Vincent Van Gogh once said “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” In the spirit of the notable artist’s comment, Jamie Mackay is artfully crafting small homes via Wheelhaus, which he founded in 2006. Headquartered in Jackson Hole, Wyoming—where Mackay grew up—the company is among a growing number of builders in the tiny homes space, one so popular it has led to books, magazines and well-attended seminars on the subject along with three television shows, including HGTV’s “Tiny House,” “Big Living” and “Tiny House Hunters,” as well as FYI’s “Tiny House Nation.”
What qualifies as a tiny house is open to debate though it is typically a residence between 100 and 500 square feet. To give a little perspective, consider data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2015 indicating that single-family homes averaged just under 2,500 square feet. Wheelhaus has models ranging from 240 square feet to 1,500 square feet.
Mackay was inspired to start Wheelhaus after initially intending to buy a recreational park trailer that by definition is “a wheeled residence primarily designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or seasonal use with a trailer area not exceeding 400 square feet.” And as the name suggests, one that could be, well, parked. After exploring the marketplace, the trailer he envisioned didn’t meet his standards for quality.
Seeing an opportunity to fill a void he decided to create the next generation of recreational park trailers. The entrepreneur was determined to incorporate the same level of lasting quality he learned from his his dad, who’d earned a reputation for building impressive log homes in and around Jackson Hole. As important to him as the craftsmanship was the focus on energy efficiency, progressive space management, green production and sustainable building practices.
As the tiny home movement begain gaining momentum in the early to mid-2000s, Mackay had an epiphany. Recognizing a need for affordable, yet luxe lodging in Teton County, in 2007 he bought an RV campground in Wilson, where he created Fireside Resort.
“Jackson Hole is renowned for its restrictive land use and zoning, so getting Fireside Resort up and running was quite a feat,” says Mackay. “But that effort lead to the creation of Wheelhaus. Now, we’ve got projects in various stages of approval and construction in Texas, Utah, Colorado, Montana and Idaho. It’s all very gratifying.”
Guests visiting the dog-friendly retreat can stay in one of 25 nighly-rate cabins, each tricked out with a private deck, full kitchen with a rangetop, fireplace and outdoor fire pit. Mackay characterizes the experience as a hybrid between glamping and kicking back in a private vacation rental cabin.
Staying true to his core values, Mackay is crafting tiny homes and modular residences that are not only exceptionally well built, they also exceed the requirements for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Gold Standard. To receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a company must incorporate green building practices that result in a dwelling performing well across numerous sustainability categories, including reduction in construction waste, efficient water usage, energy savings, thoughtful building placement and stewardship of resources.
“More and more folks are attracted to the idea of living with as little as you need – and everything you could ever want,” adds Mackay. “It’s a lifestyle choice to spend less time fussing about your big ol’ house and more time living life and enjoying the outdoors.”
Wheelhaus’s “less is more” philosophy—less building materials, less square footage, less waste—is consciously practiced at its two manufacturing facilities, located in Utah and Idaho respectively. By being able to order building materials in large quantities and work 12 months a year in a climate-controlled environment without interruptions allows the company to provide a superior cost per square foot compared to on site construction. Utlizing computer-assisted machinery, Wheelhaus is able to manufacture a high quality product with a low tolerance for error that minimizes waste as well.
His tiny and modular homes have been embraced by Idaho’s Meadow Creek Resort and Spa, which is comprised of nine privately owned tiny houses. Nestled in the pines, the Rendezvous Cabin collection showcases the tiny homes at Mountainside at Northstar in Lake Tahoe, California, and guests visiting Snake River Sporting Club in Jackson, Wyoming, can book a tiny house at the private resort’s Discovery Village.
Engineered into every Wheelhaus home is energy efficiency. It begins with the most logical positioning of the residence on the property to leverage natural solar heating and continues with intelligent HVAC systems, high ‘R’ value insulation and thermal pane glass windows and doors. Reduced water use faucet and shower fixures combine with an optional tankless, on-demand water heater to minimize the waste of water and the kitchen features energy saver appliances. Interior paints are low VOC and woods used for flooring and/or siding are often re-purposed from old barns or fallen trees.
“We strive to utilize the most innovative and sustainable materials to continue to evolve our building concepts,” Mackay explains. “Wheelhaus sources materials in Wyoming and Idaho, including recycled materials like Wyoming snow fence and beetle-kill timbers.”
Well-conceived floorplans maximize virtually every square inch of the interiors, which appear larger thanks to the use of high ceilings, oversized windows, eight-foot front doors and, in the case of some models, one or more sets of patio doors. Of its current models, the Roadhaus Gable, the Roadhaus Wedge RV and the Flex Haus each are approximately 250 square feet. Five models—the Light Haus, the Lookout, the Wedge, the Caboose and the Flat Roof Caboose—come in 400 square foot designs, while the modular homes are offered in 1,000 to 1,500 square foot configurations. Base prices range from $79,750 to $351,500 with upgrades, extras and shipping boosting the pricing.
If glamping sounds appealing or you’re giving serious thought to (really) downsizing, Wheelhaus invites you to live large by living smaller.
Jackson, WY 83001
Kim D. McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning writer, has authored numerous stories on hotels, travel, architecture, golf, food and wine. For readers who are curious about the tiny home experience, he recommends booking a few nights at either resort in Jackson Hole.
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