Tiny House Treasure Hunt

 

distracted by shiny things: my copper canisters

distracted by shiny things: my copper canisters

My Tiny House Started with a Window, and A Beautiful Arched Door, and A Sink for Good Measure. So I ordered my brand new Custom Vardo Trailer from Iron Eagle, too. Then a few days ago I found My Kitchen Windows, just in the nick of time!

Now that I’m preparing for my tiny house build this spring my tiny house treasure hunt begins in earnest. I know that the next important steps are refinishing my door and building my arched rafters. The materials I should be keeping an eye out for at this point are things like cedar siding, metal roofing, and half-used rolls of house wrap.

my copper canisters even nest! (it doesn't get cuter than this!)

my copper canisters even nest! (it doesn’t get cuter than this!)

But I couldn’t help but get a little distracted by shiny things when I popped into an antique store that was moving locations and found these copper canisters. I’ve always had a soft spot for these countertop containers and I’d never found a set that seemed quite right for me. I found myself melting a little when I realized these little copper canisters were labeled: Cookies, Flour, Sugar, Coffee, and Tea. So it’s a good thing for me they were also on sale half-off! I think they’ll be a charming addition to my gypsy wagon kitchen, right there near my hand-hammered copper sink.

Apparently Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog’s Day, which is probably just as well since we need more rain this winter. Looks like I have six more months to boneyard materials and work out the construction details. I’ll be requesting building help later on, so you can be looking forward to that. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink!)

In the meantime, if you see great deals on small batches of building materials or if you happen upon something wee and beautiful, please let me know. It has to be just right, of course. It has to sing to me. But I’m open to the possibilities now. I’m on a tiny house treasure hunt!

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My Kitchen Windows

 

matching tiny house windows

there they were: my kitchen windows!

My Tiny House Started with a Window and a couple weeks ago I dropped the sashes off at Wooddale Windows so that a frame could be made for them. I knew that Wooddale, who has been making wood windows for the past several decades, was precisely the person I wanted to build the arched frame for the window that started this whole project. I believe it will be the piece de resistance in my wee home and I was pleased that Wooddale was fascinated by my project. I grinned when I read his emails:

“Ya know, we have built many arched windows in the past. There is a lot of labor that goes into building arched top frames and sash. Along with that costs are much higher. We are interested in your project. We have never built windows for a Gypsy Wagon, which will be a nice change… Send a 50% deposit that gets you in and I’ll buy lumber and get it in here, when I trip on it a couple of times, it’s time to build your windows. Thank you so much, looking to enjoy this job.” – Wooddale

arched trim windows

every time i saw windows like these my heart skipped a beat

Besides the arched window, my vardo design called for two more windows, one for either side of my galley kitchen. So I had been haunting the ReBuilding Center for the past few months, looking for my kitchen windows.

I knew just what I wanted: They had to be a matching set. They had to be double paned. They had to be wooden, at least on the interior. They had to be about 3 feet tall and between 4 and 6 feet wide. They had to be in good working order. They had to be beautiful. Not that I was picky about it…

my dream tiny house windows with arched trim

my dream tiny house windows with arched trim

Needless to say, I hadn’t found them. So I was just about to commission Wooddale to build me the kitchen windows of my dreams. I thought I’d wanted a little curve in the top trim the way old streetcar windows are, but I also wanted some sort of divided lites and when I tried sketching it out I realized it just didn’t look right. So I came up with a new design, one that had both the curve and the divided lites. After I sent Wooddale the sketch of what I wanted I started seeing similar windows around town. And every time I did my heart skipped a beat. So I knew they would be gorgeous. And probably worth every penny of the price tag that accompanies meticulous craftsmanship.

exterior of my tiny house kitchen window

exterior of my tiny house kitchen window

But yesterday, just before I was going to send a deposit check for my windows, I decided to make one more trip to the ReBuilding Center to scout for my kitchen windows. And this time, when I walked among the rows of windows on a Tiny House Treasure Hunt, there they were.

My kitchen windows.

Two matching Pella windows. Double paned. Wood interiors. Three feet tall and 4 feet wide. In good working order. And beautiful.

