JACKSON – Growing up on an eight-acre horse farm to a father who was a foreman for a construction company, lifelong Jackson resident Cody Gaudlip knew that he’d end up in some area of the homebuilding field one day.
“As a kid, I always loved building and rebuilding things and figuring out how things worked,” said Gaudlip, 28. “My father took me under his wing and helped me learn all about residential construction.”
After graduating from North Carolina State University in Raleigh with a degree in environmental design in 2016, Gaudlip put his strong carpentry, plumbing, electrical and steel skills (along with his entrepreneurial drive) to good use by launching Barn Swallow Tiny Homes in Jackson in April 2019.
“Barn swallows are a type of migratory bird that travel far and love to nest in barns and overpasses,” Gaudlip explained of the story behind his company’s name. “They have babies in our barn every year and are an inspiration. As I see it, each tiny home I build is like a baby barn swallow that’s born and hatched here and then leaves the nest; where it ends up after that is up to the homeowner.”
Monmouth County home prices:Here’s what they did this past year
Ocean County home prices:Here’s what they did this past year
Added Gaudlip, “personal freedom and autonomy are cornerstones of my personality and business and I always say that ‘we build freedom.’ It’s all about human empowerment.”
Tiny homes are often defined as being 600 square feet or less and come in many varieties, from ‘tow-behind’ tiny homes on wheels to oversized tiny homes that need to be towed professionally. Gaudlip got his start by specializing in vehicle overhauls, some of the most portable options. And a former classmate turned out to be his first customer in late 2019.
“She wasn’t sure what kind of tiny house she wanted, but she ultimately commissioned me to overhaul a full-size 2003 International-brand school bus,” he said of the roughly 200-square-foot vehicle that she and her fiancé, both wildland firefighters, purchased to live and travel in.
By the summer of 2020, Gaudlip revealed the finished structure — complete with everything from an elevated ceiling, a full kitchen with bar seating, a big farmhouse sink, and live-edge oak countertops that he milled in his shop to full shower and toilet facilities, sleeping accommodations for four to five people, 1,530 watts of off-grid solar power, a roof deck, and more — and the response was overwhelming.
“The customers were thrilled and the photos of the home that I posted online went viral, with over 1,000 ‘likes’ quickly,” he said of the grand reveal, which landed him such other jobs as high-end conversions of a 2020 Ford Transit, Ford Econoline 350, and 2021 Mercedes Sprinter cargo van.
Will Shore housing market stay hot? Experts say maybe not
Offering custom-fabricated tiny homes starting at $40,000, “customers have often found me online and usually want off-grid solar, custom woodwork and all the comforts of home,” he said, noting that, as a vegan, he avoids animal-based products in his construction and uses as many local and reclaimed materials as possible.
Among trends, “the growing demand for tiny homes has been driven largely by either retirees or young people who want to hit the road and sightsee or move around for their job,” Gaudlip said. “The economics make sense for many people who are seeking a lifestyle that’s free of mortgages and property taxes, while others are looking for a simpler, more minimalistic existence that reduces waste. No matter what their reasons are, however, most find the lack of possessions liberating.”
As a result, he said, “the tiny home movement isn’t a fad — it’s here to stay. It offers ultimate freedom and is an answer to so many of the problems of modern life.”
‘The comforts of home’
As for challenges, Gaudlip said that he’d love to have more space — and eventually more hands on deck as his business continues to grow.
Launching Barn Swallow Tiny Homes on the property where he’s resided all his life, “I’ve maximized the space in my 20’-by-30’ workshop and would love to expand someday,” he said. “But while my shop is smaller, there’s nothing I can’t do here.”
And though rising lumber prices during the pandemic added a layer of difficulty, “I have a lot of lumber stockpiled, so it didn’t hit me too hard,” he said.
What can present challenges, however, is being a one-man show. “One of the hardest things about running my business is never getting to ‘clock out,’” he said. “Sometimes I have to work long hours to get something done before bad weather hits or to meet a deadline. I also don’t have much freedom to run wire in tight or restrictive footprints and have to use deductive logic to figure out how to configure things in these small spaces, which can keep me up at night.”
But that very challenge is what motivates Gaudlip every day. “I can handle whatever engineering parameters the job requires or design style the client wants, from van overhauls to traditional tiny home construction,” he said. “I’m the niche company you hire if you want something different, special and world-class.”
As for his own interest in tiny home ownership? “While I could live in a tiny house and would definitely love to have one for travel someday, I have way too many tools for it to work for me,” he confided. “I need a big shop in order to build this lifestyle for others.”
Among the best parts of his venture, “I love being able to do something different every day; there’s never a sense of monotony because I build and design everything and get to control all of the creative aspects,” he said.
At the end of the day, Gaudlip hopes to help people understand and embrace the mentality of tiny house living.
“It’s not like camping or ‘roughing it’ and it’s not a sacrifice of space or luxury — I don’t want people to see it that way,” he said. “Tiny homes can be as comfortable as you want to make them. At Barn Swallow Tiny Homes, we’re all about delivering the comforts of home.”
Barn Swallow Tiny Homes
Owner: Cody Gaudlip
Launched: April 2019
Instagram and Facebook: @barnswallowtinyhomes