11 Year Old, Luke, Builds a Tiny Functional House All By Himself With a Twist

Last updated: Jan 16, 2024

What did you do as an 11-year-old? Most 11-year-olds are focused on getting through school or buying the newest trendy video game. Luke, then an 11-year-old from Dubuque, Iowa, on the contrary, had way bigger plans for his summer vacation. He ended up orchestrating what ended up being a three-year project, completed when he turned 13. As an 11-year-old boy with larger-than-life plans for his summer, things took an unexpected turn when he set out to find a stimulating and unconventional project to occupy his summer.

We aren’t sure what is the most impressive part, the fact that 11-year-old Luke took the initiative to build his own house as a way to occupy his time, that he dedicated three years of his life to it at such a young age, or that the house was built so eco-friendly and responsibly. Let’s find out exactly how Luke made his dream house a reality and what motivated him to keep going despite obstacles.

Lucky Luke

The first step in carrying out Luke’s plan was trying to get his parents on board with letting him take on such a big project especially since it was going to be in the backyard of his parent’s property. He originally stumbled across the idea from a YouTube video. His parents agreed but only under one condition.

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Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

For Luke’s parents to allow him to build his house he had to raise all the money for it himself and budget the project without their help. It seemed like a good practical lesson in hard work, home maintenance, and financial management.

How to Raise the Money?

After Luke and his parents agreed to the terms of the project, he set out to try and find various odd jobs in the summer to be able to finance the estimated $1,500 he deemed necessary to build his new house. From mowing the lawn to dog walking no job was too small. Luke was quoted saying, “I knew that it was possible and I put my heart and soul into budgeting money, planning, and executing my ideas.” He admits that he thought funding the project would be the biggest obstacle.

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Luke alongside his Mom Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

Luckily he had his father’s help with the construction and the drafting of the blueprints, as well as his mother’s interior design assistance to lift some of the burdens. Luke was also lucky enough to receive help from his community. Many of his neighbors and friends of friends heard about and were inspired by his project and they wanted to donate some materials that they thought could be of use.

The Best Bargain

Luke being as savvy as he is also successfully bartered for some additional resources to help with the building of his house such as offering to clean out a neighbor’s garage in exchange for his electrician expertise and services. Despite getting help with his project and his community coming together to see him succeed in building his small house, the process was not an easy one.

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Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

All in all the time it took for Luke to complete his fully functioning home, after the structure was built, was about a year and a half. His home measures 89 square feet and has everything a full-sized home has, a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, and even a folding dining table. But this wasn’t even the best and most impressive part.

Tiny Living

Luke plans to make tiny living part of his lifestyle and finds the benefits of living minimally and responsibly. He says of his tiny house taking shape that, “Seeing everything come together was very satisfying.” Although there were some challenging stages in his project, quitting never even crossed his mind. Luke’s passion continued to shine through as he got closer and closer to the house’s completion.

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Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

Luke loved the idea of having his tiny house as a way to entertain and have a hangout area away from his family’s main house. But despite having this private space his goal wasn’t to move out completely. He is only a young teen after all.

A Lifestyle Choice

As Luke continued to do more research in order to build his tiny house he fell more in love with the type of homes he strived to emulate. The main goal for choosing such a tiny home lifestyle was to exercise the benefits of only using what you need and refraining from excess. Many of us are guilty of overconsuming both in resources and goods and Luke wanted to minimize this in his own life.

Source: Illustration Purposes / Homeknowledge

His idea was if you have a smaller house then it relieves the environment of some of its exhaustion and wastefulness. Luke concluded that when you have more space you are more likely to fill it up with items that you don’t really need and when you don’t have the space for it you’re less inclined not to mention cannot afford to buy in excess.

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Unusual Oasis

Luke’s love of entertaining and hanging out with his friends made his tiny house a center for friends to come visit and cook together, eat food, play games, spend time together, and watch endless movies. This tiny oasis gave Luke and his friends a private and safe space to be themselves and enjoy the pleasures of growing up.

Source: ABC News / Luke Thill

But this was just the beginning for Luke, he was about to take his tiny project to a whole new level. However, in the meantime, there were still some things that Luke needed to tackle and hammer out.

