Originally published for the AJC | Photos courtesy of MicroLife Institute
Head toward the huge tent ringed by tiny houses in downtown Decatur later this month, and you’ve arrived at the third annual Decatur Tiny House Festival. The two-day event takes place 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30, on Electric Avenue.
“This festival is a way to educate singles, couples, families and business owners about the microliving experience and see what alternative housing options look like,” said Will Johnston, festival producer and founder/executive director of MicroLife Institute (formerly known as Tiny House Atlanta). “Housing is a tough field. Everyone can’t live in Atlanta’s luxury high-rises or in the average neighborhood home. We’ve had to get innovative with how we live, and this festival teaches that.”
Johnston believes the more homeowners can save on housing, the more they can dedicate to spending time traveling, and with family and friends. He developed the Tiny House Festival to introduce simplicity and sustainable living to Atlanta as the city continues to grow and the cost of living rises.
WHAT IT IS: The Decatur Tiny House Festival celebrates tiny living in Atlanta. The festival helps guests become more familiar with the tiny house movement, gives them the opportunity to tour the latest tiny houses and connects them with beginner and veteran tiny house enthusiasts. Johnston formed a meetup group four years ago to address the topic of housing in Atlanta and how tiny living could fit into the housing market. Today, the meetup is one of the largest groups on tiny houses in the nation that discusses policies, zoning and codes. Johnston’s “tiny” office is headquartered on the Atlanta BeltLine in Inman Park. “The point of the tiny office and this festival is to create conversations,” Johnston said. “I want to show visitors the ease of tiny housing — and microliving on wheels. I encourage people to stop by and observe the space, which they end up learning is just enough for their lifestyle.”
WHAT’S THE CRAZE: The microliving movement surfaced during the 1980s and gained popularity by the late 1990s. People wanted more efficient space at lower prices. So tiny living built momentum. The housing foreclosure crisis of the mid-2000s only boosted its appeal. “Everyone is looking for their own unique lifestyle and more choices for how they want to live,”Johnston said. “The housing market is constantly increasing, so it’s important that we have affordable housing options, not worrying about prices. Microliving and events like this festival are the answer.”
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FESTIVAL: The 2018 festival features more than 20 tiny houses and structure tours; a speaker series with industry experts; a kids corner for its “tiny humans;” food trucks and local cuisine; and other related vendors. The festival will display a renovated school bus so participates can see this type of creative housing alternative as well. “We’re going to have a lot of exchanges around tiny living,” said Johnston. “For example, we’re talking about what downsizing and minimizing can do to enhance your life, from living in container homes to homes on wheels.”
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018: A new talking point to the tiny house conversation this year is tiny traveling. The festival will explore strategies for camping and taking road trips across the countryside in one. In addition to tips for traveling comfortably, the festival will provide discussions on legalizing them for other locations (like city lots) instead of being confined to places like RV parks. “We’re going to show guests how to escape in a tiny house for a weekend or longer,” Johnston said. “Whether you want to explore rural or mountain destinations, we’re going to share exactly how to make that possible.”
WHAT’S THE BENEFIT: For $20 in advance or $25 at the gate, general admission will give you access to new housing opportunities, which could keep more money in your pocket and create more adventure for you and your family. Professionals like HGTV‘s managing editor Felicia Feaster will give insight to why going tiny is right now and DIY tiny house builder Andrea Burns will share designing from scratch for a less-conventional life. Early birds can go ahead and get a weekend pass: $35 in advance, $40 at the gate. The early access VIP pass (one day) is $45 and includes early access from 9 to 11 a.m., the Tiny Festival T-shirt and a six-month membership to MicroLife Institute. Ages 12 and under are free. It’s also free to become a member. Simply, keep track of the tiny house group’s local meetups and updates on Facebook. “This festival is really for everyone, especially for those who want a change of lifestyle and living arrangements,” said Johnston. “Tiny houses give flexibility to travel and helps declutter our lives so we have peace of mind.”