After the coronavirus upended their business, a couple built a tiny house in Hawaii and sold it for $98,000 — take a look inside
4th September 2020

  • Taylor and Michaella McClendon built a tiny house while in lockdown when the coronavirus ruined their wedding business. 
  • The 356-square-foot tiny house has 11 windows, two lofts, and a galley kitchen. 
  • With the help of family, the McClendons built the house for around $55,000 and sold it for $98,000. They hope to turn this into a business in the future.  
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

When the coronavirus forced Hawaii into lockdown back in March, residents Taylor and Michaella McClendon had to rethink their whole lives. 

The couple had moved to Hawaii two years prior to work in the wedding industry, but when every wedding on their calendar was canceled in early 2020, the couple were forced to turn to another avenue for income. With the help of their extended family in lockdown, they decided to build a 356-square-foot tiny house and sell it for profit. 

Here's how the McClendons made thousands of dollars by building a modern, airy tiny house in Hawaii. 

In 2018, Taylor and Michaella McClendon moved from Colorado to the Big Island of Hawaii to further their wedding business.

Michaella has worked in the wedding industry as a photographer for 10 years, and Taylor joined her five years ago as a videographer. Together, they created a successful wedding business and decided to take it to Hawaii, which Taylor says has a "wedding season all year round."

"We invested time, effort, and energy into our business," he told Insider. "When we replanted, we had to create a new network of connections and marketing."

At the beginning of 2020, however, the coronavirus canceled all of their weddings.

Taylor said April and May were the busiest months they had ever booked, but when the coronavirus hit, people slowly started to cancel. 

"Our cancellations started dropping right and left," Taylor said. "It completely wiped us out. It was a significant hit to our business. To this day, we haven't had a single photography job since March."

With two kids to support, Taylor and Michaella had to think quickly about how to earn money for the family. 

Taylor and Michaella had to brainstorm a new way to make money — it felt like the perfect time to finally live out their tiny house dreams.

When the couple got married, they traveled all over the world. They fell in love with traveling and living a minimalistic lifestyle, so they had talked about building a tiny house for years. In fact, they had even sat down to design one. After the coronavirus decimated their business, Taylor said it finally felt like the right time to pull the trigger. 

"I had a lot of faith, Taylor said. "I had a lot of faith that things were going to go well. Once I said yes to it, things just flew together."

They decided to build and sell a tiny house with the help of their extended family in hopes of turning it into a lucrative business.

Taylor pitched the idea to a family member on the island, and they partnered to start building the tiny house and earn 50/50 of the profits.

Their first step was to purchase a trailer, which proved to be difficult in the middle of the pandemic. Luckily, Taylor found one on the island for $9,000 to $11,000. 

From there, everything moved quickly. 

"We bought the trailer on Friday, designed it on Saturday, and started construction on Monday," Taylor said. 

After buying a trailer, Taylor and Michaella sat down to finalize the design plans.

Taylor and Michaella had "a reservoir" of designs from the years they talked about building a tiny house. It took them a full six hours to finalize a design that worked for them. Even though they had plans to sell the house when they were finished, the family built the house as if it would be theirs. 

They built the entire tiny house in their driveway in just 25 days for around $44,000.

Taylor and his extended family pushed to finish the tiny house quickly, working seven- to eight-hour days during the week. 

"We all had construction experience, and we all worked really well as a team," Taylor said. "We kept moving pretty fast. With a tiny house, things happen quickly. You frame the whole thing in two days, plumbing takes a day — it all came together quickly."

When completed, the 356-square-foot tiny house was designed to be clean, open, and airy.

Taylor said he never liked how tiny houses can feel cramped and narrow, so their main focus was putting in a lot of windows. In all, there are 11 windows, with some placed high in the walls.

"Before you even step through, you can see into the whole house from the outside," Taylor said. "When you're stepping in, I didn't want you to feel claustrophobic."

The entryway leads right into the living room, which has 13-foot ceilings.

In the living room, a ladder hidden in a bump-out window leads to a small loft that can act as a bedroom or office space. 

"We wanted our home to stand out and be unique, so that little design is our special feature," Taylor said.

The couple also designed the kitchen to be large because they love to spend their time around food and guests.

"We spend a lot of our time in the kitchen or really close to the kitchen because we love food, so we wanted the living room and kitchen to feel connected," Taylor said.  

The galley-style kitchen has a deep-basin sink, a kitchen table that can extend out the window, and stainless-steel appliances.

Through the kitchen, there's a bathroom, which has a sliding pocket door for privacy.

There's a stand-up shower, a sink, and a composting toilet. 

Above the kitchen and bathroom, there's a loft that fits a queen-size bed.

There's a staircase to the left of the galley kitchen that leads to the lofted bedroom. The McClendons designed the loft so that one corner has windows and the other doesn't so that the bed can be a dark, private corner of the home. A half-wall at the front of the loft adds even more privacy. 

Although it was difficult for the McClendons to let go of the house, it sold for $98,000.

"It was really sad seeing it go," Taylor said. "We definitely got attached to it." 

He and Michaella talked about keeping it for themselves when they finished the build, but in the end, they sold it to a couple in Hawaii who "absolutely love it." 

Taylor added, "It symbolizes a milestone, a victory, in our personal lives of stepping out and pursuing buried passions and following our hearts instead of being caught up too much in our heads with analytics and fear."

Taylor and Michaella have plans to move to Texas in the coming weeks to start their tiny house building business.

When they move to Texas, the McClendons hope to build themselves their own tiny house to live in and then start a business to help others live out their downsizing dreams. 

But Taylor said he won't ever forget the first tiny house he built with his family. 

"We're so grateful for the experience and reward of visualizing something [and] then stepping out to make it happen," he said. "Deciding not to react in fear with how COVID impacted our business but instead used the opportunity to stretch ourselves into a new direction. I'm glad we took the harder, less comfortable route."

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