Tiny House Conference 2014 Kick Off

meeting fellow tiny housers and touring their wee homes in anticipation of the Tiny House Conference (photo credit: Chris Tack)

meeting fellow tiny housers and touring their wee homes in anticipation of the Tiny House Conference (photo credit: Chris Tack)

Tiny house lovers from across the country have descended upon Charlotte, NC this weekend for the Tiny House Conference. I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to geek out about one of my favorite things! We will spend the next two days watching presentations (I’ll be speaking on Tiny House Building Basics later today), touring tiny houses, and mixing and mingling.

Speakers were invited to arrive yesterday evening so we could get acquainted with each other and the facility. It was great to finally meet some of the folks I’ve been following: Macy Miller of minimotives, Hari and Karl of Tiny House Family, Andrew Odom of Tiny (R)evolution, and, of course Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life. It was also great to meet some new-to-me-but-probably-not-you-if-you’ve-been-watching-the-tiny-house-scene tiny house builders: Kelly and Chris, Frank, and Teal and Gerry of Wishbone Tiny Homes. Their tiny homes are be-a-u-ti-ful and I’m eager for everyone to see them, especially if they’ve never been inside a tiny home before!

The conference is sold out and I’m guessing many of you didn’t manage to get tickets and make the trek to North Carolina, so if you’d like to live vicariously, follow along this weekend. Internet access and cell service are limited on the site, but we’ll do our best to facebook and tweet the event with the hashtag #thc14.

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Building My Arched Rafters

arched laminated rafter

Here’s my first arched laminated rafter on the jig!

This year I’m Kicking Off Spring with Tiny House Prep! Today I began building my arched laminated rafters. I’m building a gypsy wagon, also known as a vardo. Over and over again I find myself drawn to little arch-topped houses, so I’ve decided to make one of my own. I’ve never lived in an arch topped house before, but did live in My Home Sweet Yurt, which had a circular roof and a round oculus. And I’m a big fan of the arched roof on Caboose at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel, John Labovitz’s tiny house truck Polymecca, and Big Maroon. And, of course, Little Bird, which is one of my all-time favorite tiny houses.

Katy Anderson, the incredible craftswoman who built Sweet Pea has generously allowed me to borrow her jig to make the rafters. I my mixed grain fir milled up by the fine folks at Creative Woodworking. It cost a small fortune to have the milling done, so these rafters will probably cost twice what I originally estimated. But I’m fine with paying for the milling since I didn’t have a good way to cut 130 pieces of 12 foot long 1/4″ thick fir. Over the past couple weeks I hunted at nearly every hardware store in town to find a glue applicator like Katy recommended. I finally found one at Woodcrafters. They had the best price on Tightbond III as well, so I got a couple gallons of that on Friday when I was Kicking Off Spring with Tiny House Prep. I also dropped nearly $200 on clamps, because, you know, “you can never have too many clamps.” I currently have 20. Need more clamps…

At the moment I have the first half of the first rafter on the jig. I feel like a kid eager to open a present, waiting to unclamp it and see how it worked! I’ll be building my arched rafters over the next ten days, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Kicking Off Spring with Tiny House Prep

giant chair and tiny house

Laura is testing out giant chairs and tiny house build spots at Green Anchors!

I returned home from teaching Less is More: Designing the Small or Tiny Home at Yestermorrow in Vermont to find that Portland had greeted spring in a cacophony of cherry blossoms! So it is time, officially to begin my tiny house build.

I celebrated the first day of spring with lots of tiny house prep. In the morning Laura Klement and I went to Green Anchors to check it out as a potential build site. Laura and I met in the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow last October and she moved back to Portland to build her tiny home because, well, Portland is the epicenter of the tiny house universe! Laura and I are interested in building together because we are on a similar timeline and can help each other out and make things go more quickly.

