A Year Living in the Lucky Penny

A year of living in the Lucky Penny! (photo credits: Billy Ulmer, Unlikely Lives) It's my one year anniversary of living in The Lucky Penny! November 15th last year was my Move in Day & Housewarming. But Raffi and I officially moved out of the basement of The Big House and began living in my 100 square foot gypsy wagon, The Lucky Penny, on December 1st of last year. So I’ve now lived in my little house for a full year. And what a full year it’s been!

I celebrated A Year of Little Living in September of 2012 and I commemorated Another Year of Little Living in 2013, but a year of Living in the Lucky Penny seems extra special because this is the house I designed and built for myself (with lots of Tiny House Helpers, of course!) After Offering Gratitudes this week, I’m especially thankful to have another year of Tiny Home for the Holidays!

I woke up to moonlight on my face this morning. It was shining right on me through my domed skylight, which someone recently referred to as my “moon roof.” I love that description! It totally is a moon roof! Of course, it also lets me see the stars, the clouds, the rain, the sun, the birds, and the mighty oak tree I’m parked under.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered after a year of living in this this little house:

  • The Lucky Penny works really well for me. I don’t have any major regrets with the design or the construction though there are few things I’d do smarter now that I’ve done them once the hard way. (For instance, you’ll see in Musings on my Vardo Roof Box that I would do the roof differently next time!)
  • I love that whatever activity I’m doing is what the house becomes. When I’m sleeping it’s a comfy bedroom. When I’m working the whole space becomes an office. When I’m cooking, it’s all kitchen.
  • I have plenty of storage space in my little house. More, actually, than I know what to do with. The top half of my tansu is empty right now as are some of the upper cabinets and I don’t have much in the storage loft.
  • When I’m here with just Raffi it’s very easy to do whatever I need or want to do in my house. Once I add another person to the mix we have to navigate around each other more. It gets to be a tango. The dance is fun when it’s my sweetie or a friend, but I can already see that it could get old over time if I shared this space. (Isha and I have talked about trying it just to see what it’s like, but we're happily scheming our Tiny House for Two.)
  • I was afraid I would get annoyed by converting my multi-functional spaces, but I’ve found I actually like it as long as I’m not already stressed and in a hurry. For instance, putting My Pull Out Bed away in the morning is a nice part of my morning routine. Getting my drawer top table ready is just the first step of Setting the Table to have breakfast or tea. Isha likes this idea enough that we’d talking about designing it into our Tiny House for two.
  • I find I sleep comfortably on My Pull Out Bed in either its closed up or pulled-out versions. The pulled-out version is especially nice because I’m under the moon roof, but it is also quite cozy when Raffi and I sleep on the bed when it’s in window seat mode. And no, I’ve never fallen off!
  • Cooking and baking in My Plug & Play Kitchen is wonderful. Although I usually make big meals for our Community Dinners at the Big House, I make my own breakfasts and lunches in my little house. Sometimes that’s as simple as making tea and having a piece of fruit. Other times I get on a baking kick and make cardamom twists in my little house, rolling out the dough on top of My Tiny Chest Freezer and baking them in My Fabulous Toaster Oven.

There are some things still not done. I never have finished out the shower since I’ve been showering at The Big House. (This is one of the many advantages of living at Simply Home Community, a tiny cohousing community.) And still I have a punch list that’s 40 items long that includes little tasks like washing the windows and doing paint touch ups. I’ll get to those eventually. Say, this spring when it warms up again! But for now, I’m enjoying being hunkered down for the winter in my little house!

Now, to go hang my advent calendar and count down the days till I get to go visit my sisters and introduce them to my sweetie, Isha, The Guy Next Door!

Small Home Weekend Wrap Up


tiny house on Portland's Park Blocks during Build Small, Live Large Summit What an action-packed weekend it was for little houses!

On Friday I enjoyed visiting with other small home advocates and enthusiasts from all across the country at the Build Small, Live Large Summit. Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute and Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings laid the scene perfectly in their Keynote Address: The Power of Small. I especially appreciated that Alan’s point that small housing is so often illegal and his encouragement to think really BIG about how we can move forward housing options that are better for people, communities, and natural environments. It was hard to pick between the concurrent sessions, but I’m glad I went to the one about demographic shifts and housing trends because it was really interesting learning about how certain trends (towards smaller households, larger homes, longer lives, delayed marriage and childbearing, increased desire for walkability, etc.) are impacting housing choices.

