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Big Mountains. Tiny House. Living In The Alaskan Bush

Thanks to Pinterest we now all have a way to keep track of inspiration photos, links of interest, passing image thoughts, and more. Prior to March 2010 though we had to use an RSS feed aggregate or browser bookmarks or (gasp!) just be comfortable with the knowledge that after an initial viewing of something we may never see it again. Such is the case for me when I came across Devon & Melissa’s tiny house in Alaska.

Devon 1At just 168 sq.ft. this one room tiny house (seemingly NOT on a trailer) initially captured my attention as it was posted in 2011 which makes it a predecessor of the modern tiny house movement. Located somewhere east of Mount Foraker in the Denali National Park and Preserve area in the Alaskan Range. As Melissa welcomes us in she immediately notes that not only is the house small but also quite cozy. If the rough cut siding on the outside didn’t communicate ‘rustic cabin’ sufficiently the sparse details yet functional inclusions inside lent to her assessment. Cozy, it is.

Devon 2The kitchen has little more than a small fridge and a propane cooktop with a recent addition of some drawer units. The cooktop runs off a 1 lb. propane bottle and there is no sink evident so one is left assuming there is no running water or plumbing available in the tiny house. No matter though as at just 0:00:19 you see a blue water container which indicates a sort of grey water, off-the-grid, system.

The shower system is quite crude in that it is little more than a circular frame that holds a net or shower curtain for privacy and to keep the water in with the downward runoff being collected in an aluminum water trough that – when not in use – hangs on the wall. The duo also seems to wash their faces, their hands, and take care of other hygiene needs right at the kitchen. This was always interesting to me because as we built our THOW we were often asked where we would brush our teeth even though we incorporated an oversized, double basin sink into our build. The last time I checked brushing teeth ends with “brush and spit.” Who cares what sort of vessel you spit into or if you even use a vessel at all! (NOTE: At 0:01:11 Melissa shows us the 5-gallon water bucket) Further down the wall is the rest of the “kitchen” which features an electric tea kettle, a toaster oven, a small microwave, and more storage.

Devon 3The pots hang from the ceiling as well as some other tools and knick knacks. The entire space reminds me of a birth in a boat or even just a great sheepherders wagon or something similar. The coziness, I think, comes from everything being within reach from one place.

As the tour continues around the downstairs we see a countertop with stools which is presumably a spot to work and eat. Melissa points out it is a storage unit as well. We get our first glimpse at the stairs to the sleeping loft which is clearly used as a great dog bed. The footage even allows us to see that the walls are sheetrock and painted and that the windows are trimmed in pre-scrolled, DIY-type window trim.

The stairs are nothing fancy and, in fact, the rise is quite steep. However while being simple the stairs serve great double duty as storage areas for gear, shoes, and books. The steps are like a deep ladder that lead up to a nice sleeping loft that runs almost the same dimensions as the “downstairs” yet offers tremendous storage (through a closet rod, some storage boxes, etc) for both Melissa and Devon. The best part is yet to come though.

Devon 4The mountains out the loft window! WOW! Now I remember why I mentally bookmarked this video in the first place.

Devon 5No spot goes unused in this tiny house. To view more and to hear just a couple minutes more about the tiny house you really owe it to yourself to visit Devon & Melissa’s tiny house in Alaska on YouTube.

Your Turn!

  • Would that view be enough to convince you to move to Alaska?
  • Are your stairs pulling double duty or do they have designations?

 

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A Treehouse Perch With Unobstructed Views

Part of the allure of building a small space is that the imagination is seemingly the only restriction. Interior and exterior space mingle effortlessly and what seems like a traditional structure really is something more. A fine case in point is The Sky Den built by William Hardie Designs along with the eccentric mind of George Clarke.

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First seen on his wildly popular (and imagination-inspiring) Channel 4 program George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, The Sky Den treehouse is actually three structures in one cleverly combined to let in the best of the outdoors while maintaining the best of the indoors. A perfect treehouse space for meditation and reflection, The Sky Dean allows you to perch on its top level and witness everything from the treetop wildlife to the sounds of the river just below.

