Tiny home community celebrates success in Flat Rock

There are over 100 tiny homes on site, all under 400 square feet expect for a handful of units where an add on has expanded square footage to just under 550 square feet. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

Just a year ago, Shirley and Merle Braley were living like many Americans -- working hard to afford a big house filled with lots of stuff.

But, after an unplanned visit to The Village at Flat Rock last summer, that changed.

“We drove in on an impulse and left with a contract,” Merle said.

Now, the Braleys live in a 399-square-foot home. They sold 90 percent of their “stuff,” and they couldn’t be happier.

“It was the best decision we ever made because we were spending so much time taking care of our house and our stuff, we didn’t have time to spend together or to do any of the things we love to do," Shirley said.

The Braleys occupy one of 89 units that sold out as part of the first phase of The Village at Flat Rock, which was originally an RV Park known as the Village of Wildflowers.

After Simple Life purchased the property in August 2017, it began to implement changes that have become an integral part of the village's success.

“The first thing that we did was raise the standard of manufacturing here," Coles Whalen, marketing director for Simple Life, said. "So, every home is now sufficient for year round living, insulation and snow load. And then we did a big ground assessment. We put in new drainage, a couple new water features, some walking trails.”

Simple Life also added amenities that help make tiny home living not feel so small.

A large clubhouse complete with a yoga room, coffee area, and a large gathering place for residents to entertain was built. Two dog parks, a bocce ball court and new pool deck were added, and Simple Life plans to add more amenities, including a community garden.

The community also cleared hurdles many people face when trying to downsize, such as securing proper zoning for the small abodes.

“We could not find any place to do it legally, that all the infrastructure would be taken care of for us, where there was a community of like-minded people that would be accepting of us," Shirley said. "We couldn’t find that anywhere in the country. That’s why we’re here.”

The next phase at The Village has added 22 new and vacant homes, and more units on the way. There are more than 100 tiny homes on site, all less than 400 square feet except for a handful of units where an add-on has expanded square footage to just less than 550 square feet.

Another area, The Meadows, has more traditional tiny homes -- those that come in at about 200 square feet. Ten spaces have been occupied with the remainder of the 35 spaces available -- some even for short-term rentals.

Although some had predicted a quick burst of the declared "tiny home bubble," the success of phase one has many involved with The Village thinking otherwise.

Another tiny home community near Mills River, Acony Bell, has also sold out its first phase of 23 units. Acony Bell is expected to open on June 1, with a community size near 100 at completion.

"I think what we discovered is that people had been looking for this even before we built it," Whalen said. "So, people were truly interested in a more simplistic way of living, and they found us, not necessarily because they wanted to live in Western North Carolina but more because they wanted to live the lifestyle of a downsized existence. And so, I think it really shows that it’s not a fad. These tiny homes are here to stay."

The Village held a ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon to celebrate its transformation and success. It will be holding an open house this weekend. Interested parties are asked to call ahead to schedule a time so guests can be given the proper attention they deserve.

The open house will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

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