The five panelists for the Space-Efficient Housing Policy Round Table (Eli Spevak, Jean-Pierre Veillet, Danell Norby, Liz Getty, and Rachel Ginis) did an excellent job describing the regulatory challenges they face in their daily work as they attempt to create small homes. They also presented clever solutions to address or work around these challenges and we left the audience with Tangible Ways You Can Support Space-Efficient Housing.

The Courtyard Clusters session with my heroes Ross Chapin, Mark Lakeman, and Eli Spevak was full of incredible ideas and images. I tried frantically (and failed miserably) to capture the poetry of how smart land use creates sustainable community. I also learned new words like “pre-legal” which I have already begun employing. (Thanks, Mark!)

The Best of Small Design Slam was fabulous, too. As he was ducking out at the end of Mark Lakeman’s presentation, Mayor Charlie Hales leaned over to me and said: “I know a vacancy coming up soon and that guy would be a good candidate to fill it!” I completely agree, Mayor Hales.

On Saturday Eli and I both lead Guided ADU Tours with 14 participants, showing them a great line-up of accessory dwellings. Many of the people in my group are considering creating an ADU on their own property so they had lots of questions about the ins and outs of the upcoming Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments and the impacts of Multnomah County’s new method for assessing property values on properties with detached ADUs. It poured down rain all day, so we ended up soaked, but morale remained high as we went to as many ADUs as we could fit in.

That evening we celebrated Simply Home Community’s 1 Year Anniversary with a party at our place. It’s always fun to get our friends together to mix and mingle. We hosted little parties in our tiny houses (at one point I had 17 people in The Lucky Penny!) as well as activities in the Big House. And, of course, we had singing and s’mores around the bonfire to wrap up the night.

Yesterday during our Simply Home Work Party we donned our rain coats and put our garden to bed. (Amazing how much we can get done quickly when working together!) Then Jake, Isha and I hunkered down at Bison Coffeehouse in the rainstorm to work through our Tiny House Considerations Lesson & Challenge for Week 2. (Since I've fallen in love with The Guy Next Door, I'm going through the same process of scheming a tiny house as the other participants in the E-Course!) We had a great conference call for Week 2 of the Tiny House Considerations E-Course and I look forward to sharing the Lesson and Challenge for Week 3 because it’s full of fun design exercises so participants can consider what’s most important to them. The bell rang for Community Dinner just as the conference call wrapped up, so we trooped inside for one of Lindsey’s fabulous meals. Our Heart Meeting after supper focused on capturing our Values in preparation for upcoming conversations about Vision and Mission.

If my weekends are going to be so full, I'm glad that they're full of great things and wonderful people! With a good breakfast in my belly (fried green tomatoes from yesterday’s garden harvest) I’m ready for a brand new week! Happy Monday, everyone!

Small Home Weekend in Portland

This weekend is jam-packed with small house events! Some folks are even referring to it as Tinypalooza! Build Small Live LargeThe Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, Nov 6th will take place at Portland State University. I'm moderating the Space Efficient Housing Policy Roundtable, which includes a great line-up of panelists. On Saturday and Sunday Dee Williams' company Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) is leading a Tiny House Basics Weekend Workshop.

OADU Tourn Saturday, I'll be leading a Guided ADU Tour, showing off 11 fabulous ADUs in Portland. I've lead Guided ADU Tours a couple times now and they're always a blast. This one should be, too, because the ADUs on this tour are beautiful and use lots of clever space-saving tips which I get to point out. Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project the past two years has been a fabulous experience! I've learned a great deal about the challenges related to ADUs as well as the creative solutions homeowners, designers, and builders have developed. It will be fun to share these tips, tricks, and cautions with the group of people joining me for the tour. My guided tour is sold out, but you can still Register for the ADU Tour and take yourself on a self-guided tour. If you can't make it, keep reading the ADU Case Studies to learn about how other people have created second dwellings to create community, housing flexibility, and additional income.

TandemFinally, on Sunday Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel is hosting a Tiny House Tour and they've asked me to be there. It's always fun showing off Tandem, the tiny house I helped finish out for Orange Splot when I had my Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building.

I look forward to the chance to geek out with so many other small home lovers this weekend. Will you be there? If so, what are you most excited about?

Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, Nov 6th

Build Small Live LargeA couple years ago I participated in the Build Small, Live Large Summit, hosted at Portland State University. This Friday the event is happening again and it's sold out! If you didn't manage to snag a ticket you can still tour tiny houses in the Park Blocks. Meanwhile, for those of you who got one of the golden tickets, I'm excited to be serving as the moderator for the Space Efficient Housing Policy Roundtable. Here's a description:

Although demand is growing for small homes and creative residential developments, there are sometimes regulatory barriers to innovative, space-efficient housing options. Our panel of experts brings a wide range of experience with the very latest solutions in small housing policy, from affordable housing advocacy to regulations pertaining to tiny houses on wheels. This “fishbowl” style panel will acknowledge regulatory roadblocks to small housing, share how successful projects navigated those challenges, and brainstorm policy changes to help small housing options flourish.

