Four Lights Tiny House Company



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OneI made my bed wrong, and then I had to sleep in it

The list of folks who inspired me to start designing efficient, little houses includes the names of existentialists, like Thoreau and Emerson, and the names of architects and writers, like Les Walker and Witold Rybczynski. I recently added Barbara Mandrell to the list. Her 1978 rendition of Sleeping Single In a Double Bed is, after all, what first got me to thinking about how well unused space serves to remind us of our loneliness and the great abyss. I remember first hearing it on the radio when I was in the 8th-grade. Sprawling suburbs, vacant buildings and unused rooms have been giving me the creeps ever since.

Barbara Mandrell

Sleeping single in a double bed

While I don’t remember any direct correlation between the song and my decision to make my first house no bigger than I, alone, would need, it should probably be given some credit— if only for first bringing the source of some long-standing anxiety to full consciousness. Inasmuch as it deserves credit, I’d also like to blame some way-too-literal, subconscious interpretation of the song for the excessively narrow bed I built for my first little home.

Its 30”-width ensured that all the time I spent in it would, indeed, be spent alone. On those few occasions when a girlfriend did spend the night, we’d always begin by trying to sleep together on the 36”-wide, plywood floor. After a bit of forced-intimacy down there, she would, invariably, move up to the padded bed and leave me on the floor where, at least, I could roll over without fear of falling.

Downward-Doggie twice, build bed once

The ideal answer to this problem would have been to figure out how much mattress I would need to be happy before making my bed. Since then, I’ve spent countless hours hanging out in public bathroom stalls, closets and under tables with tape measure in hand. It’s hard for me to get a real sense of how much space I really need to feel comfortable in a very small kitchen, bathroom, living room or sleeping loft without, first, spending a little time in comparably-sized spaces. It’s important that every activity intended for any given space be tested for. I get a strong sense that my restroom acrobatics and occasional need to assume Kama Sutra positions with an invisible partner under one type of table or another has probably caused embarrassment to more than one passerby, but this seems a very small price to pay for getting a home’s design right before building it. In the industry, this kind of empirical planning would be referred to as something like, “Downward-Doggie twice, build bed once.”

Read Mistake #2: “At first, buying an ice scraper for my home’s interior, instead of properly insulating its walls for the Winter, seemed to be in perfect keeping with its quasi-survivalist motif”. 

Posted by Jay Shafer — February 22, 2014

Comments

Jen:

Hilarious and insightful. Looking forward to #2.

February 23 2014 at 04:02 PM

libertymen:

Please save the preaching for someone else.
The new American dream is a garden shed?
I dont think so.

February 24 2014 at 04:02 AM

Veeta:

Amen Jay! I recently purchased the model of the Elm from tumbleweed and am now trying to figure out what kind of bed my husband and I will need to sleep 2. I think we put the cart before the horse on this one. So I totally get #Tip 1 unfortunately a little to late.
Great Tip!
Thanks

February 24 2014 at 05:02 AM

Angela:

Very cute, and in a similar vein, my 5’4" single self discovered ceiling height under a bed loft is worthy of consideration in the event a 6’ friend enters one’s life.

February 24 2014 at 06:02 AM

Marsha Cowan:

This was a cool article and a timely subject. Many people don’t think enough about the practical needs before designing their tiny houses, then later end up selling them when they wise up. I loved my first tiny house so much! However, it had a sleeping loft in which was heaven to sleep on my comfortable double sized mattress, and I did not even mind the ladder climbing so much, but after 6 months reality kicked in when my arthritis grew worse, and I realized I needed a bed downstairs. So I sold my wonderful home and built a newer one with a small attic storage space, but a 6’ sofa downstairs that doubles for a bed. I am 61years old, and now single. I have chosen to remain that way, so my bed is only 26" wide which has proven to work perfectly for me. It is layers of egg crate foam and I honestly have never slept better. So to each his own, but the wisdom of the article rings true. Spend time knowing what you really need before you build it.

