There is a new tiny house builder in Ontario. And they’re going to surprise you!
D’Arcy McNaughton’s company, Acorn Tiny Homes, just launched this week, but D’Arcy is not new to tiny houses. He worked as a tiny house builder for another company prior to designing and building his own tiny home for his family to live in full-time.
If you’re ever speaking with D’Arcy, and I highly recommend it, try to get him talking about all the unique solutions that he’s invented for his tiny house. He really is an engineer and inventor at heart, and his passion shines through in everything he has done.
A new tiny house builder focusing on uniquely-Canadian needs, as learned from experience
D’Arcy, thank you so much for taking the time to introduce your company and share your journey with our readers. I’m sure you have a lot to teach people who are planning to move to a tiny house.
“Thank you for featuring Acorn Tiny Homes! Yes, exactly, the solutions that I propose are the solutions that I found that I need myself, as a family man living in a tiny house.”
So, what was it like designing your own house?
“When building a tiny house on wheels, a house that you can tow down the highway, what you’re actually doing is building a house that can withstand earthquake and hurricane forces at the same time. Building something to withstand those sorts of conditions is very interesting.”
“I design tiny houses to be lived-in, leaving no dead space and making sure practical needs of living in a Canadian climate are all met. A lot of tiny houses being built these days look really good on paper, or for a short-term rental. But they don’t really work for everyday life because they don’t have the storage. Where would you put your winter clothes?”
“When building a tiny house on wheels, you’re actually building a house that can withstand earthquake and hurricane forces at the same time.”
It’s interesting that you say that, because the tiny home movement started in warmer climates than ours, like in California, where you can get away with a lot less clothes and footwear. In Canada, no matter where you live, you are going to have those massive winter boots. And the parka. You can’t “declutter” that.
“Yes, in many tiny homes, you’ve got just enough storage space for maybe five or six outfits. What are you going to do with everything else? If you need a storage locker just to keep your winter things, that’s not really practical. That’s why we designed our tiny house with storage everywhere. We have our winter clothes stored in a large storage compartment behind our bed. We vacuum seal some rather large bags and all of our parkas. As a contractor, I’ve got my work clothes, I’ve got my nice clothes. Everything we have tucks away nicely.”
“Another thing is the kitchen appliances. In rural Canada, or even urban Canada, you’re probably not going to be going shopping for groceries every one or two days. So, we’ve managed to squeeze in a chest freezer. This is not common in a tiny house. We actually tucked it away under the counter in a corner that I’ve seen go completely unused in other tiny houses.”
“I definitely like to challenge the accepted norms and traditions. One of the things I noticed about most tiny houses is they tend to go with the standard shed roof. But I’m not a big fan of the shed roof because it doesn’t maximize space where you need it most. So, for our house, for example, we chose to go with a gambrel roof, which is a barn-style roof. That gives you maximum height at the center of the space where you’re most likely to be living.”
“As a builder, I am offering highly engineered solutions for our Canadian winters and for Canadian needs. So it’s designed to withstand the cold and it’s designed to be a livable house.”
Designing his own house, D’Arcy did practical. Then he did magical.
These are all great practical solutions that Canadian tiny house dwellers need. But with your tiny house design and your love of engineering, you also went beyond the practical into this wonderful place of imagining what else a tiny house could be.
“That’s true! I have a habit of going over the top with everything that I do. It’s never just the simplest, easiest solution. I took every opportunity to grow and develop my skills. I pushed the envelope with everything. And you see that in my tiny house. We have a lot of very complicated, highly engineered aspects to the house from a floating office to an atrium shower to our stairs that are modular and are pushed in so we’re just maximizing every square inch of our house. We actually have three lofts in the house – one for my wife and I, one for our ten-month old son, and one that is the office.”
So, living in the tiny house as a family of three. How is that going?
“So, many people think that a tiny house isn’t enough space for family. But if you step foot in our house, you will be blown away by how much space there actually is. The other weekend, we had some company over. We had nine people, six adults and three children under two in the house and we did not feel crowded.”
“We had nine people, six adults and three children under two in the house and we did not feel crowded.”