The square is the central point and main living space of the treehouse-turned-functioning art installation. Clad in what looks to be cedar shakes it features glass doors that open onto a wide balcony with unobstructed views of the river. Inside the square is an impressively versatile space, with a functional kitchen and nooks of fold-away furniture (including two single beds) and wet room accessible from the deck.

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Adjacent to the square is The Circle (shown below during construction). Constructed of corrugated iron, the outpost features a wood-burning stove and al fresco seating and dining. While there is nothing truly special about it it offers a great respite from the cross-wind and allows a perfect location for a cup of tea and a small picnic.

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Finally The Sky Den features its highest point; The Triangle. A small loft-esque space accessed by steps from the outside deck, it is minimally furnished featuring only two small sleeping pallets and a bit of interior walking space. What is most obvious though are the expansive windows allowing for brilliant natural light both day and night as well as access to the sites of the tree canopy just outside.

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In good weather, when there is no wind, the entire roof opens for an unobstructed view of the gold tier Northumberland Dark Skies (see far top photo).

It truly is a remarkable space that so delicately, yet successfully, balances the simplicity of minimalism with the furniture stylings of mid-Century and a dash of European flatpack. But it isn’t just the structure the makes The Sky Den truly amazing. Set in the heart of the Calvert Trust within the Kielder Water and Forest Park, the den is perfect for wildlife lovers and adventure-seekers who want the world around them to only be complimented – not trumped – by their sleeping quarters.

Your Turn!

  • Is this sort of construct for recreation only?
  • Do you want a tiny house that serves to compliment the nature around it?

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From the British Wild: The Lodge at Edenhall

With it’s unique tapering design and rich, golden timber, you expect to see a cabin like The Lodge at Edenhall in a vast Wyoming landscape stateside rather than riverside on the The River Eamont (a river in Cumbria, England and one of the major tributaries of the River Eden, situated in the Northern part of Great Britain). But there it does sit with its intelligent combination of rustic frontier and stylish modernity.

The Lodge is a basic one room cabin with open flooring downstairs and a sleeping loft above. The sense of openness is provided by the single-pane, muntin-less, windows on all sides of the tiny house. Resting on what seems to be large skids made of the same logs as the beam system, the cabin sits isolated in a clearing by a wide sweep of woodland directly on the river bank. Just looking on the cabin you can almost see a rocking chair, lap blanket, and warm cup of coffee and chicory waiting. Likewise, the cabin seems perfect for a small family gathering with a supper of fresh, open-fire grilled, fish, mixed greens, and a bottle of Wrothham Pinot.

While the simple log cabin fits perfectly in its natural setting the feeling inside is simple, cozy, and inviting. Prominently featured in the corner of the main living area is a wood-burning stove with tall pipe and pebble hearth. But rest assured the cabin is far from archaic with its well-equipped kitchen, masterful bedroom, and beautiful wrought-iron spiral staircase. There are comfy armchairs facing the wood-burner, a double sofa bed and sliding doors which open onto the porch to let in cool summer breezes from off the water and, quite frequently, the unfiltered sounds of nature.

The terrain surrounding The Lodge is perfect for hiking both on flatland and foothills as well as mountain biking and light rock climbing. The immediate stretches of river are perfect for fly fishing and potential salmon suppers. If for some reason the immediate area grows old the nearby Lake District offers a variety of outdoor activities ripe for exploration!

What The Lodge lacks in square feet it makes up for in charm and comfort. It’s log cabin design makes it sturdy and economical for most seasonal weather. The mixture of natural logs and timber with milled 2’x4’s and even some sheetrock give the home stylishness and modernity. Perhaps no place more comfortable and no more inspiring exists outside the quaint Lake District of Great Britain.

Your Turn!

  • Have you considered living in a log cabin?
  • Can a log cabin only be in undeveloped areas?

 

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Tiny Houses Aren’t For Kids….are they?

“Can a family live in a small space?” It is a question repeated on forums, posts, discussion boards, and chats, all over the Interwebs. The answer is (sometimes surprisingly so), yes! And there is nothing more gratifying than seeing a small space that incorporates intelligent design and smart solutions. Such is the case with the children’s room Heidi and carpenter husband Thomas have created for their little girl, Alberte. With no less than five kid-tested and kid-approved design elements this is one small space that is just for the kids!

