Why Does Portland Have ALL the ADUs?

ADUs in Portland As you read through the ADU Case Studies on AccessoryDwellings.org, it may seem like ALL the ADUs in America are centered in the immediate vicinity of Voodoo Donuts. I’m here to assure you that’s not true. It’s really not about the donuts. It’s about the food carts, the craft beer, and the dream of the 1890s.

But in seriousness, there are indeed lots of ADUs in Portland, OR and several good reasons that Portland has become the epicenter of the small housing universe. There are also a couple reasons that Portland is over-represented on AccessoryDwellings.org. I’ll explain these in a moment.

But first, I want to make sure you know the ADUs are NOT all in Portland. Really. There are legal, permitted ADUs in cities all over the country. (And lots more practical ADUs that aren’t permitted, but that’s a different story.) Even within the ADU Case Studies Project, which is focused on ADUs in Oregon, there are several ADUs in Eugene, OR (see Bob & Jenny Harris, Robert Albano, Dennis & Stephanie Martin, and Caleb & Tori Bruce) and Ashland, OR (see Cheryl & Jim Levie and Dan Gray. We will continue to add information about ADUs to AccessoryDwellings.org so that over time it will be clear that the ADUs are not all in Portland.

So here’s why it seems like ALL the ADUs are in Portland:

  1. First, the creators of AccessoryDwellings.org - Kol Peterson, Eli Spevak, and Martin Brown - are Portland residents. They are also policy wonks and, of course, ADU owners, developers, consultants, and dwellers. These small space geeks write about what they know and love: ADUs and Portland. But, please be assured there’s a keen interest in continuing to include information about ADUs from across the country (and around the world). We Want Your Contributions to make the website representative of all the exciting projects happening everywhere!
  2. Second, the ADU Case Studies Project was funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to support building small as the best green building strategy. So the case studies written in 2014-2015 were all from Oregon. Now that the ADU Case Studies Project has wrapped up, you can contribute your own case study. If you’d like to submit your project, please contact us for the template and send it back to us with 5-10 high-quality photos of your ADU. Don’t be shy! Show off your ADU. We bet it’s awesome…
  3. Third, Portland is probably the best place in the country to build ADUs. Check out How Portland Became ADU-Friendly (And How Your City Can, Too). By reading through the posts on AccessoryDwellings.org, you can learn how Portland made it possible to create Discrete Density and learn Tangible Ways to Support Space-Efficient Housing, too.

Meanwhile, please look at the ADU Case Studies as a set of examples for how you, too, could create an awesome ADU. Even if the ADU regulations are different where you live, and even if it's not practical to bring a Portland-based ADU Professional on board for your project, there are great ideas here you can borrow. The ADU Case Studies Project includes all sorts of interesting information from how people created clever storage solutions to how to buy or sell a property with an ADU. So please enjoy exploring and share your ADU with us once it's built!

Early Bird Special for Downsizing E-Course

I02 Lina & Stuffn 2011, I radically downsized my possessions for a short stint in a 15’ travel trailer. A year later I took on My 200 Things Challenge. I’ve now lived in a 12’ diameter yurt and three tiny houses on wheels with fewer possessions than most people keep in their kitchens! Now I’m offering an exciting e-course to help other people through their downsizing process, too. Early Bird Special (20% off!) available through December 31st. Also, sign up with an accountability buddy and you both get $10 off when you sign up and additional incentives for completing your Challenges. (These two discounts CAN be combined until the Early Bird Special expires on December 31st!) Register here: http://www.nichedesignbuild.com/store/p22/Downsizing_E-Course.html.

Here’s the e-course description: What if were surrounded only by the things and people you love best? What if you had just the right amount of stuff and liked it all? What if you were cheered on throughout your downsizing process? If you're ready to take a good look at your stuff, this e-course is for you. We'll address our relationship with stuff, discuss needs and wants to figure out what really matters, set priorities, and evaluate our possessions. We'll identify old habits and clutter magnets and tackle problem areas in our homes. Then we'll develop organizational systems and new habits to reduce clutter. And the best part is you'll get to do this with the encouragement of other people who are embarking on a similar journey.

