Yesterday, as has become our tradition, Isha and I went for a hike (this one urban) and recapped 2018 (what was good, what was hard, what we learned). We also shared what we’re excited about and nervous about for 2019. Since I haven’t been sharing with the greater world recently, I figured I’d share a few of the highlights at this point of transition and some excitement about the year to come.
The weeks between Winter Solstice and New Years Day are often reflective time for me anyhow, but that's been especially true for me this year. For one thing, I have my new spouse to dream and scheme with. Isha and I have been making our lists and checking them twice as we identify our goals, what we're going to commit to, and what we're going to let go.The other big life change this year is that I am delighted to be starting a new job as the Operations Coordinator for Green Hammer tomorrow!
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of tiny house events on both coasts! Four weeks ago today I was headed to the East Coast for Tiny House 101 in DC. Three weeks ago today I was on my way to Vermont to teach Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow. During the 2-week course we constructed the shell of a tiny house on wheels for a fellow named Nick who, at 26 years old, is super clever about establishing housing stability and flexibility. I wish I had been so wise at that age! During the evenings we had studio time to explore tiny house design considerations and students worked on creating their own tiny house designs. If you'd like a sense of the day-by-day flow of this course, you can check out previous posts about Tiny House Design-Build.
We wrapped up there a week ago tomorrow and I flew across the country again to be back home in time to speak at the Tiny House Conference, which was in Portland this year. I've been at all four of the Tiny House Conferences now and it's neat how it alternates between the East Coast and the West Coast. I spoke about Tiny House Community on Saturday and then facilitated the Open Space session on Sunday. During the rest of the time I joined Track C, a new addition to the Conference this year for those of us who are already living or building tiny. It was fun to have conversations about the future of the movement and to swap stories of our biggest mistakes! The Conference is always a great opportunity to connect with fascinating folks from all over the place and I look forward to hearing updates about people's tiny house journeys!
On Monday BA Norrgard and I led a Tiny House Community & Zoning Workshop through the Tiny House Collaborative. We explored various tiny house community models, discussed zoning challenges and opportunities, and laid out some steps (and tips) for creating tiny house community. We were fortunate to have an awesome venue at the Cully Grove Common House so we were able to talk about creating community in the community living room of a very cool community! We also had some special guests join us, including Alexis Deharts Stephens of Tiny House Expedition who (along with her partner Christian) has probably visited every tiny house community in the country! We also had a panel discussion with four community members from two different tiny cohousing communities in Portland. Thanks again, Tony, Karin, Lori and Kyra! It was fun to show people our tiny house community and to have Pam Westra show off three of the tinies at Tiny Digs, Portland's other tiny house hotel. (I've written about Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel in the past and I love that tiny houses are so popular in Portland that we now have TWO tiny house hotels!)
On Tuesday I attended the Build Small Coalition meeting, which is a reconvened group previously dubbed the Space-Efficient Housing Working Group. This is Portland's collection of professionals working to support tiny houses, ADUs, micro apartments, and other space-efficient creative housing solutions. It was great to see familiar faces and hear their updates as well as meeting new folks who are taking on neat projects. I look forward to seeing what we accomplish this coming year! I have a hunch it's going to be another big year for small homes!
If you've been fantasizing about a small space of your own (whether that's a backyard cottage, a converted vehicle, or a tiny house on wheels), this course is a brilliant way to dig deep and have a great time exploring the possibilities. I hope you can join us! Please share with other small space enthusiasts who might be interested, too. The more, the merrier!
Over the past two days of Tiny House Design-Build we've been busy on the build site with safety and tool orientation, insulating the wooden floor box of our trailer, and framing our first wall. In the studio we've explored design considerations ranging from siting, climate, and massing to codes, regulations, and what to look for (and ask for) when ordering a tiny house trailer.
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.)
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!
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.
On Friday we wrapped up the first ever Westermorrow class – a Yestermorrow Design-Build School course taught on the West Coast. The Tiny House Design-Build class, which has been offered just once a year in VT, has filled up so quickly recently (this past year’s class filled up in just 30 minutes!) that Yestermorrow decided to offer it again here in Portland.
What an amazing experience for all of us! Patti and Lizabeth road-tripped across the country to be here. Dee Williams came down from Olympia to co-instruct with us! And our students came from California, Utah, Virginia, New York, and Illinois. We even had a student join us from South Africa and another from Montreal, Canada! In fact, the only student who was actually from Portland was our client, Merek.
We set up in St. John’s, a neighborhood in North Portland, so that we were able to build at Green Anchors (where I built my own tiny house, The Lucky Penny). We had our studio space at The Colony. And half our class stayed at Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel where they were able to try on tiny living for two weeks while building and designing. Several of them said this was a great experience and two of the seven decided that maaaybe they don’t want to live in a tiny house after all. (They both ended up designing wee houses around 600 square feet - still small enough that they’d qualify as Accessory Dwellings here in Portland, OR and a fraction the size of the average home built in America today!)
We started out our studio time with field trips and presentations covering everything from plumbing and electrical systems to regulations and interior design strategies for small spaces. In the field we started out with safety and tool orientation and then built sawhorses to practice measuring twice and cutting once. By the second week our students were shifting between the build site and the studio to move the house as far along as possible while also creating awesome tiny house designs.
