Tiny House Fair

Tiny House Fair: Day 3

Day 3 of the first annual Tiny House Fair started off with a panel discussion regarding the alegality of tiny houses. To the best of our knowledge there isn't a zoning code in the country that directly addresses "tiny houses." Most municipalities would probably consider a tiny house on wheels a custom built travel trailer (whether or not it will be considered a recreational vehicle by insurance companies and banks depends on certification though). So in many places the only part of town where you can legally live in a tiny house is an RV park and many cities have restrictions on the maximum time you can stay there.

However, people around the world have become advocates of tiny houses for financial, social, environmental, and lifestyle reasons. There's also a groundswell of support for tiny house communities, so many people are working within our existing codes and figuring out ways that we can amend code to better suit our needs. It was, as you might imagine, a fascinating conversation with more questions than answers.

Following the morning panel, some of the participants headed out for a tour of local tiny houses. The folks who stuck around got to hear Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings discuss some of the sticky wickets of the tiny house world (building code, financing, and insurance). She also covered structural considerations for a house on wheels that undergoes hurricane and earthquake conditions when it hits the road.

After lunch I spoke about code and legal issues, including some of the legal ways people have found to live in tiny houses and some of the next steps we might take as advocates of small spaces.

Next Jay Shafer joined us to talk about Resizing the American Dream. Here are a few of my favorite lines from his talk:

  • "The Tiny House Movement is more than cute houses and quirky people. It's subverting consumerism."
  • "When it was about use value not resale value people built houses according to their needs."
  • "The Small House Movement is about people living in the amount of space they need."
  • "Tiny houses are self-portraits with innovation to meet individual needs."
  • "It's all just about what's necessary. Eliminate everything else."
  • "When necessity is allowed to dictate the form of things, they're beautiful!"

The Tiny House Fair officially wrapped up when the tiny house tour and Jay's talk were completed, but several tiny house advocates continued the conversation over dinner (at American Flatbread - shout out to Billy for insisting that we go there!) and then around the conference table. We are eager to see how the Tiny House Movement evolves.

I'm honored to have spent the weekend in the presence of such fabulous folks. I met people from across the country who are designing, building, dwelling in, and advocating for tiny houses. Our ranks included building inspectors, lawyers, carpenters, inventors, and educators. Collectively we have an enormous amount of knowledge and enthusiasm and I hope we can direct it in the best possible ways to support simple, affordable, sustainable housing options. Meanwhile, my celebrity friend crushes have only been reinforced by discovering how fun these folks are in real life!

I'm already looking forward to the second annual Tiny House Fair which is slated for the West Coast next summer!

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!

Off to the Tiny House Fair

If you've been following along on my Little Life adventures you've probably noticed I've been lax about blogging these days. The past three weeks have been a whirlwind. I graduate from Portland State University today with a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning. But I'm skipping the graduation festivities this weekend to speak at the first ever Tiny House Fair at Yestermorrow. I know my classmates will take pictures and eat cake for me, so I feel safe leaving the wrap up in their hands. Instead I'm taking this commencement thing really seriously and getting started with new adventures! In the coming weeks I'll share more information about my new sustainable design consulting company Niche Consulting LLC. Meanwhile, watch for updates this weekend from the fair!

I've just arrived at the Burlington Airport and I'm thrilled to be back in Vermont. Dee Williams and Joan Grimm of Portland Alternative Dwellings will be fetching me soon and we'll head to Yestermorrow to get settled in and meet everyone. There's an incredible line up of speakers, including several other tiny house dwellers, designers, builders, and bloggers. There are also 100 participants signed up and I'm horribly excited to meet them! We're going to have such fun geeking out about nano houses.

I haven't been to Vermont since February 2011 when I wrapped up the last of my coursework for my Certificate in Sustainable Design and Building. But I've been in touch with the fine folks of Yestermorrow via my practicum project (building a tiny house on wheels). I also skyped in on the Tiny House Design Build course last year and I've recently been asked to be an instructor for upcoming Yestermorrow courses. I couldn't have been more thrilled to receive that invitation. I love Yestermorrow and can't wait to set foot on campus again.

Here's to commencement! Hip, hip, hooray!

First Ever Tiny House Fair at Yestermorrow in June

yestermorrow tiny house When I talked to Elaine yesterday I learned that the first ever Tiny House Fair is almost sold out! If you want to secure a spot, register immediately on the Yestermorrow website.

The Tiny House Fair will be hosted by Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont June 14-16, 2013. Elaine, who lives in a tiny house and participated in a women’s building course at Yestermorrow, created the Tiny House Community website because she recognized that tiny houses would be even more wonderful together. She decided the next step was to get key players in the tiny house world together, too. So she encouraged Yestermorrow to host the first ever Tiny House Fair and she’s been helping to coordinate it ever since.

I’m delighted that I’ll be presenting at this year’s tiny house fair, along with fellow west coasters Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings, Tammy Strobel & Logan Smith of Rowdy Kittens, and Able Zimmerman of Zyl Vardos. I’ll also have the opportunity to get to know folks I’ve been wanting to meet for years: Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed and Four Lights, Derek "Deek" Diedrickson of Relax Shacks, and Alex Pino of Tiny House Talk. Together we’ll be covering everything from tiny house design tricks to zoning code and legal considerations.

Join us if you’re able! It’s going to be epic.