“My wife and I are both really passionate about tiny homes. We actually decided independently that we wanted to live in one, so neither of us had to really convince the other. When we got pregnant with our son, we said, “We’ve been researching, discussing the tiny house forever. This is it. We have to do it now, otherwise we won’t have time for a while.” So we started the build.”
Wow, that must have been a lot to take on, with the pregnancy and just all the other changes that go along with having a baby!
“My wife was very pregnant when she was helping me build the house. One thing she always says she’s mad at me about was that I continued working on the house when she told me she was in early labor. But I was like, “We’re having a child! We need a place to live!” The house took a long time to build because we were only advancing after work or on weekends. We ended up moving into the house when it was only 70% done and our son was six months old. We did not have a working bathroom and running water. We didn’t have heating, but that was ok, because it was summer. After we moved in, I was able to come home and pick away at it for a couple of hours, finishing things. It’s now finally completely finished.”
What was that moment like when you first moved in? When you first woke up in the morning and you were in your tiny house?
“My son’s room has fiber optic lighting in the ceiling, so we have these twinkle star lights installed in the ceiling and it just looks like constellations. When we first moved in, we did not have our bedroom finished, so we moved into my son’s room. And we woke up all together with stars above our heads. It was just magical.”
“It just felt like everything had fallen into place. This is the lifestyle that we had been itching for and it was finally here.”
The tiny house lifestyle is perfect for two self-employed parents and a baby.
So, what does the tiny house lifestyle mean to your family?
“My wife and I are both self-employed. My wife is a naturopathic doctor and birth doula, I am a builder and contractor. For self-employed individuals like us, it would actually be very difficult to qualify for a mortgage in an area like Toronto.”
“We financed and built our own home and we are parked on my in-laws’ property. Growing up, I never thought I would want to live with parents or in-laws because I had this image in my head of Everybody Loves Raymond but it’s working out wonderfully for us because family is close, but we’re not imposing on their space, our son is growing up with his grandparents right by his side. And we have built-in babysitting.”
“The tiny home is a home that really works for us. We don’t have a mortgage and our money is ours to do what we decide with. It frees up our time to take on less work if we need to. If our son is sick, for example, we don’t have those questions of “how do we take care of him and still pay the mortgage?” If we want to take an extended vacation, we can do that. We can afford to leave Canada for a month if we want to.”
And so many people end up putting off their dreams and their passions because of the mortgage.
“Exactly. We have put ourselves in the situation where we don’t have to take on work that we don’t want to do. We can live the life that we want to, on our own terms. It’s also freed up a lot of capital that we can reinvest in both our businesses.”
We can’t wait to see what D’Arcy comes up with next.
And so, speaking of your business, a tiny home building company is certainly a lot of work, a lot of responsibility. But it’s also your passion, clearly. What is it that you absolutely can’t wait to be doing when your company is launched?
“Honestly, it’s about engineering and design. It’s about designing unique solutions that fit my clients’ needs. And this is specifically why I work the custom route instead of the model route. The problem I see with model homes is that they may be 70% compatible with most people. But when you’re in a home that’s under 400 sq. ft., that’s leaving a lot of space is not optimized. I want my clients to walk into a home that a) makes their jaw drop and b) meets their needs.”
“I want my clients to walk into a home that a) makes their jaw drop and b) meets their needs.”
“So, for example, we just started a new tiny house this week and I am working on a few unique solutions for them. We are making an elevator bed, since they want to make sure their dogs can easily jump into the bed, but they also want to get the bed out of the way during the day. This is a modular space that could be a statement piece in their house.”
It’s so interesting that you have this engineering approach to building tiny houses, where you approach it like a system, like a machine almost. It’s different from, say, a purely style and beauty perspective.
“Funny you mention the machine approach because I’ve had people refer to my house as a sort of steampunk house. You only get to build your own house once, so I put in all my creativity and ideas into it and took the opportunity to learn as much as I could. Now, I am excited to be starting Acorn Tiny Homes and creating really functional, really beautiful tiny houses for other people.”
“I’ve had people refer to my house as a steampunk house. Honestly, for me, it’s all about engineering and design.”