Tiny House Jamboree 2015

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Lee & Lina spoke about creating Tiny House Community

What an incredible weekend! In April, when Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios first invited me to speak with her about tiny house communities at the Tiny House Jamboree, there were 3,500 people signed up to attend. By the time she and I connected in the Denver airport and drove to Colorado Springs, there were 11,000 people pre-registered. So we figured a third of those folks would show up and that would be the largest number of tiny house enthusiasts ever in one place at one time. Little did we know. (No pun intended!) Turns out those of us who find tiny houses irresistible are in good company! By the time the three-day event wrapped up more than 40,000 people had passed through the gates of the Western Museum of Mining & Industry (which hosted the Jamboree)!

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a great crowd of tiny house enthusiasts gathered at the Gypsy Wagon Stage!

And what a great crowd! There was incredible energy since everyone I talked to was curious, excited, and exploratory. The tiny house curious folks were just beginning to dabble in the tiny house scene. The tiny house enthusiasts came with sketch books, cameras, and tape measures so they could get serious about their design ideas. One woman even showed up, checkbook in hand, ready to take a leap of faith into the little life! I met people from nearly every state and a few other countries. (Oh hey, #famousfrieda!)

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I got to meet #famousfrieda who traveled all the way from Holland

On Saturday morning during our presentation, Lee and I shared 5 Models for Tiny House Communities and 5 Steps to Create a Tiny House Community. I also got to watch and listen as other presenters shared their expertise. Molly Orendorff shared clever tips for decluttering, Damon from Trailer Made explained tiny house foundation fundamentals, Kai Rostcheck of Tiny House Dating played matchmaker for a tiny house dating game, Zack Giffin of Tiny House Nation described the increasing interest in the little life, and so much more! I even got to watch as Andrew Odom performed a vow renewal ceremony for a couple’s ten year anniversary. (And the best part? Their three year old held my hand! Eep!)

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such fine folks! (Alex Lisefski, Lina Menard & BA Norrgard)

Part of the time I tabled with Patrick from Artisan Tiny House, who created my SIPs kit and kits for two sets of clients whose houses we put up this spring. Part of the time I tabled with some other great folks who designed and built their own homes and are now helping others do the same: Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios, Alek Lisefski of The Tiny Project, Vina Lustado of Sol Haus Design, and BA Norrgard of A Bed Over My Head. When I wasn’t tabling, speaking, listening to speakers, or exploring the tiny houses, I had great conversations with great people: Gabriel Craft of Small and Tiny Home Ideas, Gabriella Stupakoff Morrison and Andrew Morrison of hOMe and Tiny House Build, Byron and Dot Fears from Simblissity, James Taylor from The Company Store on Wheels and Orlando Lakefront at College Park (an RV park turned tiny house community) and hundreds of others!

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a day exploring Wee Casa with Robin

Yesterday I spent the day with Robin, a design client of mine here in Denver. In addition to identifying next steps for her house, she also took me to see Wee Casa and invited me to speak at the Denver Tiny House Enthusiasts Meet Up. That was oodles of fun, too!

It’s thrilling to see so many people exploring intentional living through tiny houses. I don’t think the timing could be better for Ramping Up Niche Consulting LLC. I’m honored to have been part of the first Tiny House Jamboree. We’re hoping that as soon as Darin Zaruba of EcoCabins (and his team – hey, Angela Alcorn, Coles Whalen, and Marcus Alvarado!) have a chance to get some sleep they’ll decide to host the second annual Tiny House Jamboree. I’ve already marked my calendar for the first weekend of August in 2016. See you there!


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Tiny House Design-Build Wrap Up

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Cynthia sharing her fire-tower inspired library

Yesterday we wrapped up our Summer 2015 Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow. After A Week of Tiny House Design-Build our students had their noggins full of considerations and their drafting tables full of bubble diagrams, inspiration boards, and sketches. The tiny house shell we constructed had its two long walls framed and sheathed and we were ready to put up the end walls.

This past week everything seemed to accelerate. In the field, we framed and sheathed the end walls, put up the rafters, sheathed the roof, installed the storage loft joists and decking, and installed the interior walls and the bed platform. (This tiny house is available for sale! If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Mark at Yestermorrrow.)

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Eileen demonstrating how to access storage from the stairs

In the design studio, students synthesized their design ideas into drawings and models. Three special guests, Mac Rood, Kathy Myer and Chris Cook, all architects, joined me for desk critiques in the evenings to serve as sounding boards for the volley of ideas and questions. It’s always remarkable to me to see how everyone’s designs evolve over two weeks as they wrangle their hopes and needs into spaces that could facilitate the lifestyles they desire. We even snuck in another field trip to the fabulous and well-thought-out home of Ethan Waldman of The Tiny House.

