My plans for a village had to be put on hold for a couple years due to unforeseen personal circumstances. They'd still be on the back burner if not for my new developer-friend, Vince Rizzo . Vince is, apparently, the answer to my prayers for someone who'll take care of zoning, permitting and all the other developer-stuff I'd rather not do.
New site, new plan
I've come up with a new site plan for the community. Unlike my previous designs, this one is designed specifically for an existing piece of land. Nothing's set in stone yet, but it's encouraging that this property has recently come up for sale and that local officials love the idea of a tiny house village in Sonoma County. That it's the same lot I identified seven years ago as the perfect location for what I have in mind, is also encouraging. The Universe conspires.
Part of my intention with the village is to provide myself and my two little boys with a nice place to live that doesn't cost a fortune. I was, at one point, using the term "co-housing for the antisocial" to describe my vision for the complex, but some folks didn't get it. Company and solitude are most appreciated when they're not forced on us—my village design provides ample room for both. I want to live where I can disappear into my little house for days while always knowing that my neighbors are near and that they've got my back. My boys and I have been needing a supportive community, like this one, for a long time. Judging by the positive response to the idea of a tiny house village, it seems we're not alone.
A contagious model of efficiency
For the Tiny House Village idea to spread, it will have to demonstrate how affordable, sustainable and livable a neighborhood can be. Yes, I just used two adjectives that I generally try to avoid when describing what I do. Please know that when I say "affordable" I'm not talking about unnecessarily wide streets lined with artificially subsidized houses—all clad in the same beige T-1-11 siding (I like to call beige the color of shame). When I say "sustainable" I don't mean what the word and it's correlate "green" have come to mean (i.e. almost nothing) when used to market pretty much everything. Before "green" and "sustainable" became adjectives for something and nothing in particular, they were just shorthand for "efficient". Efficiency doesn't pose affordability and quality as opposites. They're parts of the same equation.
This community will have to be more than just a "tiny house village" too. The idea of designing a "tiny house village" doesn't excite me any more than the idea of designing a "tiny house" does. What excites me is designing a vital place where everything's there for a reason and the relationship between these essential parts to each other, and their whole, makes perfect sense. Reducing our collective idea of home (already one of the most meaningful and useful constructs we've got) down until essential meaning and utility are all that's left—THAT'S my idea of a good time.
A Much needed alternative in a pricey area
The lot we've chosen is near Santa Rosa, California. This part of the world is as expensive as it is beautiful, so it's an ideal spot for a bunch of little houses. There's a dire need for truly affordable homes in this, and many other, pricey areas. Smaller, more efficient houses of quality fit the bill.
About a third of the 13 acre property will be occupied by a high-density core comprised of 60 houses, a 2,300 square foot common house, a community workshop, and more than 2,000 linear feet of gently winding walkways to connect it all. The houses will range from about 100 to 400 s.f.. Each will have its own storage shed and will sit on its own 25' x 50' (minimum) parcel. A great room with a big fireplace will occupy most of the common house. A shared kitchen and bathroom and 12 small guest rooms will occupy the rest. Covered parking for more than 64 bikes and one and a half open-air parking spots per house are integral to the design. A portion of the remaining land will, most likely, be used for lower-density housing. The seven or eight acres beyond that are likely to stay as is.
The location feels rural and overlooks one of the state's most biodiverse wildlife habitats, but it's only a 4-minute-walk from a grocery store, a coffee shop and a park. The village has been designed as urban infill so residents won't have to do much driving.
I can't make any promises, but I'm still hoping that, in spite of all my unexpected delays, we can still break ground before year's end.
Have you ever wanted to see what it's like to build a tiny house from scratch? Do you dream of tiny house living but feel like you don't know where to start? If so, then this one-of-a-kind workshop is perfect for you! This unique workshop experience is being held at The Sanctuary Minnesota, an 80 retreat that is the future home of a tiny house village. Our hosts, Bill and Brenda Campbell, have created a welcoming space that is the perfect location for this special workshop.
About The Workshop
Each day starts with an (optional) on-site yoga class & continental breakfast. After breakfast, small groups will be formed. Then, you will rotate between swinging hammers and classroom time throughout the day.
During the hands on portion, you will work on framing a Jay Shafer designed tiny house. Tools are provided and no building experience is necessary. Our team of instructors will be there to guide you. During the classroom presentations, we'll cover a comprehensive list of tiny house and tiny living topics, answering the most popular questions asked by tiny house enthusiasts.
The price of the workshop includes a primitive camp site, class materials, morning yoga, continental breakfast & buffet style lunch daily, and a campfire each evening. There will also be a campfire meet and greet on Tuesday 6/30.
We are thrilled to bring together a wonderful team of tiny house experts to assist you in your tiny house journey. Each brings years of experience and a heartfelt enthusiasm that will surely inspire you:
Tour A Tiny House
One other treat for attendees will be to the opportunity to tour BA's Gifford-style tiny house and As an added bonus, you can win a “spend the night in a tiny house” giveaway!