In this seven-week series, we'll cover everything from keeping track of our keys to developing a wardrobe of clothes we love. This seven-week e-course will include a weekly lesson, a weekly challenge, and a weekly check-in with your fellow downsizers. The January course begins on January 17 and runs through February 28. Check-ins are Sunday evenings at 5pm PST (8PM EST).

Please note, the reading materials for this course's lessons will cost approximately $30 if you purchase them. They're great books and I still have them on my e-reader. Of course, you're encouraged to check them out from your local library to save money and space. (See, less stuff!)

Visiting Orlando Lakefront RV & Tiny House Park

tiny house peeps visit Company Store on Wheels After living at Simply Home Community for a year and a half, this past weekend I had a unique opportunity to visit another tiny house community. My friend James Taylor, whom I met at the Tiny House Jamboree 2015, invited me and a few of the other folks we connected with there to come visit and check out what they’re up to. (Did someone say “Orlando in December?” Sign me up!)

And it’s so freakin’ cool! You can learn about it by exploring the Orlando Lakefront RV & Tiny House Park website. The story goes like this. A couple years ago a fellow named Adam purchased the existing RV park and a bit later a woman named Emily helped get the first tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) there. Once it became a tiny-house-friendly RV park other tiny house dwellers have decided to make Orlando Lakefront home. And James Taylor has been driving the welcome wagon since he moved there this spring. With their 12th THOW moving in in just a couple weeks, the park is about ¼ tiny houses and ¾ RVs!

Christina & her U-Haul Conversion

Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. James’ next door neighbor, who lives in an RV, visited with us and took photos. People who live in the park or are considering moving there gathered up for a little party. We also had the chance to tour four of the little houses. The tiniest one in the park is Christina’s awesome minimalist U-haul truck to house conversion. The biggest is Mary Kay’s 24’ long house with two full sleeping lofts, a bathroom, lounge, a kitchen, and a dining spot at the stairs. (This house really got me thinking about the two loft option. I just loved the way the stairs lead up to a sleeping loft with the bed platform over the bathroom. I’ve never seen anyone do it quite like this before and it made we want to smack my forehead in that “Hellooo! Of course!” sort of way. Simply brilliant!)

James hanging out in the Little Lake Nest

Meanwhile, Lee, BA, and Alek stayed in the Little Lake Nest. None of us brought a tape measure (so unlike us!) but I’m guessing this one was 18’ long. It’s a neat design with a catwalk connecting two sleeping lofts. I thought it was really clever how they took two sets of stair stringers, turned them the tall way, and sistered them together to make a steep set of stairs! This little house also has a small couch, a flip up table, two chairs hung on the wall behind the door, a micro and toaster oven that sit on top of the fridge, a closet under the stairs, and a dish rack is over the sink. The huge (by tiny house standards) bathroom has a trough tub, a handwashing sink, and a flush toilet. I’ve gotta say, after living in tiny houses for four years, that was probably the strangest thing about staying in tiny houses in an RV park: there were flush toilets! How bizzare, how bizarre!

But, I was the lucky one. I got to stay two nights in James’s awesome little house, The Company Store on Wheels. His house was built by Tennessee Tiny Homes with lots of his special design requests. It has a fabulous front porch so that it feels like a miner cabin. (James is a Coloradan so his house had to follow his heart!) It has a fabulous multi-functional couch that converts to a chaise or a guest bed (and has storage and the cat box underneath), a ladder at the same slope as the navy ladders (which James is used to so he can fly up and down it – even when half-asleep), an L-shaped kitchen with a sink, mini fridge with freezer, microwave, toaster oven, and a washer/dryer combo. His sleeping loft is asymmetrical with a dormer on one side, just as he requested it. It’s a lovely little home and it was extra special this time of year because James had decorated for the holidays and it was super festive.

