A Tale of Two…

A little tongue in cheek title for this post, with a purpose. You see, two years ago I was beginning construction of BentoBox. Wow. Two years. That was work.


Yeah, I had a number of starts and stops. I’m proud of where I was, and although I thought I’d be living in it after 12, certainly 18 months, I had a lot of life changes and, to be honest, depression to deal with. It was a long journey. I did things to be healthier. To be more open, kind and honest with myself and others. Breaking free from years of doing things in one way. That takes a different kind of work.

Well, today is the beginning of a new era. The journey I started with BentoBox will continue with new owners and a new location in the coming months.

I had a cupcake to celebrate and I bought enough to share with the whole studio at my new job at NBBJ London. These magnificent cupcakes are from my new favourite London baker, Tegan the Vegan, who caters events and will deliver custom orders. I am not afraid to admit in the more than two weeks since I arrived, have had cupcakes from several places here and these are the best.


It’s hard to have two homes. I love Seattle, however I love travel and living in London for the next two years (likely) will be such an adventure. I’ve already started exploring and taking photos. Many of which I’ll post here and Instagram. Seattle is still home to me. Although, I’m getting settled into my flat just one block from the office in a fairly trendy part of the city.


So, the acronym goes Tiny House on Wheels. What about Tiny House on Water? I was able to explore one of the many canals in the city last weekend: Regent’s Canal… where for several miles (yes, distance is still imperial units) there are canal boats. So many canal boats. In fact, a coworker lives in one, and I’m vying for a tour. Some are long, some short, and some are single or double wide. The narrow boats are compatible with the ancient Roman aqueducts that still exist in the country. Locks on the canal are still manually operated. It’s such a wonderful community that’s formed round this lifestyle and the canals edge is a very pedestrian and bike friendly way to get around.

This one is Eddie approved.

Seattle & London

These two cities are each amazing. Comparing them is just not possible. Sure, there’s unfamiliar things like the right-hand drive cars, looking over your right shoulder when crossing the street (important), and the mix of measurements. Pints are bigger here, cups are smaller, and the mile is still a mile, yet recipes for baking are in grams. So, I went native and bought a measuring scale. After seeing all these boats on the water, I somehow needed to make pizza or two, so that happened (see my IG for drool-worthy food posts).

There is more history in both the architectural fabric and art in museums here. For that, I am blown away by every cobblestone street I turn down. And also incredible new architecture. You might ask why the strange title… it’s a reference to ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, by Charles Dickens. I’m sort of having my own revolution of sorts. The dual nature of our world and comparisons of old and new are very much on my mind right now.

Reminders of Dickens are everywhere, including some of the streets around me – there’s an Ebenezer Street just five minutes walk away. Actually, I’ve barely dented the city and have been walking everywhere. I’ll need to ride the trains and black cabs more. And sign up for a double decker bus tour. The weather was Spring-like today, at 16C (60F). Life is good.

The vegan food options here are completely mind blowing. Don’t let anyone tell you the food in the UK is bland. They haven’t been recently. A foodie and (thank the universe) a coffee snobbery have invaded at least in my small corner of the city.

I am missing home, however I can still get my Ethiopian single origin Yirgachefe medium roasted organic fair trade shade grown coffee. Mmmm. I blame my friend Maxwell in Everett, WA (who btw is one of the best baristas I know) for my levelled up coffee taste buds. He’s opening a new shop, which you should all visit. Shameless plug, if you can get there when he opens, go.

Tiny is relative

Everyone defines tiny houses in their own way. I travelled here because I have become a minimalist. It wasn’t easy. I’m thankful for the process that led me here. I will build again another, different tiny house. Will it be from a container? Maybe. There are plenty to go around. Besides the pop up shops and BoxPark and container malls I’ve found, there are apartments and signs, and street art.

I will continue this blog, hopefully helping to document BentoBox with the new owners some time soon. The nice thing about unboxing the future, you are never sure what’s to come. I find that exciting. Stick around, I hope you will join me in the next chapter. Time to pass the keys and trust in the universe. With each end, a new beginning. I love you all.

Minimalize me – buy this book

I have books to sell.

Actually, I have lots of things to sell and give away in the ‘great downsizing’. For those who haven’t heard yet, I’m moving to London in February. Lot’s to say about this, but I’ll be brief – I am taking a new role at NBBJ, in London as the Studio BIM Leader.  Did I mention I leave in a matter of days?

Everything Must Go!

So if you are interested in tiny houses, and don’t have a copy of Turning Tiny yet, go here to take all my remaining stock. It’s only $25 – below retail, and free shipping to the lower 48 states.

Turning Tiny (signed)

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.

Behind the Tiny House Door

So, I actually have a door on my tiny house… For some of you this isn’t news, because I share much with the immediacy of Instagram and microblogging on Facebook. This site takes a little more curating. I’ve not been the best at self promotion in the past, however am getting better.

Below are a series of images showing the door from design to installation (minus the sealing and trim). I’ll return here after some travel (more on that in the next post) and update with descriptions. Enjoy.

Silent But Deadly, or Ten Years Later

I’m quite surprised that my blogging career has lasted ten years this month. I was also about ten years ago that I started working my way toward the west coast, by joining the large design software company, Autodesk. Many things have changed since then. I started initially blogging about technology in architecture, specifically BIM and computational design – which you can always find back at seandburke.com/blog. It’s really dry stuff. Certainly not as much fun as melting steel and charred wood siding. That’s beside the point.

What I really want to share with you is this amazing exposure BentoBox has had recently. I’ve joined the professional tiny housers circuit – apparently. Even though my house is far from complete, the community has been very kind to me and supportive of this idea. Apparently, it doesn’t suck. Some days I feel it might. Today, I’m on top of the world.

For a tiny house enthusiast, I certainly say the word ‘huuuuuge’ often. You’ll just have to listen. Here’s the podcast of all podcasts. Even if you don’t like them, give it a listen. It’s great for any activity – gardening, commuting, sitting on the pot. Oh, and that isn’t the only drug reference, so if you’re easily offended, heed my warning. OK, it’s not really that bad.

What’s really amazing and serendipitous? I am on the episode following Jay Shafer (episode 46), who many consider the founding father of the modern tiny house movement, and who’s newspaper article I first read in 1999 and was immediately hooked. Yeah, I’ve wanted to follow this path for a long time, and now it’s actually happening. Give a listen. I hope you enjoy!

Oh, one footnote – I didn’t name the episode, however it makes me chuckle. Good advice when in tiny enclosed spaces: always have a vent running. And you can feel free to call me “The Notorious SDB” as Derek “Deek” Diedricksen has dubbed me. I have no idea what was on his mind at the time.

Visit http://tinyhousepodcast.com for more info, the ability to subscribe on several platforms, including iTunes, as well as more episodes. It was a lot of fun recording this. And if you want to hear my very first podcast from back in the day, nearly two years ago, check out this post: http://unboxedhouse.com/2014/09/my-first-podcast/. Oh, how times change.

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. 😉


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.


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.


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.