A New Twist on Working from Home
Less Is Way MoreAugust 2015
Story and photos by Jen May Pastores
Imagine your dream home and everything you’d like it to be. What do you see? Many would wish for a bigger house with more things, but for artist Jada Lee, it’s a classic case where less is more than enough. With her husband and two young kids, the family enjoys spending time playing on the banks of the Kaweah River that flows through their acreage in rural Woodlake. Occupying a tiny percentage of their land is a metal shop that they converted themselves, which is used for a dual purpose: a workspace for Jada to design and create things, as well as a two-story house (1,200 square feet total) for the family to call home.
very structure has its own personality. How can I maximize what’s already there? I always look at what I have versus what I need to get. I like this approach better,” Jada says about constructing an environmentally friendly house on a budget. Instead of building from the ground up, she chose to use the existing footprint as a starting point. “What can I reuse? What is the most that I can do? That pretty much drives all of my designs,” she says.
During the six-month renovation, the family camped out and barbecued in the home-to-be, making the most out of the transition as good stewards of humble living. Jada grew up around Tulare County in homes that invited hands-on projects, such as a 100-year-old house in need of major repairs. Inspired by her childhood upbringing, Jada studied interior design and studio art at Fresno State University, volunteered in Tiny Home studies and obtained a green building certification. “One thing I’m sure that has made me into who I am is that I was always allowed to build things,” she says. “A hammer and nails were never off limits because they were dangerous. I grew up in a house where projects were really common. One of the first homes I lived in, my mom and dad were building together. My mom was a house beautifier.”
Beautifying a building can quickly add up in costs, but with craftsmanship on her side and a resourceful mindset, Jada achieved big goals with little. In revitalizing the Lee home, she looked at what they already owned to use for the build. With a $30,000 budget and a smaller-than-average existing space, she relied on her problem-solving and creative talents, which brought a set of unique repurposing ideas to life. “It’s hard for me to be impressed with a $10,000 bed. What’s amazing is a $100 bed that looks like a $10,000 bed,” says Jada. Without buying anything new, Jada transformed an old sewing machine into a sink base for the bathroom. She also used scraps from mosaic tile used throughout the house to design the shower stall walls. Old cabinetry, once used in a government facility, were installed for household storage, and – using all the pennies they had – she designed a kitchen backsplash that reflects a beautiful pairing of innovation and resourcefulness.
“Almost everything we’ve installed had a previous life,” says Jada. “We bought a tankless water heater because it minimizes the energy usage. We also installed some gray water valves for the washing machine; water from the laundry runs into the garden instead of into a septic tank. And we don’t have heating/cooling ventilation or duct waste. We have a passive system using windows and cross-ventilation.”
Every detail makes a difference in sustainability. The Lee family proves this can be done, and without taking a financial risk. Inside their home, they’ve found a way to fit an office, living room, kitchen, playroom, master bedroom, kids’ bedroom, two bathrooms and a spacious work space. With the home project completed, Jada plans to one day have a blueberry farm on their property and host events like weddings and parties by the river bank for clients. She also hopes to help bring other people’s dream homes to life while making their dollars go far. If home is where the heart is, then home is a reflection of what’s most important in life. To Jada, that means spending more time with family and less worrying about everything else.
Jada Lee Design and Events
Find her on Instagram @jadagasparlee