Our session, which begins at 1 PM, will include five fabulous folks, with a wide variety of backgrounds, including affordable housing, development, real estate, and policy making.

Presenters: Liz Getty, Urban Nest Realty Rachel Ginis, Lilypad Homes Jean-Pierre Veillet, Siteworks Danell Norby, City of Vancouver, Washington Eli Spevak, Orange Splot

These are the folks I love geeking out with about the challenges we're facing in the regulatory landscape. I look forward to hearing their suggestions for policy changes that would support the creation of more small housing options. Please join us if you're coming to the summit!

Move In Day & Housewarming

Window Seat Six months ago I started building myself a tiny house called The Lucky Penny. And last night our Tiny Cohousing community, Simply Home Community, hosted a housewarming party. It was good timing, too. Portland has had the first wintry weather of the year this week, so it was awfully nice to have people warming the place up with compliments and congratulations. (Having the space heater running on an extension cord probably helped, too!)

It was great fun to share my little house with friends whom I've neglected because... well, I've been building my little house. I'm looking forward to wrapping up the last few absolutely necessary things so that I can start Settling Into My Tiny House AND resume my social life!

(Speaking of socializing, it was also neat last night to share tours of my house with friends of my landies and to discover mutual connections we already have. It's a tiny world after all! And of course, it doesn't hurt to have strangers say "Your house is gorgeous!" or "It's like a cathedral in here!")

When I My Tiny House Build Began, my work plan indicated that by mid-summer I would complete the first two phases: Get it Dried In and Make it Functional. I figured I'd give myself some extra time for the unforeseen and I'd begin Phase 3: Make it Home by the end of summer. But, of course, it's a construction project, so it's taking twice as long as I originally estimated.

Copper Canisters, Copper Sink & Faucet

It's now mid-November and my house is just now functional (if you consider that my house doesn't have to be fully independent because I have access to the kitchen and bathroom in the Big House). My friend Benn Kovko (who built Kangablue at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel) has been working with me on the plumbing and we're about 1/3 of the way done. We'll be working on it again today. Still on the list after plumbing: electrical, trim, and The Punch List.

But for the sake of the housewarming party I've already shifted into Phase 3: Make it Home. Yesterday I moved most of my possessions into The Lucky Penny and started the process of putting Everything in its Place. I can't tell you how satisfying it was to hang decorations yesterday morning!

I'm looking forward to Settling into My Tiny House! Stay tuned for catch up blog posts this winter sharing more information and photos about the build process.

Congress for New Urbanism Salon

CNU CascadiaA couple months ago I was invited by Martin Glastra Van Loon (a Dutch native who now lives and works in Portland as an urban planner) to speak at the Cascadia chapter of Congress for the New Urbanism Salon. This was an exciting prospect for me, not only because I'm interested in smart growth and I admire Martin's work, but also because it sounded a lot like the Design Colloquiums I'd run in Walla Walla. Since graduating from PSU's urban planning program I've missed the chance to sit around with other urban design geeks talking about the influence of our built environment on our environment and social interactions. On Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to meet this fine group of designers and do an hour-long presentation about the ways building small is smart. The conversation continued for another three hours, eventually migrating to Bunk Bar. It was a great discussion and I look forward to continuing the conversation about policy, form, and the marketplace. Here's to many more hours of discussing the way building small is smart!

I'm grateful to Martin for the introduction to this group and to Laurence Qamar for his kind words in a follow up email to the group:

and the view of my beautiful city from the Esplanade on my bike ride home after the CNU Salon

It was a fun and spirited discussion with you, Lina, the other night for our monthly CNU-Cascadia Salon discussing the broad ramifications of the resurgence of the ongoing Tiny House movement.

For those who could not attend, Lina Menard of Niche Design Build presented her work in promoting and building tiny, and often mobile, little homes.

But more than just the average 200 sq ft cottages themselves, Lina spoke of the implications that small homes are having on providing affordable housing options for young and old, or a supplement to an existing home in the form of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).

Lina is a wealth of knowledge on the current state of financing, permitting, designing and constructing ADUs in Portland, which she describes as one of the more progressive jurisdictions for this new/old form of housing in the nation.

