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Two Harbors teen's 'tiny' project heads to state

Alexis Hanson stands inside her grand champion-winning tiny house at the Lake County Fair. (Photo submitted)1 / 3
Lake County Fair attendees were welcome to tour Alexis Hanson's prize-winning tiny house. Hanson built the 37-foot tiny house in nine weeks. (Teri Cadeau/News Chronicle)2 / 3
The bathroom of Alexis Hanson's tiny house is complete with a toilet, washtub and sink. (Teri Cadeau/News Chronicle)3 / 3

Alexis Hanson, 19, wanted to end her 4-H career with a bang.

The Two Harbors graduate has been a member of Lake County 4-H for 14 years. This year was her final opportunity to submit projects to the Lake County Fair 4-H division, and she wanted to top her grand champion-winning project from 2017: a king-size, hand-built cedar bed.

This year, she built the bedroom in her Lake County Fair prize-winning tiny house project. Hanson was inspired to build the house after working on two tiny houses with her carpentry classes at Two Harbors High School.

"I helped build both of those houses in (Kyle) Chalupsky's classes and figured I could build on — on my own," Hanson said.

She got the idea in February. Shortly after sharing the thought with her father, he found a deal on a 32-foot, fifth-wheel flatbed trailer she could use as her base.

"He was at a farm auction and sent me a picture of it, like, 'Hey, would this work for your tiny house?,'" Hanson said. "I said, 'Absolutely,' and I was surprised. He was actually going to let me do this."

Hanson immediately began drawing up plans for the house. Originally, she planned for the house to be used as a photography studio, but decided halfway through the planning process to go for a complete house.

"My first plan was literally a rectangle with some squiggly lines inside of it," Hanson said. "Then I drew six sets of other plans until I finally had a good idea of what I really wanted to do."

Inside Alexis Hanson's tiny house, a view of the living room and kitchen. (Teri Cadeau / News-Chronicle)Hanson postponed construction until her family's barn was free in June. She had to build 24-foot sections of wall and didn't want to have to delay work due to bad weather. After building the outer shell, Hanson started on the inside.

The house consists of a kitchen, living room, porch, bathroom, bedroom and loft. In total, the house is 37 feet long. Divided into a 29-foot house with an 8-foot porch, that adds up to 296 square feet.

The biggest challenge for Hanson was the electrical wiring. She received advice from her father, who wired the family's entire house, but because it was a 4-H project, Hanson had to do the wiring herself. The day before the house was moved to the Fair, Hanson struggled to hook up a ceiling fan.

"We were putting in my ceiling fan and we went to flip the switch and the fan didn't work," Hanson said. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, Dad I messed up everything.' And come to find out, I had just put two wrong wires together in the ceiling fan. So I was a little relieved there."

While working on the house, she also had a summer internship with the Two Harbors Age-to-Age program, as well as helping around the family's farm.

"There were many nights I was in the house until 11 or 12 at night, then get up at 7 a.m. the next morning," Hanson said. "It was a lot of work, but it's definitely worth it."

Hanson received a blue ribbon and a purple grand champion ribbon at the Lake County Fair. She is one of 12 participants from Lake County 4-H with projects at the Minnesota State Fair.

Hanson spent a total of $7,800 out-of-pocket on the project. She plans to sell the house after the State Fair; she's pricing it at $30,000. The money will pay for the rest of her college semesters; Hanson is studying radiology and sonography at Lake Superior College.

While happy to have the project completed, Hanson is already making plans to make another tiny house — this one to keep for herself.

"I want to get started. There are a few things I hope to differently, but this was a really good learning experience," Hanson said.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

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