I first met Kirsten Dirksen of Fair Companies about a half-decade ago, when she came out to make a video about me and my tiny house. The response to that piece was so positive, and Kirsten had so much fun making it, that she's been filming tiny houses and blogging about them ever since. Her most recent piece takes a little of the pre-existing footage she shot of the tiny house I was in when I first met her and couples it with recent shots of my new tiny house and new tiny life.
I am infatuated with Mary Emerson's "Honey House Project". She attended one of my workshops about a year ago and has, subsequent ally, been changing the world for the better and sending me emails about it. Mary is related to the guy who I named my son, Emerson, and one of my early house designs after. It seems that good work for the greater good may run in the family.
Mary Emerson and 4 other nurses are working on building the Honey House, a portable medical treatment unit for young Brian Ilg, an 8 year-old boy from Patchogue, NY who was born with Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa, a painful, disfiguring skin disorder. You can like the project on their Facebook page here, watch a short interview with one of these dedicated nurses here, or help fund the project here.
Read on for an excerpt from Mary's email…
I'm sending you a few paragraphs from what I'm calling my "pitch letter"—a quick way to let people know what we're doing. I don't have a request of you except permission to carry around a laminated copy of your remark, "I love you and the work you do, Mary Emerson."—and if I put that on a website and attribute the quote to you, I think it would help the cause!
We're nurses from Stony Brook University Hospital who need your help
We're working on a project to benefit eight year old Brian Ilg, a young Patchogue resident (a third-grade student at River Elementary, in the Patchogue-Medford School District ) born with Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa, a debilitating and painful skin disorder. Described as "the worst disease you've NEVER heard of," the continuous blistering caused by this condition disfigures a person's arms, fingers, legs and toes; any kind of friction causes wounds to develop—sleeping on his own pillow at night blisters his ears. The blisters form inside the esophagus, intestines, stomach, mouth and respiratory tract as well. Brian's ability to eat is impaired by microstomia; the oral cavity shrinks because of scarring and adhesions. His tongue is adhered to the bottom of his mouth, and his esophagus is narrowed to the point where he'd choke on a well-chewed french fry. Brian's care entails a daily, three hour-long dressing change of the bandages he requires in order to protect his skin from injury and treat the wounds that affect 60% of his body.
We are building a portable medical treatment unit for Brian—a little house on wheels, with dedicated space for his medical care, which will reduce the spread of infection. The house will have loft space for storage of medical supplies. The house will have climate control. When his dressings are in place, it's like wearing a winter coat and Brian is most comfortable at about 62 degrees; with his dressings removed, however, he's at risk for hypothermia and needs to be in a much warmer environment. Most importantly, the house will have a walk-in whirlpool bathtub in which Brian can submerge himself to clean and gently debride his wounds, which we estimate will reduce his bath-time pain by 50%— there's no drug we could give him would provide that much pain relief; it's a safe, effective, non-narcotic solution to the every day agony caused by bathing. Finally, as an alternative to Extreme Home Makeover-style renovations, another advantage to this little house is the fact that it's on wheels—it can go wherever Brian goes! The house is being built on a 20' long, 8' wide double axle trailer.
This project is entirely nurse-driven; I work with Rosemarie Parisi, another of Brian's nurses, and Lauren Marie Gonzalez, RN, a colleague from Stony Brook University Hospital. We've had a lot of time to assess this patient and his particular needs. You can follow our progress on the Facebook page entitled, Help Build the Honey House. We're applying for 501(3)c status as a registered non-profit; we've incorporated as Care Cottage, Inc. We plan to apply for grants and donations from the for-profit businesses that serve the Epidermolysis Bullosa community, but need to have non-profit status before that's an option. So it's bake sales and car washes until then!
I began working with Brian when he was two; his hands had never been completely unwrapped and he didn't know how to use them; he wasn't walking or talking and was barely eating. We put together a good team of nurses and he had gifted therapists to help him; he made great strides over the next two years and I've never had a more satisfying work experience—no, beyond satisfying, it was thrilling. I felt like Anne Sullivan working with Helen Keller—every day, I used every creative idea I could think of to help this child, and he responded. You don't get chances like that very often; the Honey House is a similar opportunity, and we can all be a part of it!
How can you help?
You can like the project on their Facebook page here or help fund the project here.
We have a Gifford and an Anderjack in New York state and a Weller out here in the San Francisco Bay Area. All three little houses are available with or without wheels, but they’re all sitting on chassis right now, ready to be towed off to some nice little backyard, lakeside parcel or tiny house village. They are shells, which means they can be finished off with whatever layout you want on the inside. In fact, as part of this one-time offer, Jay will custom design the interior of your house for you according to your needs. For an extra $750, we'll paint the outside of the Anderjack or Gifford any color you want.
