Four Lights Tiny House Company

A Little About Me


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

Posted by Brett Torrey Haynes — April 25, 2013

Four Lights Pinterest Contest


You may still be in the planning stage of building your Four Lights Tiny House, but who says you have to wait? Why not build a virtual one today? You can with our 1st Four Lights Pinterest Contest. We are looking for boards that showcase what your perfect tiny house retreat would look like. Here are the rules:

  1. Build a board on Pinterest with "Four Lights" in the title.
  2. Your board must contain at least one image of one of the 6 Four Lights Tiny Houses. Remember, those images can only be found at the Four Lights Tiny House website.
  3. Once you've build your dream Four Lights Tiny House, send an email to with "Pinterest Contest" in the subject line and a link to your board.
  4. Pinterest pinboards can be submitted starting today, April 25, 2013 through Tuesday, April 30, 2013.
  5. Have fun!

On Thursday, May 2, 2013, I will post the top 10 boards as determined by our staff. Then our readers will vote for the winner. You can vote for you favorite board through Sunday, May 5th, 2013. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 6th, 2013.

And now the good stuff: The prizes! A copy of both the DIY book and the Small House Book to help you with your tiny house dreams

I can't wait to see what you fine, tiny house lovin' folks come up with!


Posted by Brett Torrey Haynes — April 25, 2013

Build tiny, build green.


It makes sense that many who want to build a Four Lights Tiny House want to make it as eco-friendly as they can. After all, if you are going to reduce you footprint, you might as well make it as green as possible, right? What can you do to accomplish that when building your very own tiny home? Here are a list of options that can help:

  1. Use recycled materials. Many have discovered that places like Craigslist can be a great resource for finding just about anything you’ll need in your build. We found a few of our trailers on Craigslist for a substantial discount. Doors, windows, toilets and more can also be obtained by searching through your city’s Craigslist. Another great resource are new construction sites. Be sure to ask permission from the foreman of the site before swiping that tempting timber. Some areas even have centers where you can find recycled materials, like this one in Petaluma, CA.
  2. Use as many earth friendly products in your build as you can.  For instance, Jay likes to use beeswax to polish up his floors and walls vs. more toxic forms of protection. With so many eco-friendly options out there, you can find a green replacement for almost every item you’ll use in your build. Don’t be afraid of that composting toilet, either. It’s your friend!
  3. Go solar. Solar is a great alternative to traditional energy sources. There are some great products out there that are both economical and portable.

Do you have any suggestions for building with sustainability in mind? Let us know in the comments. I would love to put together a resources page, so feel free to share any local or regional resources.

p.s. Speaking of being eco-friendly: Did you know you can get a paperless copy of the Small House Book? Grab a copy for your Kindle and iPad right here.

Posted by Brett Torrey Haynes — April 10, 2013

Jay's Gifford: A Virtual "Open House"


Want to take a virtual tour of Jay Shafer's Gifford? The following video is from an open house that took place in 2011, when Jay first moved into his newly finished Gifford. It provides a sneak peek into the moving-in process, sprinkled with a few tiny house furnishing tips from Jay.

There's also a brief description of how our flexible floor plans work with our component furnishings, making it much easier for you to design your own personal space. In brief: You design your own customized floor plan by moving the bathroom and kitchen components wherever you wish within the house shell. But I'll let Jay tell you about that in the video below:

Furnished and landscaped

It didn't take long for Jay to apply his magic touch to the interior and exterior of his house. Now the Gifford sits majestically among bamboo and perennial grasses.

Gifford in the Grass
Gifford Roof Line
Below: A peek inside the kitchen...
Jay's Gifford Kitchen
The ladder up to the loft...
The Gifford great room...
The cozy loft...


For MORE images of the beautiful Gifford, take a virtual walkthrough on our Facebook page HERE. Throw a "like" our way while you're there! 



Posted by Alicia Feltman — February 13, 2013

Let's Build a House together

When you were a kid, did you ever dream about having your very own loft? There’s something magical about climbing a ladder to snuggle up in your personal retreat above the hustle and bustle of the family household. It’s the next best thing to having a tree house or secret fort. The rungs of a simple ladder almost universally symbolize the ascent to higher realms of consciousness, a metaphor that fits nicely with our perception of lofts being places of creativity and imagination, especially for children.  

I feel pretty good about building the house …
it helps the earth! — Koruna Light

Ten year old Karuna Light is dreaming of her own loft while she helps her step-dad, Ram Dass Khalsa, build a tiny house for their family. Last year Ram Dass and his wife Lakshmi Light attended one of Jay Shafer’s workshops with the intent of simplifying their lives, living more sustainably, and making more time together as a family. Building a tiny house seemed like a great way to save money so that they could invest in the things they are passionate about. For Ram Dass that’s his career as a professional musician and music producer. Lakshmi is a Reiki master and talented visual artist. Both were inspired to take the leap to tiny living and, as happenstance would have it, the town to which they were relocating was the town where Jay and his family lives.

This revelation sparked a mutually beneficial arrangement for both families. Jay and his wife Marty were looking for a nanny for their two children and happened to have the perfect space for the Light family to build their tiny home. The project was off to a good start in October, but weather and health issues have delayed the Light family’s build through the winter. 

Help the Light family build their tiny house!

With Four Lights Tiny House Company’s first-ever workshop just around the corner in February, we’ve come up with a plan to rally some support and help this family build their house. Workshop attendees will have a unique opportunity to put their new knowledge and skills to work right way. We’re actively recruiting those who complete the two day workshop as volunteers to help finish this tiny house. In the three days following the workshop (February 18-20), Jay will be on site assisting with the build. We’re hoping to assemble a team to get it done, so If you’re interested in getting some hands-on building experience, this is the workshop to attend! 