Yes, one of them needed a new crank. Yes, their flanges had been cut off, as they so often are on reclaimed windows. Yes, they needed a good wipe down. Yes, a new coat of sealer probably wouldn’t hurt either. But otherwise, they were just right. They were also a fraction of what I would have paid for brand new custom windows.

interior of my tiny house kitchen window

interior of my tiny house kitchen window

As I admired them I realized that my only hesitation was that if I purchased these windows Wooddale wouldn’t be making me the windows of my dreams. I love supporting craftspeople like Wooddale, especially those carrying on traditions like building wood windows the old-fashioned way. So I’m delighted that Wooddale will be building the frame for my arched window. I know he has customers lined up, eager to have him create beautiful windows that match their historic homes. So I certainly know who I’ll turn to if I ever decide to have the windows of my dreams built for me.

For now, I’m thrilled that I found my kitchen windows. It means I’m this much closer to being able to order my Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs)!

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A Sink for Good Measure

tiny house copper sink

a hand-hammered copper sink for my tiny house

For several of my tiny house heros The Kitchen Sink was the first purchase. It was their way of saying “Hey, I’m really going to do this thing! I’m going to build myself a tiny house.” And then things started to fall into place for them.

My Tiny House Started With a Window and I felt pretty lucky that I’d found My Beautiful Arched Door, too. Since I’m a rather superstitious person, and I wanted the good luck to keep coming my way, I decided I’d better find myself a sink, too.

One morning I came across a beautiful hand-hammered copper sink on Craigslist. When I called the number the man who was selling it said he was on his way downtown and he offered to bring it by so I could take a look. I decided if he was determined to get his asking price I’d have to let it go. I am hesitant to pay more than I’ve budgeted since I know how budgets creep. I really can’t afford to let that happen.

tiny house copper sink

my copper sink is deep and wide enough to do dishes easily

On the other hand, I know that a handful of beautiful things really matter. For me, the parts of a house I interact with daily – the sink, windows, door, knobs, pulls, and latches – are the parts that need to be beautiful and functional. It’s like my cousin explaining that it’s okay to buy jeans, t-shirts, and socks that don’t speak to your soul, but you’ve got to have good shoes and a coat you love.

Fortunately, when I offered the man the amount I’d budgeted for a sink he accepted. He lives in a floating home, but he thought my tiny house was novel anyhow. When he saw Bayside Bungalow, the tiny house on wheels I’d rented for the year, he was pretty impressed. He liked the idea of his tiny sink finding a place in my tiny home.

My copper sink is large enough and deep enough that I’ll be able to do dishes easily. But it’s also small enough that it has moved with me three times now. First to My Summer Garden Cottage, then to my Home Sweet Yurt, and most recently to Sweet Pea. I love knowing that the next time I move it will be to install it in my vardo! I’ve begun scouting for a copper faucet that will match my sink. It seems the only way to do it justice.

So it seems My Tiny House Starts with a Window… and A Beautiful Arched Door… and a sink for good measure. With these three pieces guiding the character of my gypsy wagon, I think it’s going to be lovely!

Let the Tiny House Treasure Hunt begin!

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My Beautiful Arched Door

Arched Door with Leaded Glass

Silly me! I haven’t taken any photos of my arched door, but I’ve done a rendering in Sketch Up from the measurements so I could put it into my tiny house model. It looks like this, only lovelier!

The summer before last I had My Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building. It was brilliant, lucky, backwards, or some combination of all three that I had the chance to build a tiny house for someone else before I built my own.

While I was finishing out Tandem (which is now located at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel and available for nightly rental), I soaked up as much information and muscle memory as I could so that someday I would be ready to build my tiny dream house. And I started scouting Craigslist for materials, just to get a sense of what was out there.

I wasn’t going to actually buy anything since I knew I wouldn’t be building that summer. I definitely wasn’t going to buy anything large!

But a friend invited me to visit the ReBuilding Center on a Saturday afternoon in August and I saw it.

My door.

An arched door with an arched leaded glass window and an arched frame, too. The fella I asked about it said it had been there a couple weeks. The price was more than I’d been wanting to pay for a door, but it was just what I wanted.

I decided to sleep on it.