We considered the potential of increasing overall density throughout the city, which is an ongoing goal of the City of Portland, and Metro regional government.  ADUs have the potential of having much greater benefit to accommodating future growth not only within our growing "Centers and Corridors” but more softly throughout the very “Fabric” of our neighborhoods.

Most important as a link to the broader CNU’s goals, Lina and the group considered numerous models of how tiny houses can be an important element in further building sustainable communities and that “sense of place” that is at the heart of all our work.

Almost Ready to Build

You know you're almost ready to begin building your tiny house when...

  • You're making lists titled "Tiny House Helpers," "Truck Errands," and "Wall Raising Day."

    Laura & Wrench

  • All the nooks and crannies of your current tiny home are filled with components for your future tiny home. (Examples may include: the sink stored in your window seat, the curved rafters on your front porch, or the power tools in your sleeping loft.)
  • Your tool belt is hanging on a hook inside the door - right next to your little black dress, of course!
  • Half the photos in your phone are either price tags or products you're considering.
  • The other half are funny pictures of you and your build buddy attempting to chronicle the experience. (You can read about our adventures Getting Ready to Build over on Laura's blog or in my post Kicking Off Spring with Tiny House Prep.)
  • You change your mind all day long, every day, about nearly everything.
  • You've been to the hardware store three times this week and anticipate at least one more trip.
  • You wake up at 3 in the morning wondering if you should reverse the swing of your door.
  • You've been writing blog posts but you've neglected get them actually posted because it's now 7AM and you can start calling the hardware stores again to see who has the materials you're looking for.

And then eventually the big day arrives and Your Tiny House Build Begins.

Tiny House Conference 2014 Kick Off

meeting fellow tiny housers and touring their wee homes in anticipation of the Tiny House Conference (photo credit: Chris Tack) Tiny house lovers from across the country have descended upon Charlotte, NC this weekend for the Tiny House Conference. I couldn't be more excited about this opportunity to geek out about one of my favorite things! We will spend the next two days watching presentations (I'll be speaking on Tiny House Building Basics later today), touring tiny houses, and mixing and mingling.

Speakers were invited to arrive yesterday evening so we could get acquainted with each other and the facility. It was great to finally meet some of the folks I've been following: Macy Miller of minimotives, Hari and Karl of Tiny House Family, Andrew Odom of Tiny (R)evolution, and, of course Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life. It was also great to meet some new-to-me-but-probably-not-you-if-you've-been-watching-the-tiny-house-scene tiny house builders: Kelly and Chris, Frank, and Teal and Gerry of Wishbone Tiny Homes. Their tiny homes are be-a-u-ti-ful and I'm eager for everyone to see them, especially if they've never been inside a tiny home before!

The conference is sold out and I'm guessing many of you didn't manage to get tickets and make the trek to North Carolina, so if you'd like to live vicariously, follow along this weekend. Internet access and cell service are limited on the site, but we'll do our best to facebook and tweet the event with the hashtag #thc14.

Happy Birthday to Niche Consulting LLC

A year ago today I started my own sustainable design consulting company, Niche Consulting LLC. So my baby company is one year old today! Happy Birthday, Niche! Tiny House Design-Build at Yestermorrow

For Niche, like for most start-up companies – and most human babies for that matter – the first year was full of experimentation and growth. Through Niche this year I taught workshops, met with clients for design and lifestyle consultations, sketched up tiny house designs, participated in conferences and working groups, and supported other sustainable development companies. I worked with dozens of great individuals and a handful of wonderful companies, including Intrinsic Ventures, Portland Alternative Dwellings, Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel, and Yestermorrow Design-Build School.

Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel was the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

As I've embarked on Lina's Next Adventure, I've learned a great deal through trial-and-error as well as from the advice and support of friends, family, colleagues, and a few perfect strangers, too. Sometimes it’s felt like I could barely hold my head up and sometimes it’s felt like I was crawling, but now that I’ve got my feet underneath me, Niche and I are eager to toddle out and explore what this second year of life is all about. (Hopefully, it won’t be the terrible twos!)

Of course, I’ve also been overwhelmed by the support from my friends and family. Special thanks go to Sandy Hall, Amy Gammill, Rose Jones, Kathy MacMaster, and Pat Hovis for being my cheer squad! It’s also been great to be starting up my company while several friends and two of my sisters start companies of their own.