Green Anchors is an alluring option for these reasons:

  • it’s right under the incredible St. John’s bridge
  • there are storage lockers available
  • there are other talented people who are up for skill sharing
  • the river is right there, which will be very tempting the summer
  • there’s plenty of space to move comfortably around a tiny house
  • there’s no need to worry about making a racket with power tools

The only big disadvantage is that it’s a 9 mile bike ride from my house. And that’s not such a big deal now that the weather is beautiful, but it’s going to be a royal pain if I’m hauling things! I’ve considered buying a truck, but so far I haven’t quite figure out how to make it pencil out.

In the afternoon, I went to Iron Eagle Trailers so I could talk to Rob and get exact measurements for my vardo trailer so I can refine my design. Rob told me that someone was coming down from Alaska to pick up a tiny house trailer. It seems like a long haul, but Rob is truly the tiny house trailer expert in the Pacific Northwest and he builds stronger, lighter, smarter, and less expensive tiny house trailers than anyone else I’ve found. I’ve been very pleased with the trailers Rob has built for me and I refer people to Rob all day long, so we recently set up a deal. If you tell Rob I sent you can get $50 off your trailer order! If you’re thinking of building this summer, it’s time to get your trailer into the production line! You’ll be right behind Laura who placed her order last week.

I also made a trip to the hardware store to pick up my glue, clamps, and glue applicator so I can begin building my arched rafters for my vardo. Stay tuned for more about Building My Arched Rafters.

In the evening I went to PAD’s Tiny House Mixer and it was a lot of fun to visit with fellow tiny house enthusiasts. I also loved seeing the update on Ben’s tiny house. He’s done a fabulous job with his tongue and groove interior siding. It looks beautiful!

Three cheers for cracking open the tiny house. Are you building this summer, too?!

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Less Is More Presentations

Less Is More Class Photo

Less Is More Class Photo

On Sunday night Dave Cain and I kicked off Less is More at Yestermorrow with photographic introductions and a parti exercise. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we had field trips and design time. Dave and I also lead a series of mini-workshops covering everything from tiny home regulations and financing to structural considerations and humanure systems. By Thursday it was Less Time, More Drafting. And Friday we had our final presentations from twelve wonderful students. Check out the photos in Day 5: Less is More Presentations.

Fortunately, Paul Hanke (one of my co-instructors for the Tiny House Design-Build course – which has just a few more open spots for July!) and Kathy Meyer (who has taught small house design courses at Yestermorrow before) joined us as jurors to give feedback and suggestions. We got to see these amazing presentations:

  • Elliot’s tiny home on wheels with a triple-duty multipurpose table and a complex arched roof
  • Reese’s snowboarder’s heaven on wheels, outfitted with everything needed for hitting the slopes (perhaps even including the slope of the roof?!)
  • Eli’s get-away with shaded verandas and big fans to beat the Georgian heat and room for dance parties to dance to the beat
  • Addie’s tiny home on wheels with a lofted sleeping nook accessible by a clever ladder with built-in storage
  • Anna’s cat-friendly cottage with a reading nook tucked over the stairs
  • Geoff’s timberframed cruc home featuring a sunken living room and just the basics to live happily (like a baby grand piano!)
  • Jody’s tiny home on wheels with a cozy window seat, a bay window, and a clever ladder
  • Hannah’s small home featuring a krunkle (or two) and an alleyway for access to the porch and art studio
  • Caitlin’s Oratory – a garden shed/beekeeping workshop/eventual sauna built from reclaimed materials and flooded with light from handmade stained-glass windows
  • Annie’s cabin which employs permaculture principles to heat water and use graywater from the tub for greenhouse plants
  • Greg’s gypsy wagon for farmers, which borrows inspiration from sheepherders wagons of old
  • Jenna’s desert oasis for family gatherings, including a soaking tub, a dining patio, clever sleeping nooks, and a simple humanure system
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Less Time, More Drafting

Visiting the old Sugar Shack

Visiting the old Sugar Shack

Our week of Less is More at Yestermorrow has flown by! It seems like just yesterday we said Welcome to Less is More and now, all of the sudden, tomorrow is our presentation day. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we had small home tours in the morning, a design lesson in the afternoon, and evening discussion and slideshows. You can learn about our Sunday orientation and our Monday tours in Welcome to Less is More.

