Say ‘Hello’ to the Music Box

Now, you’d think I planned the title, if you knew how much I keep messing with house names. I do like removing unnecessary space, which is why I named my house BentoBox and have a second semi-secret project named PlantrBox in the works. Truly coincidence that the builder – the one and only famous Abel Zimmerman, aka Zyl, or Zyl Vardos, came up with the name with the owners.

I’ve visited lots of tiny houses in the last few months as indicated in my last blog post. It’s time to start letting some photos and stories out so I can share with all of you. My writing backlog in incredible.

Kat Ly house
Not the Music Box… my new landie, Kat Ly lives here. photo credit: Malissa Tack

Last weekend, two amazing things happened: I attended a small private gathering of friends to see the Music Box tiny house owned by my friends Kat and Melville in Olympia, WA, and second another Kat moved her tiny house from Kirkland to Everett to join our humble Tiny Acre Collective, parking next to me and the Tiny Tack House. So, we have three houses here again (2 1/2 really  since mine is still far from complete). For this post, let’s focus on the Music Box.

This house is relatively simple in layout, one volume of space, with a bathroom at the front end of the trailer. It’s about 8ftx24ft, weighs 8,500lbs dry and has some really sharps details. Much like my design, the bed is on a raised platform and not a loft. So there’s storage underneath and a rabbit hutch.

Even more great photos are found on the builder’s site.

The Travel Bug

I’ve had the travel bug all my life, and been fortunate enough to see so many places in North America. The largest city in the world, Shanghai, was home for nearly two weeks once for work (and so much sightseeing). I also enjoy living vicariously through others. A group of my colleagues from NBBJ went to Iceland and now that they’ve returned are sharing many of the best of the best photos on the Instagram account: @nbbjoregano (because spice makes everything nice).

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.58.56 PM

I mention this because, I’ve done a lot of travel myself lately. Soul searching of a sort. In the last four months I’ve (all tiny house related) been to North Carolina, Oregon, Alaska, the coast of Washington, Arizona and even visited a new Hobbit House just 3 hours from home. I also went through a personal journey of some very difficult changes in my life. Not much time to share details, because I’m off yet again.

This time I’m heading to the Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs. There, I’ll be hobnobbing, doing some photo journalism for the press, speaking on stage about Designing for Wellness, and signing and selling copies of Turning Tiny as part of my new début as a published author. What is happening to me? Just when I needed it most, all these amazing things come together at once. It’s such a wonderful time to be vibrantly alive.

So, the blog and the tiny house build are not receiving the love they need. I’m focussing more on self-care, and doing the things that give me joy: developing relationships with great people and travel. The house and blog will, though after this pause. When I’m back early next week, there will be so much energy and enthusiasm, you will probably ask me to ‘take it down a notch’. Haha.

IMG_8632 (1)I’ll be shooting lots of photos, and posting on my Instagram, Twitter and new sister Facebook page for this project, UnBoxedHouse. Catch up with you soon.

Tiny House Tour

We’ve been getting more use out of the outdoor spaces here. We had our first community dinner alfresco, although still missing the Carlson family, who are summering in Fairbanks, Alaska, they were here in spirit (their house is still here).

Last weekend we had a tour of the Tiny Acre Collective, showing off the three tiny houses on display. The Tiny Tack house was open for walkthroughs and many people asked questions about my BentoBox project. It was a portion of attendees from the two-day Tumbleweed Tiny House Company workshop taking place in Seattle. We made a few new friends, who are anxious to return and perhaps take part in some work parties. Jenna Spesard and Brittany Yunker were the hosts and instructors of the event.

Ahead of that day, my landies build the first section of our screen wall, which makes sitting in the courtyard so much more private and pleasant. Everything is moveable, so the tiny houses can be rearranged or swapped out if someone needs to move. When the cars are parked behind the screen in the driveway, you can hardly notice them. The shou sugi ban fever is in full swing here at the collective. We now also have a garden with three 6′ x 12′ raised beds, and some smaller ones, all charred with the same technique. I have also finished burning all my siding to go on BentoBox. Things are starting to look real summery and festive. Can’t wait for the plants and fruit trees to grow a bit more. It’s going to be amazing.

SDB_0007The day was heating up. June is apparently the new hottest month in Seattle summers. We’ve had a dozen of so days over 80 since May, and two topping 90. So, as a proper host, I provided organic lemonade and hard cider refreshments.

And just because… summertime! The power of positive thinking is all over this community. Have some musics to put a spring in your step!

It was fantastic event and we facilitated a group photo together of most everyone by lending my new fancy camera – a snippet from my Instagram account, below.

The tiny house community is such a blessing to be part of. I feel so much warmth from the people I encounter every day. How could people not be happy to see these little abodes? I know I feel great every time I walk out my door and see them sitting there around the seating courtyard.


I have a renewed motivation with the weather change (and much less rain than last winter) to make significant progress on my house this summer. I’m officially dried in, and need to install windows and complete some insulation. Hoping to get to the interior in August. So exciting. #TinyOn!

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. 😉


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: 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!

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.

Update, BentoBox design is now really close





Here’s a preview of my current design in progress – Bento Box, a one of a kind shipping container THoW. I spent the last hour annotating the floor plan to make it easier to explain the components. I’ll model the “garage” and other areas below the sleeping/living platform later this weekend and add this to my blog.

Comments and questions are most welcome. I’m so excited I got all the major layout issues worked out in the last two weeks.

I will miss the butterfly roof… it just doesn’t get me the headroom. The only way around that is to punch up past the allowable 14’ height for the west coast states’ DOT limit. I could do something with hydraulics, which while would be the most amazing tiny house ever, might just be beyond my capabilities.

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:

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:

Tiny Talk

IMG_0899I 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.

Read more about Dee, the book and ongoing tour dates on her company’s site Portland Alternative Dwellings – aka PAD.

Christopher Tack, owner with his wife Malissa of the nearby Tiny Tack House, took some great photographs of the event, such a this one below, which you can find more of on the MeetUp site.

Dee Williams signing her book for tiny house enthusiasts north of Seattle, WA. ~ by Christopher Tack,


If, for some reason you are unable to attend a book event, you should watch Dee at a local TEDx event in Portland, OR. I can’t recommend this enough: