Less is More

Less Is More 2016 Wrap Up

our Less is More students made us a card entitled Dave visits Lina (my co-instructor Dave is as crazy about bikes and little houses as I am!) It was great fun Kicking Off 2016 with Small Home Design by teaching Less Is More at Yestermorrow. Monday and Tuesday we went on field trips to small houses in the Mad River Valley and Montpelier. We got to see five little houses this year, ranging in size from about 120 square feet to 1700 square feet. All five of these houses were owner-built, which was neat because we had the opportunity to talk to the homeowners about their challenges and successes. I had been to each of these small homes before, but I learn something new each time I visit, so that was great!

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Dave and I presented slideshows to share building basics and design tricks for small spaces. We asked the students what else they wanted to learn and ended up doing a crash course in building science, a presentation on toilet options, considerations for construction and finish materials, and sharing net zero energy information. We also introduced design exercises and drafting techniques.

One of our activities was designing a tiny house together by taping it out on the floor. I was impressed by how many different considerations came up as the students deliberated the merits of putting the door in one location or another and selecting a roof style. They were excellent at weighing their options and thinking things through. It was fun to see students design exercises morph into their individual projects as their understanding and design skills evolved. (Photos forthcoming.)

Card from Less Is More

On Thursday the students worked away the day designing their own small home projects, ranging in scale from a 200 SF tiny house on wheels to a 1800 ski house that can sleep 12. They presented their work on Friday to the class and our jurors, Paul Hanke and Kathy Meyer.

Other projects included:

  • a small home with a movement studio for dance and aikido
  • a little house inspired by medieval timber frame construction
  • a Texan live-work space with a double roof for shading
  • a small lakehouse to retire to
  • a cabin in the woods with an impressive roof
  • a round house with pop-outs
  • a multi-generational home with a turret suite

It was fun to see students design exercises morph into their individual projects as their understanding and design skills evolved. And, of course, it was great to be back in Vermont and at Yestermorrow. This was my eleventh trip out there and it looks like I may have good reason to go back again this summer to help out with a Build Blitz. One of the students in the class is excited to build a tiny house on wheels and several other students are eager to help out. Stay tuned for more about that possibility!

Meanwhile, I’m scheming my next tiny house design workshop, which will be in Asheville, NC right after the Tiny House Conference. If you’re noodling through your tiny house design, mark your calendar for April 3-8th and Contact Me to be added to the list for more information!

Kicking Off 2016 with Small Home Design

Lucky-Penny-Snow-Day.jpg

it finally snowed in Portland - while I'm in snowy Vermont  

 

Happy New Year!

They say that what you do on the first day of the year is indicative of what the year will bring. If that's true, 2016 is going to bring me fun adventures! I started out the new year by hoping on a plane on New Year's day, bound for Vermont. I'm teaching the Less is More class at Yestermorrow, which is a 1-week design intensive focused on small homes. (You can also learn about past Less is More classes.)

We kicked off tonight with introductions and a design exercise to get the creative juices flowing. It was fun to hear about all the tiny house dreams and schemes that our students have. It seems this week on the drafting boards we're going to be seeing tiny houses on wheels, small cabins in the woods, and a smallish vacation home for 12. It should be fascinating!

Tomorrow we'll start out with field trips and then we'll jump right back into the design process.

It's nice to be starting class having already adjusted to the timezone. But really I planned an extra day onto the front end of my trip for two other reasons. First, I was traveling through Chicago. In January. So, you know, contingency. The second is that I've made some good friends here and one of them was celebrating a birthday. We had a fabulous day of... well, mostly eating, really... but other good fun, too! Yay for homemade waffles, fresh oysters, winter wanders, and the ridiculousness that is bowling! I've long liked the idea of secular sabbath but the past couple years I've been rather lousy at unplugging! Saturday was good practice and I plan to continue that throughout the year.

Less Is More: A 1-Week Small Home Design Intensive

Reese Five years ago I created my first tiny house design in a Yestermorrow Design-Build School course called Less is More. Less is More is a 1-week-long design intensive that includes field trips, presentations, and design time. For the past three years, I've been teaching Less is More at Yestermorrow and thoroughly loving it! I hope you can join us this January!

