Friday, May 24, 2019
Senior Pursues Tiny House as a Symbol of Strength
Sierra Stern is building her dream house with the help of Levi and Jolyon Sawrey.
Monday, March 4, 2019


Sierra Stern is nothing, if not practical.

She’s about to graduate and go to college. And she knows how difficult it is to find affordable housing nearly anywhere you go.

So, she decided to build a tiny house that she can takes with her wherever she goes. It’s her senior project at Silver Creek High School.

Kintsugi, as Sierra Stern has named her tiny house, is being built on this double axle trailer found in Salt Lake City.

Stern said the project began “with a necessity and a rush of inspiration.”

“It is common knowledge that rent prices all over the United States are skyrocketing, and it is getting harder and harder for a young person to go to school and work enough to make rent, even with several roommates,” she said. “I will be on my own soon. And, originally, I had a plan to save up and buy a small camper to live in. While researching campers, I came upon the tiny house movement and was immediately intrigued. It seemed perfect for me—a portable little house one can simply pull behind them if they wish to move.”

Stern set about looking into different breeds and builds of houses. An avid fan of “The Boxcar Children” growing up, she even looked into the idea of turning a shipping container into a home.  After watching video upon video, she decided to built her own tiny house as her senior project.

“I’ve had many ambitious projects in the past, and I know that with the help of my community and a lot of hard work, I’ll be able to tackle this one,” she said.

Sierra Stern drew up the plans for her tiny house with the help of architect Jolyon Sawrey.

Stern enlisted Jolyon Sawrey, of Vital Ink Architecture, as her mentor. Then she began designing a house with his help.

“Every architecture project takes several drafts and some fairly intense mathematical calculations,” she said.

When she was satisfied with her design, she enlisted the aid of a second mentor—Levi Sali of LW Builders.

They found a double axle trailer in Salt Lake City on which they can build the tiny house. Now, Stern is asking the community’s help to donate funds to buy construction supplies or construction supplies and labor.

Already, many people have given time and donations, she said, but more is needed.

“I have a feeling that I’m pursuing a dream that cannot fail,” she added.

Given the snowiest February on record in Sun Valley, Stern was able to secure an indoor space to begin construction. The project will go by week by week with whatever she can get done.

The house will be built according to normal housing code and within highway-regulated height and width so she can travel throughout the United States with it if she chooses to. It will also be outfitted with the capability of being stationary, weighed to the ground in case of earthquakes or other natural disasters.

She hopes to have it finished by the end of the school year on June 8, and she plans to have an open house for volunteers and donors.

“It’s taken quite a lot of creative structural engineering to make it all work,” she said. “Of course, if I can get a rush of luck, we may finish a month or two earlier. The faster we finish the sooner I’ll have a place to live!”

“I’m excited to get ‘the bags on,’ as they say, and help build the foundation of my very own home!” she added. “To know my work will be within the very walls of my own house makes it all the more special and exciting. And I know that it will make me all the more grateful and understanding for the project at the end of this project.”

The only place in the Wood River Valley that will take a tiny home for an extended period of time is The Meadows trailer park in Ketchum. Current codes in the valley do not allow people to live in mobile tiny houses, which are classified as RVs.

“However, I do not plan to be here for an extended amount of time, as college will soon be calling my name,” Stern said. “There are zoning codes that could be passed that would make code-compliant tiny houses legal to live in. But, if all else fails, I can take my tiny home from camping spot to camping spot, which will not only satisfy my love of travel but let me live in a different, exciting new location frequently.”

Stern said that many people name their tiny homes, like pieces of artwork. And, she says, the love, care and hard work that goes into so many of them mandates that they be named. She has named hers “Kintsugi” after the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver or platinum.

“The beauty and attention to the cracks in the pottery represents the object’s past struggles and treats the repairing of the object as a healing from its shattered state. It represents one’s past struggles and one’s history, however unpleasant, as something to remember and be proud of overcoming,” she said.

“Too often, I find struggles—my own and others—swept under the rug and forgotten as if remembering the past would tarnish me or them as a person. It is my belief that many people that are placed in difficult situations and trying times come out of them stronger and go on to make waves in the world otherwise impossible. One’s cracks, blemishes and imperfections should be worn as a symbol of honor and resilience and I show my own each day to remind myself of just how strong and powerful I truly am. That’s what my tiny house will represent.”


You can follow Sierra Stern’s project on instagram@Kintsugitinyhouse.

Donations may be made at GoFundMe at

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