It’s so exciting to see another community that welcomes tiny houses! I keep hearing about others in formation, too. I hope that by this time next year the number has increased exponentially.

Are you involved with the tiny house community? Where’s yours and what’s happening?

Less Is More: A 1-Week Small Home Design Intensive

Reese Five years ago I created my first tiny house design in a Yestermorrow Design-Build School course called Less is More. Less is More is a 1-week-long design intensive that includes field trips, presentations, and design time. For the past three years, I've been teaching Less is More at Yestermorrow and thoroughly loving it! I hope you can join us this January!

Less Is More: Designing the Small or Tiny House

Reese, who took the course two winters ago, is deep into the design phase for his tiny house on wheels, the Shred Shed. Reese looooves snowboarding, so he's designing his little house so that it can not only accommodate his lifestyle but so that the house itself can become a surface on which to perform snowboarding tricks. (You can check it out at Shred Shed.) It was great fun watching Reese go through his initial design process. In Less is More, Reese taped out the footprint of his little house on the floor and then borrowed furniture from the library so that he could rearrange the furniture until he figured out the ideal layout for his tiny house at a life-size scale!

Genevieve designed her tiny house on wheels in Less is More and is currently building it!

Genevieve took Less is More last winter and she's now building her tiny house on wheels. She has lived in some truly amazing places (including spending winters in Antarctica!) and her tiny house is shaping up to be a pretty amazing place, too.

Here's what Genevieve said about the course:

"I can strongly recommend this course. Lina & David are very helpful. This course truly confirmed my design decisions before building my TH." - Genevieve

If you're serious about designing your tiny house so that you can start building this year, join us in January in Vermont for Less is More!

Here are some posts I've written about the course so you can get a better feel for it:

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!

Offering Gratitudes

Me & Isha enjoying post-feast relaxation This time last year I was Giving Thanks for the Little Life. The year before I was planning ways to Unstuff Your Holidays. (By the way, I’m teaching a Downsizing E-Course in January, so if you’re interested, you can join us!) The year before that I was thinking about how most of my stuff is Just Stuff. And the year before that, when I had first moved into a tiny house on wheels, it was just a simple Thanksgiving!

Gratitude has become more of a habit for me over the past year. It’s becoming easier to count my gratitudes.

I’m keeping a 5 Minute Journal. And although I like a paper journal for my morning sip, sit, and jot, I like the electronic version of the 5 Minute Journal because it has a little notification that reminds me to complete it in the morning to record gratitudes and set intentions and in the evening to reflect on gratitudes, accomplishments, and serendipities and think about how I could make the day better.

food-04On the nights that I cook Community Dinner at Simply Home Community, I ask everyone to say something they’re grateful for to kick off the meal. Mind you, we don’t let the food get cold while we say thanks. We dig right into our dinner and go around the table to hear what everyone is thankful for. Usually it sparks other conversation as people have follow up questions.

This year I spent Thanksgiving at my fairy godparents house with my sweetie, The Guy Next Door. It was a fabulous visit with people near and dear. Between carbo-loading with a Bread Bake-Off on Wednesday night and our Thanksgiving day feast on Thursday it was a very rich and delicious couple of days! Fortunately, we also enjoyed a hot sauna, a chilly run, several mugs of tea, catch up conversations, and a hilarious party game.

food-01To add to all that goodness, Isha and I also spent time on our drive to and from Corvallis comparing notes from our Tiny House Considerations Challenges as we scheme our tiny house for two. As we rolled back into Portland we were wrapping up a conversation about the objects we own and looking forward to the Downsizing E-Course I’ll be teaching this January and February.

While we were making breakfast this morning, Isha said “We have soooo much to be grateful for!” I completely agree. We really do.


Key Free

Key RingYesterday while I was having a working date with one of my best friends at our beloved Townshend's Tea House, we got to talking about keys. This isn't necessarily an unusual topic of conversation for the two us because we used to be housemates and we have stories to tell of times that one of us (I won't say who) locked herself out and the other of us (I won't say who) rescued her! We were discussing losing things and she was showing me her pod. We each have one and I Still Don't Leave Home Without It! But what was interesting this time around was that when I showed her my new pod, she said "where are your keys?!" and I got to tell her that I'm now Key Free.

