ZIONSVILLE, Ind. – Could you live in a tiny home? It’s a growing trend where people move from a bigger home and live in a space between 100 and 400 square feet.
A father and daughter in Zionsville took on the challenge. Now, their hard work will be featured on the popular show Tiny House Nation. But the home wasn’t just about downsizing for Stephanie and Jim Barber—it was about repairing the relationship between them.
“I went tiny because I wanted the freedom to live rent and mortgage free,” said Stephanie. “I really, really want to travel the world.”
Stephanie got the idea to “go tiny” a few years ago. She did a lot of research and then decided to take the plunge. But she couldn’t do it alone, so she enlisted in the help of her father Jim, who also happens to be a contractor.
“She had come to me about a year ago wanting to go tiny and I thought, really?” said Jim. “I wasn’t sold on the concept either.”
But Jim came around and started to help Stephanie build the tiny home of her dreams.
“We had built the framework in a warehouse. It took us about 30 days to build the framework,” said Jim. “She sent me some links about tiny homes, and we kind of went through the design phase at that particular point in time.”
That’s when Jim saw a casting call for the show Tiny House Nation online and he decided to nominate Stephanie. A couple of weeks and long phone calls later, the cast and crew came to their home in Zionsville to help them finish the journey they started.
“It was pretty crazy definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Stephanie. “When you wake up at 8 in the morning and look out your window seeing a crew of 30-plus people and cameras everywhere – and the guys walking up to your door knocking saying, ‘Hey, I need to microphone you, it’s time, let’s go’…It’s like, wow—I feel like I’m a celebrity now.”
The Tiny House crew along with Stephanie and Jim worked countless hours to get the home done in just six days.
“It was just unbelievable what they were able to accomplish,” explained Stephanie. “They put in a ton of hours. You know, they were out here from 7:30 until almost 3a.m. on some nights. So seeing all of the work and love go into this house and how many hands helped during that experience was just incredible.”
Host John Weisbarth helped Stephanie downsize all her belongings down to the main essentials. The show’s carpenter Zack Giffin put some unique features into the house, like the bar that pulls out and transforms into a table that seats four for when Stephanie entertains.
“I was panicking and trying to figure out what am I going to bring? What is most important?” said Stephanie. “But it turns out you really don’t really need that many clothes to be happy.”
Before the time came to reveal the home, Stephanie wasn’t allowed to be around. It was up to Jim and the show’s hosts and crew to finish it up to surprise her.
“So, that morning on the reveal, it’s like very emotional,” said Jim.
The reveal was emotional in many ways for the Barbers. The two have had a rocky relationship after Jim and Stephanie’s mother divorced.
“For several years it was a very challenging relationship,” explained Jim. “I saw this opportunity to build this house and make amends with her and help her go tiny.”
And starting on the journey to go tiny together changed everything for their relationship.
“It’s been worth it—every second, every minute we’ve been here working on this together,” said Jim. We had our moments of trying to understand each other and kind of rekindle our relationship. Over the time that we’ve been doing this, almost over a year now, and where we are today, and we have, I think, one of the best relationships I could ever have.”
Jim also said, “It’s been worth every minute that we’ve had together.”
After the house was finished and the show finished filming, Stephanie and Jim’s relationship is stronger than ever. When they reflect back on the experience, they don’t just think of the home and the hours of blood, sweat and tears. They think about the memories they created while building it together.
“My favorite part is just the memories we created in doing this,” said Jim. “Every time I come here, I look at different things and see the windows, and see the things we had decided on together. So not so much the material aspect of it, but the memories, I see that.”
“We had our intense moments, we had our difficult moments and then we had our 'got it done' moments,” Jim said “So, I see those things that we accomplished in here as a memory.”
Jim and Stephanie’s episode of Tiny House Nation will air March 20 at 10 p.m. on A&E and then again on March 21 on FYI.