Exterior Progress

IMG_2601.JPGI have a significant number of posts in draft form, especially from houses and Tiny Housers I have visited in the last few months. I’ll get those up soon enough. Let’s talk about now. I’m celebrating, for two reasons – I’ve created some tangible evidence of activity happening on this project, and I made my first little video. I’m sure production will improve over time. For now, I’m just trying to document what I can as I work. Nothing fancy.

I made a trip with the pickup I have access to get some materials; 2×3 studs and the first of many poly-iso boards. I set up a chop saw with a stop to quickly cut each to length.


My lovely assistant Betsy came by the house to help. She held the studs in place while I tapped the metal corrugated wall and initially anchored them. IMG_2609.JPG

Here’s a little video walk around…

Now I can finish this part of work on my own. Each stud will be held by self-tapping 1 1/4″ #12  hex screws at 8″ on center and construction adhesive. Once I’m finished with this process, the insulation boards will go on. I will be welding a steel relieving angle at the bottom and attaching anchors at 4′ and top. Notice how they fit neatly into the valley of the corrugated wall?

IMG_2612.JPGI like the way these fasteners look on the interior and they will tell a story of the assembly of the house. The rubber washers will also prevent any moisture from the interior getting into the wall cavity.

That’s all for now. There’s much work ahead to prepare for the insulation and siding – which will be a rain screen of 1×4 and 1×6 western hemlock. So exciting.

This just got real

The Eagle has Landed

I’ll be putting together a few images and possibly a short video of this over the next several weeks. So many things happening all at once, it’s very exciting. I’ve got some news about press coverage on my project to share soon, and will be hosting a project kickoff party with my local Tiny House Enthusiasts group.

I must admit, this is the largest thing I’ve ever had delivered. At nearly $1 per pound, it seems like I got a screaming good deal. Thank you Port Containers for all your great customer service. I wish I had specified which way to face the doors… hindsight being 20/20, I may need to make a few adjustments to my design. The towing company was professional, and I was surprised how easily it dropped where I needed it.

The container is now set on the driveway on exterior grade plywood, and this weekend I will jack it up on temporary cribbing to level it. I’ve made a couple of very crude renderings in Revit to mock-up the roof and materials. Am very pleased with where things are heading. The trailer design is also coming along – progress image below.

My First Podcast

Some of you may have run across this already, however I wanted to share that the amiable Cherrie McKenzie interviewed me on her site: CoActive Dreams. I really enjoyed ‘talking tiny’ with Cherrie about my thoughts on Tiny Houses, and how I plan to live intentionally.

This experience was so much fun, that I am considering starting up my very own podcast. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down other opportunities to share my interest in this movement. There are so many people in the Tiny House Community – just now there are over 7,500 members of the Tiny House People Facebook site – started by Macy Miller only 3 months ago. It’s clear, this area of interest is growing rapidly.

Click the play button below to listen now, or subscribe to Cherrie’s podcast Imagine Radio for a variety of ever-interesting topics on Stitcher.

Don’t have time for the interview in it’s entirety, that’s alright. You can listen to a short clip, here:

Fern House

Frozen Music

There is an old saying, one of many incorrectly attributed to Mies Van der Rohe, that “Architecture is frozen music.” This was actually first published by German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Here’s the full quote.

“Music is liquid architecture; Architecture is frozen music.”

I love music, and I love architecture. Yes, that quote is very poetic, and to some of you may seem like complete bull, until you’ve experienced what he was trying to capture. This happened to me a few times in my life. One particular example relevant to the Tiny House ideas that burn in my belly came from spending the night in the Fern House. Built by my very close friend, and college alumni Robert ‘Bob’ Swinburne, at his family homestead, the Fern House is a very simple structure. It’s what is often called an architectural folly. Measuring approximately 50 square feet, composed of 2×4 wood studs, insect screen, and polycarbonate roof, it is built on top of an old tent platform. Bob and his wife Rachelle bought this sprawling Southern Vermont property nearly 14 years ago where they’ve since made a delightful home and are raising two adorable children. He’s even built his own barn, completely solo. That’s a different story.

Way before I’d ever heard of the term ‘glamping’, or glamorous camping, I had stayed a weekend with my friends in this little guest bedroom. For lack of a better term for it, that’s what it is, having one simple piece of furniture, a bed suspended from bright red parachute cord. It was here that as the day faded into night, and a bit of moonlight crept in, I truly knew what that quote meant. Frozen music.

