Boneyard Studios

Inventing Tiny House Community

Simply Home Community, the first tiny cohousing community It’s always fun for me to ask people at a tiny house workshop (like our recent Tiny House 101 Workshop in DC) or events (like the Tiny House Conference last weekend) whether they are interested in living in a Tiny House Community someday. Typically, about half of them enthusiastically agree. And when I ask those folks if they’re pretty sure they invented the concept of tiny house communities, most of them nod and laugh.

Yeah, me, too. For years I was certain I invented the idea of tiny house community.

And I’ll admit I was downright proud of myself for this particular invention. I come up with wild ideas all day long, but this one was a brilliant idea.

For tiny house lovers, the only thing better than a tiny house is putting a bunch of them together!

Simply Home Community, the tiny cohousing community I live in, has been a twinkle in my eye for a decade. You can read all about my initial concept in Lina's Vision for Tiny Cohousing and learn more about My Journey to Cohousing.

Boneyard Studios in Washington DC is the first showcase for tiny house community

When Lee Pera and I spoke at the Tiny House Jamboree in 2015, we bantered about which one of us invented the concept of a tiny house community. In the end, we decided we both invented the idea independently. Although I may have come up with the idea before she did, Lee's tiny house community, Boneyard Studios, was created first. The Boneyard folks became my heros the moment I realized they were actually doing it!

If we focus just on tiny houses on wheels, Boneyard Studios may have been the first tiny house community. And Simply Home Community is the only tiny cohousing community we know of. But we certainly weren't the only ones to create tiny house community. If we include recreational vehicle parks, canal boat communities, liveaboards in the marina, wagon trains, tipis, yurts, and many other collections of small, portable dwellings, it becomes evident that community-minded nomads throughout time and all over the world have located their little homes close to each other so they can share food, time, energy, materials, and fun.

Orlando Lakefront is an RV park that welcomes tiny houses, too

Still, I think it’s okay for all of us to be proud of inventing the idea. It is a great idea. And there are many more tiny house communities still to be created. So let’s not worry about who invented the tiny house community concept. Instead, let's high-five about how great minds think alike and then get on with the important work of creating more fabulous communities!

I've now had the pleasure of Visiting Orlando Lakefront Tiny House and RV Park, where my pal James Taylor lives. They have begun welcoming tiny houses into a 1950s RV park. Earlier this week on my Tiny Tours near Asheville, I visited High Cove, an intentional community that intends to add tiny houses on wheels. And I keep hearing of others that are working on similar projects. You can find a list of tiny house communities at If you know of anyone else who is inventing tiny house community, please tell us about it in the comments!

Talking Tiny House Community in Ojai


Ojai Tiny House Community WorkshopWhat a treat it was to teach a Tiny House Community Workshop in Ojai with Lee Pera and Vina Lustado last week! I’ve been under the weather the past few days, but I’m still buzzing with excitement from this great group of folks interested in creating tiny house communities. On Thursday afternoon I hopped on a plane to L.A. where I was met by Lee. She and I had a fascinating conversation (as usual) as we drove to Ojai, CA to meet up with Vina and Anna who coordinated the Tiny House Community Workshop.

After designing and building her beautiful tiny home, Sol Haus, Vina is excited about the possibility of creating a tiny house community in Ojai. She knew she wasn’t alone because she’d been having good conversations with lots of other interested folks in her area. So after seeing the presentation on Tiny House Community that Lee and I did at Tiny House Jamboree 2015 in August, Vina asked us to come to Ojai to share our experiences with tiny house community. After months of planning across time zones, conference calls, and a shared Dropbox folder, it was exciting to know that the time had finally arrived and the workshop was sold out! That night, as Lee and I were Staying at Sol Haus, we were giddy with excitement that we’d get to expand on our previous presentation.

In the morning Vina hosted a tour of her tiny home and Lee and I finished final details for the workshop. Around noon I also got to reconnect with Julie, a former student from Yestermorrow's Tiny House Design-Build Class who is in my Tiny House Considerations E-Course but also happens to be living at the Krishnamurti Center right now. It's a tiny world after all!

