Home / News / How a Couple Built an Expandable Tiny House Using Film Set Scraps

How a Couple Built an Expandable Tiny House Using Film Set Scraps

Sep 23, 2023Sep 23, 2023

Five years ago, Chloe Barcelou and Brandon Batchelder set out to achieve financial freedom by living tiny.

The couple began building a 300-square-foot tiny house in New England on a very tight budget. "We would pay our bills, and whatever little money we had leftover, we used on materials," Chloe told Business Insider. "In the long-run, it's been great, because now we own it free and clear."

They turned to recycled materials from the town dump's recycle center, the side of the road, and the film sets they worked on to build and decorate their tiny house for just $25,000, she said.

As the recyclable materials indicate, this isn't your average tiny house. The couple also designed the house so it's expandable, providing more living space when it's parked. And, in contrast to the minimalist aesthetic that typically characterizes tiny houses, they decorated the tiny house with a maximalist cottagecore-meets-steampunk vibe.

Here's how they did it all.

The couple runs a production company together.

At the time, they were filming for HGTV's "Tiny House, Big Living," which put them on a tight deadline.

"We had a giant tarp, which we used to clip around the outside of the house, and it was constantly tearing off in the steady winter wind," she said. "We used a kerosene heater to take the edge off, but, still to this day, we're very cold-sensitive. I think the combination of the snow, cold, and stress has left our nervous systems forever changed."

But finding land to build on was easy, she said, thanks to a kind couple who responded to their Craigslist ad and let them use their backyard for free.

They told Architectural Digest earlier this year that they built a shower from $25 worth of reclaimed scrap metal. They built a medicine cabinet out of a turkey roasting pan and a mirror from the Swap Shed.

They also found budget-friendly items at flea markets and yard sales.

They said they salvaged 700 two-by-fours after completing their first film in 2014. They ripped the round edges off of them to construct faux hollow "beams" by gluing and screwing them together.

"This gives our home a French Tudor style, while eliminating the weight and cost that solid, authentic beams would have required," Chloe said.

Brandon designed the expansion, which affords them more living space. Chloe said they made the tiny house expandable because of Department of Transportation road regulations that require any vehicle to be under 13.5 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide.

"When we're not building sets, we work from home, and it was important that we each had a space where we could express our respective styles and have some personal freedom when it comes to decorating," Chloe said.

Chloe said she's also a stylist, so she has a lot of clothes.

They keep the rabbit's litter box and food under there, which prevents their space from getting too messy.

Chloe said she grew up in a very aesthetically driven family – her mom is a collector with a big home décor interest.

"I suppose you could also refer to it as 'Steampunk', although we don't necessarily like categorizing it as such because the movement tends to be typified by fake contraptions, rather than functional ones," she said. "But if you view Steampunk as an appreciation of old-world contraptions and décor, the term applies well."

Read next