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The Last Panel in the Puzzle

Before getting to the good part of enjoying his house with friends he needed a secure front door and enough wooden panels to cover the parameters of his home. He struggled to find these elements especially ones that fit his needs and price point. After all, staying on budget was one of his parent’s conditions for building his house.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

Despite having a fairly tiny home, these two elements were not something to compromise on, especially if Luke wanted to enjoy his tiny house for the long term. He turned for help in the one place he knew he could and hoped for the best.

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Coming Together: Tiny But Mighty

He turned to his family and community for any leads he could find in order to be able to progress in his project and finally get what he needed to complete his masterpiece. They did not let him down and his creativity allowed him to repurpose some of the items that may not have originally been an exact fit.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

For his front door, he found a discarded perfectly functional door that his friend’s parents were going to get rid of, and he repainted it and retouched it to look new. For the panelling of his tiny house thank goodness for Grandma. He went with his dad over to grandma’s and she luckily had extra wooden panels from her own house’s renovations that worked perfectly for Luke’s new house project.

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Inside the Box

Literally “inside the box” but thinking outside it, Luke and his dad got to work putting up the walls of his home and paneling the home. You’re going to the how this turned out, especially with the landscaping and the new door.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

It was a bit of a challenging step but as soon as Luke and his dad got the hang of things the project progressed quicker than expected. Thank goodness Luke had his dad because with construction things can not only get messy but dangerous handling all these power tools. Having his dad around made for smooth sailing and someone to make sure safety was kept at number one.

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Viral Buzz

Luke set out to assemble his Grandma’s panels in his own house and although they were a cost saver he still needed to stain them and make sure they were waterproof which took a great amount of time, but it was worth it in the end.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

Luke paid attention to the details to make it the best tiny house he could. Not just people in the neighborhood but all talks of life became fascinated with Luke and his new project, asking constantly for updates. This made him want to document the process more and share it online. He got tired of answering the same questions and therefore decided to start a YouTube channel.

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The School Principal: Calls Out The Tiny House

Luke began to gain many followers as his project progressed and he began to post more and more videos. He started the “Tiny House Movement” and many people began talking about the project and constantly staying connected via Luke’s channel. Then as summer ended and school began he got called into the principal’s office. Luke feared the worst.

Luke and his Dad; Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

But it turns out that even his principal was a Tiny House fan. Luke was relevant because he thought he was about to get into trouble but to the contrary, the principal has a very interesting idea and offer for Luke.

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Tiny House TV

The Principal went on to inform Luke that Luke’s Tiny House YouTube Channel had grown so popular that the media wanted a piece of the action. He mentioned that one of the journalists interested in covering the story was a dear friend. He asked if Luke would be willing to give an interview to the news about his tiny house.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

Luke was flattered by the idea and could not believe that so many people were interested and inspired by his tiny house. It warmed his heart to know that so many people appreciated the minimalism and the dedication it took to build and be responsible throughout the project when it came down to not being wasteful.

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Giving the Interview

Luke wanted everything to be just right for the televised interview so he paid extra attention to the details both inside and outside his tiny home, so he could really give viewers the full experience. He hoped his message of living responsibly and being dedicated to a project could come across well. It would be amazing if everyone got out there and used only what they needed and made changes to their lifestyle to not only improve their living but also the environment.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

Starting on the inside of his house was just as grueling as the outside and would require just as much work but Luke was definitely up for the task and was excited to show everyone the outcome in the great reveal. But with such a big project it does not come without challenges.

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A Detailed Mess

It was important to Luke to build not only a functioning home but also a beautiful one. He dedicated himself to the details on the inside too, from the oak folding table to the countertops. Although copying such countertops from a tutorial he found didn’t go as planned he didn’t let it discourage him.

Source: Luke Thill / Facebook

Luke pushed his boundaries and was proud of the skills he was developing. He was realistic in the sense that he knew he wasn’t going to get everything perfect on the first try. It was his first house after all. His countertop was made of broken glass and glaze and although it wasn’t the easiest design it was by far one of the most beautiful. Despite leaking through the mold it turned out quite great in the end.

