Movable Roots: Go Tiny to Live Large
Mike Cheatham and his wife, Nikki, didn’t set out to start a custom tiny home business. The Cheathams were ready to live more simply, to trade the hectic pace of their lives for more time traveling and making memories. They toyed with the idea of downsizing and began to visit tiny home shows across the state.
But the Cheathams didn’t love any of the homes they saw. Most of the tiny homes resembled cabins, while they wanted something more modern and open. Soon Cheatham, who had years of construction experience, was busy planning a new design for his own tiny home.
“Just because the home is small doesn’t mean it can’t be luxurious,” Cheatham said. “You don’t have to suffer to downsize.”
With that premise in mind, Movable Roots was formed. Cheatham grew up working in the construction industry with his father and brothers, but walked away after the death of his oldest brother, Paul, in 2009. During that time, he continued to work as a firefighter and purchased and managed a CrossFit gym.
Like many firefighters, Cheatham often worked side jobs on his days off. So when he discovered that building and zoning laws prohibit parking and living in a tiny home in most neighborhoods, he changed course. Cheatham decided to join forces with his brother, John, and use his knowledge of the construction business and his passion for the movement to help others who were not facing the same local issues. He built a 330-square-foot model, and now his custom, tiny home-building business is selling to people all over the country.
“I always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Cheatham said, “But I liked to think big . . . Go big or go home was my motto.”
Today, Cheatham and his staff work with a handful of clients to customize the entire building process. Clients have discovered Movable Roots via their social media feeds, through web searches, or by attending tiny home shows. The bright blue cabinets in his first model, the Henderson, helped Movable Roots attract a lot of attention both in person and online.
They began showing their model late last year, and the Henderson immediately won best in show at two events put on by the United Tiny House Association.
He asserts that the tiny house movement is more than a novelty or a passing fad, and increasing numbers of consumers and city planners are looking at the options tiny homes provide. In fact, after hearing from Cheatham and touring his model home, the county commission recently discussed making adjustments to local building and zoning laws in regard to tiny homes here in Brevard County. The commission tabled the topic pending further conversation with planning and development.
Who is going tiny
Customers’ reasons for choosing to go tiny vary, but Cheatham said he talks to a lot of empty nesters and Millenials. Both groups are looking for freedom. They want to spend less and live more.
Carlene Elmore of Sanford was looking for an affordable route to home ownership. Elmore was living with her son and his family, but wanted a space of her own. She had tried renting apartments, condos and duplexes, but was seeking something different. She first discovered Movable Roots at the Elton Tiny Home Show in November 2017. She saw the model and was impressed.
Cheatham was the driving force behind the design, though Elmore had a few items on her “must list.” She wanted a downstairs master bedroom, a screened-in porch, and sleeping space for at least five. Movable Roots was able to turn her desires into reality.
Elmore said the driving factor in choosing a tiny home is “the desire to do something different. This home can meet your needs in an exciting and adventurous way.”
Ethan Terry is building his own tiny home in his spare time on Cheatham’s Movable Roots property. He hopes to see progression in the way cities look at these nontraditional homes and to live in it full time some day. Terry and his girlfriend, Hannah Tilley, look forward to not being tied down by traditional home ownership, but they also point out the environmental benefits of going smaller.
“I want to lower my carbon footprint,” Terry said. “Being around the ocean, seeing the pollution, the oil spills, the plastic . . . I wanted to feel like I was making a difference.”
Terry is an artist, and he and Tilley look at planning their small space as a creative challenge. They are excited to play with design and the idea of making every bit of space fully functional. Tilley said she looks to Instagram and YouTube videos for inspiration.
“Tiny homes have gone from cookie-cutter to a world of endless possibilities,” Tilley said. “They are fully customizable and since the space is so small, you can afford to splurge in a way that you normally couldn’t.”
As head of Movable Roots, Cheatham is passionate about his work, and his careful attention to detail is evident throughout the homes he builds. With a tiny home, every bit of space is planned for and everything is designed around the space. The newest model, the Lee, includes a full-size refrigerator, a combination washer/dryer, a rain head shower, and ample closet and drawer space. Custom cabinetry, high ceilings and large windows help the space feel bright and airy.
After all, as Cheatham said, “When you go tiny, you may be living smaller, but in reality you are living larger.”
Showroom: 834 Washburn Road, Melbourne 32934