Small house, big dreams for Irwin’s man

I have to go back to earth

And free my soul

…and we have to pull ourselves together

Back to the garden

— “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell

Irwin’s Benjamin D’Amico embarks on a life-changing venture and returns to earth, at least for the foreseeable future, living in a tiny house he built in a barn in North Huntingdon and transported to a farm in central Ohio. Amish country.

“I’m really excited to be going,” D’Amico, 31, said of his plans last week to use his 1990s truck to transport his 28ft long, 8ft wide house. and 8,300 pounds, some 125 miles in Berlin, Ohio, about 30 miles southwest of Canton.

Like so many other Americans, D’Amico said the changes during the covid pandemic have caused him to re-evaluate his life and embark on a different path. He was working as a draftsman for an architecture firm but wanted to change.

“It’s been a journey, looking for something new,” said D’Amico, who wants to be a designer.

He has been promised a small plot of land on the Ohio farm where he will establish his home, with enough space for his own garden.

“You’ll have to adapt” to having less space for all your stuff, D’Amico said. Although he describes himself as a “minimalist”, he said he would leave boxes of stuff behind at his parents’ house.

When D’Amico settles in Berlin, he will work on the renovation of houses belonging to his landlord. He honed his carpentry skills building the tiny house with his father, Nicholas, and has the satisfaction of building his own residence.

Using the skills he learned as a draftsman, he designed the house and has the drawings to prove it.

“I’m a perfectionist,” D’Amico said, pointing out slight flaws — two misaligned boards about a sixteenth of an inch — in some of the woodwork in his tiny abode. It was built on a steel frame trailer that once held an RV and provides a comfortable, if not close, space.

The bed consists of a mattress on a raised platform of white birch wood, like much of the woodwork in her home – walls and cabinets – contrasted by black shelves. The seating area is a long plank next to the bed and what could be used as a table adjoins the bed.

Water collected from runoff will be treated through four filters designed to remove impurities. In the event that the rainwater is not sufficient, D’Amico can connect the water system to a hose.

He can get electricity from an extension cord connected to electricity or from a fuel-powered generator that he plans to install. A skylight and two windows bring in some natural light.

There’s a four-burner stove and a small refrigerator, the one that was inside the RV when D’Amico acquired it.

It has electric heating and a small heater that pumps hot air into the structure. Unfortunately, D’Amico said, he learned the hard way during the recent cold spell that the heater lacked the power to keep the space warm on subzero nights.

A 40 gallon water heater is neatly stored under the wooden bench.

A corner shower has been installed as well as a ventilated compost toilet. The compost waste holding tank can be emptied periodically, D’Amico said.

Vertical exterior aluminum sheets and white trim help reflect the sun’s heat.

While he wants to make the tiny house his home, D’Amico said the landlord offered him the option to stay on the farm.

The tiny house was not small in price. D’Amico said he invested between $80,000 and $90,000 in it.

He plans to use the tiny house to generate income by renting it out as a “glamping” business, similar to an Airbnb, for tourists who want the feeling of camping without overly rustic accommodation.

“It can evolve into a business,” D’Amico said.

wandering man

D’Amico, who graduated from Norwin High School in 2009, didn’t follow the well-established path of graduating from college and entering the workforce.

He studied music technology and recording engineering at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He said he started several businesses, which ended up failing.

Instead of being ensconced in a recording studio, D’Amico wanted to experience the country, so he crossed the country alone in 2013, traveling 8,500 miles and crisscrossing the states. Meanwhile, he said in a YouTube video, he had no specific destination. He camped in the Toyota SUV he had converted into living space and spent 72 days staying with the homeless, going bankrupt, meeting Buddhist monks and enjoying the kindness of strangers.

Through this experience, he said, he learned that he could “escape the confined box in which we are all trained by society to spend our lives”.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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