Each of the houses currently has a large 3’ x 4’ awning window on the backside, one loft window and a tiny door window on the front (except the Weller, which has four windows on the front) and two 20” x 30” windows on the sides, and they’re framed to easily insert a third. The windows are insulated and, of course, the floor, walls and roof are all well insulated too.
Each of the three houses is 7’ x 16’, including a little porch. There’s also room for an additional 84 square feet of loft space overhead. Two full-sized beds could be fit up there, or, if you prefer that your bed be downstairs, there’s plenty of room for a full-size bed down there too.
Each house is $19,000 with wheels and $18,000 without (includes Jay’s help in laying out the inside). Delivery by us is $4 per mile, or, if you’re up for a tiny house road-trip, you can just drive your house straight off the lot yourself. Just be prepared for a lot of rubberneckers along the way. If you want one, just let us know soon, so we can hold on to it for you.
Read more about the houses for sale
What Boneyard Studios has accomplished with a vacant city lot in Washington DC is nothing short of marvelous. The idea: A tiny village of houses that showcase the benefits of simplified living — affordability, sustainability, community — on an urban alley lot, right within view of the nation's Capital.
From their website:
Tiny homes on wheels are being built around the country, sited in backyards and backwoods, providing affordable housing, a green lifestyle, and simplified living to their owners. As the movement grows, we decided to live the questions: Can we build and showcase a few tiny homes on wheels in a DC urban alley lot? Within view of the nation’s Capitol? Not in the woods but in a true community, connected to a neighborhood? Yes, we think. Watch out left coast, the DC adventure begins.
The mission? Here you go:
- showcase creative urban infill on one of many vacant city lots
- promote the benefits of tiny houses: highly affordable housing, green, simple, attractive
- model to the country what a tiny house community could look like
- promote DC zoning/code changes to allow construction/habitation of ADU’s (accessory dwelling units) & tiny houses
- build capacity of DC tiny house designers and builders
Sounds like something you might want to check out, doesn't it? We will be touring Boneyard Studios during our upcoming Tiny House Workshop in DC! Join us October 5-6 for what's sure to be an educational and fun-filled tiny house adventure! Save 15% off your ticket price when you use the discount code WASHINGTONDC15 at checkout. See you there!
tall tales and tiny fictions
It makes sense that, as more information gets published about small houses, more misinformation is bound to surface too. Most of the stories out there are as harmless as they are entertaining. So far as I can tell, it’s not true that the typical tiny house can be built for less than the cost of a single tank of gas; nor is it, apparently, true that some of these places can be heated for a whole week by a single human fart.
1920's House on wheels.
One of the most widely-disseminated stories out there also happens to be one of the most misleading. It proclaims that the very first little home was mounted on a trailer in 2001, and that, in that moment, a housing revolution was born. The house, we are told, was named, “Tumbleweed”! While I might, otherwise, be happy to endorse such a widely-accepted portrayal of the house I built in 1999 (not 2001) as the sole genesis for a revolution, I should really set the record straight on this one, if only for the sake of due credit.
This short fiction readily dismisses the enormous contributions of all the tiny house pioneers who inspired me and my contemporaries. It’s unlikely that I would have ever built Tumbleweed if it hadn’t been for the hundreds of little houses on wheels I’d visited and seen in inspiring picture books, like Les Walker’s Tiny Houses, Jane Lidz’s Rolling Homes and Lloyd Kahn’s Shelter. Essays on the subject of vernacular design and housing rights, like those of Henry Thoreau, Stuart Brand and Witold Rybczynski directly inspired the little manifesto I wrote to accompany my house.
Images from the book Rolling Homes
by Jane Lidz.
Credit where credit is due
My wee home and the equally diminutive essay denouncing America’s prohibitions on small-scale housing are just part of the catalyst that brought some much-needed attention to some big problems with U.S. housing at the turn of the century. Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House book of 1998 also played more than a small role in raising awareness at that pivotal time, as did the example of folks like Greg Johnson and Dee Williams.
While credit for this, so called, revolution can’t be assigned to just one person or house, there is one influence that seems to have held particular sway. The prohibition on small houses, itself, has probably done more to shape this movement and the houses most associated with it than anything else. Loopholes in our antiquated laws that allow many of us to live as simply as we please only if we build our homes on wheels or as very small “sheds” or outside the laws entirely are what drove many of us to pursue such alternative means in the first place.
The seeds of a tiny revolution
A Gyspy Wagon (origin unknown).
There’s no fruit without seed, and visa-versa. I think the broad interest in little houses is very rooted in our inherent drive toward efficient design and deliberate living (with some misdirected excursions into conspicuous consumption along the way). It’s found in pre-code, pre-resale-value-over-use-value structures in this country and anywhere where necessity (Nature’s law) is allowed to determine the shape of our built environment. I’m as honored as anyone to be a part of this tradition, and I owe a debt of gratitude to all the folks who’ve truly planted the seeds of a housing revolution.