Perhaps the first and most obvious element is the stairs leading up to the sleeping loft. You may also notice the railing to keep a sleeping child safe and secure. It appears to be made of melamine or some other sort of veneer to match the rest of the decor. With wide treads made of birch wood and a bit of an unusually high rise, the steps double as ample cubby storage for toy trucks, dolls, and books. They also encourage walking (by steadying the daughter with a reach rail) and toddling.

A bit more juvenile than some of the ideas found on an earlier post, Alberte’s room is still fairly sophisticated. The round, black pieces of art are actually circular chalkboards for her to write on, doodle on, or have a guest leave her a greeting. It capitalizes on both penmanship learning and creative arts.

Tucked behind the stairs – as kid’s seem to love nooks, crannies, and hiding spots – is the wardrobe area either for daily clothes or fun costumes for make-believe sessions.

And not to be missed, of course, is the wonderful cube that serves as a sitting area, a work area (with dropdown desk), and overall separated space. Because it and the wardrobe are built out their ceiling acts as the foundation for the sleeping loft! But perhaps most fun of all is the wallpaper or vinyl adhesive art that covers the back wall of the built-outs. Encouraging both color and shape recognition as well as being 100% funky, the design is too cute for this too cool tiny design!

Your Turn!

  • Is this the coolest kid’s tiny house within a tiny house?
  • Do kid’s need their own space even in a tiny house?

 

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A Cabin In Six Days

There is perhaps nothing better than a simple cabin tucked away in the woods. That is not true. There is nothing better than a simple cabin tucked away in the woods, built by hand in less than one pay period at a corporate job, and large enough to satisfy the desires of those that live within it. The Six Day Cabin – like the Baubit Mini Cabin before it – is one of those cabins. Build by a set of friends who in the fall of this year ditched their cramped conditions in New York City, Chicago, and Raleigh, to meet just outside of Portland, Oregon, the Six Day Cabin was, in fact, built in just six days so these buddies could give up the rat race if even for a few days and trade in their laptops for hammers and mouses for nails.

In only six days a group of four twenty-somethings manage to turn a week of vacation time into a 200 sq.ft. cabin. By the numbers the project took 40 working hours, 264 – 2x4s, and about $6,065.62 in materials (excluding the land). The group leader is a builder by trade so he had the right experience. The others? Not so much. A group of young, corporate types, they are self-described “novices.” But where there is a will there is a way and these fellas wanted to “use our hands for something other than tapping away at a keyboard or smartphone; to be directly responsible for building a place that we can enjoy together in the coming years; to use vacation for creation rather than escape; and, above all, to learn something new.”

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There is nothing inherently special about the cabin. It is a square living space with no visible plumbing or electric. It features a sleeping loft and not much else. But in the case of this project it seems that some of the lessons the guys learned are even more important than their finished project.

In building (as in anything) mistakes are inevitable, and most can be fixed!

The team – at one point or another – managed to make quite a few mistakes. They bought the wrong lumber from Home Depot. They hammered nails crooked. One of them even fell from a stepladder. They did danced with their reciprocating saw. They measured improperly for door and window cutouts. And these are just the ones they mention on their website. The remarkable thing is that after every mishap the builder of the group, William, would show how to fix the mistake and then tell a story of how he had seen the same mistake before and assured the team they wouldn’t be the last to make it.

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Behind any finished product are dozens of provisional steps no one will ever see.

A foundation and framing are carefully measured, cut, plumbed, leveled, etc. only to be hidden with sheathing and a roof. You put an entire sheet of plywood up where you will eventually carve out a door. Roofing felt is laid down only to be covered by shingles and hidden forever. But in true fashion sometimes creation rises out of destruction.

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 A shared goal, even briefly held, can deepen long-term friendships.

The build team all agrees that while friends may hang out regularly or go out to dinner or go to a party there is something inherently different about a shared goal. While best buddies may have years’ worth of stories to tell and experiences in common they all too often become “normal” and less than spectacular. But when you are mutually invested in a project with a singular goal there is an intimacy that is built and a bond that is made.

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Your Turn!

  • Have you ever built something with your best friends?
  • Do you long for a place of your own where only nature surrounds you?

 

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