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Student-Designed Tiny House Raises over $30,000 for Charity

Dalila Kahvedzic, Jessica Mendenhall and Shannon Sample and their tiny house project

Students in the interior design program at St. Louis Community College-Meramec designed a tiny house that raised over $30,000 for Habitat for Humanity-St. Louis.

The so-called Tiny House Movement is a trend in housing that features homes with a significantly smaller footprint than the average home. While the typical American house is over 2,000 square feet, a tiny house is usually less than 400 square feet.

The tiny house, designed by Meramec students and built by Habitat for Humanity and the City of Chesterfield with donated materials and time, clocks in at just 160 square feet and sits on an 18-foot trailer. Despite its size, it has a kitchen, entertainment area, loft bed and bathroom.

Erin LeClerc, associate professor in interior design, heard about the project organized by the City of Chesterfield and approached the project coordinator with the prospect of STLCC students designing the house as a class project. Students worked in groups to put together a design that was ultimately presented to their clients, Habitat for Humanity and the City of Chesterfield.

There were several unique challenges that students faced as part of the project—the obvious one being how to fit everything that a home needs in under 200 square feet, but also how to create something that fit on a trailer without having issues going underneath bridges or becoming an oversized load.

“As designers, it’s not about designing large homes, it’s about figuring out problems,” said LeClerc.

The winning team -- students Dalila Kahvedzic, Jessica Mendenhall and Shannon Sample – was up to the challenge.

“I had never worked on such a small-scale project,” said Kahvedzic. “It was a good challenge in the sense that we had to come up with a 'tiny' design and continue altering it to be even tinier and tinier, while making sure to incorporate basic necessities in the kitchen, bathroom and living areas. We needed to make sure it was still spacious enough and consisted of plenty of storage.”

Building the tiny home was an unforgettable and gratifying learning experience for the students, and one they believe will help them in their future endeavors in the interior design field.

“I think it was a unique experience, as students, to see a project actually built,” Mendenhall said. “Now, as someone working in the interior design field, I realize how much that project helped me understand the depth of work that goes into a project. From concept to space planning to selecting materials, this project gave me a better understanding of the full scope of interior design.”

The students are also happy that the proceeds and the house are going toward a good cause. The house, on display at the Chesterfield Amphitheater throughout the summer, was raffled off in August. Raffle tickets were sold for $100 each. The house is worth $60,000.

“My favorite part of this experience was definitely seeing the end result and knowing that someone will get to enjoy it,” said Kahvedzic. “Individuals were able to purchase raffle tickets to win the tiny home, and those proceeds went to Habitat for Humanity. It was great to be a part of such a good cause.”

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