And I didn’t sleep well because I was nervous about making the commitment… but even more nervous someone else would get MY door. So I reserved a truck through Getaround and was at the ReBuilding Center before it opened on Sunday morning. When I walked in and told the guy I was going to buy that arched door he grinned and gave me a discount. The man who helped me load it into the truck said arched doors are rare but arched doors with frames in good shape are one in a thousand. I feel lucky that we found each other despite the odds, my door and me. So My Tiny House Started with a Window and then, all of the sudden I had a beautiful door, too. With an arched door and an arched window, my house was definitely taking on a life of it’s own. And a shape of its own. When I found my arched window I was already pretty sure my house would be a vardo, but finding my arched door sealed the deal.

Then I started getting a little nervous because I didn’t have A Sink for Good Measure, so my scouting began again…

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My Tiny House Starts with a Window

Arched Window

my arched window at Wooddale where the frame will be built

… and A Beautiful Arched Door. And a brand new Custom Vardo Trailer. And a Kitchen Sink, for good measure. I’ll write about those in upcoming posts, so stay tuned! But today, we’ll start at the beginning, with my window.

Three years ago I scored a gorgeous set of double-paned arched windows – for free! I hauled them home and admired them, trying to figure out how to give them a second life. I kept coming back to the idea of putting these arched windows in a gypsy wagon with a curved vardo roof. An architect friend who took a look confirmed that they were worth building around, so most of the tiny houses I’ve schemed up for myself over the past three years have an arched roof that honors the curved line of the window.

Now that I’ve lived in two tiny houses on wheels, a travel trailer, and a yurt, I’m ready to begin building a tiny home of my own. We have several months before building season begins, but January is the perfect time to start prepping for a build. (It’s also the perfect time to spend a crisp afternoon drinking tea and perusing seed catalogs as I did last Sunday. Thanks, Danell!) This winter I’ve been revising my budget, laying out my timeline, tweeking my Sketch Up Model, researching my options for compact appliances, and swapping building notes with fellow tiny housers.

The first tangible item on my Vardo Task List was Find Someone to Make Frame for Arched Window. Fortunately, my former neighbor Tom recommended a fellow named Dale Harley (though as Tom told me, everyone calls him “Wooddale.”) So yesterday I rented a car for the day and took my arched windows down to Wooddale Windows in Oregon City. The facility isn’t much to look at. In fact, I drove by the first time because it didn’t even occur to me that the nondescript building with a fiberglass door and vinyl windows would contain the region’s most incredible wood window workshop. But indeed it does.

Wooddale Windows

the Wooddale Windows facade belies the wonderful workshop within

The moment I stepped in the door, I was greeted with the smell of wood shavings and a firm handshake from Wooddale himself. He and his employee were working away on a set of windows for a historic home in Portland’s Irvington neighborhood. But I’d warned him I was coming down, so he pointed me to the door and we walked out to the rental car to haul in my windows.

“My first question is whether they’re worth working with,” I told him, realizing as soon as I said it that if they weren’t worth building around I’d spent the past three years arranging my whole house around a fantasy.

“Yeah, they’re money,” Wooddale told me. “They aren’t originals. They were probably made in the 80s, see? Or maybe the early 90s. That’s when they started using the insulated glass. But they’re replicas and they probably weren’t cheap. If you like ‘em, they’re worth building around.”

I assured him that I do like this window and asked if he could make me a frame for it. “Oh yeah, no problem at all. We’ll make the frame like these ones here,” he said, pointing to the set of frames stacked against the side wall of his shop. “I’ll have to build a jig for it, see?”

Big Maroon Interior

I love the curved ceiling of this house truck called Big Maroon

I do know about jigs. I’ve been pouring over PAD’s Vardo Plan Set, trying to wrap my brain around how I’m going to build my laminated arched rafters for my vardo. I’m looking forward to that process, but I knew I was out of my league building a window frame for an arched window. And I knew that was Wooddale’s specialty.

He flipped my windows this way and that, inspecting them. “I don’t like the way they did the bottom, see? But I can fix that. And this latch system, look at this. Someone can just slip their knife in there and open the window. Looks like someone has!” He pointed out the spot where the window frame had been roughly hacked with a blade. I laughed and told him, “Well, these windows came out of a women’s dormitory, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone climbed up and perched on a balcony and let themselves in.” Wooddale chuckled, too.

