Four Lights Tiny House Company



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A friend recently suggested that, by now, there’s probably more fiction written about me online than fact. So I spent some time googling myself, and it turns out he may be right. I’ve listed five of my favorite findings below (some true, some false).
 
I’d previously tried to keep my private life private unless some part of it actually related to my “simplicity = happiness” message. By omitting gratuitous details, I’d hoped the focus would remain on my message rather than on me. This hasn’t been entirely the case. 
 
Detractors make up gossip to distract us from the real issues at hand. I hope that in revealing more of myself here, I’ll become less of a subject for this kind of distraction in the future. 
 
5. Jay Shafer’s the Kovorkian of the Tiny House Movement. (False)
 
To be honest, I don’t really know what the term “Kovorkian” means in this context, but I’m assuming it can’t be good, and it can’t be true. I have absolutely no medical background, and I’ve never been successfully convicted of my so-called “crimes”. 
 
The commentator goes on to describe my relationship to the tiny house movement as the, “right religion, wrong messiah”. While it’s strangely flattering to be compared with such bigwigs as Dr. Jack Kavorkian and the Messiah, the author doesn’t seem to mean the latter comparison in a good way either. Her comment is part of a thread that, first, announces
that I’m the leader of an exclusive Tiny House Movement (False) then demands that I be dethroned (uh, ok…). 
 
4. Jay and his business partner must be total potheads. (False) 
 
Mark never smokes marijuana. 
 
3. Jay Shafer is a two-timing pervert. (False) 
 
Even some of the most established purveyors of, so called “news” have gotten in on the action. The Sunday New York Times printed the story of a guy who cheated on his girlfriend as he lured another young woman into his tiny, 96 square foot home on wheels and therein fondled her.  The article (written by the fondled, young woman herself) alleges, amongst other things, that her host’s diminutive home contained little more thana single shelf  “stocked exclusively with books about tiny houses and a good number of Tantric sex manuals”. The article reveals the name of this two-timer’s business and that of his house.  It describes his occupation and even provides a quarter-page illustration of his home. To my dismay, these details identify the adulterer as none other than me. I actually knew of this stories’ author before the stories’ publication. She was stalking me when I lived in Iowa City. * 
 
2. Jay’s a moron. (True) 
 
Though I do prefer “learning disabled”, “intellectually challenged” or, even, “retarded” to being labeled a “moron”, the general sentiment behind this allegation is, indeed, true.
 
I often have a hard time learning new things and performing simple tasks. My primary condition is what’s known as a sequencing disability. I also score alarmingly high on the Asperger scale. Throw in an anxiety disorder and depression, and you can begin to see the madness behind my method.  I, mostly, have trouble reading and spelling; with comprehending what’s being said when there’s background noise; with over-stimulating environments: with testing and with using both hemispheres of my brain at the same time.
 
The upside of this is that in order to compensate for my relative inability to sequence, I’ve developed super-human powers of abstract reasoning and comparable visual and spatial perception (not seeing, but making sense of what is seen). I should add that since men do generally have a weaker connection between the cerebral hemispheres than women, my condition makes me particularly manly.
 
I wouldn’t be the first to claim that my weaknesses are also my strengths.  Like many who are said to think outside the box, I’ve never really been able to get in to the box in the first place.
 
1. Jay’s beard looks a little “survivalist”. (True) 
 
When I ran across this offering in some online “Should Jay Shave?” discussion, I immediately headed for my razor. I could see myself more clearly through the eyes of others, and what we all saw wasn’t the look a guy pushing the tiny house thing should probably maintain. While I haven’t included much of it here, a lot of the criticism I’ve seen about me and my work is actually accompanied by solid critical thinking. Some comments have been offered anonymously, but here’s what I could find as far as additional credits go. Most can be found in their full context by googling the phrase in question.
 
He’s the “Kovorkian of the Small House Movement”, “… right religion, wrong messiah”. - Anne
His shelves were “stocked exclusively with books about tiny houses and a good number of Tantric sex manuals”. – Xeni Fragakis
“One photo screams “mild-mannered architect” and the other has a sort of “survivalist in a shack” vibe. But it’s his face, so he can do as he pleases. – DJ.  