Not only could I hear the quiet sounds of the wildlife from all around, crickets like a distant orchestra tuning their instruments, but I could also hear – nothingness. Peace, tranquility, and a soft wind blowing through the forest ferns and spindly trees. It was as if there was no one else around. It was romantic – both because my then fiancée was with me, and it seemed a bit overly luxurious. Like we were in our own private cathedral, both grand and sized just right for two; simultaneously simple and posh. That combination had never occurred to me. Perhaps it had a more long-lasting effect than the moon those first two nights.

I haven’t been back to Vermont to visit, and of course nap at my friends’ place nearly enough. A nap sounds fantastic right about now. I truly hope to recapture that feeling with my own tiny house. Like everyday is a vacation. Everyday is fresh and you cannot shut out the renewing light of the sunrise. Will my house feel exactly like being in the Fern House? Probably not.

If you wanted to create your own version of the Fern House, Bob will happily sell you the plans to create one, at $150. You won’t regret it. Someone in Wisconsin has already built one and it turned out very well. I know that once I’ve got a slice of land somewhere, I plan to build my own folly in the woods, maybe even one like Bob’s, just a short hike from the tiny house.

Last year, a professional filmmaker interviewed Bob, and the resulting short clip below gives a great flavor to what I’m describing. This really is a must see.

A few more images, showing the seasons’ change. No ferns in autumn or winter and sleeping outdoors is a little more brisk these times of year.

Fern House in Fall

Fern House in Winter

Check out Robert Swinburne’s blog (Vermont Architect) and his work (Bluetime Collaborative) here: http://swinburnearchitect.com 

The Modern Tiny

There are many, many examples of tiny houses if you look online. Curated below are a couple of examples of modern style tiny houses. There are some interesting and unique design features of these, including: lightweight and inexpensive materials, industrial fixtures, and sometimes minimalist furnishings. These are inspiring to me. I hope you find them fun and interesting idea generators, regardless of the style you want for your own space.

As I am compiling my list of inspiring designs, there’s something I notice; many of tiny homes don’t have names. I’m not sure why not, or why I felt compelled to name my design before it’s even built. I’m calling out three specific examples, and will try to describe them as best I can.

Miller House, near Boise, Idaho


Macy Miller, perhaps one of the more well-known and well published tiny house owners, has created an inspiring project. I’m surprised I haven’t written about it before now.

Macy is an architectural designer, and was able to build this fantastic project for only $11,000 USD. The gooseneck trailer provides a nice sleeping platform, adding to the living space significantly over the more typical designs. The exterior is clad in repurposed shipping pallet slats, and adds a very pleasant texture. I like that the whole trailer bed wasn’t used for living space, and a cozy porch on the tail provides a place of transition before entering the house.

The interior is decidedly modern and the lines are kept clean. There’s some great use of color for accent pieces, like the hand-blown glass lampshades. Many folks I’ve talked to about tiny houses have made comments about the appropriateness for families. Here, a family of three, plus a Great Dane, shows that it can and does work.

Here’s a great interview with Macy on NPR from December of 2013. There’s a great amount of info on her site: MiniMotives.com 

220 SF Tiny House, Western Massachusetts

selman-tiny-house-2011-croppedThis house, build by students from the Warren, Vermont based Yestermorrow Design/Build School, is ground bound—sitting on foundation piers and not wheels. At 3650mm (12′-0″) x 5790mm (19′-0″), it’s still pretty tiny. The polycarbonate cabinet doors look great, and would help reduce weight, important in a wheeled design. As you might be starting to notice, I really like shed roofs. The straw bale hot water heater, feature in the video, is brilliant and another great way to save money and reduce carbon footprint. I also like that it has the same vanity sink I purchased for my project earlier this year.

Minim House

Minim House - 03

The Minim House, designed by Foundry Architects in Washington, DC, is a bit wider than typical trailer homes, meaning a permit and most likely a professional crew would be needed to move  it. However, as I’ve described tiny homes to many new to the idea: they are moveable, however aren’t necessary meant for moving often like a travel trailer. This balance between fixed and wheeled, allows for a well-cared for and high-quality tiny house to become a family heirloom and can help its owners respond to changing jobs and the desire to live in new places without giving up a home. More info available at Minim Micro Homes.


One Night of Tiny House Bliss

Monday night, I tried on my first Tiny House for size. That’s right, I went to the store, picked one out my size and went into the fitting room. OK, actually spent the night at the Caravan Tiny House Hotel in the Northwest area of Portland, Oregon.

