- Associated Press - Saturday, October 11, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Last year, the Boise High School orchestra hosted its first tour of small houses in the North End.

Tired of traditional school fundraisers, orchestra parents wanted to try something new.

“No one could stand the idea of selling one more candy bar,” said organizer Kim Krutz.

The topic of tiny houses came up. Someone said that they’d pay money to see inside some of the area’s cute dwellings. Others agreed.

“We’re all captivated by people living in these spaces and loving it,” said Krutz, whose son, Carl, plays stand-up bass in the orchestra.

The Tiny House Tour was born.

Organizers hoped for 100 attendees that first year. They got more than 350. The tour helped pay for the orchestra’s trip to Spain.

Building on that success, not to mention a growing nationwide movement of tiny house blogs, design sites and even a reality show called “Tiny House Nation,” the group will host its second annual Tiny House Tour on Saturday.

This year’s event will feature 10 houses in the North End, nearly all less than 1,000 square feet. Proceeds will help the orchestra travel to a competition in Portland.

MANY CHARMS

This year’s tour includes one of three houses built in a row in 1923. “I call them the ‘Three Little Pig’ houses,” said Krutz.

A Boise family built a “newlywed cottage” for their daughter as a wedding present in 1945. That house is on the tour. Its owner will show off original built-in shelves and cabinets, a metal bathtub and arched doorways.

Skye and Hilary Cooley have lived in their house on Pueblo Street for four years. Built around 1900, it is one of the older homes on the tour. Its charm, said Skye Cooley, lies in its lack of pretension.

“It was pretty much a worker’s home, definitely not fancy,” he said.

Shortly after the Cooleys moved in, a woman who grew up in the house stopped by. She had a picture of herself as a girl in front of the house, taken some 70 years before. Little about the exterior has changed since the picture was taken.

The Cooleys started remodeling the interior when they moved in. It has new flooring and new plumbing, all sitting on an original sand stone foundation so emblematic of the North End.

‘FAIRY-TALE HOUSE’

Inga Johnson lives on Alturas Street. Her 1935 home’s 400 square feet feels roomy to her, she said. She used to live across the street in a 200-square-foot apartment. As a student without a lot of money, she once lived in a boat.

She’s lived in her tiny home since 2003. The previous owner told her it’s a “catalog house,” built from a mail-order kit sold by companies such as Sears and Montgomery Ward until the 1940s.

“It’s the cutest house in the world. It looks like a little fairy-tale house. I can hear people walking by outside, commenting on how cute it is,” said Johnson.

Not everyone is enamored of small houses. She has friends who won’t visit because they get claustrophobic, she said.

Johnson’s yard is as quaint as the house, with a pond and flowers. She shares her home with her dog, two cats and five chickens, who “don’t need much space.”

360-DEGREE VIEW

Chris Jansen’s house on 11th Street was built in the 1940s. It’s 830 square feet.

“By today’s standards, it’s small, but this is a nice size for me,” said Jansen.

Jansen has a covered deck out back, complete with a clothesline where she can dry her wash nearly all year.

The house has revealed treasures. As an avid gardener, Jansen set about transforming her yard into flower beds when she moved in. She kept unearthing hunks of sandstone - the foundation, it turned out, of the house that sat on the site before her house was built. Jansen uses one of the excavated stones as a step.

She believes in the charm of the small.

“It takes 20 minutes to clean my house, nothing to heat it, and I can see through my entire house and out all of the windows at the same time, east, west, north and south,” she said.

The best thing about the tour is the buzz it creates, said Krutz. Last year, people not officially on the tour got into the festive spirit anyway, opening their doors to passers-by for a look around.

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