each day. He squeezes in a 15-minute meditation session and some stretching before heading downstairs for his “tiny house workout routine,” which includes chin-ups on the rafters and sit-ups with feet tucked under the kitchen counter.

Mackenzie Duncan

“There’s just enough room to put a yoga mat down and do some poses, but no twists and turns,” he said.

He even takes time to read or strum his guitar before delving into work for the day. As a photographer, Duncan goes away on big shoots a few times a month and relegates home time to emailing and editing photos. The tiny house is his oasis.

Mackenzie Duncan

Duncan makes coffee on his two-burner propane stove before heading to work around 8 a.m.

Mackenzie Duncan

For lunch, he comes back to the tiny house and gathers ingredients from a mini fridge — half the size of a bar fridge. “It’s a bit of a European lifestyle. You have to shop almost every day,” he said.

Mackenzie Duncan

Abiding by his zero-waste philosophy, he keeps ingredients in tidy mason jars in a pantry that will soon double as his bathroom.

Mackenzie Duncan

One of the major differences between living in a full-size house and a tiny house is having to clean more often, Duncan explained. “If you don’t wipe the windows down every few days, you can start to get mould issues,” he said. “The cool thing is that it takes about 25 seconds to get it dirty and 35 seconds to clean it up.”

Mackenzie Duncan

The tiny house is only equipped for small meals and gatherings, “nothing big.” Duncan said he won’t be having dinner parties anytime soon because, well, he only owns four plates.

Mackenzie Duncan

“It’s pretty much the same as a normal kitchen except for you can stand in one spot and reach everything,” he said.

Unlike most full-size houses, Duncan’s tiny house doesn’t have a dishwasher or oven, but he makes do.

The tiny house also has no television, although Duncan said he’s never had one before anyway. He said he spends enough time in front of a computer screen for work, so his free time is reserved for reading, playing records, spending time outdoors, and hanging out in the tiny house with his girlfriend and her dog.

Mackenzie Duncan

At night, Duncan heads up to the loft, where he can look up at the stars through the skylight and listen to the rhythmic pattering of raccoons and squirrels running along the roof.

Mackenzie Duncan

“If I lived in [a normal house], I’d have to go buy all this stuff that I don’t need just to fill up the space,” he said.

“These days, life can move quickly, and it can be overwhelming. I’m just living a more minimal, lower-impact life.”

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