Yup. That's right. I don't have any keys anymore!

(Well, okay, that's not entirely true, since I do still have a key to my post box. Buuuut... it's a small space and they know me - and they're meticulous about checking my ID anyhow - so they give me my mail even if I don't have my key with me.)

Wallet Phone Case

I used to keep my keys on the zipper pull of my pod. But now I've upgraded. Now I just have a phone case with slots for my work and personal debit cards, my drivers license, my insurance cards, and a $20 bill. Easy peasy. My new case even protects the screen of my phone (which is great because I'm a klutz and I drop that poor thing on a daily basis!)

So how in the world did I become key free?

The biggest trick is that it's all about Access Rather Than Ownership. I can still access the stuff I need but I don't have to carry around keys to get to it.

Lucky Penny's combo lock - photo credit: Tiny House Giant Journey

I used to have two house keys for my garden cottage (this was part of the reason we locked ourselves out regularly!) but more recently while I've been living in tiny houses I've only had one key. When I built my tiny house, The Lucky Penny, I purposely put in a combination lock so that I could avoid having a house key anymore. (I do, of course, have a back up key, in case the batteries conk out in the combo lock - and the great thing about having a metal trailer as the foundation of my house is that there are soooo many places to tuck a magnetic hide-a-key - a trick I learned from a fellow tiny houser! No fake rocks for us, thank you very much!) Oh, and we have combination locks on The Big House, too. So, no house key.

I used to have a bike lock key, but when I was Bettering Things one day I got my combination U-lock all set up so I'd never have to carry a bike lock key again. So, no bike key.

I don't own a car. So, no car key. (I rent cars regularly through Car2Go, Enterprise, Getaround, and Zipcar, so when I'm using them I have nice big clunky car keys to contend with, but this usually only happens once or twice a month. By the way, what is up with having TWO big fat car keys attached to each other and big clunky plastic key rings, anyhow? Really. How does that make any sense at all?!)

I am self-employed these days so even though I don't always work from home, I no longer have any keys to gate locks or construction trailers or offices. So, no work keys.

I can't even remember now what else I used to have keys to, but at this point I'm glad that it's one less thing to think about. This is one of my favorite aspects of minimalism. Not just less stuff but less stuff to think about (and lose!)

Do you have keys? What are your keys to? Do you use them on a daily basis? Could you get by without your keys? Would you want to?

Staying at Sol Haus

Lee & Lina at Sol Haus When I was in Ojai last weekend for the Tiny House Community Workshop, I got to stay at Sol Haus, Vina Lustado’s beautiful tiny house on wheels. And it was so wonderful I must tell you all about it!

Lee and I confessed to each other as we were driving to Vina's that night that we anticipated we'd have some tiny house envy. We’d seen pictures of Vina’s beautiful home, but of course, Vina’s house, like so many other tiny houses, can’t really be captured in photos. The feel of her house is splendid! So cozy, such clean lines, such well-thought-out details. Vina is an architect and her design aesthetic is fabulous! I loved the curve of her spacious desk, the awesome library ladder, and the way the low window in the kitchen makes you feel like you’re cooking al fresco. It was awesome curling up on the comfy bench and falling asleep to the flickering flame of her propane fireplace. (Lee slept up in the loft which has a nest feel with a circular window and an operable skylight!)

There were a few other things Vina did that I was surprised I liked so much. Here are my top three:

  1. Sol Haus loft is like a cozy nest

    A ceiling under the loft. I’m used to seeing exposed joists under a loft which I like because it shows off the structure of the house and gives a sense of spaciousness. I'd always thought that a ceiling would make the space seem too small. So I was impressed by how the clean lines and light color of her kitchen ceiling actually made the space feel larger (of course, at 6'8" Vina's kitchen ceiling is about 5" higher than normal. And somehow the loft feels spacious, too! I'm pretty sure it's Vina magic! That and having the walls tall and the roof pitch a little shallower!)

