John Labovitz

A Detour for Uphill Art Farm

Are you coming to the Tiny House Conference? If so, I'll see you there! Today I continue my journey to the Tiny House Conference in Asheville, North Carolina.This will be my third year speaking at the Tiny House Conference and I'm looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new people, too! I'll be speaking about design on Saturday, which will be lots of fun. But meanwhile, I'm so glad I took a detour along the way!

I woke up this morning to the smell of homemade bread. The sun was just starting to peek (or shall I say peak?) over the top of North Mountain. I'm in one of the bedrooms at North Mountain Residency at Uphill Art Farm. On this particular visit I'm not here to do art, although I certainly hope to come back for that purpose sometime soon! (The North Mountain Residency is on my bucket list now!) Instead I'm here to visit with my friend John Labovitz, an artist whose family has owned the farm here in West Virginia for three generations.

John's been telling me about the family farm for years, but it's the first time I've gotten to see it. Fortunately, I gave myself a few days between wrapping up Tiny House 101 in D.C. with the Tiny House Collaborative and arriving in Asheville for the Tiny House Conference. Because I haven't spent much time in this part of the country, I relished the idea of road tripping between these two events. Since I was sort of "in the neighborhood" a detour to Uphill Art Farm seemed fitting.

Lina at the carousel at Glen Echo Park

So yesterday I connected up with John for lunch in Glen Echo where he grew up and the drive to his family's farm in West Virginia. John first told me about this fabulous place while we were having a cup of tea in his house truck back when he lived in Portland, OR a few years ago. When he told me he was considering moving back to the family farm in West Virginia with his little house truck I was bummed because I so enjoyed being able to visit with him in person. However, the more I learned about this place and his dream of turning it into an artists' residency, the more excited I got for him.

so lucky to explore John's old house before it is renovated!

I feel lucky to see Uphill Art Farm at this moment, before the next round of artists arrive. With the help of his contractor Mike, John is fixing up an old 500 SF farm house down the lane. The little house is over 100 years old and John remembers playing with the kids who lived there when he came to the farm to visit his grandparents. The little house had good bones so John and Mike have transformed it by taking out walls and adding giant windows to frame the beautiful orchard, mountain, and sunset views. The house is basically a shell at this point, with flaking paint and gaping holes, but it's so easy to envision what it will be like in just a few months. He'll have a fabulous loft, a couple nooks for reading, a great kitchen with a stupendous view, some clever stair storage, and upgraded windows. Last night I was asking John about the house's name. He's dubbed it The Orchard House and he's been writing about the process of deconstructing and reconstructing it on a fabulous blog. I teased him that he should call the place the Newed House since it's an old house that has been "newed." I don't think that one is going to stick, but I'm still giggling about it!

I'm so happy for John because I think this old farm house that already has fond memories is going to be a lovely home for him! And I'm excited for the artists who will be coming this summer to share this beautiful place and the inspiration that abounds here!

Tiny House Design Workshop in Asheville, NC (April 4-8, 2016)


I'm delighted to be speaking again at this year's Tiny House Conference in Asheville, NC about tiny house design considerations and strategies. Laura and Matt Tiny House

I'm also excited to be teaming up with Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet and John Labovitz of Polymecca to teach a week-long design intensive in Asheville from April 4-8, immediately following the Tiny House Conference.  If you'd like to join us, please register for the Tiny House Design Workshop in Asheville, NC.

If you're planning to build your tiny house this summer, the week you spend in this design intensive with three instructors who designed and built their own tiny homes will prove invaluable to you. You'll be able to learn great tricks, learn from our mistakes, and save yourself a lot of money, not to mention headache and heartache!

Registration Deadline: Monday, March 21st 

Here's more info: Are you dreaming of a tiny house of your own? Are you trying to figure out the best way to maximize the space? If so, this workshop is for you! In this workshop you will develop a well-considered design for your tiny house in all three dimensions.

John & Polymecca

We'll talk about inspirations and aspirations as we discuss layout, size, and shape. We'll take you on fun tours to see tiny houses in a community and a tiny house builder's facility. We'll dig into design considerations related to windows, doors, kitchens, bathrooms, and built-ins. You'll have plenty of time to ask questions, work on your own design, and get feedback.

Your three instructors - Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet, John Labovitz of Polymecca and Lina Menard of Niche Consulting - have all designed and built their own tiny homes. Laura and her partner Matt live in a tiny off-grid ground-bound home in North Carolina, John has parked his tiny house truck in the orchard at his family farm in West Virginia, and Lina lives in her vardo in a tiny house community in Oregon. We are excited to introduce you to tips, tricks, strategies, and information to help you design a fabulous tiny home of your own!

This one-week design intensive will take place in Asheville, NC on April 4-8 immediately following the Tiny House Conference. If you sign up with a buddy, both of you will receive a $50 rebate! If you'd like to join us, please register for the Tiny House Design Workshop in Asheville, NC.

Registration Deadline: Monday, March 21st 


Portlandia’s The Real Portland

Portlandia A couple weeks ago some folks from Portlandia contacted me regarding tiny houses. They explained that they are doing a web series to show that even though the show spoofs on how bizarre Portland is, there really are people doing strange and wonderful things here. (Here's the video!)

“We want to interview people who live in a tiny house community in Portland,” they said. I explained that there isn’t yet a community of tiny houses here, but many of us are working on starting one. (For good measure, I asked on the Portland Tiny Houses facebook group and no one else knew of one that already exists either.) However, I assured Portlandia I could connect them with tiny house residents and suggested a few possibilities. They ended up deciding to interview John Labovitz about his Tiny House Truck and they invited me to be part of the interview.

Portlandia Crew

It was pretty amazing to see the crew arrive and descend upon John’s 14-foot-long-tiny house. They’d sent their “small” crew of about 20 people. (By the way, how in the world did they manage to find parking for not one but two 15 passenger vans right off a main street on a weekend afternoon!?) In addition to the sound crew and the video crew there were people who had us fill out waivers and people who made sure we weren’t wearing any brand name stuff. I was sporting a Yestermorrow T-shirt on purpose, but I was pretty sure they’d be okay with it and luckily they were. There were people who held shiny screens to reflect the light in the right way. And I’m pretty sure one guy’s sole responsibility was to dispense tape!

The folks who did the interview were funny, but it was clear they hadn’t done their homework because they weren’t asking the right questions. They didn’t really know much about tiny houses. Sometimes it seems to me everyone knows about tiny houses by now, but it’s a good reminder that’s not true. Since we were at John’s place most of their questions were for him, but I had fun piping up a couple times to tell them about Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House and My 200 Things Challenge.

If the interview is used it all it will be part of a web series leading up to the next Portlandia series. Either way, it was a fun experience. And it certainly made my moving day epic!

Update: Here's the video! Turns out I didn't get a speaking part after all, which is fine by me since John and his wee house truck (and his neighbors) are the stars anyhow!