“Now you mentioned you’re interested in another window, too…” Wooddale said, pulling out a piece of paper and a pencil. “Yes,” I told him. “I’d like to have a set of three windows, all mullioned together, two sets actually, one for each side of my house.” Wooddale sketched it out while I talked.

I want a triple window over my kitchen sink, but not vinyl!

I want a triple window over my kitchen sink, but not vinyl like this photo from the Energy Start website!

Then he said, “You mean like this?” and he took me to the back where there was a frame with one window in it, exactly what I was looking for. “Yes, just like that!” I told him. Except that when we measured it we discovered that it’s six inches bigger – in both directions – than I’d been planning on. And, as you know, six inches makes a world of difference in a tiny house. “I built this one for someone who decided they needed a different mullion for their historic home, so if you want this one, I could give you a discount,” Wooddale told me. So tempting! “Okay, I’ll do some figuring and see if I can make it work, but I want two of them, one for each side of the house.” “You and your wants,” Wooddale teased me, leading me back to the piece of paper where he jotted down a few more notes.

Iowa Trolley

love the curved windows on this trolley from Iowa!

“And I ideally they’ll have a little bit of trim at the top to give them a little bit of a curved look, like the old streetcar windows.” I added that bit in with the pencil. Again, that wasn’t a problem at all. Wooddale could make my windows just how I wanted them. But, of course, there’s a price tag on that. And it will take time.

I told him I wanted to get the arched window into the queue but that I had to do a little figuring on the set of three windows. I wanted to see if I could make it work to use the bigger window. I also wanted to see if it made more sense for me to order them through Anderson or Jeld-wen instead. “Well, you’ve got some time,” Wooddale told me, indicating with a sweep of his hand that there were plenty of other projects ahead of mine.

“I’ll work on your window on my time. Don’t go calling me in two weeks asking where your window is. We make wood windows the old-fashioned way. These things take time and when the time comes for your window I’ll clear everything else aside and do it right.”

my tiny house starts with a window...

my tiny house starts with a window… and lots of sketches!

I believed him. These days customers chant the mantra “the customer is always right.” They wouldn’t tolerate hearing that their timeframe doesn’t matter. Or worse, that there isn’t an estimated delivery date at all. But I’m rarely a customer anymore. And I have enough of an appreciation for quality craftsmanship that I didn’t mind hearing that Wooddale would take the time to do it right. I am glad that someone still builds windows with this level of craftsmanship. “Making wood windows is a dying art,” Wooddale told me. And we talked for a while then about lumber and windows and historic homes and milling and about how the trades are dying out.

Wooddale told me that when he started making windows in 1977 there were 12 other wood window makers in the area and they all switched over to vinyl and laughed at Wooddale for being old school. But when the recession hit and their companies all suffered, they were surprised to see Wooddale still doing his art. “‘You’re still here?’” they’d ask and I’d say “Yeah, someone’s got to make good wooden windows for all these historic homes.”

So Wooddale and I will work out the details get our invoice and deposit squared away so we can get my windows into the line up. These windows won’t be cheap. And they won’t be here in 2 weeks. But they will be beautiful.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with craftspeople like Wooddale. If you’re looking to have some beautiful windows made, look him up. Just don’t you dare jump ahead of me in line!

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Happy Birthday to Niche Consulting LLC

A year ago today I started my own sustainable design consulting company, Niche Consulting LLC. So my baby company is one year old today! Happy Birthday, Niche!

Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow

Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow

For Niche, like for most start-up companies – and most human babies for that matter – the first year was full of experimentation and growth. Through Niche this year I taught workshops, met with clients for design and lifestyle consultations, sketched up tiny house designs, participated in conferences and working groups, and supported other sustainable development companies. I worked with dozens of great individuals and a handful of wonderful companies, including Intrinsic Ventures, Portland Alternative Dwellings, Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel, and Yestermorrow Design-Build School.

Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel was the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel was the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

As I’ve embarked on Lina’s Next Adventure, I’ve learned a great deal through trial-and-error as well as from the advice and support of friends, family, colleagues, and a few perfect strangers, too. Sometimes it’s felt like I could barely hold my head up and sometimes it’s felt like I was crawling, but now that I’ve got my feet underneath me, Niche and I are eager to toddle out and explore what this second year of life is all about. (Hopefully, it won’t be the terrible twos!)

Of course, I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support from my friends and family. Special thanks go to Sandy Hall, Amy Gammill, Rose Jones, Kathy MacMaster, and Pat Hovis for being my cheer squad! It’s also been great to be starting up my company while several friends and two of my sisters start companies of their own.

These friends and family members of mine also welcomed new businesses into the world this year:

  • Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 11.43.17 AMMy sister Sarah created Farthest North Films so that she can pursue her love of documenting life in Alaska. (Her company is so new the website hasn’t been built out yet – stay tuned!)
  • My sister Katie created Bring Baby Fitness so she (and her infant son Caleb) can help other new parents take good care of themselves and their little ones. (Her company is so new the website hasn’t been built out yet – stay tuned!)
  • My friends Derin and Andra Williams have created Shelter Wise LLC to build tiny houses and do energy efficiency work.
  • Small is Beautiful LogoMy friends Deb Delman and Kol Peterson created Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel.
  • My friends Jeremy Beasley and Kelly Nardo are creating a film about tiny living called Small is Beautiful.
  • My friend Karin Parramore co-founded Good Life Medicine Center (and its development overlapped with construction of her tiny house on wheels, Serenity! Two new babies for Karin this year! She deserves a medal – and a break!)
  • Kuli Kuli LogoMy friend Lindsey Thompson started up Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic and began blogging at Stick Out Your Tongue.
  • My friend Lisa Curtis has developed Kuli Kuli Bars which you can now request that your local Whole Foods carry.

 

Meanwhile, I continue to be inspired by the friends who have blazed the entrepreneurial path before me and created sustainability-focused companies of their own:

  • Brittany Yunker rents out her sweet Bayside Bungalow as a tiny vacation rental.
  • Tammy Strobel teaches e-courses on simple living, writing, and photography (I’ve just registered for her latest one A Simple Year and I’m so excited to get started!)
  • Dee Williams and Joan Grimm provide inspiration, education, and information for people creating tiny houses through Portland Alternative Dwellings
  • Matt Eppelsheimer does web development through is company Rocket Lift Incorporated
  • Corey McKrill builds websites through Jupiterwise Design
  • Curt Bowen supports sustainable farming practices in Guatamala through Semilla Nueva
  • Emily Dietsman and Andy Asmus grow amazing food, flowers, and community through Welcome Table Farm
  • Apologies to anyone I left off the list! Remind me and I’ll add you!

It’s been an honor to work alongside these impressive folks as we create companies that strive to do well by doing good. Here’s to supporting small businesses with big hearts this year!

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Second ADU Case Study Goes Live

 

Scott Powers' story is the second ADU Case Study to go live

Scott Powers’ story is the second ADU Case Study to go live

In December, I began Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project  and I’ve had a great time so far talking to ADU owners about their little homes. What a great range of different houses in different styles, built for different purposes by people with different backgrounds!

I have several more posts in a draft format as we work on fact checking and adding photos. I’m eager to share these stories with you. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt of the second ADU Case Study, which I posted this week. It’s called Scott Powers’ ADU: 3 Generations at Home. Jump on over to AccessoryDwellings.org for the full post:

Proximity allows the three generations of Scott’s family to share meals and trips to the grocery store. Their children are now teenagers, so childcare is not as important anymore, but it’s still nice having grandma and grandpa close by. Scott’s parents pay utilities but no rent because they paid for the ADU in cash after selling their home nearby. They used high-end cabinetry and finishes, an on-demand water heater, and Scott’s favorite feature, a gas fireplace, to make the ADU feel cozy. Scott jokes “the ADU is nicer than our house!”

In fact, Scott’s only concern about the ADU is that the investment the family made, and the value that it adds, might not be recognized if they sell their property someday. (You can read more aboutUnderstanding and Appraising Properties with Accessory Dwelling Units.) Fortunately, Scott’s family has no immediate plans to move. The ADU has created flexibility for their future.

