After Losing Their Business And Bankruptcy, One Family Recovers Like Heroes


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Categories: Home Stories

During 2008, Hari and Karl Berzins lost their home and restaurant business. The recession hit them hard, but they didn’t let their misfortunes stop them from moving forward. They learned their lesson and vowed never to use credit again. So when they rebuilt, they did so on a small scale. (Literally.)

The living room converts into a dining room in the Berzins family's 168-square-foot home in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

Moving into a big house might be part of the American dream but Karl and Hari Berzins have made a happy life in a tiny abode. The parents are raising two kids, ages 10 and 12, and a dog in a 168-square-foot box tucked away among the pines and poplars of the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia.

Hari admits the noise of Archer and Ella and their great Pyrenees packed into close quarters tests her nerves at times, but over the past four years her family has learned to appreciate their simple life and identify what truly matters.

“We have our health, our marriage, our kids,” said Hari “That’s what’s really important.”

The Berzins are part of a small but growing group of tiny house dwellers who care about economy, simplicity, the environment and energy efficiency. Type “tiny house” into Google and you’ll find dozens of blogs, books and classes. A company called Tumbleweed with an office in Sonoma, Calif., can sell you a tiny house or set you up with a course to build one yourself. A small house guru named Jay Shafer is planning to build a community of little cottages in Sebastopol, Calif.; another expert named Ethan Waldman is selling a book titled Tiny House Decisions.

The houses are popping up everywhere from tony Montecito, Calif., to remote mountain ranges in the Southern United States. Prices to build these cute cottages with multipurpose living spaces range from $7,000 to $40,000, to even $150,000 and up for tricked-out accommodations.

The Berzins journey to a pared-down life began in 2008 when business at their restaurant in central Florida slowed. “Our dream was to have our own restaurant and we opened in 2007 — and then the economic downturn hit,” Hari said. “Our clientele couldn’t afford to eat out. We saw it happening in our reporting system, and then we just had to close.”

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