*In response to my repeated request that the Times print a correction and remove the story from its website, Asst. General Council of the New York Times, George Freeman, wrote that pressing the issue further “might subject (me) to possible legal claims”. This is what’s commonly interpreted as a “slap suit” (i.e. unless you have enough money to go up against our deep pockets in court, just drop it. O.K.?). The story, “A Girl Could Get Cornered In A Tiny House”, can still be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/05/fashion/sundaystyles/05love.html
 

Posted by Brett Torrey Haynes — April 25, 2013

Comments

Faye Geller:

Unfortunately, once one has become well known enough to appear on the Oprah show, all sorts of people come out of the woodwork for no special reason except they can. To bother “celebrities”, which is what I suppose you became, to some people. To others, such as myself, you became a leader in the Tiny House industry. No more, no less. A designer of tiny puzzles, which fit together beautifully, got past the zoning rules (huge kudos), got past the real estate tax (enormous kudos), and allowed a community of different thinking people to get off the hamster wheel and actually live in peace.

Here’s a little about me: I’m a 64 year single woman whose been trying to go off the grid for 32 years. Right now I’m living in a 550 sq. ft. apt. And saving a very small amount of money every month, operating a small business sewing quilts, & other items for the home, including baby clothes. I work hard, and happily. My goal is to save enough money to buy a Tiny House. That’s my motivation. I don’t have a TV, or a car; too much of a waste of money as I worked out a budget on a fixed income. Neither do I drink or go out to eat. I’m living off grid in many ways, only, in an apartment.

I’ve been inspired by your Tiny Houses Jay. Especially the Four Lights models you’ve designed, with stairs, because I can’t climb ladders. The thought of living in one is with me while I work everyday. I stop for breaks when my back needs a rest, and I usually go online to see what you posted. Everyone needs a dream, and you’ve given me mine.

You’ve given that dream to a huge number of people, and my final point is this. The planet is collapsing under the stress of the carbon footprint that already exists. I hope the tIny building trend will become the norm of the future, not because it’s relatively inexpensive or accessible to more people desiring their own home, but because it is the earth friendly way to live.

Thank you for everything you’ve done so far, and from one whose been searching for the perfect dwelling for more than 30 years, you’ve done an amazing job at creating beautiful houses that make sense.

April 26 2013 at 10:04 AM

bettye barrett:

don’t let anyone rain on your parade. your ideas and plans are awesome. what has jay shafer accomplished other than run his mouth in 5th gear while his brain operates in reverse. sad. to many people are like him can’t light their own candle so they waste their life trying to put out everyone else that has a burning candle and is a true light. no one pays attention to him anyway, follow your dreams and ignore this very sad person. i love your site. when are you comming to atlanta, ga or columbia,sc? would love to attend a workshop.

April 26 2013 at 11:04 AM

Kelly :

That was hilarious, it’s great that you can laugh at others remarks about you. You are awesome just the way you are and I love love love your whole Tiny House kingdom LOL!

April 26 2013 at 11:04 AM

Nina:

HILARIOUS. Quirky Genius Jay is a Rockstar to me. I should clarify: JAY SHAFER from FOUR LIGHTS TINY HOUSE COMPANY. When first looking into Tiny Houses I was all over the web and once I signed up for a 4LTH workshop with Jay, I was approached by a “J.” (attempt to impersonate the real deal, which worked for two emails before I clued in that he’d moved on from the previous company). To be clear – there is only ONE Jay Shafer! (not sure the planet could handle two!)

April 26 2013 at 04:04 PM

em:

Thanks for this. Almost snorted coffee through my nose when I read the NYT article. (Is this the kind of stuff the NYT pays for?!) And I vaguely remember the Kevorkian comment. Still doesn’t make any more sense to me now than when I first read it.

And as far as the beard. . .well, I kinda liked it. But hey, it’s your face.

Keep up the great work! Love the new designs.

April 26 2013 at 05:04 PM

SANDY:

Jay let me first tell you that once you become successful as you have…you will have many who will speak against you…In the meantime if your the leader of a movement…then I guess I’m a follower. Long story short I’m a victim of a horrible housing scam. I bought my first house in 2007 and within 24 hours I knew I was in trouble. The scam was so bad that the states attorney’s office land records office lawyers can not figure out how the crooks pulled it off. Now I’m stuck with a foreclosure on my credit for a house that was foreclosed on. I have documents (certificate of satisfaction) proving that the house was free and clear. Ok enough crying…I found your company online. Now I am a lover of log homes and wondered hmmmm could I actually build one of your designs in a log home…the answer YES! The Whidbey I love it. I found a log home builder that builds small log homes the smallest I’ve seen is 168 square feet but I do know the built one that was 119 for an Expo. Your concept in essence has opened my mind taken me out of the box and provided me with the understanding that I can have a nice home without a 30year mortgage. No you’re not crazy you’re just right. Know that you were put here for a purpose and you are serving that purpose by providing people like me to have a home be it extra tiny or just small…thank from all the Tiny House lovers across the globe.

April 26 2013 at 08:04 PM

Ian:

Hi Jay. So loved that you treat all this negative stuff out there about you with the mirth it deserves, although I must say the attitude of the NYT really stumps me – so freedom of speech isn’t really that cheap!!!
Just keep on connecting with your own internal sources of joy and pay no mind to anything else. Oh, and you know that beards are the new black!
Tumbleweeds were the first tiny houses I stumbled on, not actually looking for them or realizing that there was a “movement” and so happy I did because the whole idea just gels to completely within my consciousness – it just feels right. Well done – keep on keeping on.

April 26 2013 at 08:04 PM

Rhia R. Drouillard:

Not here to judge anyone! Love the tiny house movement no matter who came up with it. Glad Mark doesn’t smoke pot, more for Jay and I. lol

April 26 2013 at 09:04 PM

Ve101:

This made me giggle a bit.

April 26 2013 at 10:04 PM

Davidmcdermott:

I always thought, Jay he is the guy that designed those beautiful small houses based on the golden ratio.
This is the first time I have heard any of these rumours. Just goes to show, those who can create, DO and and the useless ones talk trash about you.

Besides even if it were true, I wouldnt care a damn, its got nothing to do with tiny houses.

April 27 2013 at 02:04 AM

kelly:

well, heres me;buying land in fellsmere florida, (flying out May 7th). will be moving when my son goes off to college (aug 2013). getting a divorce.will be walking (running?) away from the “comforts” & “STRESS” of a bad marriage & a 4 bedroom house. Moving out of Massachusetts, so my soon to be X doesnt stalk me! Leaving with me, my Doberman breeding business that i have built up for the last 6 yrs, anything to start over! i so wanted to take the April Tiny House seminar in MA, but didnt have the funds (scraping together every penny for my escape). I am soooo passionate about living simply, being focused on necessities rather than “stuff”. i am also, Scared to death, dont know how the heck I will do it. will keep you posted….Countdown is on! (ok its been on since my son was in 9th grade…now its here!) LOL!

April 27 2013 at 07:04 AM

Bella LaCrouix:

Kudos! If you have haters like you’ve described, then you’re successful and they may be a bit jealous :) Congrats on your new venture with Four Lights

April 28 2013 at 06:04 AM

Maureen:

Rock on, Jay. You can trap me in a tiny house any ol’ day. ;o)

Your reply to the paparazzi (an epithet) was very characteristic: humble, humorous, well-written, …you’re a guy with class before class was invented.

On a moonlit kayak trip on Friday night I met a guy. Our shared passion? Tiny houses ala Tumbleweed. Turns out we’ve BOTH been obsessively reading, learning, admiring, planning….

April 28 2013 at 07:04 AM

russell:

I had ask you about the different size on the trailer ? I am disable so have problems with stairs. Got a lot of items that my POP and Grammy left me, hard to get rid. I would like a double Fencl. One part to live in the other for a shop wood,metal. Oh what is the news about citys making more laws on the micro units? I had just saw it a few day ago? I also saw a trailer with 3-7000 pound axles and was 40 feet long would this be better for me?

April 28 2013 at 07:04 AM

Sandra Allen:

Taylor Swift said in her song “people throw rocks at things that shine”. If the whole world were full of rockets scientists, there would be no one to build amazing Tiny Homes, which inspire the rest of us.

Don’t let the idiots get you down. You keep on with your great work, shaven or not, because I can’t imagine my life without your ideas, houses, tips, and plans.

We got your back buddy.
Sandi/Salem OR

April 28 2013 at 08:04 AM

Deb:

Seems to me the only one with a problem in all this is Mark! Perhaps an intervention is needed so we can help him with #4. Very funny! If you really do have a stalker, be careful – that letter was definitely an escalation of aggression. I love your homes and hope to one day build a version of my own. Come to the Albany NY area – we rural people don’t like going to the big city for workshops!

April 28 2013 at 09:04 AM

Lisa:

I often tell my clients, “you’re greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness taken to the extreme.” When the haters come out you know you are successful. I’m like Kelly in the comments. Looking to downsize when my son goes off to college. Thinking of putting a tiny house in my back yard and renting out my house so I will have money and time to do whatever the heck I want. Thanks Jay for giving us options! Ignore the haters. And Rock on Kelly!