Check out the Day 2 Slideshow for photos from Tuesday when went on 3 small home tours. First we toured Suzanne’s home, which is rumored to be an old sugar shack.  She added a mudroom, a sunroom, and a small office when she remodeled a few years ago. Her home features wide counter tops, a trap door to the basement, built-in storage in the sleeping loft, and stained glass separating the bedroom from the clawfoot tub. I think if I lived in this beautiful home I’d spend a good deal of time soaking up sunshine in the sunroom with its wonderful views.

checking out Sallie's kitchen layout

checking out Sallie’s kitchen layout

Then we headed to Sallie’s small home, which I adore since it’s fun to see a place that was designed by a woman my size. Sallie doesn’t have any upper cabinets in her kitchen so it’s nice and bright with sliding glass doors on one side and windows on the other. I am particularly charmed by the ship’s ladder to the guest room and her octagonally-shaped bedroom.

Afterwards we explored Todd and Molly’s log cabin, which has two cozy lofts – one for sleeping and one for knitting, TV watching, and reading. They have clever ladders, beautiful woodworking, and a great mudroom, in addition to a very cool vintage fridge.

Yesterday we headed to my co-instructor Dave Cain’s place which is not as small as most of the designs being created in this class, but still not so big. Check out the Day 3 Slideshow to see photos of Dave’s place and our design work! Dave’s house features 12 inch walls which create deep windowsills and a nice quiet inside. He and his partner Nancy have included lots of lovely touches that make their home cozy and unique. I’m especially fond of the lighting Dave made out of old electrical insulators!

Reese gets the lay of the land in this tiny house by taping it on the floor of the studio!

Reese gets the lay of the land in this tiny house by taping it on the floor of the studio!

A big snow storm came through, dumping several inches of snow. Before it really got going we did a little walk around of Elizabeth Turnbull’s tiny house, which was one of my original inspirations to attend Yestermorrow and design and build myself a tiny house.

Today the snow storm has provided just the right conditions for hours and hours of design. It’s fun to see so many different design processes at work. Check out the Day 4 Slideshow for pictures of Drafting Day! We have students sketching, drafting, and researching. There are people taping out kitchen layouts on the floor and delving into SketchUp modeling. I’ve enjoyed answering and asking questions as the designs evolve. I can’t wait to see everyone’s presentations tomorrow!

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Welcome to Less Is More

a quick model-making activity with found objectsLast night Dave Cain and I greeted our students for Yestermorrow Design-Build School’s Less is More class. We started out with a round of introductions in which everyone shared photos that inspire them. Then we moved on to a parti exercise borrowed from Paul Hanke, one of my co-instructors for the Tiny House Design-Build course. Each team of two students selected a found object which became the “big idea” for a shelter design. It was amazing to see what they dreamed up in 20 minutes! Check out our Welcome to Less is More Slideshow to see what they came up with!

This morning we started out our first full day with field trips in the nearby area. You can see photos of our field trips and studio time in the Day 1 Slideshow.

Before heading out we made a list of things we wanted to observe while we were visiting small homes. Here are just a few of the things that made the list:

  • material selections,
  • feel of light,
  • workspace,
  • designated vs. multi-functional spaces,
  • movement and flow.
krunkle tour

a tour of Ben Cheney’s place and the Krunkle

Our first stop was Ben Cheney’s house, which was designed and built by the Yestermorrow Semester Program two years ago. This 680 square foot home features a woodshop on the ground floor, a kitchen with spaulted maple cabinets, a living room with a Vermont-made wood stove, a deck with river views, a cozy bedroom. The showstopper at this house is a dramatic cantilevered dining room nicknamed The Krunkle, which features magnificent views of the forest and river below.

filing into Susan & Emily's tiny house on a trailer

filing into Susan & Emily’s tiny house on a trailer

Our second stop was Emily & Susan’s tiny house on a trailer. The shell of this home was built during Yestermorrow’s Tiny House Design-Build class three years ago. It’s not quite finished, but it was fun to see how much progress Susan and Emily have made since I first saw the house in October. I especially enjoyed getting to point to various features of the trailer as I shared information and tips for connecting a tiny house to a mobile foundation.