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One Thing Missing

With a big project like this, it is not without some twists and turns, but Luke was far from fazed. Sometimes things aren’t exactly what you pictured but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t any good. That was a valuable lesson for Luke. One of the instances where this was most relevant was when it came to a bathroom. Although it is considered a fully functioning house, there is no bathroom, but it didn’t mean that Luke didn’t want one. He has to settle for using his parent’s bathroom for this next reason.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

It was simply too big of a challenge to install a fully functional bathroom for such a young boy and he didn’t want to bite off more than he could chew especially for his first time building a tiny house. He did try though, he researched several options in order to possibly solve this challenge but it was too much.

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Taking Shape

As the final reveal was around the corner everyone could see that his tiny house was taking shape and everyone was excited for the ultimate house tour that they were all waiting for. Before sharing the final results of his home he wanted to test it out himself first though. He didn’t install an AC at first so he wanted to double-check if it was even possible to sleep comfortably through the night. He hoped it wouldn’t be too chilly in Iowa’s weather.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

The challenge of having such a tiny house is that you don’t have room to spare, only the necessities can go in. He couldn’t have much furniture unless it was multipurpose but he couldn’t compromise on the most crucial part… the bed, of course. His hard work was about to pay off and he was finally reaping the fruits of his labor.

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Behold The Big Reveal, But There's More

The big reveal was finally here and he invited his loved ones and the media to see his finished house. He was truly living out his dream, his tiny house was finally completed, but it didn’t stop there. Little did everyone know another project was about to be underway. In the meantime, he was surely about to spend more time in his tiny home than anywhere else.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

News of his tiny home reached beyond local news as soon as the story was covered and Luke was finally finished with building his home. He ended up on both he Des Moines Register and the Telegraph Herald, garnering praise and compliments from both on his lovely home. Even ABC News chimed in and joined the party. His parents were so proud of him. Little did they know they were about to hear some big ideas from Luke and his brother.

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The Real Motivation

Many people wanted to know what motivated Luke to build a tiny house and his answer may have come as a surprise to many. Some would even say that the motivation was not only mature but also extremely practical. Firstly he wanted to consume and use resources responsibly but also he said he didn’t want a huge mortgage. Many adults may have chuckled at the latter considering it came out of the mouth of such a young teen.

Source: Luke Thill / Instagram

Keep in mind he started the tiny house project at a mere 11 years old and finished it at the age of 13. Luke emphasizes that the house was built out of 75% recycled materials and takes it easy on the environment as a result. Luke thinks that this is the biggest benefit of all. He believes that if everyone lived more mindfully than it would make the world a better place.

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From Sunshine to Snow

Putting Luke’s tiny house through the coldest of winters was the real test. If it could withstand the harsh weather then it was truly fully functioning. Luke also had the luxury of minimal upkeep. Even the landscaping he decided to do alongside his home with a few plants was low maintenance. Since Luke hates cleaning up having such a low-maintenance lifestyle was without a doubt the perfect fit.

Source: Luke Thill via Facebook

He revealed to those who interviewed him that it usually takes him around 15 minutes to organize and clean the entire house. If you don’t believe it Luke made a vlog about the whole process on YouTube to prove it. If this doesn’t give you envy than we don’t know what will.

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Selling Luke's Tiny House

Although Luke may enjoy tiny living, he loves doing things big. He has decided to take tiny living to a whole new level and is selling his current tiny house to be able to make a newer and more improved tiny model. After building his first tiny house he now has the experience to make his second tiny out project even better.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

All the challenges and uncertainties he faced the first time will be avoided the second time around. He believes that he can learn from what he experienced while making his first house and improve the process and design of this new house.

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The Biggest Reveal of All

Luke plans to use the money from the sale of his first tiny house as a financial source for his new and improved second tiny house. Luke doesn’t plan on stopping there he is revealing a new project as well. He is teaming up with his brother to take tiny living to a whole new level.