This workshop is sure to be a momentous occasion and we are so excited to see as many of you there as space permits. Registration is 1200, but if you register by May 1st, 2015, you can attend for just $1,000 – a $200 savings.
Note: This is not a Four Lights Tiny House Co. workshop. Jay Shafer will be teaching, but all inquiries and registration must be done by contacting The Sanctuary. Their contact info can be found here.
A few years ago, The Tiny Life spearheaded a fantastic survey project that shed new light upon the heart of the tiny house movement. You. Many of you out there dreaming about, planning, and building tiny houses participated in the survey. The result? A better understanding of the tiny house movement by all, and this great infographic.
Let's do it again!
The Tiny House Survey is anyone who hopes to live in a tiny house, and those who already do. The survey asks questions about demographics, your house, your life and what you’d like to see in the tiny house movement.
You can find the survey HERE or fill it our below.
New Years resolutions give us an opportunity to take on new challenges or apply a newfound passion and energy to the goals we already have. Transitioning to a tiny house can accomplish a variety of goals at once, both personal and financial. What better time to learn from the success stories of those who have already taken the leap? Every inspiring tiny house journey started somewhere, and we want to take the month of January to explore and learn from those tiny house beginnings. We’ll be posting the stories that inspire us, the tips that we wish we knew when we started, and resources that we hope will be useful as you take the tiny house leap yourself… into a new life of personal and financial freedom. Happy New Year!
First, the decisions
B.A. Norrgard inspired us all by walking away from her high stress job and overhauling her life. She attended one of Jay Shafer’s workshops, bought the Gifford house plan (the same plan as Jay’s own house!), and built her beautiful new house with her own hands and the help of her amazing and supportive friends. She now lives and travels full-time in her hyper-efficient mobile residence. B.A. and her house will be present at many of our upcoming workshops, but if you can’t join us in person, she’s teaching an online webinar to help guide people who want to transition to tiny house living. If you’re still wondering if the tiny house lifestyle is right for you, or you just need help taking the first step, sign up for what’s sure to be a fantastic boost of inspiration and motivation!
From B.A.’s website:
Going Tiny – Is a Life Overhaul for You?
Are you wondering about going Tiny but really just don’t know how to begin? Are you feeling stuck? Does a life change that huge sound equally exciting and terrifying? In this first webinar you will hear how I ditched a 25 year paralegal career with suits, hose and heels and started pulling on bibs and boots in the mornings instead. Sign up and get inspired!
5 Day Tiny House Hands-On Workshop
The Sanctuary Minnesota – Ogilvie, MN | July 1-5, 2015
Ready to Change YOUR World?
This is a one-of-a-kind, never before, FIVE DAY, HANDS-ON tiny house workshop! Join us and spend the week with a power-house of tiny house personalities: the renowned tiny house guru Jay Shafer, tiny-houser B.A. Norrgard, construction professional Daniel Bell and building scientist Mark Fallin at The Sanctuary Minnesota, a scenic, wooded 80 acre facility.
Get your day started with a complimentary yoga class & a continental breakfast.
During the day we will break into groups and rotate between swinging hammers and classroom time. We will frame one of Jay’s new, not-yet-released U-House designs, and have classroom presentations covering a comprehensive list of tiny house and tiny living topics. B.A. is doing another tiny house road trip and bringing her Gifford house with her for you to tour!
In the evenings we’ll sit around a fire pit outside and have tiny house chat – bring your acoustical instruments and your tiny house community dreams!
Daily Presentations by:
Jay Shafer – Tiny house design
BA Norrgard – Transition to and living tiny
Daniel Bell – Tiny house construction
Mark Thomas – On and Off-grid systems for your tiny house
Bill Campbell – The Sanctuary Minnesota, a tiny house community
Cost: $1,200 | Early bird discount: $1,000 if paid by May 1st
- 5 days of lectures, hands-on tiny house construction
- Tour BA’s Gifford tiny house
- Continental breakfast
- Campfire & music at night (bring your acoustic instruments)
Additional bonus presenters, and special event details TBA
Watch for more details:
www.aBedOverMyHead.com & on Facebook
www.FourLightsHouses.com & on Facebook
The Sanctuary Minnesota on Facebook
Questions? Email BA Norrgard HERE
Making a big life change is scary. Do you know what is worse? Regret.
Dee Williams' recently published book, The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, is a fantastic read and a must-have for any tiny house library. I say so right on the back cover with my glowing endorsement that, essentially, says, "This book's fantastic!". Last year, when I received my review copy of the book from Blue Rider Press, my heart leaped as I read the chapter called "The Tiny House Man"... It's about me!
I've never felt more flattered. I love Dee.
The following picture was taken of the two of us when she read from The Big Tiny in San Rafael last Summer. We're good friends, and I didn't want to distract her from her presentation, so I went incognito. My plan was to ask her a bunch of annoying questions without being identified. I guess the costume didn't work very well, because the moment I walked through the door, she waved excitedly and smiled as if she hadn't even noticed my brilliant disguise. A lot of other people just stared at me as if I were some kind of long-haired weirdo. Can you imagine?