Karuna is a social butterfly who makes friends wherever she goes. She’s creative to the degree that she can turn an old tee-shirt into a skirt and handbag using a needle and scavenged piece of thread. When she learned that we were gathering volunteers to help build her family’s home, she did what any marvelously creative and resourceful ten year old would do... she wrote an inspiring Thank You note to help get all hands on deck! If the pop-up below doesn't work for you, CLICK HERE to read Koruna's letter.

Let’s help Karuna get her magical loft. Will you join us in Sebastopol this February?

Posted by Jay Shafer — January 10, 2013

‪There... Are... Four... Lights!‬

Or "How We Named Our Company by Following Radiohead Down the Rabbit Hole"

Mark, Alicia, Takeshi and I—and seemingly everyone we know—spent way too much time trying to decide what company name to go with. In the end we chose the one amongst dozens that most closely reflects our values.

Upon recently googling some Radiohead lyrics, I rediscovered that “2+2=5” is a direct reference to George Orwell’s 1984. I say, “RE-discovered”, because, in high school, I learned (then forgot) that “2+2=5” is, essentially, Orwellian shorthand for the concept that common sense is our best defense against senseless authoritarianism. More googling led me to other references to the referent, including a Star Trek episode called Four Lights, which is a way better company name than 2+2=5, if you ask me.

To us, “Four Lights” essentially means, “common sense uber alles”. — Jay Shafer

Captain Picard stands up against the Cardassians while under extreme duress: 

For your listening pleasure: Radiohead's 2+2=5

Posted by Jay Shafer — December 13, 2012

A Good Home: Sustainability

Excerpt from Jay Shafer's Small House Book (Part 2 - A Good Home)

The scale of our homes should be derived from the real needs of our daily lives, not from vanity, insecurity, or a need for public display. Home should be the setting for life, not the measure of it. James Gauer

A small house is not merely as good as its larger correlate, it is better. A home that is designed to meet its occupants’ domestic needs for contented living without exceeding those needs will invariably surpass the quality of a bigger one in terms of sustainability, economics and aesthetics.


Under no circumstances does a 3,000 square foot house for two qualify as “green” architecture. All the photovoltaic panels, solar gain and reclaimed materials in the world can never change that. At 2,400 square feet, the average American house now emits more greenhouse gases than the average American car, produces seven tons of construction waste, and occupies more than thirty times as much land per inhabitant as a home in China.

Our houses have quickly become the biggest in the world—four times the international average. Between 1950 and 2000, the median size of a new house in the U.S. more than doubled, even though the number of people per household shrank by more than twenty-five percent.

Not so long ago you could expect to find just one bathroom in a house, but by 1972, half of all new homes contained two or more bathrooms. Ten years later, three-quarters did. More bathrooms, more bedrooms and dens, bigger rooms overall, and, perhaps most notably, more stuff has come to mean more square footage. America’s houses have, quite literally, become bloated warehouses full of toys, furniture, decorations and a lot of things we most likely will never see or use again.

As prodigal as this may seem already, even a space capable of meeting our extravagant living and storage needs is not always enough. We still have to worry about impressing a perceived audience. Entire rooms must be added to accommodate anticipated parties that may never be given and guests who may never arrive. It is not uncommon for a living room to go unused for months between social gatherings and, even then, quickly empty out as guests gravitate toward the informality of the kitchen.

The issue of over-consumption is conspicuously absent from mainstream green discourse. You are unlikely to find the answer to sprawl offered in a sustainable materials catalogue. Accountable consumption stands to serve no particular business interest. Building financiers and the real estate industry are certainly pleased with the current trend. Bigger is better from their perspective, and they are always eager to tell us so. When adjusted for inflation, houses are the same price per square foot now as they were in the 70s. That means growth is only possible so long as more product is sold.

If you do only one thing to make your new home more environmentally sound, make it small. Unless supporting the housing industry is the kind of sustainability you hope to achieve, a reasonably scaled home is the best way there is to make a positive difference with real estate.

— Jay Shafer 

To read more from Jay's Small House Book, order your copy HERE.

You can also download the first chapter for free HERE

Posted by Alicia Feltman — December 12, 2012

The Company I Keep

Mark (Epu) Sowers, Alicia Feltman and Takeshi Okada are some of the best and most-talented people I know. Lucky for me they’re also the people I work with to bring you the Four Lights Tiny House Company. — Jay Shafer

Jay Shafer

I design all of our houses and furnishings, and I assembled the team you see here.  I love what I do, and I do what I love. 
Turn-ons: Truth, Love and Beauty as great design and as great people. 
Turn-offs: The lack thereof.

Mark Sowers

Design-thinker, user-insights nerd, and desk carpenter.  Mark is the bean counter who keeps fuel in the proverbial tank, so our Four Lights road trip can continue.  
Turn-ons: ridiculous humor, a design approach to making anything better, cooperative organizations  
Turn-offs: ulterior motives, power over common-sense & fairness, obviously-fake 'architectural' stone facades, deus ex machina movie endings.

Alicia Feltman

Alicia is the pixel smith, typographical witchdoctor, and CMYK mixologist for Four Lights Tiny House Company. In her spare time she gardens, cooks exotic meals, and tends her flock of chickens and children on her makeshift urban homestead. 
Turn ons: Challenging the status quo, Subverting the dominant paradigm, and playing the devils advocate. 
Turn offs: Lack of integrity.

Takeshi Okada

Drawer of lines and confidante: Intrepid traveler on two wheels, cryptographer, modernist, musician, and architect. 
Turn-ons: Outspokenness. 
Turn-offs: Willful ignorance and thoughtless consumption.

Posted by Jay Shafer — November 24, 2012

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