  2. A tiled shower. Vina’s lovely tiled shower reminded me that maybe it’s worth considering tile for the Tiny House for Two I’m designing with The Guy Next Door. I used to think tile was a bad idea for tiny houses on the move because of the weight and the cracking potential, but for little houses that don’t move much, I think they can make a lot of sense (especially if they’re small tiles which seem to handle movement a little better). I installed tile in Tandem (under the instruction of a great teacher named Rocky) and it’s held up well.
  3. A second sink. I also appreciated the handwashing sink in the bathroom. Typically I don’t feel it’s necessary to have two sinks in a tiny house if there are just one or two people, but since Lee and I were staying in Sol Haus and Vina was in and out hanging out with us and getting herself ready in the morning and for bed, it was quite nice to have two sinks. I’m now convinced that if two or more people are sharing a space it’s at least worth considering a second sink.

I feel very, very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay at Sol Haus. If you ever have the chance to tour this little house, please take it!

Talking Tiny House Community in Ojai


Ojai Tiny House Community WorkshopWhat a treat it was to teach a Tiny House Community Workshop in Ojai with Lee Pera and Vina Lustado last week! I’ve been under the weather the past few days, but I’m still buzzing with excitement from this great group of folks interested in creating tiny house communities. On Thursday afternoon I hopped on a plane to L.A. where I was met by Lee. She and I had a fascinating conversation (as usual) as we drove to Ojai, CA to meet up with Vina and Anna who coordinated the Tiny House Community Workshop.

After designing and building her beautiful tiny home, Sol Haus, Vina is excited about the possibility of creating a tiny house community in Ojai. She knew she wasn’t alone because she’d been having good conversations with lots of other interested folks in her area. So after seeing the presentation on Tiny House Community that Lee and I did at Tiny House Jamboree 2015 in August, Vina asked us to come to Ojai to share our experiences with tiny house community. After months of planning across time zones, conference calls, and a shared Dropbox folder, it was exciting to know that the time had finally arrived and the workshop was sold out! That night, as Lee and I were Staying at Sol Haus, we were giddy with excitement that we’d get to expand on our previous presentation.

In the morning Vina hosted a tour of her tiny home and Lee and I finished final details for the workshop. Around noon I also got to reconnect with Julie, a former student from Yestermorrow's Tiny House Design-Build Class who is in my Tiny House Considerations E-Course but also happens to be living at the Krishnamurti Center right now. It's a tiny world after all!

When the participants arrived at the Pavillion at the Krishnamurti Center and we had them introduce themselves by telling us where they hail from and what their tiny house community dream is. Then Lee and I presented the Six Ways to Create Tiny House Community that we’re familiar with. We asked the workshop attendees to identify which one we think best suits their dream. We then did a Regulation Roundtable and we were lucky to have several people in the room who work in building and zoning who were able to help us describe the complexities of the regulatory landscape. At one point one of the participants said “Wait! I’m confused!” I asked “Who else is confused?” and we ALL raised our hands. It is, indeed, confusing to navigate the paradoxes of tiny house regulation. No one has all the answers, but collectively we can come up with great solutions (or at least the right questions to ask!) The power of being in a group of other tiny house advocates is amazing! One fellow said he felt like he was in a support group for tiny house enthusiasts and he was so glad to know he wasn’t alone! We feel ya, man!

We then shared five steps for creating tiny house communities and split into groups to brainstorm. It was neat to see groups form around creating tiny house communities in particular areas (we had an Ojai group and an LA group) as well as tiny house businesses and tiny house regulations. We brought everyone back to share some of the things we’d discovered in our small groups.

No one wanted the conversation to end, but by the time we reached the end of the workshop the sun was setting and it was time to say goodbye. We took a group photo, swapped hugs and contact info, and told everyone to keep us posted about their tiny house community adventures!