This afternoon was spent playing with big ideas. We discussed which activities we’d like to do in our small homes and which we’d like to have access to. Each student generated a set of lists: activities, wishlists, and site characteristics. Then we moved to drafting tables and broke out the markers so we could spend the rest of the afternoon playing with bubble diagrams and figure ground exploration.

This evening we discussed our observations from today’s field trips and explored the question “How BIG is small?” I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s adventures: more field trips, a drafting lesson, and sharing pretty pictures to illustrate interior design tricks for small spaces. Follow along!

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Home Again at Yestermorrow

Yestemorrow Treehouse in Sunbeam

Yestemorrow Treehouse in Sunbeam

Every time I return to the Yestermorrow campus, it feels like a homecoming. This is my seventh trip to Yestermorrow and the only time I’ve arrived here via Boston. (Special thanks to the dear folks in Boston – Jessica, Sage, Alison, and Maggie – who showed me a great tiny time there!)

The first four times I came to Yestermorrow I was a student, taking the three-week core curriculum Ecological Design in the Built Environment, then Less is More and Composting Toilets, then a splendid 2-week Natural Design-Build Intensive, and finally a set of 3 workshops: Sustainable Development, Green Remodeling, and Invisible Structures.

After completing my Yestermorrow coursework I headed off to Portland State University in 2011 to earn my Masters of Urban and Regional Planning and my Urban Design Certificate. In the summer of 2012, between my two years of graduate school, I also completed my Practicum Project for my Certificate of Sustainable Design & Building at Yestermorrow, when I finished out a tiny house on wheels. Tandem is currently located at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel in Portland, OR where it’s available for nightly rental. Here’s a Teeny, Tiny Film about me and Tandem which fellow Whitman College alum Emily put together for my practicum presentation.

Turnbull Tiny House in Snow

Turnbull Tiny House in Snow

When I was a student at Yestermorrow, I had fantasies of someday coming back to teach at Yestermorrow when I had enough gray hairs to attest to my wisdom. So as you might imagine, I was pretty excited to return to Yestermorrow just a couple years later to speak at the first Tiny House Fair in June 2013 and then again in September-October 2013 as an instructor for the 2-week Tiny House Design-Build.

This time I was greeted with a big hug from Dave, who manages Yestermorrow’s facilities and plays a mean stand-up bass, a firm handshake from Eric who coordinates Yestermorrow’s Semester Program, and another hearty hug from Heidi, maven of Yestermorrow’s incredible kitchen. I arrived just in time for lunch, so I had a chance to meet a couple of the interns and to visit with Jenna, one of our students who arrived early. After lunch Jenna and I went for a walk around the Yestermorrow campus. I haven’t been gone long, so I wasn’t able to identify any big changes since October, but it’s always fun to play I Spy and notice the subtle shifts. It was especially nice to walk down to the river and see how different it looks iced over.

Tonight we’ll kick off our 1-week Less is More class with a full studio of 12 students from as close as Montpelier and as far away as California. A couple students are also coming down from Ontario. I can’t wait to meet all of them and learn about their plans for small homes! Stay tuned this week for updates!

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Spring Cleaning Sweet Pea

tiny house pantry

reorganizing Sweet Pea’s pantry to figure out what to stock up on when I return home

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but in Portland it sprinkles in and it drizzles out. Last year I didn’t feel inspired to do a my Spring Cleaning of the Yurt until April. Nevertheless, this week I decided it was time for a good spring cleaning of my Home, Sweet Pea.

