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Karin Craig

Guest Writer

Friends and family of Cambridge-Isanti High School alumni Kim and Ryan Kasl gathered around their television sets with great anticipation Sept. 10 to watch the latest episode of “Tiny House Nation,” in which the Kasls and their two children finally got to see and explore their new 207-square-foot home.

The Kasls have been eagerly looking forward to their new tiny house since June, when representatives of the FYI show “Tiny House Nation” notified them that their application had been selected for an upcoming episode.

Having been chosen for the show meant that the Kasls had to be willing to trust “Tiny House Nation” to design and build a tiny house that would work for their family as well as find a way to pare down their belongings to fit into the much smaller space.

Although the Kasls were not allowed to see the home’s design in advance, they did get to speak to the designer by phone and talk about their family’s needs.

“It was like I could hear her (designer Kim Lewis) nodding and drawing,” Kim said. “And they let me know that I could send random ideas and things I wanted them to know.”

Downsizing wasn’t too hard for Kim and Ryan.

“We donated almost everything,” Kim said.

However, the kids had a harder time. A highlight of the Sept. 10 episode is when “Tiny House Nation” host John Weisbarth sits down with 6-year-old Sully and 4-year-old Story to help them decide which toys to keep and which to donate.

“We can’t take all of this stuff,” Weisbarth gently tells the kids, as they sort through their enormous piles of toys.

“Yes, we can,” is Story’s firm reply.

The Kasls’ episode clearly shows how much thought and creativity went into designing a home that would meet the family’s very specific needs.

For example, Kim and Ryan very much wanted to incorporate a bathtub, as their children both have allergies and benefit greatly from regular detox baths. “Tiny House Nation” host Zack Giffin first looked a little taken aback by this request (how do you fit a bathtub into a 207-square-foot home?), but he ended up creating a kid-sized tub out of a beautiful old wine barrel. The tub fits perfectly into the little shower stall and was a big hit with the family.

Kim Kasl’s uncle, Pat Mattson of Stanchfield, was the contractor on the Kasls’ tiny house.

“They were having trouble finding a contractor during the busy Minnesota building season, and I was asked if I knew of any builders,” Kim said. “I immediately thought of my family. ... Pat was really interested in taking on this crazy project.”

Mattson, who owns Nicholas Construction, delivered a beautifully built home and was even able to customize the blueprints to add an extra dormer to maximize headroom in the sleeping lofts and a catwalk connecting the two lofts.

“Pat’s skills and care really melded with Zack’s vision and they turned our tiny house into the customized home that we really love,” Kim said.

Pat wasn’t the only family member who contributed to the project. Kim’s uncle Mitch Vidor, of Braham, assembled all the cabinets. Kim’s mother, Jennifer Johnson, and aunt JeanAnn Mattson did all of the exterior staining. Aunt and uncle Julie and Ron Johnson, of Braham, cut down part of a tree and took down fences to create a temporary location on their property for the tiny house. Both Kim’s and Ryan’s mothers wrote Bible verses throughout the framing.

“We never had a clue this was how it would come together when we applied, but somehow our family built our house for us! We love them so much,” Kim said.

When the Kasls get to see their new home for the first time in the episode, there are tears of joy. Sully and Story, who had seemed hesitant about moving into such a small space earlier in the episode, are very excited when they see the ladder up to their sleeping loft and the catwalk. As the family explores the home, it is fascinating to see just how efficiently each space is designed; a living area is easily converted into a workspace or dining table and creative, and hidden storage spaces seem to be everywhere.

The Kasls will locate their tiny house at a campground a few miles from their “big house” in Shakopee, which is going up for sale. They will stay close to Ryan’s work and the University of Minnesota for his last year of graduate school. After that, they plan to follow Ryan’s career and buy a piece of property on which to put their home.

The Kasls are currently transitioning between their big house and tiny house as they work on cleaning out the big house and getting it ready to sell. Kim said Sully and Story love going to the tiny house and giving their friends tours of their sleeping loft.

Like others who are joining the tiny house movement, Ryan and Kim chose this path to help them achieve their financial goals and live out their values. Eliminating a mortgage payment will allow them to pay off their student loans while living as a one-income family free to home school and travel.

“We are so thankful for the support and encouragement we’ve received from our hometown, family and friends,” Kim said. “The crew said that when they were out in the community they felt really welcomed and got a good feel for ‘Minnesota nice.’”

The Kasls’ episode of “Tiny House Nation” will air again Sept. 15, 16, 24 and 25. You can also view the episode online at www.fyi.tv.

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