As I noted last time I taught Less Is More, Presentation Day is always a bit like Xmas morning for me. There’s so much anticipation and so much delight in seeing our students designs revealed! I’m especially a sucker for the elegant details everyone comes up with!

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Austin describing his tiny farm house

This time around we had a variety of tiny houses on wheels with clever ideas such as:

  • A closet tucked under a raised bed with drawers that interact with the stairs
  • A workbench for projects the length of an end wall
  • A mosaicked shower under a sleeping loft with a peek-a-boo view
  • Rotating quarter-moon disks to increase counter space in a kitchen
  • Rock climbing holds to access a loft
  • A swooping countertop with a corner sink
  • A fabulous customized desk
  • A movable wall that transforms a space into three different rooms
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Abbie explaining how her gypsy wagon solves a problem that frustrates her in her current home

We also had a set of ground-bound structures, including:

  • A speakeasy-inspired summerhouse
  • A long rectangular house that plays with windows to bring outside in
  • A fire-tower inspired octagonal book and puzzle library
  • A backyard yoga hut
  • A family farm house with a courtyard
  • A cozy addition to a fifth generation lake house

I look forward to seeing some of these designs become reality over the next couple years!

Next up for me: spending the weekend with some VT friends (and maybe lending a hand with a tiny SIPs house), a couple days in GA to discuss tiny house feasibility in Atlanta, and then a flight to CO so I can speak about tiny house community with Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios at the Tiny House Jamboree. There are nearly 10,000 people pre-registered! See you there!

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A Week of Tiny House Design-Build


first wall up for the Tiny House Design-Build house and second wall ready to raise on Monday!

Yesterday evening we sent our Tiny House Design-Build students off for a much-needed 26 hour break. Since they arrived a week ago on Sunday evening, we’ve had a packed schedule with lots of hands-on learning. Today they’re going for runs, swimming in the local swimming holes, watching a movie, napping, and otherwise enjoying a lazy Sunday in Vermont.

On Wednesday I celebrated another revolution around the sun by exploring tiny houses with my students and fellow instructors and eating lots of desserts (maple creemees, anyone?) We had the chance to go on six field trips to see a 12 x 20 owner-built tiny house, a small live-work space designed and constructed by Yestermorrow’s Semester Program, a wee 2-bedroom featured on Tiny House Nation, a treehouse overlooking a pond, a sculptural house with a barrel vaulted sleeping space, and little efficient guesthouse by the brook. That’s right up there on my top favorite ways to spend my birthday! (Though my Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel was pretty good, too!)

In the studio, we’ve done presentations on a variety of topics ranging from considerations for site, climate, and finding parking to options for systems, foundations, and interior design. Our students brought a variety of design ideas including several tiny houses on wheels (THOWs), a portable sauna, a tree house, a one-bedroom flat retrofit, a tiny house truck, and a backyard library with sleeping nook. During our time in the studio they’ve been finalizing their programming, exploring layout through bubble diagramming, practicing their drafting skills, and building models. They have so many clever ideas I can’t wait to see what they come up with during our studio time in the next week!

In the field we’ve been constructing an 11×16 tiny house on skids so we’ve had lots of practice with measuring, cutting, nailing, leveling, remeasuring, plumbing, shimming, bracing, etc. The house has a shed roof, a sleeping platform, and two storage lofts in addition to the kitchen and hang out space. We’ll continue constructing the shell next week and we’ll take it as far as we can in the time we have. The tiny house will be available for sale, so if you or anyone you know is interested, please contact Yestermorrow!


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Cabinets & Built-Ins Class at Yestermorrow

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Cabinets & Built-Ins Class at Yestermorrow

Whew! What a busy couple weeks it’s been! A week ago I wrapped up my role as Project Engineer & Sustainability Coordinator for the Breathe Building and presented our owner, Chris Calarco, with a stack of Operations & Maintenance Manuals. The heap of materials was so huge I offered it up via hand truck. It’s been a true pleasure working with Chris’ team and I look forward to visiting the building when I return to the west coast in a few weeks! Until then, I wish them all the best wrapping up final details so Yoga Union, Prema Health, and Fern Kitchen can get settled in and open for business.