These friends and family members of mine also welcomed new businesses into the world this year:

  • Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 11.43.17 AMMy sister Sarah created Farthest North Films so that she can pursue her love of documenting life in Alaska. (Her company is so new the website hasn't been built out yet - stay tuned!)
  • My sister Katie created Bring Baby Fitness so she (and her infant son Caleb) can help other new parents take good care of themselves and their little ones. (Her company is so new the website hasn't been built out yet - stay tuned!)
  • My friends Derin and Andra Williams have created Shelter Wise LLC to build tiny houses and do energy efficiency work.
  • Small is Beautiful LogoMy friends Deb Delman and Kol Peterson created Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel.
  • My friends Jeremy Beasley and Kelly Nardo are creating a film about tiny living called Small is Beautiful.
  • My friend Karin Parramore co-founded Good Life Medicine Center (and its development overlapped with construction of her tiny house on wheels, Serenity! Two new babies for Karin this year! She deserves a medal – and a break!)
  • Kuli Kuli LogoMy friend Lindsey Thompson started up Thompson Family Acupuncture Clinic and began blogging at Stick Out Your Tongue.
  • My friend Lisa Curtis has developed Kuli Kuli Bars which you can now request that your local Whole Foods carry.


Meanwhile, I continue to be inspired by the friends who have blazed the entrepreneurial path before me and created sustainability-focused companies of their own:

  • Brittany Yunker rents out her sweet Bayside Bungalow as a tiny vacation rental.
  • Tammy Strobel teaches e-courses on simple living, writing, and photography (I've just registered for her latest one A Simple Year and I'm so excited to get started!)
  • Dee Williams and Joan Grimm provide inspiration, education, and information for people creating tiny houses through Portland Alternative Dwellings
  • Matt Eppelsheimer does web development through is company Rocket Lift Incorporated
  • Corey McKrill builds websites through Jupiterwise Design
  • Curt Bowen supports sustainable farming practices in Guatamala through Semilla Nueva
  • Emily Dietsman and Andy Asmus grow amazing food, flowers, and community through Welcome Table Farm
  • Apologies to anyone I left off the list! Remind me and I'll add you!

It’s been an honor to work alongside these impressive folks as we create companies that strive to do well by doing good. Here’s to supporting small businesses with big hearts this year!

Looking Forward to 2014

With the transition to a New Year, I'm celebrating Another Year of Little Living. (You can read the highlights of my 2012 A Year of Little Living, too.) Here are some of the things I'm most excited about for 2014:

January & February

On January 6th and 20th I'll be teaching Organize Your New Year: A 2-Part Decluttering Workshop. On January 25th and February 8th, I'll be co-teaching Portland Alternative DwellingsTiny Chair Workshop, which is an introduction to power tools. I'm exciting to be co-teaching the Tiny Chair Workshop with Laura Klement, who participated in the Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow. The first weekend of February and the first weekend of March I'll be helping out with PAD's Tiny House Basics Workshops. This weekend workshop introduces tiny house enthusiasts to everything they need to consider from tiny house structural issues to regulations and community building.

Over the next couple months I'm also Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project, which involves interviewing ADU owners from across Oregon and writing up case studies which are featured on the website. Our goal is to help people articulate what motivated them to develop an ADU on their property, what's working well and what they would do differently, and what advice they have for people considering building an ADU on their property.

I will also continue to build out, a website for tiny homes and the people who love them. Our goal is to create an in-depth, engaging, and informative website for people interested in tiny homes. We are currently collecting Profiles for tiny homes and tiny house enthusiasts. We look forward to having the profiles serve as a who's who of the Tiny House Movement, so we'd love to have you add a profile for yourself or your tiny home! We also feature regular blog posts from people who are exploring, designing, building, living in tiny homes. If you would like to be a contributor on our blog or facebook page, please contact me at I look forward to meeting more bloggers and supporting the small house movement through!

would you like to contribute to just contact me!

March & April

In March, I'll be teaching a week-long Less is More class at Yestermorrow Design-Build School in Vermont with the fabulous Dave Cain. This course, which I took myself in the fall of 2010, helps people design a small (or tiny) home of their own. After seeing a great set of presentation following the two-week Tiny House Design-Build, which I co-instructed in October, I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

The first weekend of April I'll be speaking at the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. There's a great speaker line-up, including Dee Williams as the keynote, so I look forward to this opportunity to meet giants of the Tiny House Movement.

I'm considering staying on the east coast during the time between my Yestermorrow course wrapping up and the Tiny House Conference starting up. I've got connections with Greater Boston Tiny House Enthusiasts, Boneyard Studios, and an artist community in West Virginia, so it seems like it could be a fabulous adventure. If you know of other things I should check out if I decided to spend this time on the East Coast, please let me know!

Dee Williams' book, The Big Tiny (which I've already pre-ordered in Kindle format!) comes out on Earth Day and there will be festivities surrounding its release. I'll likely join in the fun here in the Portland area.

It looks like 2014 is off to a great start! What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?