- Associated Press
Sunday, April 12, 2020

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - Down a dead end road at the edge of the city sits a unique house that if viewed with a bit of wanderlust looks like the wing of an airplane.

Sided in aluminum attached with rivets to mimic airplane construction, portions of the exterior are wrapped in black so the exposed aluminum is wing-shaped.

At just 315 square feet, Ashley and Dusty Foster’s aviation-themed tiny house has a surprising amount of functional space, complete with a master bedroom loft big enough for a queen-sized bed and a guest loft that fits a full-sized bed. It has a five-burner gas stove, galley sink and more counter and cabinet space than some abodes of greater square footage.

“It’s simple. Everything has its place,” Ashley said. “You know exactly where all the dishes go. If you buy something, you have to get rid of something else.”

The Fosters built the tiny house after coming off the road traveling with World Help of Forest where the couple served as team leaders for the Children of the World International Children’s Choir.

Accustomed to a small living space from spending 10 months out of the year living in an RV, the couple wanted something small and sustainable without being anchored down by a mortgage.

“So when we were living in the RV, I said what if we applied to ‘Tiny House Nation,’” Ashley said “I googled how to apply and sent them an email. We were traveling at the time so when they asked where do you live - our RV moved every two days to a new location. I don’t know where home is, or where to define it.”

Besides, they weren’t really sure where they wanted to set down roots. Ultimately, Ashley used the address of World Help.

“We built it with the idea to park it long term somewhere,” she said.

As life would have it, though, the Foster family grew to include two children and Dusty’s career led them to Dublin, Virginia. The unique house now serves as an Airbnb rental and provides the family with enough income for Ashley to be a stay-at-home mother.

Construction of the tiny house began in Mebane, North Carolina, on Dusty’s father’s property. He served as the couple’s general contractor and the construction was featured on the television show “Tiny House Nation.”

The Fosters mostly designed, built and paid for the house themselves with the television show providing some guidance and design expertise.

The show’s host, John Weisbarth and his partner Zack Giffin, interviewed the couple about their interests and desires to create the custom 315 square foot house on a $40,000 budget.

Ashley said they initially discussed a gaming theme since the couple enjoys playing board games, but ultimately agreed on an aviation theme to play off Dusty’s career. Since that can have more of an industrial feel, it was softened with some sunflower embellishments.

“Tiny homes are the next big thing,” John says in the episode. “We’re down south in Mebane, North Carolina, not far from where the Wright brothers took their first flight, so I can’t think of a better place to meet aspiring commercial pilot Dusty Foster and his wife Ashley.”

Dusty says in the episode he found his passion for flying when he was 20 years old. In crafting the tiny house, the hosts created a fold up bed in the guest loft so it can double as space for Dusty’s flight simulator.

Just inside the front door is a futon. A sliding barn door covers the bathroom, which features a standing shower, toilet, sink and a combination washer and dryer.

Instead of a ladder to the master suite, the couple wanted a staircase so their dog, Juno, could join them in the space. The master suite features a queen-size mattress and two side tables. All three walls feature windows for a bright and airy look to the small space.

“My favorite spot is to just sit up in the master loft and just be,” Ashley said. “It’s such a peaceful place. I can sit there and read a book.”

The U-shaped kitchen sits below the master suite. Lined with granite countertops, the space features a five-burner gas stove, a large farmhouse sink and a New York apartment-style refrigerator. The upper cabinets have lighting underneath so the kitchen prep space is bright, and mounted glass jars hold things like sugar and spices to maximize the vertical space.

“Kitchen is the best part of the whole house,” Ashley said. “Literally, all we needed, everything fit perfectly.”

The tiny house at first was constructed with a composting toilet, but the Fosters later installed septic. The bathroom features a standing shower, toilet and sink, as well as a combination washer and dryer.

Above the bathroom is the guest loft that doubles as a work space. It is accessible with a ladder.

“Without a mortgage, Ashley and Dusty will be able to go back to school without being tied down by a mortgage and all the expenses that go along with a traditional big home,” the host, John, says in the episode.

The aviation theme is carried throughout the tiny house from the pitot tube - a device to measure flow speed on airplanes - used as a toilet paper holder to the propeller serving as a ceiling fan blade to the loft railings made from the framework of a wing.

“My favorite part of the interior is that it fits us,” Dusty says in the episode. “Immediately you can see it is Ashley and Dusty’s house.”

Its walls are lined with pine wood panels, and ample windows give the small space a bright, airy feel. The staircase was crafted to provide storage, with each compartment trimmed in metal, reminiscent of an airplane galley.

The stairs initially were built on a track system to provide a pullout desk space for Ashley to do her studies but she preferred to use the table. The couple ultimately decided to mount the staircase.

For Dusty, the desire for a tiny home was simplicity and for Ashley, it was mobility.

“We’ve traveled to so many places together and we don’t know where we want to live long term,” Ashley says in the episode. “For us, a house on wheels is perfect.”

The construction process took just three weeks. Completed in 2015, the tiny house didn’t find its Lynchburg home until 2018. The Fosters planned to live in their newly constructed home right away but they encountered a few problems.

In most cities, zoning ordinances haven’t caught up to the tiny house trend. Built like a traditional house but small enough to haul, the houses don’t really fit in any category - not recreational vehicles or modular homes or traditional construction.

So when the Fosters moved the house to their four-acre lot at the edge of the city, they found themselves unable to move in. The city wanted the house placed on a traditional foundation, which would have cost the couple another $10,000 to keep in where they already had placed it.

So the couple moved into a bungalow on their property instead, but after a fire damaged the house, they returned to the city and were granted permission to finally live in their tiny home.

“They signed off on it and we were finally legally about to live in it and enjoy our space,” Ashley said.

The couple ended up having to move to Dublin, Virginia, for Dusty’s career so the tiny home serves as an Airbnb rental and the bungalow is a longer term rental property.

“We love our Lynchburg property and we don’t intend to sell,” Ashley said. “We want our kids to inherit it.”

The guest book on the kitchen table where those who have lodged in the space have written their thanks for peaceful stays sums up the Foster family best.

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