Portland Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop = Brilliance + Connections

Happy Birthday Denny! It was a delight to attend the Portland Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop this weekend! I was honored that Dee Williams asked me to participate in a panel on Saturday afternoon and open up the tiny house I'm renting for a walk-through for the participants afterwards. I arrived bright and early and had a chance to meet several of the participants, including Denny who is so tiny house obsessed that he decided to celebrate his birthday by attending the tiny house workshop. He even brought along the tiny house birthday cake commissioned by excellent friends who support Denny's passion. As people introduced themselves we discovered that there were participants from as far away as Plano, TX and Anchorage, AK. Some had recently learned about tiny houses and some had been fascinated for years. People looking for a place to park connected up with people who own property and people who are eager to turn their designs into a structure met experienced builders.

Britt's Bungalow: a tiny tester

Throughout the day Dee Williams, in all her glorious exuberance, wit, and wisdom, shared tiny house considerations such as wall systems, trailer and roof attachments, and moisture management. Over a lunch of food cart deliciousness, I joined a group of tiny house enthusiasts for discussion of downsizing and community-building. In the afternoon Brittany, Michelle, and I shared our experiences of living in a tiny house, including our inspirations and what we would do differently. I explained that I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to try on the little life before building my own tiny house. We encouraged participants to rent Brittany's Bayside Bungalow by the weekend this summer to see what it's like to live in a tiny house. Brittany's website is up and running and she's now taking reservations.

tiny house potluck

Then fifty-ish people came over for a tiny house tour of Britt's Bungalow, taking turns in small batches to note all the details of the wee abode. A dozen or so workshop participants stuck around for the tiny house potluck afterwards, which was the highlight of an already splendid day. There's a fantastic tiny house community here in Portland and several tiny house dwellers joined us for the potluck. It was fun to watch the synergy as workshop participants asked questions of Portland tiny house dwellers, builders, and designers. My friend Emily Morris, who is a videographer, started filming for the movie she's making about Portland's tiny house community. I also got confirmation from a couple leaders for the upcoming Pedalpalooza Tiny Home Tour on Sunday, June 24th from 10AM-1PM which will feature 5 tiny houses in Portland.

Brittany and I were too exhausted by the end of the day to participate in the World Naked Bike Ride, but we considered it a Saturday very well spent. I look forward to seeing what comes of all these connections. Thanks for coming to Portland everyone. And special thanks to Dee, Brittany, and Tumbleweed for an incredible workshop!

Shrinky-Dink Porch

These rainy days get me thinking about porches... Shrinky-Dink Porch

When I build a tiny house I want it to have a functional porch. In order to accommodate it, the tiny house won't include a porch at all. At least, not within its footprint.

My friend Jacob calls Tumbleweed Tiny Houses shrinky-dink houses because they look like miniaturized versions of bigger houses. Jacob was looking at a photo of Jay Shafer's tiny front porch when he said, "It just doesn't make sense to try to fit everything that you'd have in a big house into a tiny house just by making everything smaller." I completely agree with him and I think Jay Shafer would, too. Jay is conscientious about subtractive design - keeping just the essentials. For Jay, a porch is essential and even a small porch is better than none. I disagree. I think that if it's not possible to accommodate a function well it shouldn't take up precious trailer space!

I understand the romance and the practicality of the porch. I think porches are a great way to transition between indoor and outdoor space. They offer a place to stand out of the rain while fumbling with keys and a bag of groceries. The shelter enables you to sit or stand outside for fresh air even when it's too wet or cold to go for a walk. A porch provides a spot to take off your boots before tracking mud or snow into the house (essential for a tiny space which can get dirty quickly, but is also, fortunately, quick to clean!).  Tiny House dwellers Tammy and Logan do most of their refrigerating by hanging their produce in a fruit basket out on the porch during the months of the year that the temperatures are right (which is most of the year, here in Portland!) Porches are the first encounter with the house so  a plant, a chair, and a piece of art enable the resident(s) to welcome and greet visitors and to share a little bit of their own personality.

Unfortunately, the porch of Britt's Bungalow (and many others built with Tumbleweed Tiny House plans) is too small to be functional in the rainy Pacific Northwest. A tiny front porch misses the mark because it's not able to serve its function of keeping me and my boots dry. It's not large enough for two people to get out of the rain while unlocking the door. My garden shoes left on the porch get soaked by driving rain, even if they're tucked at the inside edge. I could put a very small chair on my porch, but I would have to sit alone. A two foot by two foot porch is a functional failure.

Porch Pile

Besides, one of the magical things about a tiny house is that it encourages its inhabitants to get outside more. When you can stand or sit in one place in a tiny house and see outside through several windows at once, you are more interested in getting out there. I imagine that if a tiny house is on the road most of the time having a porch (even a uselessly small porch) could be nice. And I'm sure that in warmer, drier climates without so much driving rain even a very small porch could be useful. But in the rainy Pacific Northwest a tiny porch is simply inapporpriate design.

So for a Tiny House which will be stationary most of the time, it makes sense to find another way to create a transition between the tiny house and the rest of the world. I've been imagining a porch that will consist of an awning that will drop down to protect the door during transit paired with a wooden platform that  can be tucked inside the house while it's being moved. It will be large enough for that potted plant, a piece of art, two chairs, and a spot to put a glass of ginger beer. If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it right! Cheers!