Surf Shack, UnBoxed


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.

Watch the video below (starting at about 1:56), then check out more behind the story, here:

Kable’s more recent work can be found here:

Design progress, a bit sketchy

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.

Digital Fabrication and the Modern Tiny House

20140413-134212.jpgBefore thinking about a shipping container, I considered a sort of caravan/boat hull hybrid. Last year, I watched Alistair Parvin in a TED video titled: “Architecture for the people by the people“, passionately sharing the WikiHouse project for its democratization of design and building, the social impacts of small, affordable housing and how a simple sheet of plywood could be transformed into an entire building system (even the hammer and ladder to assemble it).

Housing for the 99%, designed and fabricated by and for the 99% with local materials. All designs are added to the creative commons, for share and modify open source rights. The basis of WikiHouse is code (also open source) built on top of the commercially available design software formerly owned by Google, and now Trimble – SketchUp (who’s motto is ‘3D for everyone’). Anyone can use the free version, SketchUp Make, to design and build their own tiny, or not so tiny houses for personal, non-commercial use. The best way to get the WikiHouse plugin today is to go to the Extension Warehouse from the SketchUp application toolbar, and search for WikiHouse as shown below.


Once installed, you can browse throughout the library of open source models, like this structural join that I downloaded below. If you wish to manipulate the design, you can generate automatic layouts of the parts as they fit on a sheet stock of the size you specify. By default, the extension is set for metric plywood sizes of 2400mm x 1200mm. You can easily change the units to inches and adjust accordingly.


More complex models, like this entire tiny house below, take a little longer to generate the cut file preview. This house is many more pages, each representing a full-size sheet of plywood. Notice that each part is also labeled, to make it easier to assemble after cutting with a CNC machine.


This open-source project started me thinking how that concept could be ruggedized, made to withstand being pulled around on various terrain, pre-assembled. Images of upside-down boat hulls on a trailer came to mind as a possibility. It would consist of a grid of interlocking plywood parts, to form a shell. A sort of modern ‘Bucky’ Fuller machine for living. 3D printed parts or even an entire house could be exciting. Perhaps elements of those ideas will creep in to the current project, or I will save them for the next one.

Anyway, the co-founder of WikiHouse and now of, Nick Ierodiaconou, will be the Keynote presenter at the SketchUp 3D BaseCamp 2014 tomorrow. And I hope to have a chance to interview him as part of my assignment while here. More on that as the week progresses.

Tiny House Conference

Here’s my recap of the Tiny House Conference, which took place last weekend. I started thinking about this post nearly as soon as I landed in Charlotte, North Carolina. However, something happened when I landed? I was having too much fun to write anything, other than a few Tweets. There were inspiring stories from amazing people. There was much talk about poop. The complexities of utilities and connecting or not connecting a tiny house to the grid were discussed in good detail. We talked about legal constraints and how to work within the system. I can certainly say that I learned a lot.

Attendees were able to tour several well-made tiny homes on wheels, and speak with the owners and builders. Some of the houses looked like miniature cottages, and one was the Just Right Bus. There was even a shipping container home build in progress.

At the conference were a contingent from a nearby college, and the students were planning to build some tiny homes for a project. During the second day, one of those students asked a thought-provoking question. It went something like this: ‘What comes after the Tumbleweed designs’? She went on to probe several of the tiny house dwellers and builders in our group, determined to know if anyone had thought how millennials would reshape this movement. As a modernist, the cottage-style wasn’t speaking to me. I may only be young at heart, however as a designer, I am intrigued by the idea of altering the meaning of a ‘house’. As the old saying says, ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’. Do the traditional construction methods evolved out of the 19th century still make sense today? Do the furnishings have to feel like tiny, shrunken versions of their big home cousins? This movement is certainly evolving. It is and will continue to be expressed in many ways.

Those questions, before I even had the chance to ask myself, have shaped the journey I am taking with my own project.

Overall, the conference was very successful. Not only did I learn a great deal about the process of planning and building a tiny home, I made some connections with people of many different backgrounds from all around North America. I met a couple that lives near Seattle in their tiny home just a few miles from my house. This movement is cutting across many socio-economic, generational and political boundaries. Even thought we may all be living in different countries, states, cities, counties and townships, for that weekend, we experienced a sense of community. That, is very encouraging.

You can find out more from one of the organizers, Ryan Mitchell on his blog: TheTinyLife I hear that some videos, and presentation materials should also become available on the Tiny House Conference blog soon, so stay tuned for that.


A solid foundation is extremely important for any house. We have this thing called ‘gravity’ with which we must contend. Traditionally, house foundations are made of stone or concrete. I am not a traditionalist. In this case, that foundation happens to have wheels. A solid foundation of knowledge also allows one to build experience. Foundations symbolize beginnings. Up until now, this project has been mostly about a dream, a dream that is about to become a little closer to reality.

I am on my way to Charlotte, North Carolina drawn by forces that feel stronger than the pull of gravity. I’m defying gravity right now in an airplane. One pull, is toward the Tiny House Conference. There will be photographing of tiny homes that I tour, and writing about the people I will meet and skills I will learn.

While in Charlotte, I also will be visiting a childhood home of mine in the Pineville neighborhood. It has been a long time since I lived in that house, some 32 years. That house, in all its 1970’s modern ranch and open-floor-plan glory, helped form the foundation, the seeds from which my desire to become an architect sprouted. I sketched my first ideas of sustainable homes (and Dungeons and Dragons maps) while living there.

I also will be spending time with my good friend and former colleague, Phil Read, whom I have formed a bond with over design, classic cars, technology and a shared enjoyment of discomforting ambiguous political satire. He does not live in a tiny house, and that’s alright with me.

At the conference, in addition to blogging and tweeting, hope to find the right knowledge and camaraderie to help get my project off to the right start. Also, if anyone can help me procure the right trailer to haul my container, that would be an excellent beginning. Here’s one possible example, available through ChassisKing out of Florida. It has the twist locks to receive a standard ISO shipping container. I may need a higher weight capacity, depending on the final design. This is a good start.