On writing, and an intended quick update…

If you didn’t figure it out yet, that last post was just a silly April Fools. I do love me some donuts, though especially mini vegan donuts like those found at Mighty-O Donuts in Seattle. I digress… So, I’ve been doing some traveling (which I plan to share more pictures and possible a video or two soon), some thinking, a bit of building, starting a few new hobbies, and lately – although it may not appear that way – a lot more writing. Some of you may not realize that I’ve been freelance writing professionally for a couple of years now in the architecture world. Sure, go see, it’s not all boring software stuff – OK, most of it might be to my readers here. The most interesting assignment to date was to write about the state of women in the architecture profession, by attending an event in Seattle: Carve Your Own Path and Other Takeaways From AIA WLS 2015. As an advocate of equity in the working world across all spectra, this was a very challenging and hopefully respectful look at the challenges, opportunities and success stories for women within work and home life. I share this not because I want to boast, but because my incredibly talented and trusting editor, Wanda Lau, gave me the opportunity to stretch myself out of a comfort zone of technical writing. Being surrounded by and inspired by many excellent writers, you know who you are, I have found it a new passion and have sought further opportunities to “use my words” and hope one day to approach their poetic prose.

And so, begins another new chapter in my life of being a tiny house enthusiast. In addition to the writing I mentioned above, I’ve now begun contributing to Tiny House Magazine. Full-disclosure: there are now affiliate links on this page, including the magazine mentioned. The goal is to do my best to hace minimal impact on your reading, and will only display products and services which I would support. Please feel free to let me know if you have an issue with this direction.


One of my housemates, Malissa Tack, encouraged me to reach out to the editors of the magazine to share my voice. She’s also written a bit about our Tiny Acre Collective, and a few more recent photos of my BentoBox are in there. Yes, I’ll post more about progress, hopefully soon. In the current issue, number 41, I have a review of Ryan Mitchell’s new book, Tiny Houses Built with Recycled Materials in which (I’m quoting myself, and that seems so strange),

The book successfully stitches together a narrative
from these stories, gathered through interviews
conducted by author Mitchell and Amy Annette
Henion, in a way that keeps everything fresh and
interesting. The homes are all very different
expressions, while some have been made with
similar materials, all have a unique character…

.

And I’m already started on another article for the next issue. Stay tuned for more goodness. You can subscribe to the magazine as a PDF, for Kindle, or through iBooks for Apple devices (link on the home page).  As the tiny house community continues to grow in leaps and bounds, malong the opportunities for other new voices to join in, and the content in the magazine will always be fresh.

home-page-book-8-turning-tinyOne other thing I’ve been up to in the tiny house world; I’ve contributed to a nearly released book book (whuut?), named Turning Tiny, along with dozens of other contributors. I’m actually most excited to read all their stories and it nearly escaped my noticed that I’m about to become a published author. My brain melted, just a little. It’s amazing to feel starstruck when you then realize, we’re all stars in our own right for dreaming of something new. Some are in different stages of the dream. I just never want to wake from it – it feels like a warm mug of cocoa. I hope you all get your cocoa, with #vegan marshmallows, of course. 😉

 

Big changes are happening

3/23/16Announcing my new tiny adventure: #UnBoxed #TinyDonuts, made in a #tinyhouse. I can’t wait to get my Kickstarter project going to raise funds for all the tea lights and thimbles of oil needed to make my first dozen. Thank you all, my #tinyhousetribe for your support. I will have signup sheets for my mailing list on the third floor of the hotel at the #tinyhouseconference tonight.

Here’s my inspiration and why I think this will be a huge success!

Fresh: New Imagery

While progress photos are still to come (I have so many that I need to spend an evening to sort and tag), I’d like to share some new imagery. A bit of changes in the field necessitated adjustments to the Revit model to reflect where materials change on the exterior. We’ve had some great weather lately, great if you’re a fish, and taking advantage of that indoor time to add some shine to the feature rendering of BentoBox. If you’re familiar with the older version, we now have simplified the front elevation to have more Shou Sugi Ban treated siding, aligned the storefront window with the operable awning above and now by studying every rain drop that’s fallen in this record Seattle winter, we know where all the deep sills and flashing needs installing. Bonus.

bento-cover

I also have decided to add a little (OK, Baylie told me to “go big or go home”) porch which will sit over the front of the house. This will server the purpose of sheltering as I arrive home, enable me to continue to build confidently in most any weather in this very intricate area where the front door, pop out bay window and utility connections exist, it also provides a nice covered outdoor space next to the courtyard that the entire Tiny Acre Collective – affectionately known as my landies (thanks to my wonderful friends at Simply Home Community for that term). I’ve started building this and still need to find the right translucent roofing material for this structure that is not a blue tarp – perhaps TufTex.

Bento-porch-sm

I’ve started to order glass for the tiny house. Below is the preliminary design submittal for the product Kalwall, a fiberglass insulated panel system, which will be under the folding shed roof. I’m hoping it will make a nice daylighting effect and produce a warm glow from the outside in the evenings. it will be my contemporary version of the lighthouse to mark the way home and help avoid bumping the stone wall in the driveway with my car. I’ll share a higher resolution version of this once all the details are resolved and as always, the BentoBox designs shall be open source and soon available through the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.

kalwall-submittal

 

 

Tiny is My Jam

Tiny can be your jam too. Join me at the 2nd annual National Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs this August. Tickets are on sale now and they will likely go very fast.

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I need you to do something for me. Please be in my cheering section. I’m so pleased to announce that I will be a speaker at this year’s event. It will be amazing! There were approximately 40,000 attendees last year and it was a blast. Like the first event, expect lots of fantastic speakers (my mentors, heroes and the tiny house rock stars will all be there), vendors, great food and drink, and of course many tiny houses to tour.

This year’s event is billed as even BIGGER (and tiny-er). I have no doubt it will not disappoint. Get your incredibly affordable tickets now as an early-bird insider.

Hope to see you there and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Thanks(for)giving

November is the first month we’ve exceeded 2,000 blog views.Appropriate, given the American Thanksgiving holiday. I am thankful to all of you for your tremendous support and encouragement. I believe 2016 will be a big year for UnBoxed. Can’t wait to share more of that journey with you all.

(Photo copyright: iStock.com/spacedrone808)

Going Mobile

So, I have finally made the plunge. I’ve ordered the trailer for my house foundation.

Designing a tiny house on wheels, THoW, is a decision many have to grapple with. Is your tiny house a building, an RV, or something else entirely? That of course will depend on where you live. Zoning laws regulate where one can build or park a tiny house, and if it’s seen as an RV or registered as such, for how long you can live in that place. Some call it recreation, and not living. Living requires a bedroom and kitchen, which by the legal description of them, I will have neither. I’ll elaborate on that topic in a future post. In many cases, you can only recreate in an RV in designated areas and not in others and for a limited amount of time.

We’ve been focused on building for so long, that eventually we’ll need to grapple with these questions. For now, no one is living in or recreating anywhere regarding my tiny house – especially with winter coming and not all the insulation or heating system installed. I’m just building. My full-time residence is in the shared three bedroom home, behind which this project will continue making. The living situation will depend on where we arrive with the town.

So, the trailer becomes important, for a couple of reasons. While not required for this build, as I’m below the minimum of 200 SF size necessary for a permit in this region, it will be incredibly convenient for the upcoming move, adjusting the placement on site and the occasional trade show and conference. Requests for appearances of the BentoBox has been flooding in, and I’m not even fully enclosed yet. I’ve a feeling that 2016 will be a big year!

Below is an image from the vendor’s site, Big Tex. My local dealer, Trailer Station, with multiple locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, gave me a fantastic deal and has been great through the ordering process. I strongly recommend them and looking forward to picking up my trailer soon. Video and photos will follow.


Specifics

While a lot more beefy than your typical tiny house on wheels foundation, I’m not building your typical tiny house. I settled on an 8.5×20 deckover trailer (approximate size in feet). It is 34.5 inches high, and my house will be just under the 14′-0″ Washington State DOT limits for moving without a permit. The trailer rating is 14k GVWR, meaning the trailer and combined load cannot exceed 14,000 lbs. My house in progress at the moment when empty is estimated at 6,000 and the trailer is 3,500 lbs. My budgeted weight for the completed house with belongings will arrive barely under the designed capacity.

Eventually, I’ll attach the four corner twist locks to the trailer frame, so attaching of the container is not only secure, it’s removable when the need arises.

twistLock

Next up, my roof gets installed and then I have to move to the new site in time for our community Open House on December 12th. Fingers crossed it all comes together. Here’s another teaser of the latest arrangement we’re looking to create.

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The Tiny Bunch

Active building on the tiny house has gone for eight months. Sure, the anniversary of buying my container went by this month… I count February as my start. Although life and conferences got in the way, it’s now really beginning to take shape. Now I’ve got new reason to celebrate. A parking space and a shared living situation is about to become real.

I’ve been sitting on this secret long enough. This is so exciting! In the next month, I will be moving my in-progress tiny house (which should also have a metal roof by then) just a few miles North to park next to my friends, Chris and Malissa Tack. I’m moving myself to a rented room in their new big house at the same property, after weeks of downsizing, on Halloween – spooky, scary!

We’re planning the below arrangement of our mobile studios, while we reside in the three bedroom house in front, as an experiment and educational tool to show what’s possible within cities, to one day create a tiny house community.

rendering, courtesy of Malissa Tack, © 2015
photo, courtesy of Christopher Tack, © 2015
photo, courtesy of Christopher Tack, © 2015

The Tiny Tack House, above, sits in place and is now ready for overnight guests. You can read all about their process of moving the house, while only 12 miles away, to its current location. It seems like it’s meant to be exactly there. For more information, see the listing on AirBnB. If you stay a weekend in the tiny house or the guest room of the main house and want to help me build my tiny BentoBox, I won’t complain.

In the last few weeks as we’ve been discussing all of this, I’ve dithered about the idea of plunking down money for a trailer versus a concrete pier foundation system like this: http://www.pinfoundations.com. The system seemed inexpensive at first glance, and in researching more, it is something that needs soil samples, engineering to design the right size, and a crew with a jack hammer to install, on top of welding custom tie downs for the container, I might not save very much. Being ground-bound also has its downsides, and might then make the tiny qualify as an accessory building. Since we dint want to go down that road of red tape, a trailer may just be the best thing. Isn’t it fun that a container lets you delay a decision that would have otherwise been first a year ago when I wanted to start? It will also be easier to play musical houses on the site or take my house to exhibit at an event if it’s on a trailer. So I am 85% sure I’ll be getting a trailer soon. More details soon.

By the way, if you are in the Pacific Northwest, be sure to join our MeetUp group. We’ll be posting an open house event very soon. See you there!

What’s the Story?

For me, the Tiny House Jamboree was less about the houses than the people, more specifically their stories. I recall after seeing Small is Beautiful at a different event, (it was also screened at the Jamboree) speaking with Ben Campbell. Featured as one of four stories in the film, his experiences were very relevant. I expressed how appreciative I was of him sharing his experiences and that I connected with him on several levels. Yes, there were tears during and after the film. Ben’s gracious and humble reply was, and I’m paraphrasing, “Everyone has a story to tell. It could have been anyone in my place and the film would have been also amazing and interesting”. After meeting so many amazing folks at the Jamboree and beyond, I believe he’s spot on.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, I whole heartedly recommend it. I even screened it in the theater in May with about 150 people. Afterward, the Australian director Jeremy Beasley (yes, he was still in the area and made a special trip to Seattle for the event I planned) told some wonderful stories about making the film. He was definitely passionate about the making of this film and explained how it wasn’t really about the houses at all. It turned out to be about relationships – the family we have and the ones we make around us. We even had a Q&A session with some tiny house owners to share their stories and help talk about what it’s like to go tiny in Washington State.

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Jeremy Beasley giving the thumbs up approval of the Maiden Mansion (pocketmansions.com)
Sean and Jeremy excited for the event.
My birthday selfie with the crowd filing into the theater. It was also the first theater the movie had played, as he gleefully explained.
Q&A Session
Q&A panel discussion, from Left to Right: Brittany Yunker, Kerry Alexander, Jeremy Beasley, Hannah Crabtree, Malissa and Christopher Tack

Back to the Jamboree

During the event weekend this occurred to me; In driving through seven big Western states (in as quickly as one and a half days), I realized I wasn’t actually going halfway across the country to see houses. The houses on display were mostly all commercially built houses, sponsoring the event to help make it more exciting and also keep it free for attendees. Many folks did want to see pictures, because they are looking for inspiration, so lines were long. Yes, the houses were all beautiful in different ways, had some excellent details and design ideas, and being tiny houses, are cute as little buttons. They just didn’t have stories yet.

Story telling was a big part of the Tiny House Jamboree, with main stage presentations happening throughout the three-day event. One of my favorite photos above, courtesy of Darin Zaruba, of EcoCabins and organizer of the Jamboree, taken during the day two panel discussion Q&A, where topics ranged from building experiences to the social implications of living in a tiny house community, and the environment, Darin Zaruba (not pictured), Lee Pera, Andrew Morrison, Lina Menard, and Zack Giffin answered eloquently and with brutal honesty. Oh, and that’s Bobby Alcorn in the background, one of the event volunteer organizers, who I’ve had some great conversations with over beer. The people and their stories onstage and off were what jazzed me. This kept my batteries charged, despite my tendency to sleep much less than normal for the five nights I spent in Colorado Springs.

Andrew ‘Drew’ Odom talked about being a digital nomad. Which I seem to have become in my career, when I first became a consultant in 2006 and now as a digital leader in my firm. Yes, I hunkered down in a coffee shop, utilizing the free wi-fi and electricity needed to stay connected to all of you to micro blog and Instagram when I drafted this post so many weeks ago. Digital Nomadicism, a term that I previously associated with road warriors and consultants seems to be an increasing trend with the advent of telecommuting. Tiny house living can support and encourage this way of balancing work and home. Some are doing it as part of a corporate job, others freelance or working more non-traditionally. It isn’t just limited to bloggers. Tiny Houses really enable more flexibility in career, as well as allow one to outsource their life, using services available in the community that would otherwise be ignored. That story really resonated with me not just because of my past, but also because of some things that I’m planning in the very near future. Uh, uhh. Spoilers, sweeties.

I truly believe that tiny houses enable more social interaction with the members of the community and because the idea is so new to many of us, our families and friends (or detractors, sometimes one in the same) and we tend to be located all around the globe, those social networks tend toward the digital as well. I’ve found a nice blend between the two and have formed some amazing connections IRL (in real life) with other enthusiasts. They all have stories, sometimes about their homes, or the ones they dream of, how they are planning or building, what happened as they were discussing this lifestyle choice in their neighborhoods and cities. All very fascinating.

There’s a YouTube channel available now for those who could not attend to see some highlights of the amazing event or like me want to relive the memories. Alexis Stephens & Christian Parsons of Tiny House Expedition, traveling the country in their own tiny house on wheels (THoW) to spread the word about tiny houses, filmed a significant amount of material from the event and the first few of their series of five are available now, here.

Now that I’ve been home in Seattle for a while and had time to reflect, I spent some time to return to this – one of many stories I have in my draft folder. I hope to get them all out there and share with you. I mentioned that new houses, fresh  from the factory floor are still awaiting for their stories. The most exciting house stories for that trip, it turned out were the houses I saw as I was heading home. All of the visits completely serendipitous. In a follow-up post soon, I’ll share three stories about touring and chats I’ve had with these great people. Until then, keep in touch. I enjoy hearing from you.

Jamboree Houses – Part One

With over 20 Tiny Houses officially on display at the first ever (and we hope to become an annual event) Tiny House Jamboree, held in Colorado Springs, Colorado over the last three days, we applied for a Guiness World Book of Records citation for the most tiny houses ever gathered in one place. I also managed to see a few other houses over my weekend. Below is just a small sampling and only one aspect of this large event that some say drew up to 18,000 people on its busiest day, Sunday. Final numbers are still being tallied. I will write more when I have a moment to stop and rest. Lots of traveling to do to return home, and I’ll post about my trip as well. Social media and traditional media are exploding right now to cover this event, pre during and post. Search for the #TinyHouseJamboree in your favorite social network and you’ll find more than you can handle.

Links are provided below to learn more about each home that I toured. I am not yet posting interior shots, because each builder may have better ones and I have to do some editing. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to tour every home. The event was crazy busy and lines were longer than a ride at Disney. I spent most of my time having great conversations and watching the main stage presentations. More on that in a different post. Enjoy the eye candy.

  

Meet the very first production models of the Morrison hOMe by EcoCabins, the host of the event. There were 28 feet (above) and 24 feet models in addition to a steel frame so you could see the ‘bones’ and significant engineering that go into these homes. The feeling of the EcoCabins version, a collaborative effort with Andrew and Gabriella Morrison, is reworked from the original in which the family lives in Southern Oregon.

  
Tumbleweed had two models on display, the Mica (formerly known as the Popomo) – a real favorite of mine (below) – and the Cypress (above). Very sharp.

   

 Tumbleweed managed to acquire the original, built by Jay Shafer in 1999. He lived in this house for five years while bootstrapping his first company and now owns Four Lights Tiny House Company (not on display at this event). Pictured above is the real Jay Shafer, walking back into his house for the first time in many years. He told me where the secret compartments are. Just kidding.

Speaking of Jay Shafer, while signing his book for eager fans, someone brought a really tiny house. I love seeing 3D printed models of designs. It’s a great use of this technology.

  

  
Sprout Tiny Homes had two models, which take a a modern approach both inside and out. I found the exterior to be very well crafted and a standout in the crowd. The stairs with build in storage and guest Murphy bed are unique features, built custom to these models.

  
While not a tiny house, I have to give a shout out to BlackFlagCoffee, who had this elegant mobile kitchen next their tent. If you haven’t experienced a pour over from them, you haven’t had coffee yet. Pairs so good with a Gooey Butter Cake.

  
I didn’t learn much about this one, however it was great to see a DIY model on display in the North lot. There were more homes to tour than could fit in the tiny village.

  
Another off the beaten path, this house by Kona Contractors was worth touring, as it was built without a high loft, conceived to surround a lovely Italian Murphy bed. See my video of this thing in action.

  

This home, the last featured in this post (again, stay tuned for more) is by Tiny House Chattanooga. The break in the roofline takes a simple shed roof form and makes it really appealing.

My Super Exciting UnBoxed Road Trip to the Tiny House Jamboree (plan)

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.  ~ by Robert Frost (from “The Road Not Taken”)

I have so much writing to catch up on… and these next two weeks aren’t going to help. Redefining what’s important in life, building a tiny house, and taking on new responsibilities at the office have kept me busy.

It’s official. I will be at the Tiny House Jamboree, in Colorado Springs late next week. Over ten thousand people have registered for this free, yes free event. You can still show up and register on site. Do it!

For a Tiny House enthusiast like myself, the opportunity to go to the very first Tiny House Jamboree event is such a privilege. I was also lucky enough to attend the first two Tiny House Conferences (in Charlotte, NC and Portland, OR) the last two Springs. This will be a little different. It is a different vibe than other events, not better necessarily, just more like a festival, it is substantially bigger, is free for attendees – sponsored by vendors, will have live music and of course one of the most kick-ass lineups of Tiny House speakers ever assembled.

Things are starting to align really well on this trip. I’ve got my camping gear, lots of great stuff to listen to, and the determination to make this a journey like no other. The exact details and locations are removed to protect the innocent. I leave early on Wednesday morning and am essentially driving 45 hours round trip — enough to cross the country if I straightened out the roads. I’m super pumped just looking at the map, thinking of the people and places I’ll get to see in five days of driving in addition to the three-day event. This is going to rock. If you want to follow my progress on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, I’ll be using the tag #MyTinyRoadTrip.