February 24 2014 at 08:02 AM

alice h:

Simple solution, build a bed that can expand for doubles but stay small for singles. There are lots of ways to do this that are comfortable and easy to build and use.

February 24 2014 at 08:02 AM

russell:

My mistake was thinking that I could find the TH plans to fit me in Jays book.

February 24 2014 at 08:02 AM

hunter:

why are people so nasty? Jay offered the book for sale he didn’t hold a gun to your head to buy it. where has common sense gone. who buys a new sofa with out measuring their door width? same thing for his book, which by the way I also bought. it is a book to look at, not build from, like designer plans for crying out loud. Russell you need to grow up and stop thinking everyone else can fix your problems with a book. that’s why it’s called DIY do it yourself, like using your brain, people used to build their own homes before WWII ended. then Levitt town started a trend of laziness in America. they build we buy. Crap I say. a sound thinking mind and hands to build are all that a body needs to have a home. Common sense people.. common sense.

February 24 2014 at 10:02 AM

Gaia Kelly:

Many chuckles from this! Your writing is intelligent, humorous,and informative.
I am nearing the final stage of designing the interior space of my small house and discovered my mother’s living room to be almost the equivalent size, and am using tape to imitate kitchen, bathroom and bedroom spaces. It is difficult , for me anyway, to translate lines on a drawing into actual, physical space and being to stand inside the specific space created by tape helps immensely.
Thanks Jay, for sharing your wit and expertise!

February 24 2014 at 11:02 AM

Jay Shafer:

Thanks for the defense, Hunter.
I can see how Russel’s point might be taken as an offense, but I’m not offended in the least. He does, after all, make a good point.

Thanks for comment, Russel.
‘Good point. ’Well taken. I’ve been wanting to update the Small House Book for quite a while now, but my rights to it have been at the center of a legal battle that’s uglier than homemade sin.

(Spoiler Alert!) After I post all 10 of my mistakes, I’ll be repenting for the outdated information in the section of my book entitled “How to Build a House on Wheels” by offering a free PDF addendum to everyone with proof of purchase thru Four Lights. It’ll be comprised of the text I’m writing for this “10 Mistakes” pice and more about the actual process of building a house the right way. The content is far from finished, and it’s unlikely to be done by the time I get thru these posts, but it as soon as I can manage to make it good.

These 10 points should help a lot in the meantime. I’m really hoping that some of the more stalwart tiny house bloggers out there will help to disseminate them, as it seems important that the corrections get out soon. The third of my “10 Mistakes” is the last bit of information that pertains to the integral structure of a building on wheels, so, whatever you do, don’t build a house on wheels before this weekend. After that, I’ll just be addressing process, design and details.

February 26 2014 at 11:02 AM

Ed:

I have not yet started to design my interior space but at my age I don’t look forward to climbing a ladder to a loft so I will design a sleeping area to accommodate a standard double bed. That will compromise other living space but that’s acceptable. I’m building this in Hawaii so I’ll be spending most of my time outside anyway.

I have bought your plans and I have bought a used trailer that needs some mods. My main concern is weight. I would like to build with steel studs and other steel framing materials. I think it would weigh less. I’ve never worked with steel so I’ll have a learning curve but I think it will be worth it. What are your thoughts on using steel? Have you considered making versions of your plans that embrace steel construction? Thx, Ed

March 06 2014 at 09:03 AM

Marya:

Still designing my little house. To test how much or how little kitchen I can live with, I used cardboard boxes and created my tiny space. Then I tried to make my favorite dishes and then of course reconfigured until I was comfortable.

March 07 2014 at 06:03 AM

Cat:

Jay, you continue to be an inspiration. ( :

March 07 2014 at 10:03 AM

Linda:

The only reason I don’t have a tiny house is because it is so friggin’ hard to find a place to LEGALLY park it. And I don’t think zoning officials and city councils are going to come to their senses any time soon.

March 08 2014 at 04:03 PM

Georgina:

I think small space evolution is part of the journey. If it’s perfect from the outset then it will be an inferior process for the soul.

August 24 2015 at 12:08 PM

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