GRAPEVINE, Texas — Kim Lewis, best known as the lead designer behind ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and innovative builder Jonathan White shared their experiences both good and not so great with the attendees of the Sunbelt Builders Show general session Thursday morning at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center.

Working together, Lewis and White have completed 250 tiny homes across 46 states with the mutual belief that design and build should be inspired. They noted how they really focus on "doing small things with high impact" and follow a real-life motto of "design can change lives."

Talking to a somewhat-skeptical group, Lewis and White focused on who and what is causing this tiny home movement, and how builders, designers and other construction professionals can capitalize on the current craze.

As we all know, millennials continue to shape trends from work-life balance to retail expectations, whereas they tend to look for more experiences rather than possessions or extravagant luxuries. Well, home building is certainly not immune to this influence and desire.

In reference to working with millennials, White mentioned "what they want and what they need is kind of always a moving target." He insisted that if home builders and designers are going to keep up with this influential group, they're going to have to pay attention to this huge [tiny] movement.

Obviously, one key to this movement is a need for freedom, both financial and personal. In fact, according to Lewis and White, 68 percent of tiny home dwellers have no mortgage. That is a huge selling point for this group of consumers. When you consider millennials and their buying habits, and pair that with their fear of commitment, it's easy to see why tiny homes have taken off.

This commitment fear is apparent when you look at millennial marriage/divorce rates, in delayed purchases most would consider major, and even the hesitation to be self-reliant when it comes to transportation and travel (i.e. Uber and Airbnb).

Tiny homes, like other popular trends with millennials, free up those who fear being tied down to one space for the remainder, or a good portion, of their lives. Throw in the fact that most tiny spaces are quite energy efficient, easy on the environment and low on maintenance, and you've found the millennial holy grail.

But tiny homes aren't just for the Instagram generation. Gen Xers and baby boomers are in on the craze, too. One factor in this demographic is flex space. These older groups are obviously more established, and their interest in tiny homes may come down to adding either a home office, a work space for hobbies, or perhaps they have a parent or young adult who needs a place to live.

There's also the need to downsize, or to provide supplemental income. Lewis told a story about a client who lived in Austin, Texas, who just really couldn't afford the mortgage on the house she was living in. So, she decided to build a tiny home in the backyard, move into it and rent out the regular home to supplement her income.

No matter the reason for wanting a tiny home, there are some things builders and DIYers need to think about.

From a building perspective, here are a few things to consider when planning to build a tiny home:

  • Zones and coding (and the fines that go with them)
  • Framing — steel vs. wood (and plans to build to withstand natural elements)
  • Heating and cooling — spray foam insulation, ductless split systems and/or propane heaters
  • Plumbing — composting and waste, toilets and tubs.
  • Roof design — flat-shaped, pyramid, butterfly, combination
  • Utilities — public utilities vs. off-the-grid
  • Cost — DIY ($15,000-$25,000) or professional ($30,000-$65,000)

When thinking about designing tiny homes, people often worry about the limited space and what that means as far as personalization. Lewis said, "It's so crazy what you can do with odd spaces," and she emphasized how important it is to remember that nothing is really out of the question if you allow yourself to get creative.

Looking from the design perspective, consider these tips:

  • Maximize the space you have — When building a tiny house, you have to look for square feet wherever you can find it. Seriously, every single inch matters.
  • Multifunctionality — Here's where the creativity comes into play. Benches become storage spaces. Ceiling spaces become lofts. Tables become chairs and/or beds. The possibilities are endless; you just have to take the time to find them.
  • Bringing the outdoors inside — A big draw to tiny homes is the ability to spend more time outdoors, so it just makes sense to bring the outdoors into your tiny space. Windows, sliding doors and other transoms are great for nature lovers.
  • Visual dimensions — Use creative paint colors and different stylistic textures to make your tiny home seem and feel bigger than it actually is. Again, creativity and patience are key, but they really pay off when you put them together.

So, whether you're considering adding tiny homes to your business portfolio or planning a DIY project to better your life or someone else's, now is definitely the time to get in on this movement. It may be time to think about letting go of the past to make space for the future.