I’d been through a couple rough weeks, which helped me remember that stuff is Just Stuff. I realized how much I rely on the technological tools that keep me working each day. Fortunately, I now have a new phone and a new computer. And after a couple heart-wrenching conversations and a celebration of life ceremony for the person who reassured me that it really is time to build my tiny house (we’ll miss you Les!), I also have a renewed appreciation for connections with the people I love and admire.

It seemed a good time to get my house, my head, and my heart in order again. Cleaning is not one of my favorite activities, which is one of the many reasons I live in a tiny house. But cleaning can be cathartic. It’s a good opportunity to blast the music and get moving again. So I cleaned the tiny house from top to bottom while listening to the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Griffin House, Birdy, Pink Martini, Joshua Radin, and Eva Cassidy.

all packed and ready for my trip to the East Coast

all packed and ready for my trip to the East Coast

As I noted in Tiny House Cleaning Checklist, it turns out that, when cleaning a tiny house, it really is best to clean top to bottom. As you strip the bed and catch any dust bunnies, cobwebs, and bits of schmootz that have gathered in the corners of the loft, you can send them downstairs so they’ll get swept up by the time you get to the floors. I also reinventoried my pantry and did a bunch of laundry. And vacuumed every nook and cranny, scrubbed every surface, and reorganized every drawer.

It’s nice to be leaving Sweet Pea in good shape as I put the house and my dear Raffi into Laura Klement’s care. I’m head out to Boston tomorrow to visit with a couple friends then to Yestermorrow for a week to teach the Less is More course with Dave Cain. Stay tuned for more tiny tales!

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So Much Blogging – Just Not Here!

Dearly Beloved Readers,

I have actually been blogging recently. And prolifically, I might add. But obviously not here. And I don’t necessarily have much to show for it just yet. But there’s so much good stuff to come. (I’ve been prepping for my tiny house build, too, so things are going to get even more exciting around here very soon!)

I have an alibi. (I’ve been at AccessoryDwellings.org and TinyHomes.com)

And a motive. (I’m helping other people tell their small living stories.)

So please let me explain…

I've been writing ADU Case Studies

I’ve been writing ADU Case Studies and publishing one each week

Since December I’ve been Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project, which means I’ve had the opportunity to interview the owners of granny flats, backyard cottages, and garage apartments to learn about their inspirations, challenges, and triumphs. Each of these homeowners has created a second home of 800 square feet or less on their property. I’ve now had the pleasure of working with more than 30 homeowners to help them tell their ADU story. I’ve learned a great deal about the impacts of regulations, incentives, and design guidelines. And I’ve heard some really wonderful stories about how ADUs have provided flexibility for the sandwich generation and increased the supply of affordable infill housing. At this point we’ve published nine ADU Case Studies on AccessoryDwellings.org, there’s one ready to go live on Friday, and there are many more in the queue. Here are the ones that are already live:

You can subscribe to receive the posts in your email inbox or you can just check back each week on Friday. If you ever miss me and my writing, you know where to find me!

TinyHomes.com stories

I’ve been helping our contributors get set up to post stories on TinyHomes.com

Meanwhile, I’ve also been helping 31 Voices for the Tiny House Movement get settled into their role as regular contributors to TinyHomes.com. TinyHomes provides a venue for tiny house designers, dwellers, builders, and enthusiasts to share their love of tiny homes. February was our first month with daily posts. (We’ve got a couple openings for regular contributors so if you’d like to claim one, please let me know!) Another exciting update is that we are now accepting profiles. You can create a Personal Profile to shout your love of tiny houses loud and proud. And since tiny homes have plenty of character (and often their own names, like Sweet Pea and Bayside Bungalow) you can also create a Tiny Home Profile to show off your tree house, studio apartment, backyard cottage, etc.

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