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Looking Forward to 2014

With the transition to a New Year, I’m celebrating Another Year of Little Living. (You can read the highlights of my 2012 A Year of Little Living, too.) Here are some of the things I’m most excited about for 2014:

PAD’s Tiny Chair Workshop is an introduction to power tools

January & February

On January 6th and 20th I’ll be teaching Organize Your New Year: A 2-Part Decluttering Workshop. On January 25th and February 8th, I’ll be co-teaching Portland Alternative Dwellings‘ Tiny Chair Workshop, which is an introduction to power tools. I’m exciting to be co-teaching the Tiny Chair Workshop with Laura Klement, who participated in the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow. The first weekend of February and the first weekend of March I’ll be helping out with PAD’s Tiny House Basics Workshops. This weekend workshop introduces tiny house enthusiasts to everything they need to consider from tiny house structural issues to regulations and community building.

Scott Powers’ ADU is one of the first in the set of case studies

Over the next couple months I’m also Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project, which involves interviewing ADU owners from across Oregon and writing up case studies which are featured on the AccessoryDwellings.org website. Our goal is to help people articulate what motivated them to develop an ADU on their property, what’s working well and what they would do differently, and what advice they have for people considering building an ADU on their property.

I will also continue to build out TinyHomes.com, a website for tiny homes and the people who love them. Our goal is to create an in-depth, engaging, and informative website for people interested in tiny homes. We are currently collecting Profiles for tiny homes and tiny house enthusiasts. We look forward to having the profiles serve as a who’s who of the Tiny House Movement, so we’d love to have you add a profile for yourself or your tiny home! We also feature regular blog posts from people who are exploring, designing, building, living in tiny homes. If you would like to be a contributor on our blog or facebook page, please contact me at lina@tinyhomes.com. I look forward to meeting more bloggers and supporting the small house movement through TinyHomes.com!

would you like to contribute to TinyHomes.com? just contact me!

would you like to contribute to TinyHomes.com? just contact me!

March & April

designing small spaces is challenging but fun!

In March, I’ll be teaching a week-long Less is More class at Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Vermont with the fabulous Dave Cain. This course, which I took myself in the fall of 2010, helps people design a small (or tiny) home of their own. After seeing a great set of presentation following the two-week Tiny House Design-Build, which I co-instructed in October, I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

The first weekend of April I’ll be speaking at the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. There’s a great speaker line-up, including Dee Williams as the keynote, so I look forward to this opportunity to meet giants of the Tiny House Movement.

I’m considering staying on the east coast during the time between my Yestermorrow course wrapping up and the Tiny House Conference starting up. I’ve got connections with Greater Boston Tiny House Enthusiasts, Boneyard Studios, and an artist community in West Virginia, so it seems like it could be a fabulous adventure. If you know of other things I should check out if I decided to spend this time on the East Coast, please let me know!

I’m excited to be speaking at the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte in April

Dee Williams’ book, The Big Tiny (which I’ve already pre-ordered in Kindle format!) comes out on Earth Day and there will be festivities surrounding its release. I’ll likely join in the fun here in the Portland area.

It looks like 2014 is off to a great start! What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

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Another Year of Little Living

a very little bottle of champagne to celebrate a very big year!

The end of the year presents us with a great opportunity to look back and reflect upon what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned. I cataloged A Year of Little Living back in 2012. In 2013 I wrote 87 posts about my Little Life experience and you can read the best of the best here. I’m grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me in 2013 and I’m already Looking Forward to 2014.

Here are some highlights from 2013:

This Is The Little Life

I started blogging two and a half years ago, but I was shy about it, so I didn’t tell anyone at first. For all intents and purposes, this month marks my two year anniversary as a blogger. It’s been an incredible experience to share my vignettes about my Little Life with all of you. I’ve enjoyed engaging in fascinating conversations with followers from around the world. It’s especially been a pleasure to meet many of you over the past couple of years at gatherings or during visits. Word Press conveniently showed me yesterday that in 2013 This Is The Little Life was viewed approximately 140,000 times by people in 155 countries. Thank you for your support, encouragement, ideas, insights, and for following along!