Then I kicked off My Summer Adventures with My Annual Pilgrimage to the Oregon Country Fair. It was splendid to have quality time with my fairy godfamily in Corvallis, OR and to share this experience with two of my landies, Karin and Isha. Saturday night we drove back up to Portland and my landies dropped me off at the airport for a red eye flight to Vermont.

So I’m Home Again at Yestermorrow and this time I get to stay for three whole weeks! The past four days I’ve been taking a Cabinets & Built-Ins class. Our instructor, Justin Kramer, is a fabulous teacher and he’s done a great job providing a huge skill set in manageable doses, answering approximately a bazillion questions, sharing lots of tricks and tips, and letting us make and learn from little mistakes (while helping us avoid the big ones). We’ve been building a cabinet which will be used in Yestermorrow’s South Studio.

On the first day we got a thorough woodshop orientation, familiarized ourselves with the plans for the cabinet, and built the “carcasses” for our cabinet out of 3/4″ cherry plywood, using pocket screws. The second day the team I was on milled down bass wood for the face frames and attached them to the carcass with biscuits while the other team routed out the backs of the cabinets and installed the plywood backs. I’d never milled wood before so this was a great experience! Yesterday we prepared the wood for our pine drawer boxes and built the cherry doors for the cabinet, using dominoes to secure the frames and inserting cherry plywood panels. Today we practiced joinery techniques on our drawer boxes, using three different methods (fingerjoints, dovetails, and pocket screws) and installed our doors on their hinges. We also created a plinth for the cabinet to sit on, built shelves which sit on pins, and started building the web frame for our drawers. Tomorrow we’ll continue with the drawers and finalize our cabinet. It’s been a great project and I’m more excited than ever to get back to the woodshop at Simply Home Community!

Next week I’ll be teaching the Summer 2015 Tiny House Design-Build course. Stay tuned for updates. Meanwhile, if you’d like to read up on what it’s like, you can read the day-by-day account of the 2013 Tiny House Design-Build class.

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Living in the Lucky Penny

Skylight View from Bed

my morning view through my skylight from bed

This past weekend was Memorial Day Weekend, which marks the one-year anniversary of the build blitz that kicked off my tiny house build, including: My SIPs Wall Raising, My Tiny House Air Barrier, and my Vardo Rafter Raising. So I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the past year and all it has brought me and taught me.

This morning, waking up in my charming lil’ house, I marveled (as usual) at the way the light streams in sideways in the morning and how lovely the tree is through the skylight overhead. And I also got to thinking that I miss writing about living little. Most of my blog posts recently have been about workshops and events rather than about my own experiences living in small spaces. And while the events are exciting, the reason I’m teaching workshops and hosting events about small space stuff is because I so love living little that I want to give others the chance to learn how! And the reason I blog is because I find writing helps me reflect on and appreciate the little joys and simple pleasures.

Raffi Window Gazing

Raffi window gazing in the morning

Part of the reason I haven’t been blogging as much recently is that I’ve been keeping busy between working full-time for The Breathe Building and doing consultations, design work, and workshops on the side. I also have a bunch of pending posts lingering from my build so it seems out of order to start talking about actually living in the Lucky Penny. But I figure, that’s just silly, right? Now that we’ve gone through Lucky Penny’s Public Debut, people know about the Lucky Penny and they’ve seen how pretty she is. They have questions about what it’s like being inside. (By the way, she seems to be pretty popular as she caught the attention of Tiny House Swoon, Tree Hugger, Small and Tiny Home Ideas, and Shelter Blog!)

Morning Light & Air Plants

morning light streaming in the window with the air plants

So I may as well go ahead and tell you how splendid it is to live little in this sweet space. I’ll still share more about the build because people keep asking how I built my pull out bed and where my cabinets came from, but also stay tuned for blog posts about things like:

  • My Quintuple-Duty Mud Room
  • Cooking in the Lucky Penny
  • My New and Improved Chiller Box
  • My Pull-Out Bed
  • A Place for Everything

I’m looking forward to sharing more about my home, sweet home with you! I’ve just created a FAQ page. If there are particular things you’d like to learn more about, please share them in the comments there. Thanks!

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Guided ADU (Bike) Tour: The Inside Scoop

Pedalpalooza Tiny House Tour - Billy UlmerLast year I had a blast leading a guided bike tour for Portland’s Build Small, Live Large ADU Tour, so this year I’m doing it again! The ADU Tour sold out last year, so this year it’s expanded to two days. This is one of the best chances in the nation to see the interior of a variety of accessory dwellings and to learn from the ADU owners, designers, and builders.