There were definitely some differences between teaching the class in VT and OR. It was strange to not be on a residential campus where sleeping, eating, designing, and drafting are all just yards from each other. But it was also fun being in a more urban setting. I missed being on the scrumptious Yestermorrow meal plan, but it was fun exploring St. John’s eateries (the food carts, Proper Eats, Signal Station Pizza, Super Burrito Express, Big Kahuna’s BBQ, the baowry, etc.) And the second week, once people were comfortable with the area, I switched back to Simply Home’s Community Dinners, which are one of my favorite things!
On the build site we constructed the shell of Merek and his partner Erin’s tiny house on wheels. Their little house has a ½ and ½ roof, meaning that part of the roof is shallower and part is steeper. This allows them to have plenty of headroom in the loft and a more interesting roofline. We nailed the framing together (apparently the Doug Fir we have over here is much harder than the spruce used on the East Coast – we bent a lot of nails as we practiced!) Over here on the West Coast it seems most tiny houses are glued and screwed together instead, so we weren’t aware of this difference! We got the walls framed, sheathed, and raised and the ridge beam, roof rafters, and the first course of plywood on the steeper pitched roof before we had to turn our attention to Presentation Day.
I LOVE Presentation Day! It’s always so inspirational to see what our students create with two weeks of tiny house design and build experience (and for 7 of our students this time the experience of living in tiny houses, too!) We had awesome designs this time around, including several tiny houses on wheels (with a huge variety of layouts and roof shapes and multi-purpose furniture) and a handful of clever ground-bound houses (including an off-grid cabin with creative sleeping for the whole extended family and a small home with space for motorcycles in the living room!)
It was an honor to co-teach with some of my tiny house heros: Dee Williams, Lizabeth Moniz, and Patti Garbeck. I’m appreciative of all the folks who helped make this happen, from Mark, Dan, Luke, and Katie at Yestermorrow, to Matt, Mark, and Kevin at Green Anchors and Rita and Dana at The Colony. I'm thankful that Merek and Erin entrusted us with the beginning of their little home. And I’m especially full of gratitude for our incredible group of 14 students for inspiring me all over again! I can’t wait to follow along on their tiny house journeys! Stay tuned!
In late July I co-taught the Tiny House Design-Build Class at Yestermorrow in Vermont with Lizabeth Moniz and Patti Garbeck. Over the course of 2 weeks our 14 students developed designs of their own and worked together to build the shell of a small shed house on skids. During one of our morning in the second week Alexei Rubenstein of Channel 3 News stopped by to see what we were up to. And our class made the news last week. Check out the Tiny House Class video clip from Channel 3 to see what Alexei saw when he visited! WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-
Yesterday we wrapped up our Summer 2015 Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow. After A Week of Tiny House Design-Build our students had their noggins full of considerations and their drafting tables full of bubble diagrams, inspiration boards, and sketches. The tiny house shell we constructed had its two long walls framed and sheathed and we were ready to put up the end walls.
This past week everything seemed to accelerate. In the field, we framed and sheathed the end walls, put up the rafters, sheathed the roof, installed the storage loft joists and decking, and installed the interior walls and the bed platform. (This tiny house is available for sale! If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Mark at Yestermorrrow.)
In the design studio, students synthesized their design ideas into drawings and models. Three special guests, Mac Rood, Kathy Myer and Chris Cook, all architects, joined me for desk critiques in the evenings to serve as sounding boards for the volley of ideas and questions. It’s always remarkable to me to see how everyone’s designs evolve over two weeks as they wrangle their hopes and needs into spaces that could facilitate the lifestyles they desire. We even snuck in another field trip to the fabulous and well-thought-out home of Ethan Waldman of The Tiny House.
As I noted last time I taught Less Is More, Presentation Day is always a bit like Xmas morning for me. There’s so much anticipation and so much delight in seeing our students designs revealed! I’m especially a sucker for the elegant details everyone comes up with!
This time around we had a variety of tiny houses on wheels with clever ideas such as:
- A closet tucked under a raised bed with drawers that interact with the stairs
- A workbench for projects the length of an end wall
- A mosaicked shower under a sleeping loft with a peek-a-boo view
- Rotating quarter-moon disks to increase counter space in a kitchen
- Rock climbing holds to access a loft
- A swooping countertop with a corner sink
- A fabulous customized desk
- A movable wall that transforms a space into three different rooms
We also had a set of ground-bound structures, including:
- A speakeasy-inspired summerhouse
- A long rectangular house that plays with windows to bring outside in
- A fire-tower inspired octagonal book and puzzle library
- A backyard yoga hut
- A family farm house with a courtyard
- A cozy addition to a fifth generation lake house
I look forward to seeing some of these designs become reality over the next couple years!
Next up for me: spending the weekend with some VT friends (and maybe lending a hand with a tiny SIPs house), a couple days in GA to discuss tiny house feasibility in Atlanta, and then a flight to CO so I can speak about tiny house community with Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios at the Tiny House Jamboree. There are nearly 10,000 people pre-registered! See you there!