Less Is More: Designing the Small or Tiny House

Reese, who took the course two winters ago, is deep into the design phase for his tiny house on wheels, the Shred Shed. Reese looooves snowboarding, so he's designing his little house so that it can not only accommodate his lifestyle but so that the house itself can become a surface on which to perform snowboarding tricks. (You can check it out at Shred Shed.) It was great fun watching Reese go through his initial design process. In Less is More, Reese taped out the footprint of his little house on the floor and then borrowed furniture from the library so that he could rearrange the furniture until he figured out the ideal layout for his tiny house at a life-size scale!

Genevieve designed her tiny house on wheels in Less is More and is currently building it!

Genevieve took Less is More last winter and she's now building her tiny house on wheels. She has lived in some truly amazing places (including spending winters in Antarctica!) and her tiny house is shaping up to be a pretty amazing place, too.

Here's what Genevieve said about the course:

"I can strongly recommend this course. Lina & David are very helpful. This course truly confirmed my design decisions before building my TH." - Genevieve

If you're serious about designing your tiny house so that you can start building this year, join us in January in Vermont for Less is More!

Here are some posts I've written about the course so you can get a better feel for it:

Less Is More Presentation Day

2015-03-19 23.07.49Presentation Day at Yestermorrow is always a bit like Xmas morning for me. Dave and I posted our list on Wednesday evening, asking our students to incorporate context/site, floor plans, elevations, and sections and/or models into their Friday presentations. And we were up late with them on Thursday night. So it’s a little like sending a letter to Santa and then trying to stay up to catch him. (Several of our Less Is More students were still up at the eleventh hour when I called it a night!) But inevitably, some of the design magic happens after we’re fast asleep, visions of elegant details dancing in our heads. We never know exactly what we’ll find on the presentation board when the designs are pinned up of the following day, so it’s a wonderful surprise! This morning our presentations began at nine and everyone presented his or her work and then receive feedback from their classmates and our reviewers. Paul Hanke and Kathy Meyer are both architects and seasoned Yestermorrow instructors, so they brought a fresh set of eyes and great insights.

It was a delight to see the designs our students developed over the course of the week, including:

  • Bert’s mobile house and studio
  • Carol’s historic barn to cottage conversion
  • Dani’s southern farmstead with indoor-outdoor rooms
  • Emily’s complex of yurt dwellings
  • Eric’s tiny house on a trailer with a unique roofline
  • Genevieve’s little house on the go
  • Jason’s timber-framed cabin
  • Luke & Katie’s renovation to create a cozy community
  • Matt’s caboose-inspired home, art studio, and apothecary
  • Max’s sailboat-inspired off-grid tiny home
  • Rick’s vardo as showman’s wagon

What an honor it is to teach at Yestermorrow and enjoy the company and creativity of such inspiring students!

I’m looking forward to my next week-long small home design course, which I’ll be co-teaching with John Labovitz in Portland, OR in November. Contact me if you’d like to be added to the notification list for more information!

Hello Again, Less Is More!

2015-03-15 20.12.56I'm back in snowy Vermont for more Yestermorrow goodness. I spent my weekend in the Design-Building a Successful Design-Build Business class, taught by Adam Cohen. He was a wealth of information and wisdom and I learned just as much from my classmates who were quick with questions and ideas. Last night we started up another round of Less Is More: Designing the Small or Tiny House. I'm honored to be teaching with Dave Cain who is a creative designer, a bicycle adventurer, and an all-around great guy!

Last night we kicked-off class with introductions, complete with inspirational imagery and then we launched into our first design project. The photos in the gallery are the result of that exercise. We have an action-packed week lined up, including tiny house tours, programming, intro to drafting, presentations, and lots of (but never enough) studio time. Final presentations will be all day on Friday and I'm already eager to see what this creative bunch will come up with!

Follow along this week on our adventures! Meanwhile, you can read about last year's class here: Welcome to Less Is More, Less Time, More Drafting, and Less Is More Presentations.

Less Is More Presentations

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

Less Time, More Drafting

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

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!

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!

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

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

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!