Guided ADU (Bike) Tour: The Inside Scoop

Saturday, May 30th OR Sunday, May 31st, 9:30AM-4pm

Tickets are $75 and available through Niche Consulting

Lina Menard will lead a special Guided ADU Tour during the Build Small, Live Large ADU Tour to share the inside scoop on the ADUs featured on the tour. Lina is the coordinator of the ADU Case Studies Project and a tiny house dweller and advocate. She will also share insights and information from the other 40+ case studies she has conducted. This guided tour option will cost $75 and will be capped at 20 people. The tour will be conducted by bike, but a carpool option will also be available. You can register for this option for Saturday or Sunday. This exclusive guided tour will go from 9:30am-4pm.

The Saturday, May 30th tour will feature ADUs in NE Portland, while the Sunday, May 31st tour will feature ADUs in SE Portland. Most of the ADUs are brand new to the tour this year so it will be fun to show them off. I’ve become familiar with most of the ADUs on the tour because I’ve been Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project. I’ve had the chance to interview more than ADU owners about the challenges, highlights, and lessons learned through their ADU design and build process. I look forward to giving the inside scoop on each of the ADUs as well as sharing insights and information about the other ADUs in the Case Studies Project.

If you’d like to join us, please claim your ticket.

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Tiny House SIPs Wall Raising & Exterior Workshops


Tipping up SIPs walls at our last wall raising workshop

On June 13-14 I’ll be teaching a two-day Tiny House SIPs Wall Raising Workshop in Portland, OR in conjunction with Patrick Sughrue of Artisan Tiny House. Two weekends later we’ll do a Tiny House Exterior Trim & Siding Workshop to install windows, rain screen, trim, and siding. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in building this summer (and especially if you’re interested in building with SIPs), claim your spot today!

Lina & Karin with Drills

power tool empowerment

Additionally, there are two deals:

1) If you and a friend sign up together you’ll both receive a $25 discount, bringing your cost down to just $100 each!

2) If you participate in both workshops you’ll receive a $50 discount, making the total for both workshops just $200!


These build workshop prices can’t be beat!

Tiny House SIPs Wall Raising Workshop (June 13-14)

Think you might want to build your tiny house with SIPs? Ready for some practical, hands-on building experience? Want to have fun and feel empowered to build your own wee abode?

In this two day workshop we will show you how to properly construct the shell of a tiny house using a Structural Insulated Panel (SIPs) kit from Artisan Tiny House. You’ll learn how to use a variety of hand tools and power tools as we install floor panels, wall panels, and roof panels for a tiny house on wheels.

What happens after the walls of a tiny house go up? It’s time for Exterior Trim & Siding!


group photo at the end of Day 2 at our last SIPs Wall Raising Workshop

Tiny House Exterior Trim & Siding Workshop (June 27-28)


In this two-day hands-on workshop we will show you how to trim out windows, doors, and corners and install siding. You’ll learn how to use a variety of hand tools and power tools as we weather-proof the exterior of a tiny house on wheels.

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Lucky Penny Video Tour

Tiny House Giant Journey Video TourAfter several weeks of So Much Tiny House Goodness and the Lucky Penny’s Public Debut last week, I have other exciting news to share!

Yesterday Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard of Tiny House, Giant Journey have posted a video tour of The Lucky Penny, my tiny house on wheels. For all of you eagerly anticipating a peek inside my house after months of cheering me along during my build, this is your chance to come on in and look around (albeit virtually!)

You’ve got to check out the Lucky Penny Video Tour if you’d like to see:

  • how I make a tiny table with the cutting board and a drawer,
  • or how my windowseat bed pulls out into a full-size bed with a skylight view of the rain and shooting stars,
  • or where I hid Raffi’s litter box

And, of course, if you’d like to actually come on in to have a cup of tea and see what it feels like to be inside, you can schedule a Tiny Tea Talk through Niche Consulting.

Anita Giant Journey Video TourAlso, I’m thrilled that Anita’s tiny house Lilypad has also been featured in one of Jenna and Guillaume’s tiny tours. It was such an honor doing concept design work with Anita. She is one of the most thoughtful and intentional people I know, so it was a delight helping her come up with the big ideas for her wee home. Her builder Walt Quade of Small Home Oregon did an excellent job bringing the design to life. Anita’s keen eye and her flair for Moroccan decor make this an incredible little house! Please do check out the Lilypad Video Tour, too!