 

What a thrill to see a design be constructed in real life!

Niche Consulting LLC

In January 2013, I started up my own sustainable design consulting company, Niche Consulting LLC. I created Niche so that I could work with clients from across the country and around the world who want to create a little home of their own. I’ve enjoyed doing individual consultations, teaching small group workshops, and assisting clients with small home design work. It’s a real thrill to see a design that I helped a client develop be constructed in real life! I’ve also been able to partner with fabulous sustainable development companies like Portland Alternative DwellingsCaravan – The Tiny House HotelYestermorrow Design-Build SchoolShelter Wise, and Intrinsic Ventures.

 

Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow

Workshops

I kicked off 2013 by teaching a tiny house workshop for my cousin’s fifth grade classroom and discovered Ten Year Olds Design Awesome Tiny Houses! In February, April, July, and November I co-taught Tiny House Basics Workshops with Dee Williams and Joan Grimm of Portland Alternative Dwellings. In April, I worked with Shelter Wise, PAD, and six amazing students to build a tiny house in two days for the Casa Pequena workshop at Casa Verde in McMinnville, OR. In a July PAD Tiny House Build Workshop we constructed the floor of Dee Williams’ vardo and built three walls for Naj Haus. In October, I co-taught a two-week-long Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow and in December I taught Unstuff Your Holidays: A 1-Day Decluttering Workshop.

 

we built 3 of Naj Haus’ walls at a PAD Build Workshop in July

My 200 Things Challenge

Before Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House, I decided to embark upon My 200 Things Challenge. This time last year I was half way through the challenge. I did a New Year’s Re-Inventory and spent some time Taking Stock Without Stocking Up. I also made a New Year’s resolution to go paper-free, so I was Strategizing Digitizing and Getting All My Docs in a Row. I recapped What My 200 Things Challenge Taught Me in October.

Masters Degree & Urban Design Certificate

From January through June I worked with Five to Nine Consulting to develop a framework for reintroducing housing into downtown Oregon City. This was our workshop project for our Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree. In June I graduated from Portland State University’s College of Urban and Public Affairs with a MURP and I wrapped up my Urban Design Certificate the next month.

 

I loved goofing around with the giants of the Tiny House Movment

Tiny House Fair

Unfortunately, I missed graduation because I was at Yestermorrow in Vermont, presenting at the Tiny House Fair. Fortunately, it was one of the best weekends of my life. I joked that I was taking commencement really seriously and getting on with my career. It was a treat to be back on the Yestermorrow campus and to meet so many great tiny house enthusiasts, builders, designers, and dwellers. My posts about the Tiny House Fair were republished in Tiny House Magazine.

 

Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel was the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

In June, Kimber and I coordinated the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours. I’d coordinated the tours in 2012 while working with Orange Splot. In 2013 we put both tours on one epic day, which you can read about in the Pedalpalooza Recap. It was great fun to meet so many small home enthusiasts and show off great spaces. We wrapped up at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel, where we showed off Caravan’s Tiny Houses, including Tandem, the tiny house on wheels I finished out in the summer of 2012 as part of My Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building with Orange Splot.

Moving from Home, Sweet Yurt to Home, Sweet Pea

In August, I moved from my Home, Sweet Yurt into Sweet Pea, a tiny house on wheels located in POD49. It’s a great little place with really great neighbors in a wonderful location. (And the Sweet Pea Plan Set is available for sale through PAD.) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this little home. I’ve had a Snow Day in the Tiny House and I’ve even tried Sharing Sweet Pea with my Sweetie.

Caravan’s Grand Opening was a great party

Site Managing at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel

In July, my friends Kol Peterson and Deb Delman opened Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel. Their soft opening was serving as the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours, but the Caravan Grand Opening in July was a truly wonderful party. I loved visiting with the people who stopped in to take a look at Tandem, the tiny house on wheels owned by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot that I finished out as my Practicum Project for my Yestermorrow Sustainable Design-Build Certificate. Speaking of parties, I celebrated my 30th birthday with a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. In September I served as site manager of Caravan for two weeks while Kol and Deb were getting married then on their honeymoon. I got to know all the little houses a whole lot better as I developed my Tiny House Cleaning Checklist and I joked Everything I Need to Know About Designing Tiny Houses I Learned From Cleaning Them.

