'Tiny' Documentary At Real Art Ways

Luise and Shawn Gleason live in a 600-square-foot Newtown apartment with their Australian shepherd. Some people would find that too small. The Gleasons find it too big. So they are building a little house for themselves. A very little house, 170 square feet.

"It's already insulated. The contractors are doing the framing. From there we will do the rest ourselves," Luise Gleason said. "We hope to be done in the next three to four months and move in in the winter."

The Gleasons are members of a small movement nationwide to build tiny houses from scratch and then live in them. The movement is the focus of a documentary, "Tiny," showing Saturday in a one-time-only screening at Real Art Ways in Hartford.

"It's a simple way of life. We want to be free from rent and mortgage. We want to spend more time outdoors. A tiny space makes us go outside because it's so small," said Gleason, who estimates their house will cost $30,000.

The Gleasons will be at the screening, as will Kathryn Jackson, a Rocky Hill woodworker who is administrator of the Facebook page Tiny House Connecticut. They will discuss advantages — financial, environmental, psychological — and drawbacks of tiny-house living.

One advantage, a person in the film states, is the ability to fly in the face of convention. "We are encouraged as a culture to consume more and have more and feel better about ourselves when we have more. We're not encouraged to think about the full cycle about what that means," she says.

A major drawback is zoning, according to the film, Gleason and Jackson. Municipalities have minimum square footage residential zoning codes. Tiny houses — which are usually around 100 to 200 square feet — don't meet minimum codes. Tiny-house owners get around those laws by mounting their houses on trailers, so they are considered mobile rather than standing residences.

Which leads to a second drawback, Jackson said: Can the house be insured as a home? Or must it be insured as a vehicle? "Some people don't insure their houses," Jackson said.

The appeal of tiny houses to Jackson — who grew up in "a medium-sized, very cluttered house" — is different than Gleason's. "I am a woodworker. My goal in life is to demystify woodworking for everyone, especially women and kids. I think a lot of people think woodworking is a man's thing," she said. "Being able to build your own house and own a home without mortgage and debt is so empowering."

"TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL" will be screened at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, on Saturday, Aug. 2, at 2 p.m. Kathryn Jackson and Luise and Shawn Gleason will speak after the screening. Details: http://www.realartways.org and https://www.facebook.com/tinyhouseconnecticut.