When the participants arrived at the Pavillion at the Krishnamurti Center and we had them introduce themselves by telling us where they hail from and what their tiny house community dream is. Then Lee and I presented the Six Ways to Create Tiny House Community that we’re familiar with. We asked the workshop attendees to identify which one we think best suits their dream. We then did a Regulation Roundtable and we were lucky to have several people in the room who work in building and zoning who were able to help us describe the complexities of the regulatory landscape. At one point one of the participants said “Wait! I’m confused!” I asked “Who else is confused?” and we ALL raised our hands. It is, indeed, confusing to navigate the paradoxes of tiny house regulation. No one has all the answers, but collectively we can come up with great solutions (or at least the right questions to ask!) The power of being in a group of other tiny house advocates is amazing! One fellow said he felt like he was in a support group for tiny house enthusiasts and he was so glad to know he wasn’t alone! We feel ya, man!

We then shared five steps for creating tiny house communities and split into groups to brainstorm. It was neat to see groups form around creating tiny house communities in particular areas (we had an Ojai group and an LA group) as well as tiny house businesses and tiny house regulations. We brought everyone back to share some of the things we’d discovered in our small groups.

No one wanted the conversation to end, but by the time we reached the end of the workshop the sun was setting and it was time to say goodbye. We took a group photo, swapped hugs and contact info, and told everyone to keep us posted about their tiny house community adventures!

Tiny House Jamboree 2015

2015-08-07 15.17.49 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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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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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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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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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!


Tiny House Fair: Day 1

Ah, it feels good to be back here! During my very first Yestermorrow course (Ecological Design in the Built Environment - the 3 week Core curriculum for the Certificate in Sustainable Design & Building) my friend Shannon White said "I think Vermont is my spiritual home." The sentiment resonated then, but even more now, with the feeling of homecoming when I arrived at Yestermorrow again yesterday afternoon after nearly a year and a half away.

I loved wandering around campus yesterday and rediscovering this magical place. It was nice to see that although some great changes have been made (there are a few new cabins and the fruit trees in the edible landscaping have doubled in size) most things are just as I remember them. Those things that aren't exactly the same are improved from being well loved and well cared for: a fresh coat of plaster here, a lovely patina building up there, etc.

I pitched my tent near Dee Williams and Joan Grimm of Portland Alternative Dwellings and Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith of Rowdy Kittens. After a nap in the sunshine to make up for that red eye flight I headed down to the giant tent set up to accommodate a dining area for the unprecedented 120 guests on campus for the Tiny House Fair. I miss my old perch on a stool in the kitchen where I could heckle Heidi (Yestermorrow's amazing whole foods chef). But I got to make new friends yesterday. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Elaine of Tiny House Community, Brian and Lee of Boneyard Studios. It's so fun to meet people I've been reading about and communicating with and to see that they're even more amazing (how is that possible?!) in real life. I enjoyed talking to Patti Garbeck who teaches carpentry here at Yestermorrow and will be co-instructing the Tiny House Design-Build class this coming September.

Brian and Lee did a great presentation last night about Boneyard Studios, telling the story of how they're creating a showcase of tiny houses in Washington, D.C. I loved hearing about their meet ups, work parties, and garden projects.

There's a great line up of speakers scheduled for today:

  • How to Build Your Own Home for a Lot Less (using free or recycled materials), Derek (Deek) Diedricksen of Relaxshacks
  • Clever Cabinetry and Finish Carpentry, Abel Zyl Zimmerman of Zyl Vardos
  • Progressive Sharecropping with Tiny Houses, the "Gardeneer" concept, & the Destination CSA, Peter King of Vermont Tiny Houses
  • How to Free Yourself From Your Stuff, Alex Pino of Tiny House Talk
  • Building an Ecovillage, Gwendolyn Hallsmith of Headwaters Garden and Learning Center
  • Composting Toilet Options for Tiny Houses, Abe Noe-Hays of Full Circle Compost Consulting
  • Designing and Building a Tiny House Q&A, Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders
  • Small Scale Solar Power for Your Tiny House, Mariah Coz of the Comet Camper
  • Design and Construction for Specific Climates, Abel Zyl Zimmerman of Zyl Vardos
  • Tiny House Pecha Kucha - 12 presenters each show 20 slides of their tiny houses

I don't know how I'll decide what to attend since I don't want to miss any of it, but I'm glad they're videotaping most of the sessions so I can catch them virtually afterwards. If you'd like to follow along today, follow me on Twitter @littlelifepdx!