Hatteras Island locals who love binge-watching home improvement shows may be in for a surprise this weekend when a pair of potentially recognizable faces appear on the popular FYI network series, “Tiny House Nation.”
The couple is Alexa Nota and Allen Johnson, and their participation in the show – as well as the resulting 215-square-foot home – stems from their green tendencies, their love of travel, and their overall appreciation of the tiny house.
It all started with a long-term goal to spend the bulk of their time traveling – a mutual passion that has spilled over into the creation of their popular online magazine, Travel Well Magazine, which focuses on travel, health, fitness, eating well, and being green, among other tempting or active topics.
At first, Alexa and Allen started researching recreational vehicles as a means for long-term travel adventures, but soon stumbled upon a new idea while on a trip to Hatteras Island. While driving along Highway 12 during the prime kiteboarding and windsurfing off-season months, they noticed handfuls of kiteboarders effectively living out of campers while staying on the Outer Banks.
“It was a light bulb moment for us,” says Alexa, “and soon afterwards, we began researching tiny houses.”
They reviewed and studied tiny houses and other options for a couple of years until deciding to apply for the FYI television show, “Tiny House Nation,” in late 2015. By that time, the couple had already relocated to Hatteras Island, where Allen currently works as a personal trainer and Alexa works as the marketing manager for Outer Beaches Realty.
“We applied [for the TV show] last December just for fun,” says Alexa, “and then they got back to us in February.”
From there, Alexa and Allen underwent a casting process, which took roughly a month, and eventually went to Chicago for the 10-day taping of their episode, and the corresponding construction of their tiny home.
“Our builder had a few pre-set layouts,” explains Alexa. “…and as part of the show, they did all sorts of upgrades.”
The end result is a fascinating, yet charming, little structure that has a custom roof line, a lot of green extras, and surprisingly more room than one would expect.
“Most people are surprised by how homey it really is,” says Allen. “Though it may seem a little crowded if you have six or seven people in here.”
The interior is neat as a pin, with a bathroom and nice-sized shower — one of Allen’s special requests — a loft / bedroom, a modest kitchen, and a bright living area. There’s room to stretch out with a cup of coffee, and a nice dose of natural light streams onto the sofa through surprisingly large windows – an attribute that the couple’s two sunbathing cats, Lola and Ursula, certainly seem to appreciate.
“As long as they have plenty of places to sleep, they’re fine,” says Alexa.
There are also some unique re-purposed touches found throughout the home, including a desk that folds up into the wall when not in use and is constructed from a pair of old farm jacks.
“You’ll see some of the special [parts of the home] and things that we added during the episode,” says Allen.
And in addition to being a stellar long-term travel vehicle – it can be transported on the frame of a trailer like a boat or a camper – the home has a couple of other not-as-obvious benefits as well.
“The tiny house is a better solution for being able to travel, but it also suits us because we’re pretty green, and a tiny house leaves a smaller footprint – both literally and figuratively,” says Alexa.
And there are a lot of green attributes besides the size, which automatically makes it more efficient to cool or heat. Alexa and Allen have utilized energy efficient lighting, propane for the stove, and as many sustainable materials as possible for both the construction and ongoing maintenance of their home.
And in addition to being inherently green, the fact that their home can be attached to a pick-up truck and moved with just a few hours’ preparation certainly comes in handy during hurricane season.
“Being able to take our home on the road is [a benefit] we have definitely thought about since hurricane season started,” says Allen. “After all, how many people can just move their house?”
And while the couple’s long-term goal of continuous travel still looms maybe five, 10, or 20 years down the road, for now, they are comfortable in their tiny house, and very happy on Hatteras Island.
“I love the beach,” says Alexa, “and it’s so nice to be able to go to some of the most remote sections and have the beach all to yourself.”
“And it’s really nice during the winter here” says Allen, who has clearly already embraced a favorite season of many locals.
Their finished home, which was completed in March 2016 during the show’s taping, is already well-lived in and well-loved – by both the human and feline members of their family. The episode of “Tiny House Nation” featuring their home is scheduled for Saturday night, Aug. 27, at 9 p.m. More information is available on the FYI network website, http://www.fyi.tv/.
In the meantime, Alexa and Allen will continue to live and work in their Hatteras Island tiny house, entertaining friends who are continually surprised at how charming, homey, and inviting the interior of the home actually is.
As it turns out, when you have a passion for travel, travel writing, and being green, a tiny house seems to be a perfect fit.
“We’ll always stay pretty small in our houses,” says Alexa. “We won’t have this house forever, but our future homes will always be small.”