I asked my annoying questions anyway, and, as always, Dee didn't show the slightest hint of irritation with me. She's very patient. It seems that all my friends almost have to be.
An excerpt from The Big Tiny can be read for free at the PAD website. You can order Dee's awesome book here.
Jay Austin of Boneyard Studios is featured in this fantastic short film about the legality of tiny houses. The film focuses on zoning code in the DC area, but tiny house dwellers everywhere are faced with the same challenges.
From the film description: "...Austin and his tiny house-dwelling neighbors at Boneyard Studios don't actually live in their own homes much of the time. To skirt some of the zoning regulations, they've added wheels to their homes, which reclassifies them as trailers – and subjects them to regulation by the Department of Motor Vehicles. But current law still requires them to either move their homes from time to time, or keep permanent residences elsewhere."
Read the full article from Reason here and tell us your thoughts in the comments below!
(Film produced, shot, written, narrated, and edited by Todd Krainin. Music by Associated Production Music and Lee Rosevere.)
This week B.A. Norrgard is busy building houses. As some of you may already know from her recent update, she's participating in the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Dallas as they help build homes, communities and hope. More than 5,000 volunteers will build or repair more than 100 homes in one week!
B.A.'s joy from this project is infectious and inspiring. You can follow her progress and marvel at her wonderful and generous spirit on her twitter and facebook accounts. Below are just a few of the precious moments from her adventure.
It’s hard to put into words how my life has changed in the last 6 weeks. Perhaps “whiplash” would be the appropriate term – can you imagine a bigger culture and landscape swing than the one from Dallas, Texas to Sonoma County, California?? Or the difference between the days in a downtown high rise law firm to days filled with tiny houses? My head is spinning!
I left Dallas with my tiny house in tow on August 10th. Accompanying me to help me drive and provide moral support, were my friends Nina Zamudio and Jerry Chandler. Many of you wrote to tell us that you were following our trip via #tinyhousetrip on Twitter (thank you Nina) and we so loved reading all your messages (and actually meeting some of you!) as we made our way across the country! We all agreed that it was an epic week that changed us forever – the house tours, and the goodwill of the American public and the enthusiasm for tiny houses were all just overwhelming in a really spectacular way. Thank you
We arrived at our destination in Sonoma County on August 15th. After some initial settling in, I have been on the job with Four Lights about six weeks. The time has been a blur – so much to learn, so much to do, and so many amazing projects on the horizon! I am so humbled and so blessed to be a part of the tiny house movement and to be working alongside Jay and his amazing staff. If, when I enrolled in my career transition workshop in February of 2012, anyone had told me that I would be in California living my dream in the summer of 2014, I would have believed it, but I wouldn’t have really grasped how that was going to materialize. I’m still in a fair amount of disbelief that I am actually here...
So many of you first validated me on my dream of transitioning my life, and then supported me through my build, and then followed my trip across the country – I cannot express my gratitude. And with that I offer this:
if I can overhaul my life, so can you. If I can chase my dream and make it a reality, anyone can! Yes, making a big life change is scary. But do you know what’s worse? Regret. Get out there and live your dream! It’s never too late!
On Saturday of this week, Jay is giving a one-day workshop that opens with our two tiny houses being open for tour. (I do love a good open house!) About mid-day I will drive to San Francisco and catch a flight back to Dallas. I am proud and honored to have the opportunity to travel and be a part of the Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter Work Project 2014! “For the 31st year, the Carters join Habitat for Humanity to help build homes, communities and hope, as more than 4,000 volunteers will build or repair more than 100 homes.”
Habitat for Humanity has been an organization dear to my heart for many years. I volunteered through the Dallas Bar Association for 11 years. I learned so many skills, and I made lifelong friends. I am just thrilled that Four Lights is supportive of me taking more than a week off and traveling out of state after being on the job for such a short time. How fortunate am I?
So, I will be taking a break from my desk at Four Lights next week. It’s hard to leave when so many exciting things are happening here – not the least of which is our tiny house community!! Yeah! That is going to be launched very soon – check for updates on our Facebook page and our website – its time has come, and it’s over the top exciting!
B.A. Norrgard takes us on a walk through her beautiful Gifford. B.A. recently moved her home from Dallas, Texas to Sebastopol, California to join the Four Lights Team as Tiny House Luminary (or COO in the "real" world). Her house is now parked in Jay Shafer's yard where she gave this recent tour.
B.A.'s house is Four Lights Tiny House Company's Furnished Gifford designed by Jay Shafer. She built the house herself, with framing help from M.A.G.I.C Camp (Mentoring A Girl In Construction)—a free, one-week, day camp designed to introduce high school girls to exciting careers in construction—and the helping hands of friends in the Dallas area.
I particularly love that stained glass window and matching lantern detail. Do you have a favorite part of B.A.'s Gifford? Share in the comments below.