April 28 2013 at 10:04 AM

Alex:

Jay, America seems to be all about this rigid construct of a nuclear family, consumer culture. Anytime someone like you suggests a different way, there is a lot of pushback. So many of these people are so afraid of leaving their comfort zone they feel compelled to attack, often in the face of evidence that their way is wrong, or at least not the only way. It is amazing how many knock off tiny house construction sites and blogs have sprung up after tumbleweed. Not only is copying the best form of flattery, but proof that you’ve struck on something that people want. Right now there are thousands of people (at least) who, like me, are caught in their own social inertia. They want a change, but don’t know how to take the first step. You have shown people this. Furthermore, the tiny village concept you are working on is a crucial next step in the evolution of the tiny house movement (ie those of us who are willing to build a tiny house need a place to put it other than a strip of concrete next to a freeway). Regardless of what stupid things the knuckleheads say about you, you will always be the guy that led us out of the box. the guy who not only showed us a different path, but that there even was a different path at all.

If people try to divert you from your path it means you are doing something right. keep it up!

April 28 2013 at 10:04 AM

Teri:

Eeewwwuuu, icky that you felt you had to address all that trash.
You & Tumbleweed have changed my life. I don’t care about the rest of it.
You are my hero!

April 28 2013 at 07:04 PM

Teri:

P.S. Can’t wait for the Napoleon Complex!

April 28 2013 at 07:04 PM

Cynthia:

I have loved your work ever since I came across a link to Tumbleweed on aol several years ago. Your designs feel comforting to my boder line asperger and depressive OCD personality. Your books are kept on my bed side table so that I can go to sleep with visions of tiny houses. I am getting closer each day to my own tiny house. My greatest wish at this point is that, Jay, you build it for me. Nothing like a fellow OCD etc to build perfection.

April 28 2013 at 08:04 PM

Teleia:

You don’t have to tell anybody anything you don’t want to. People who believe crap like that aren’t people you want on your side anyway.

I enjoyed this entry, though – I got to giggle quite a bit.

Please just keep designing and promoting. Whether or not it was your goal, you became the most visible leader of th movement, and your work speaks for us all. Not the comments of people who just make s*it up because they don’t have anything better to do.

April 29 2013 at 10:04 AM

Lisa Vaas:

Jay, how whack, how positively whack. It reads like a screenplay. The title: Tiny Homes, Big Troubles. I love your designs and what one of your commenters referred to as your tiny kingdom. It’s serendipitous that a neural uniqueness led to them, but I’m sorry to hear you’ve suffered at the hands of wing nuts, stalkers and trolls. Hang in there: we love you.

April 29 2013 at 10:04 AM

Danielle :

Way to support Jay, guys! I agree with everyone. Eloquent as always, tiny people :)

April 29 2013 at 11:04 AM

Nick Stein:

Crabs in a bucket, the story of life, especially American life. For many satisfaction with little or less than others would pursue makes you an odd favor in our sociocultural system. For me, your ideal lifestyle came to me as an option that I’ve never thought of, having been inspired both by grandiosity and simplicity in life. I took your workshop in Olympia with Dee and read every book I could find on environmental sustainable building, and tiny houses, while learning more about world architecture and finding some realities of human existence and sustainability. These progressed and continued me from one ‘class’ to another into UCLA, as a Psychology Major. But truly, I have an undocumented major in your ‘way of life.’

I’ve found the latter to be much more satisfactory in the long-haul, though poverty and simplicity are often confused by many Americans, especially on this tale. Many of my friends who are appalled by this form of living think just that, and are dismayed when I tell them of my plans to build my own design and live in it, even as possibly returning into a Masters program or a military officer. I tell them it’s not about the money or the size of life, but the quality.

Thanks for standing, and sorry that people have to be that way…they just are. Your sense of humor about the situation is relieving, and to be called the names you have been called just makes me realize on thing, that people have not yet learned to credit themselves. After all, that’s what you are to me, an inspirer to build and craft my own destiny. For some other sadder people, they must cling to another’s identity to feel that life…and not realize their own beauty and strength.

I’ve stayed in a van in West LA, and had my friends tell me back home that I’d never do that…and I say politely to them, “That’s why you don’t have what I have. Because either you don’t want it, (which is fine) or you don’t need to live at this level to accomplish what I am trying to accomplish.” I don’t mean to demean them, just to deter any “You are so lucky” comments that are sure to come.

You inspired me, Jay. But you only showed me the way to open my own brain and get out my own pen and start thinking…and the plan is in motion. Another idea inspired me as well, a book called Material Possessions I found one day. Many other things will inspire me. Whether you are a catalyst to many other’s choices means only two things, that professor, you are an inspirer to others to find their own masked beauty and simplicity in life, and as well, that you are to be called out for doing something different…and enjoying it nonetheless. Keep shining, and mind the claws beneath you, though I have little doubt you’d ever allow them to draw you back in!

April 29 2013 at 02:04 PM

Kate:

That was very funny. I must apologize for finding it humorously entertaining. I am concerned with your passive aggressive stalker. The fact that if she couldn’t have you, she is going to try to ruin you in the public eye. All I can say is that it sounds very suspect. Why write the article? Why now? This woman is seeking notoriety by still trying to hang onto your popularity, and it it shameful that the story was written without the NY Times contacting you for an opposing side. I mean you are a public figure now. (sorry, but you are). Why would they not afford you the opportunity to defend yourself and the truth. Very shabby on their part. Love the new house designs…

April 30 2013 at 06:04 AM

Lynsie:

Why would you even address this garbage, especially on a beautiful website like this one. It makes me think you’re a little crazy and very insecure. Rise above it man.

May 01 2013 at 03:05 PM

Angela Hatfield:

I am no rocket scientist by anyone’s standards, but I know beauty, simplicity, and heart when I see it. I like your work. I am tired of huge houses that collect nothing but dust and greedy family members who wait for their family to die so they can sell. I see it all the time in my field. I know what ist is like to be smashed wrong by people who are just jealous. Pray for them and love them from a distance. GOD will deal with them later…
IF WHAT YOU DO GLORIFIES GOD,AND MAKES YOU HAPPY ; LET THE WORLD BELIEVE WHAT THEY WANT TO..

June 15 2013 at 02:06 PM

Megan Zopf:

Well Jay I guess I’m a “moron” too but I’ve been called worse things for who I am. Your description of that name describes me exactly. Maybe that is why I am so attracted to your homes and tour reasoning behind them. My next goal in life is to live in one so that I can enjoy what life I have left without having to go back out in the corporate world to slave for something I won’t live long enough to own much less maintain. Keep up the good work and thank you for helping me pave my road to LIFE!

September 06 2013 at 03:09 AM

Linda:

Hey, Jay, if it’s any consolation, even movie stars benefit from negative publicity. Better to keep an appearance in public than to vanish completely. This is why some stars make up negative crap about themselves and have it published. I think the public is too smart to believe all the crap that’s out there, Jay. Keep up the good work, man.

November 08 2013 at 06:11 AM

Vern:

Jay, If we do not fall into the “American Norm” like people think we should they think we are misfits. The problem is the norm and it is all about control. Although living in small spaces is not new you have reminded the older generation and brought to light to the younger generation the alternative to live a simple debt free happy life. Also Angela and Megan both hit it on the head as well, family waiting for someone to die for what they can get and at my age 58 I will never live long enough to pay of a mortgage and own this home I’m in. I am looking for a trailer now so I can start building my escape a Tiny House that will be mine and debt free to enjoy myself. You are doing a fantastic job with your designs and are just fine the way you are. Keep up the good work…

January 02 2014 at 04:01 PM

Karen Rickers:

Jay, you’ve got true class.

You were my entry into the Tiny House movement, and were therefore instrumental for shifting my thinking on the topic of possessions and living space.

So glad you’re able to rise above the insanity!

March 02 2014 at 04:03 AM

Jennie Perkins:

Hi Jay, I am just about to start my built with my Tiny House Trailer, and wondering if you do Blue prints or draw up plans? if so can you draw up plans for my Tiny House? I have my plans drawen up on Shetch paper

Thanks JP

July 31 2014 at 01:07 PM

Jennie:

I love this post! Ha, so witty. The person who wrote this can’t possibly be a “moron.” :)

September 19 2014 at 07:09 AM

Neil Sullivan:

Hello Sir, I and my wife have been living smaller for the past ten years and have found to be liberating. We are still downsizing and simplifying to the point where all we will need is a tiny house. Researching for quite some time now we have decided to retire from our day occupations but not our passions (health and wellness) when the right time presents itself. In a nut shell, living small is living a more fulfilled life. Our dream is to own a small parcel of land with a stationary tiny house and to have one that is mobile to travel with.
Thank you for all your hard work that it required to make this a reality…who would have thought that a “tiny house could be so rewarding”.

Kind regards, Cp Sullivan.

January 02 2016 at 03:01 PM

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