Tiny Vacation

It was wonderful. I stayed at the Kangablue, which is the newest arrival. At only 15 SM (160 Square Feet) plus a sleeping loft, it was just right. Surprisingly roomy. I will write-up a more comprehensive review soon, as I seemed to have caught a flu-like thing… I always want to see too much of a new city, and invariably exhaust myself. I wish I had planned a week or two in this hotel, and I could have tried them all. Below is a sampling of pictures for your enjoyment. You can read more about the six tiny houses available to stay in part of the Caravan here: http://tinyhousehotel.com

The pop out now takes on the role of breakfast nook/seating area.

Meet Bento

from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento
from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bento

The FORGE system from my earlier post inspired me. I’ve tried to see how much I can push the limits to keep my shipping container looking unmodified when it’s closed up. By basing the design on the use of a side opening configuration, I can have a container that is largely open along one side as well as the short end. Those doors are big and heavy, however with simple finishes, my overall project should still be roadworthy. 20140614-232214-84134780.jpg

So, on to the good stuff. I have spent a few hours reconsidering nearly every part of the layout and removed the traditional tiny house loft. It is instead replaced with a storage/sleeping platform. Nearly everything that is not being used, which doesn’t contain plumbing, could sit its own little compartment. It’s like a Japanese bento box., or maybe a traditional wooden puzzle box. I’ve tried to have elements of the design serve more than a single function, which really will make this feel like a house that is many times larger than the footprint suggests. So, here it is. I’m taking the lid off my design and I hope you enjoy it. I present, Bento: This series of vignettes is modeled on my iPad, using Autodesk FormIt, a free 3D modeling environment. I will take you through the transport mode, to standard living, to food prep, dining, sleep time and ‘party mode’ (where the center floor space opens up). Click on an image to view the gallery as a slide show.

I still need to work out how the pop out breakfast/reading nook will function. That’s one of the pieces I removed so you could see into the great room. Also, there’s opportunities to explore the storage and access to the covered porch off the bedroom. Now, to begin detailing this design, while continuing to complete a deal with a trailer fabricator. I’m down to three options, and I could have more to share very soon. Exciting! I’m really curious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. Thanks.

Another UnBoxed find: Forge

Since my last update on the models and sketches I’ve been exploring, I decided that my project needs a little simplifying. By maintaining the original enclosure, and removing the loft, I am looking to do more with less. I should have something to share on my own designs again shortly.

I’ve begun exploring Pinterest to look at both tiny houses and shipping container projects, thanks to my good friend and architect Bob. There are so many great projects out there, and I will be updating my ‘pins’ often, so feel free to subscribe. This week, I discovered a site that has developed a flexible system for container studios – very much in line with my new goals for this project. The site is ContainerPlan and they call this system FORGE. I love the tag line –
Dedicated DIY“.
You can download plans and 3D models for a modest fee. There’s some clever design ideas here and even with the doors and a long wall panel removed the design keeps the spirit of the container; while updating the look in a way that would make it welcome in any neighborhood. 20140612-205632-75392817.jpg





To see more details of how these are crafted, see: http://containerplan.com/design-features

Hello, Dolly!

Container DollyWell, here’s an alternative to a trailer that I had not previously considered.  This, dear readers, is what is known as a cargo dolly.  In its former life, this was used by the military to transport equipment and temporary buildings.  This is an intriguing idea, since the container could sit lower than a trailer when transporting to save fuel, and can be set back down and the dolly stowed for future use.  The photo shows it not quite in it’s upright position, which is a little higher than the axle. The seller updated it, added electric brakes, cleaned it up with some shiny paint and it passed inspection with the Texas DOT.  It could be yours, for the right price on eBay. Current bid is USD $2,000. That’s priced significantly less than some other options, which is something to sing about.


First Official Purchase

LILLÅNGENOK, so many would expect the trailer or at least the shipping container as the first thing I would buy. Well, as it turns out the trailer I was looking at buying is a bit more expensive than I was planning, and shipping from the fabricator, located in Florida, would be cost prohibitive as well. I’m now seeking alternatives.

I have been keeping a list of things that I absolutely will include in my design. One of those items, installed in several tiny houses that I admire: the smallest configuration of LILLÅNGEN sink from Ikea. This is a vanity sink which turns the fixture on its side – literally. Since its reversible, I can later decide if I want left or right configuration. I brought this baby home yesterday along with tired feet and a handful of new ideas. I may build a cabinet, use wall brackets or salvage something from the RE Store.

Since I am all about sharing, I’ve modeled this with the optional wall brackets in Revit for your use. It’s a little simplified, however this should help visualize the space required. Please let me know if there are other formats you’d like for these models. I hope you enjoy.

VanitySink_Ikea_LILLÅNGENClick to download the Revit Family:


a shipping container tiny house conversion project

%d bloggers like this: