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.
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 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.
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.
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 -
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.
Well, 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.
OK, 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.
I enjoy going to lectures and discussions. Typically the venue is quite large, whether a conference, local Seattle “Old Town Hall” lecture, on Giant Steps at the office (our meeting spaces are named after jazz albums) or events hosted by the UW Architecture program. Earlier this month, I went to a Tiny Talk. Not just a small group, it was also a talk about ‘tiny’, as in tiny house living. The meeting area in the bookstore was completely packed and even after the staff brought in extra chairs it was still standing room only.
Dee Williams, an early western pioneer in the tiny house movement in the U.S., has released a book titled “The Big Tiny: A Built-It Myself Memoir”. The talk she gave at Third Place Books, not a 10 minute bus ride from my house, was fantastic. Dee is such a passionate person about life and living tiny. Her energy and ability to share the experiences of living in a small space with such tactility (I hope I’m not giving too much away) really inspired me to begin putting more energy into my design. Her home was one of the first tiny houses on wheels I discovered and I am really enjoying this book.
Is it possible to fall in love with a stove? Meet Kimberly. This tiny stainless steel wonder is what’s known as a high-efficiency gasifier stove. I’ve been weighing the options, and while burning anything for heat is going to produce some pollutants, I likely will not have access to the grid all the time. Heating a house this small with solar could get very expensive and the necessary panels would not fit on the roof. Also, this little gem can be moved into storage in the off months. It’s light enough to pick up without breaking your back like traditional cast iron stoves.
So, weighing the obvious options of propane versus wood, I choose wood. Most any hardwood will burn well in this stove. A recycled sawdust ‘presto’ log supposedly burns for 8 hours, and produces up to 42,500 BTU/hour. That’s almost 10 times as much output possible with the little marine heater (found in many tiny homes) I was considering. Most of the tiny home owners I’ve spoken with who have that particular propane heater have complained about comfort. Sure, I could go with a residential sized stove, like this one from Vermont Castings. We installed one years ago in the first house we bought in Rhode Island. It served us well through some very cold winters in a drafty 75 year old house. So, I have nothing against gas per se, however typical residential heating stoves take up a serious amount of space. Space that is precious in a tiny house.
Because of the way the Kimberly stove works, burning the gasses in the upper chamber above the main firebox, it produces well below both the EPA and Washington State emission standards at only 3.2grams of particulate per hour. Plus it’s made in the Pacific Northwest.
One more trick, if you’ve ever seen the BioLite camp stove, the manufacturer of the Kimberly offers an electric generator that sits on top of the stove. It produces enough heat that can be converted to bonus energy to charge a laptop, phone or run a small appliance – electricity, from fire! All of this adds up to a no brainer, and it costs not nearly the three months of rent and utilities I won’t need to be paying during winter, if all goes as planned. Essentially, this stove pays for itself in less than a season. Plus, what’s not to love about curling up in front of an actual fire?
The Surf Shack is a project, designed by Hartman Kable, that I’m surprised I am just now finding out about. There’s some seriously amazing and well-executed ideas in this compact project. Completed in 2006, this shipping container beach house project has the inverse of my concept. Raw and untouched on the exterior, the advantages of course being it is vandal and weather resistant while closed up. Personally, I’m not fond of white laminate. It does seem to work well in this case. I especially appreciate the way things neatly fold away into the walls.
Given that this project is on the Washington State coast, I will definitely add this to my list of places to visit. There are so many questions I have to ask the designer.
I was inspired to rethink a few details after visiting the Tiny House Conference a few weeks ago. Since I’ve been traveling so much this month, I’ve finally had the time to capture some design decisions in Revit 2015. While one could use just about any tool, even a pencil, to draw up a tiny house project, I use this tool professionally. The new version has added the capability to add ‘sketchy lines’ to the view, which really helps me to study this concept without getting to bogged down in the details. There are a lot of items to resolve, however I think this might be ‘the one’. You feedback is most welcome. Like it or love it, I still would appreciate your thoughts.