It turns out that my wife and Deek Diedricksen are both from the same small town in Connecticut. I'm out here visiting my in-laws, and he was at his parents' house on Tuesday, so he gave me a tour of the tiny house village that's been fueling his interest in wee dwellings ever since he was a kid. Two claustrophiles presented with a few dozen little houses can, it turns out, make the old "kids in a candy store" analogy seem like a total understatement. While Deek's way too cool to be squealing and skipping about, I could tell he wanted to and that he envied my lack of inhibition.
I love hanging out with Deek. In fact, I'd probably like hanging out with a lot of folks far less charismatic than he is, so long as they were willing to enable (indeed, feed) my inner-tiny-house-geek.
The village is near Madison, CT, just off Boston Post Road. I don't want to get any more specific than that, as I get the feeling that residents would rather not have hoards of squealing claustrophiles skipping up and down their streets. If you're geek enough, you'll find it anyway.
Jay Shafer's recent TEDx Talk about the Small House Movement.
TINY LIVING AT THE SONOMA FAIRGROUNDS
Each night, when the Sonoma County Fair closes at 11 p.m., everyone goes home.
Except Joel Fleck — his home is at the fair.
Fleck, a Sebastopol law student, is part of the tiny house movement, and he has brought his custom-built 150-square-foot house to the fairgrounds to demonstrate sustainable living.
READ THE ARTICLE
See Our Weller at the Sonoma COunty Fair
Check out Tiny Town on the Green! Our newly finished Weller shell is on display among several other tiny houses at the Sonoma County Fair. READ MORE
Tiny Houses at the Sonoma County Fair!
Our Weller house will be on display at the Sonoma County Fair's Tiny Town on the Green this year (July 25 - August 11). This unique event will celebrate the seasons in a tiny house "village" by observing many of the major holidays, all within the 16 days of the fair. From snow on Christmas to Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, each day will offer a glimpse into what life might look like over a year in a tiny house village.
Join us for a Tiny House field trip!
Attendees of our Tiny House Workshop at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa (August 10-11) will be taking a field trip to this Tiny House Village at the Sonoma County Fair. This should prove to be an eventful weekend, as we will also be touring Jay Shafer's own Gifford in west Sonoma County. It's not too late to join the fun! Bring a friend and save 30%!
Four Lights Room Components and Furnishings make it easy to customize your tiny house floor plan
When I first started designing little houses, in 1999, I made all of them for, what I imagined to be, a mid-sized person with average needs. In fact, as I imagine myself to be fairly average, I really just designed every house as if it were for me.
The inherent problem with this early strategy became clear as nearly everyone buying my plans rightly customized the layouts. It turns out that a house designed for everyone is really designed for nobody in particular (except for me, in this case). The issue becomes especially clear in a very small home where any parts unused by the occupants just get in the way and anything missing is missed sorely. If you’re living in a 160 square foot home, in which 40 square feet are consumed by an extra, built-in guest bed you never use, that’s a pretty big problem.
Developing a More flexible Tiny Home
To be truly effective, tiny houses have to meet the needs of their occupants and provide/consume nothing more. That’s why I’m now providing the option for DIY design along with my new DIY components. While I do still sell my better-than-average stock plans for relatively average people, I’m now offering unitized furnishings as well. That means if you don’t want an extra built-in bed, you simply don’t have to include one in your design; if your cooking needs exceed the capacity of the little kitchenette, you can add a larger fridge; and if you want a bigger bathroom than the little ones I’ve created, you can simply create your own.
My most integral components (washrooms and stairs) have been proportioned and scaled to fit nicely with the optional window and door placements and overall dimensions of my basic house shells, so creating your own layout is easy.
A Tiny House Designed for You, by You
Our natural world and the best of our built environment are comprised of variation in multiplicity. Vernacular architecture demonstrates this as much as any forest, or meadow, or any place where more-for-more’s sake and innovation-for-inovation’s sake are absent, and nature’s first and only law, necessity, is allowed to govern form. Every occupant-designed home is like a self portrait combining the most archetypal elements of home with some very personal, necessary touches.
Easy to Read, Easy to Build
The plans for these furnishings were designed to be easy-to-read, and the furnishings, themselves, are designed, as much as possible, to be easy-to-build with basic easy-to-find materials and tools. All of them are designed to fit thru the front door of my houses and positioned virtually anywhere inside (the only exception to this is the large washroom, which fits only thru the door of the 10’-wide houses, and not the 7’-wide ones).
Four Lights Tiny House Company
How Does it Work? Wach Jay's Demonstration Video Below