Luke and his brother are working on taking tiny living and making it mobile through a tiny camper. Their new project will be their very own mobile camper that they plan to build from start to finish. With some help from their community and parents, it is safe to say that if it’s anything like Luke’s tiny house, it will be a success.

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Brotherly Love

Luke and his twin brother, Cole, set out to make their tiny camper dreams come true. They wasted no time at all and got straight to work. At the time of the tiny house project, Cole was working on a project, for a teardrop camper. He enlisted Luke to help.

Luke was eager to assist his brother and possibly share what he learned from building his tiny house. There really is no better tag team than brothers, especially twin minds.

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Camper on the Move

Cole had already laid out the groundwork for this project and Luke jumped in midway. Together, the brothers, by the age of 14, spent an estimated $2,500 to complete the 36-square-foot teardrop camper. By 14 both brothers had more building experience than most adults.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

When comparing his house project to the camper, Luke said that it was a bit more challenging in the sense that you have more at stake. You don’t want things falling apart as you drive 75 miles an hour while on a highway. The best part is that the brothers got another change to bond while working together.

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Trust the Process

Since finishing up the camper, Luke and Cole have taken their new vehicle on more than 50 camping trips both in the state and across the surrounding areas outside their home state. Both brothers said that carrying out these projects helped them value discipline and hard work.

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

Luke says that one of the biggest lessons he learned is determination and the value of money. He doesn’t take for granted how those two things are so important in life and crafting success. He was so touched by the sense of community he felt while building his house that he also learned how important having support is in getting to where you want to be.

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King of the Camper

Now that Luke has both the tiny house and camper projects under his belt he is looking forward to tackling the next project. His larger and more refined tiny house project is around the corner but Luke doesn’t plan on stopping there. He thinks that he may even live in a tiny house while going away to college, but he still has some time before he gets to that stage.

He is enjoying his newfound fame and is so happy that he could be an inspiration to other curious and innovative youths like himself as well as to the community as a whole. The town where Luke is from holds an annual “Movers, Shakers & Newsmakers” event where they recognize exceptional people and Luke was even recognized as well.

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Rolling Along

Luke was chosen as one of the year’s #10 most fascinating people at the “Movers, Shakers & Newsmakers” and he was so honored to be recognized in his hometown. Despite the new recognition, Luke still remains as humble as ever. He hopes to continue to challenge himself and think outside the box.

Even though everyone in Luke’s town was talking about Luke and his accomplishments he was still focused on all the things that normal kids his age cared about, friends, school, and having fun. Luke may have been one of the youngest people recognized at the event which is no small feat but what is so loveable about Luke is that he never once took it for granted or got a big head about it.

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The Tiny Camper

What’s next for Luke, Cole, and their tiny camper? They hope to go on more brotherly trips together and enjoy the fruits of their labor both in Iowa and beyond. They love sharing their hard work with friends and family too. Although the camper doesn’t have a ton of room, they are always happy to take who they can along for the ride.

With adult supervision of course, usually the brother’s parents, they now have additional ways to make family trips even more fun and adventurous. Not to mention such tiny living is better for the environment and more efficient when it comes to packing up the camper itself.

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Camper in Red

In true tiny house fashion, taking a page from Luke’s playbook with his bright orange door, Cole and Luke decided to take a similar route with the camper’s bright red door. It adds a whimsical element and it gives their camper some extra personality. After all this hard work who wouldn’t want their creation to stand out?

Source: Youtube / Luke Thill

Here they are in action during one of their first picnics with their finished creation. Throughout the months the Thill family turned their son’s fascination and drive for creating into somewhat of a DIY empire and continue to do projects as a family. Luke is excited to keep growing and making things even more intricate and well-executed.

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What's Next for Luke?

What’s next for Luke you might ask well the sky is the limit according to his attitude and we couldn’t be more proud seeing this young inventor take the lead. But before taking over the world, there is prom. As of now, Luke is almost 17 and like his curiosities, he continues to grow.

Source: Facebook / Luke Thill

We can’t skip over some of high school’s greatest hits and it wouldn’t be a senior year without the classic right of passage that is prom. We can’t help but wonder what tiny addition Luke will incorporate next.

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