 

PAD’s Tiny House Mixers are wildly popular

Tiny House Mixers

In 2012 I helped coordinate several Tiny House Potlucks. They were a lot of fun, especially when we had them in parks during the summer months, but it was hard to find a place big enough for us to meet in the winter since we all live in small houses. Fortunately, in 2013 PAD began hosting Tiny House Mixers, which have been wildly popular. The November Tiny House Mixer drew nearly 50 people and the December Tiny House Mixer drew more than 30. I’m already looking forward to the January Tiny House Mixer and February Tiny House Mixer.

TinyHomes.com

In October, I began building out TinyHomes.com, a new website which I’ve co-founded with web developer Kenny Bavoso. TinyHomes.com is a website for tiny homes and the people who love them. Kenny and I are both huge fans of small spaces and we look forward to making TinyHomes.com an in-depth, engaging, and informative website for people interested in tiny homes. You can learn more about what we’re up to and how you can contribute in Looking Forward to 2014.

Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project

In December I began Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project on a contract with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. I’ll be compiling a series of case studies of permitted accessory dwellings throughout the state of Oregon over the next couple months. Read about the ADU Case Studies Project to learn how you can contribute or follow along.

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The Things We Don’t Carry

This post was originally written as a journal entry this time last year when I was on a study abroad trip to Havana, Cuba. I was looking back over the entry today and decided it would be a good one to post here. Enjoy!

these folks were moving a mattress the day our film crew wandered through Chinatown

One of the things that has struck me while I’ve been here in Cuba is that people carry things here. It’s made me more aware of how infrequently we Americans actually carry something. If we have anything we need to transport we do it by car, even if we’re not going very far and even if it’s something we could easily carry. It’s almost as though we are ashamed to have anyone see us porting an object from one place to another!

 

Okay, maybe we do our hauling by bike if we live in a place like Portland where transporting things by bike is cool, but Portland is a special place.

this fella slung a motor over his shoulder and walked it to his destination

It certainly isn’t the first time I’d traveled to other countries and seen people carrying objects by foot or bike. Walking and biking are primary modes of travel in many place where the cost of motorized transportation is prohibitive. However, I’ve also traveled places in Europe where people transported things by bike or foot even if they could afford to use cars because a car simply wasn’t necessary. (An image that lingers was the man who bought a recliner chair at a Dutch flea market and threw it over his shoulder as he climbed on his bicycle and pedaled off down the cobblestone streets!)

As I’ve embraced the Little Life over the past couple of years I’ve often had these flashes of insight in which I realize that the American lifestyle is the exception rather than the norm. And in America we don’t often just walk around carrying things.

these men took turns carrying their 50# bag of beans home

In Cuba I’ve seen people walking with all sorts of things: a plastic bag full of eggs, a lawnmower motor, a table, a mattress, a fifty pound bag of beans.

Oh, and the cakes. So many cakes. One of my favorite images that I didn’t manage to capture on candid camera was two men on a motorcycle, speeding down a little cobblestone street in an old part of Havana. The man on the back of the motorcycle was holding a little round pink cake. I loved seeing people with their pink cakes! Come to think of it, I’m not sure why so many of them were pink, but they were lovely! I couldn’t help but grin at them, happy for this little clue that they were off to celebrate something. This is probably the same phenomenon that makes me grin at people carrying flowers. How can I help it?! It’s so sweet knowing they are on a mission to cheer someone up. I love seeing people carry things because it gives me a little glimpse into their lives.

half an hour later, on the other side of the neighborhood, we once again ran into these folks moving their mattress!

When we put things in our cars other people don’t get to see what we’re up to. So much of the joy of life that’s visible when we carry things in our own two hands is hidden when our cars do the schlepping. Seeing people carry things throughout Cuba has made me wish that more Americans carried things about if they are able. Not only would it be better exercise for us and more environmentally friendly, it would also provide more conversation starters.

The next time I bake a cake I think I’ll just carry it to the party myself and enjoy the conversations I start along the way! How’s that for reinventing the Cake Walk?!

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