The same day a couple received a 60-day notice to leave their Annapolis home they also received a phone call from the producers of the television show, Tiny House Nation.
Karen and Phil Ashford had an interest in tiny homes and saw the phone call and their former landlord’s decision to sell their rental as an opportunity to finally build a tiny home.
“We got a call from producers that day, saying we are interested in your story and we would like to talk to you,” said Karen Ashford, who applied to be part of the show last summer after seeing a Facebook ad.
Once they accepted, the couple had to find a tiny home company and builder to help with the project, which will be featured on A&E’s show Wednesday. After Phil Ashford looked online, he found ZeroSquared in Canada and a model that could expand from 8.5 feet wide to nearly double the size. They then discovered I Can Build It LLP, a residential and commercial construction company based in Hagerstown to help with the production of the model home.
“We gave them oodles of pictures and they were able to distill that down into an internal design,” explained Phil Ashford. The producers of the show told the Ashfords to dream big because they wanted a challenge, Phil Ashford went on to say.
So they asked for a finished kitchen, a fireplace, a place for Phil to work comfortable from home and a space for their grandchildren.
Through the process, the couple encountered challenges like focusing on what they wanted to bring from their apartment-styled home to the tiny home and more importantly, the legal limitations.
Anne Arundel zoning laws do not allow for tiny homes. They can’t choose to park it on land because the home has wheels and is considered a mobile home in the county’s zoning law, meaning it can only be used as a dwelling if in a licensed mobile home park.
Despite the legal challenges, the couple hopes tiny homes can become an affordable housing opportunity for people interested in the city.
“People just starting out cannot afford the houses here,” said Karen Ashford. “What about people who are retiring? There is a hole there that needs to be filled and we believe tiny houses will fill that void.”
Tiny homes can range from $25,000 to $60,000 - dependent on conveniences like a bathroom, kitchen, dining and living room.
When the television show wrapped up after nearly a week of shooting last September, the Ashfords walked into their new home and were “blown away.”
The home can fit up to six people with space for privacy and for Phil Ashford’s work. They noted the tiny house also has hardwood floors, tile work for the shower and a bunk bed for their grandchildren.
The episode featuring the Ashfords will premiere on Tiny House Nation Wednesday at 10 p.m. Karen and Philip Ashford will also have a viewing with friends, family, and members of the mayor’s office this Friday.
What began as an interest became more than just a minimalist style as the couple downsized and saw an opportunity to help others make the same decision.
“The ability to simplify our lives can allow us a lot more resources to go and help other people - starting with our families and then expanding that to help our communities,” Phil Ashford said.