tiny house design class

Tiny House & ADU Design Workshops in Feb at PCC

Tiny House & ADU Design Workshops in Feb at PCC

Winter is a great time for your design process if you'd like to get your project launched this coming spring or summer. 

This Winter Term I'm teaching two fun weekend design classes through Portland Community College: 

In these intensive two day workshops we cover many of the considerations for designing a small space, visit with special guests who have created ADUs or tiny homes (respectively), and go through a set of design exercises to help you develop a design of your own. 

A Tiny House Whirlwind

Christian Parsons of  Tiny House Expedition  snapped this shot of the Tiny House Conference.

Christian Parsons of Tiny House Expedition snapped this shot of the Tiny House Conference.

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!

Less is More at Yestermorrow in Jan 2017

Less is More at Yestermorrow in Jan 2017

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!

Westermorrow Tiny House Design-Build

Photo Sep 10, 3 03 28 PM 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!

Tiny House Design-Build Class Hits the News

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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-

Tiny House Design-Build Wrap Up

2015-07-31 14.51.18 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.)

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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!

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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

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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!

A Week of Tiny House Design-Build

DSC09998 Yesterday evening we sent our Tiny House Design-Build students off for a much-needed 26 hour break. Since they arrived a week ago on Sunday evening, we’ve had a packed schedule with lots of hands-on learning. Today they're going for runs, swimming in the local swimming holes, watching a movie, napping, and otherwise enjoying a lazy Sunday in Vermont.

On Wednesday I celebrated another revolution around the sun by exploring tiny houses with my students and fellow instructors and eating lots of desserts (maple creemees, anyone?) We had the chance to go on six field trips to see a 12 x 20 owner-built tiny house, a small live-work space designed and constructed by Yestermorrow’s Semester Program, a wee 2-bedroom featured on Tiny House Nation, a treehouse overlooking a pond, a sculptural house with a barrel vaulted sleeping space, and little efficient guesthouse by the brook. That’s right up there on my top favorite ways to spend my birthday! (Though my Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel was pretty good, too!)

In the studio, we’ve done presentations on a variety of topics ranging from considerations for site, climate, and finding parking to options for systems, foundations, and interior design. Our students brought a variety of design ideas including several tiny houses on wheels (THOWs), a portable sauna, a tree house, a one-bedroom flat retrofit, a tiny house truck, and a backyard library with sleeping nook. During our time in the studio they’ve been finalizing their programming, exploring layout through bubble diagramming, practicing their drafting skills, and building models. They have so many clever ideas I can’t wait to see what they come up with during our studio time in the next week!

In the field we’ve been constructing an 11x16 tiny house on skids so we’ve had lots of practice with measuring, cutting, nailing, leveling, remeasuring, plumbing, shimming, bracing, etc. The house has a shed roof, a sleeping platform, and two storage lofts in addition to the kitchen and hang out space. We’ll continue constructing the shell next week and we’ll take it as far as we can in the time we have. The tiny house will be available for sale, so if you or anyone you know is interested, please contact Yestermorrow!

 

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!

Less Is More Tours & Programming

2015-03-17 14.24.08We're about to begin our third day of Yestermorrow's Less is More class, which is focused on small home design. The first two days had a similar itinerary: small home tours in the morning, afternoon design lessons, and evening presentation and studio time. (Today the high is supposed to be 17 degrees, so it's probably just as well our tours have wrapped up!) In just two days we've had the chance to explore seven homes, ranging from 200 to 2000 square feet. And while the larger homes are certainly not tiny (and I wouldn't consider them small either), they did offer good ideas for clever storage, creative work-arounds, and matching layout to program. They also provided good fodder for last night's discussion about design concepts that make small spaces seem larger. We now have good examples to point to as we discuss the strategies we're using in our own small home designs. This group of students has been asking great questions and they do a wonderful job working together to understand the various considerations and trade-offs when designing a small space. I'm looking forward to seeing their designs evolve!

They've already begun exploring layouts both in our life-size mock up and on trace paper. Today we'll continue the process with elevations and sections.

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!