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Lucky Penny’s Public Debut

Lucky Penny Skylight

Gabriel Craft captured this lovely photo of The Lucky Penny during the Tiny House Conference

What a busy couple weeks it’s been with So Much Tiny House Goodness! And along with that, lots of press. I was going to wait until those last pesky pieces of trim were finished before I shared photos officially. But everyone else has been excited to show off The Lucky Penny, too. So I think it’s safe to say that my beloved tiny house, The Lucky Penny, has made her public debut.


Billy Ulmer took this photo of Simply Home Community during a work party

Last week Billy of Unlikely Lives posted a story about Simply Home Community, our tiny house community. (If you’d like to learn more about each of the tiny houses, see the Big House, and learn how we set up (and what we’d do differently), please join us for our Tiny House Community Tour on Sunday, May 3! (And if you can’t, check out the video about Simply Home made by Jenna and Guillaume of Tiny House Giant Journey.)

Last Saturday morning I was interviewed at Tiny House Conference since I was one of the speakers. I had the opportunity to talk to a great many people about tiny house building basics. Stay tuned for a forthcoming video.

Small is BeautifulOn Saturday evening those who attended the Tiny House Conference got a sneak peek of Jeremy Beasley’s tiny house film, Small Is Beautiful. I have a cameo in the film, but the stars are my landies Ben Campbell and Karin Parramore. I’m so lucky to get to live with these fine folks at Simply Home Community! If you’d like to see the film, there are several screenings scheduled. It premiers in Seattle on May 5th, in Portland on May 7th, and in Boise on May 26th. You can also download the film.

Last Sunday morning I had a Japanese film crew at my house at 7AM capturing footage. Yuichi (an incredible treehouse builder) and his team are making a film about tiny house community. Needless to say, they were excited to talk to my landies and me. We were equally excited to talk to them as they’re a fabulous crew!

Tiny House Conference Speaker DinnerMonday Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard of Tiny House, Giant Journey did a video tour of The Lucky Penny. They’ve been traveling around the country in their tiny house, interviewing other tiny housers along the way. So delighted to have been a stop on their adventure! Stay tuned for the video tour which they hope to share soon. Meanwhile, here’s an awesome interactive photo Guillaume took when we were out to dinner during the conference (way cooler than the still above!)

Then Emily Udell told me that the Angie’s List article about unique homes went live. The story is called Small Space, Big Heart and they did a nice job capturing some of the highlights of the little life. You can find a link to the story on my press page.

And just today, Gabriel Craft posted some gorgeous photos of The Lucky Penny on Small & Tiny Home Ideas! I have to admit I’m preposterously proud that so many other people are excited to show off my house. The Lucky Penny is my largest art project to date and when I see these images it reminds me that I live inside a sculpture!

Check out my press page and stay tuned for more updates as these films and photos are edited!

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So Much Tiny House Goodness

Tiny House Conference TiniesThis month is jam-packed with tiny house goodness:

This weekend I’ll be participating in the Tiny House Conference, where I’ll be speaking about tiny house Building Basics and leading the Open Source session. I participated in the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte last year and it was a great chance to meet several of the bloggers I’d been following and corresponding with as well as hundreds of other tiny house enthusiasts. I’m thrilled to get to catch up with old friends and make new ones at the Tiny House Conference again! People are already starting to roll into town for the conference. Yesterday I saw Jeremy Beasley who created the film Small is Beautiful, which will be show at the conference. (I’m in it, but I haven’t yet seen it, so that will be a fun experience!)

But first, on Friday I’ll be participating in the Tiny House UnConference, which is a networking event to support tiny house businesses and innovation. I can’t wait to swap ideas and inspiration with other tiny house advocates!

And of course, on Friday afternoon there’s the Tiny House Mixer Extravaganza hosted by Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel and Portland Alternative Dwellings.

Angela & Lina SIPs April 25 WorkshopThe last weekend of the month I’ll be cohosting a Tiny House SIPs Wall Raising Workshop with Angela Ramseyer of MightyMicroBuilt. We’re working with a fabulous couple with whom I did design consultation, so it’s really exciting that we’ll be helping move their tiny dream into the next phase with the wall raising using a SIPs Kit from Artisan Tiny House. If you’d like to join us, please register for the workshop.

And the following weekend Simply Home Community is hosting a Tiny House Community Tour. We’ll be introducing tiny house community curious folks to how we created our tiny cohousing community.

And, of course, in amongst all THAT tiny house goodness I’ll also be doing some consultations and design work for space-efficient housing.

Hope to see you at some of these events!

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