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The Playbook

Mark Alford's smile greets me before his handshake does. 

He’s charismatic, friendly, and cool. Anyone entering the Rapha Cycle Club in San Francisco, where Mark works as the lead Visual Merchandiser, will tell you the same. But what most people don’t know about Mark is that he lives in a 200-square foot home he built himself.

Mark and his creation are part of a growing “tiny home” movement, a group of people that live in structures between 100 and 400- square feet. Pretty small, considering the average American home is 2,600 square feet, according to “The Tiny Life.”

A year ago, Mark and his girlfriend Ellie moved across the country from Indianapolis to an expensive studio in West Oakland. But when they got settled, something felt off. As Mark puts it, “We were just fed up with the whole stereotype of needing everything. I mean, there’s an entire industry devoted to keeping shit that you don’t even use anymore with storage places that you basically pay additional rent on to house things you don’t ever see again and eventually forget.”

Mark stumbled on the idea of a tiny home at first. But the more he considered what it would take, the more it seemed feasible. Building one requires resourcefulness, dedication and patience—all skills that Mark possesses in spades. Since he began, it has taken 6 months and $7,000 to get to where he is now. And now, every nail and two-by-four is a symbol of Mark’s dedication to living honestly, minimally, and mindfully.

Mark’s home is a reflection of himself. From the outside, reclaimed pallet wood and sheet metal create a friendly, almost playful façade. The simple shape and slightly canted roof are more modern. Inside, a Bay Area breeze moves through proportionately large windows creating a constant airflow.

Every component of the house seems to have a story. Pointing at the windows, he recounts, “we got all of these for only $250. Some guy who has a ranch in Oakley was clearing out his barn and we just walked in there and got them.”

With space at a premium, every inch must be considered. Currently, Mark is finishing plans for the shelves and drawers that will be built into the staircase leading to his lofted bed. At these dimensions, no opportunity for function is overlooked, including the foundation - the entire home is on wheels.

It’s not quite a daily driver, but Mark and Ellie have the freedom to live where they like. That includes a week in Yosemite, the destination for their maiden voyage.

Words by Shelby Tramel. Photography by Zachary Domes.

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