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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!

Danish 1

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.

Danish 4

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.

Danish 3

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.

Danish 2And 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.

Build Crew

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.

Cut

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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Remodel Makes Tiny Seem Big

Many times the focus of a tiny house is on a build; start to finish. A number of times though these new constructs put blinders on the option of renovating a pre-existing structure. Much can be said of making a tiny house or small house more functional through renovation. Just ask Atelier Drome, LLP architects who rethought a Seattle 1950s mid century home and crafted a very stylish, highly functional, 21st century space from it.

Ravenna 1

According to Atelier Drome the clients wanted to make better use of the home and make the space more usable without increasing the actual footprint. In order to do so the finishes, the kitchen, the bath, and the storage areas, all needed to be updated. One of the most effective additions was that of a new, sliding glass door in the second bedroom cum office allowing natural light from the outdoors to the indoors while also creating a new entrance/exit. A folding wall system was also added separating the entire room from the main living area. This allows the owners to open up the entire space to the exterior but still have privacy for the bedroom when needed.

Ravenna 4

To house a few of their collections display storage and hidden storage was added including built in shelving in each of the bedrooms and living spaces. In this vein a touch of innovation was added to the bathroom where additional storage was added above the shower accessible by the bedroom closet. To make sure the home was energy efficient and space conscious the architect(s) also added energy saving appliances including a washer/dryer combo and an on-demand hot water heater.

Ravenna 2

The addition of stainless steel appliances, clean lined birch cabinetry, ceramic tile work, floating shelves, and formed concrete countertops, allowed even more storage while giving off a modern aesthetic that is neither too similar to a larger, colder space or in direct competition with the original mid-century design.

Ravenna 3

In an effort to increase the function of the tiny house a new deck was added which provides additional living space for more comfortable weather. The deck itself raises up like a platform to reveal a dual purpose: a direct landing from the interior and a bench edge to sit on when enjoying the green space of the backyard.

All in all the Ravenna remodel is a successful one showing how a little bit of planning, a new use of materials, and an understanding of both form and function can make the task of living in a tiny house that much more feasible.

Your Turn!

  • Have you considered renovating instead of building from scratch?
  • How could you repurpose your current space?

 

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Making a Life In The Trees

“The world is full of nice, ordinary little people who live in nice, ordinary little houses on the ground. But didn’t you ever dream of a house up on a tree top?”

~ Father Robinson, Swiss Family Robinson

Treehouse

There is a fascination with treehouse living that all at once allows the inhabitant to be as close to nature as possible as well as create a world of dreams for themselves. They are escape hatches just as much as they are doors to new places. Perhaps no one knows this quite as well as interior designer Lynn Knowlton who has always dreamed of her very own tree fort. And like all over-achievers she decided to do so building a tiny house of sorts in a grove of trees on her land just two and a half hours northwest of Toronto. The beautiful (and sustainable) part of this tree house is that it is 100% recycled claiming the basic building lumber from an aging wood barn.

Treehouse SlideIn a 2012 interview with Lloyd Alter, Knowlton assessed her fort like this: “Truth be told, it is created from something that otherwise would have been torn down and burned. My friend , who we bought the barn from, wanted to see a reclaimed use for her barn. It was blown over by a tornado. It would have been a crime to burn the remnants of that barn.”

The primary note is that the treehouse is not so much a house set upon a large tree but rather a tiny house built on a platform and then raised up amongst trees in a similar fashion to the Braumraum Tree Houses. This typical of southeast Asian homes like those seen primarily in Bali. This style of architecture can be studied in depth by reading a copy of Roxana Waterson’s The Living House: An Anthropology of Architecture in South-East Asia.

The bright red slide adds a touch of whimsy to the otherwise standard structure. Once in a government playground it was removed for a new and improved version. Through a mutual friend the slide found a home from gov’t playground to adult playground!

One of the neatest features though is the open bar complete with stool seating. The area allows for open-air dining, family hang outs, and adult happy hours all nestled in the comfort of the tree canopy.

Treehouse Bar

The treehouse is unfortunately not quite fit for full-time living. While it does appear to have plumbing, electricity, and heat, it lacks insulation and finished interior walls. It does have a comfortable looking wrought iron daybed with exposure to ample natural light. It serves as a wonderful place for a nap or light reading. The walls do have a hidden secret though. They were framed up, wrapped with mosquito netting, and then clad in old barn siding.

Treehouse Living Room

The windows in the treehouse are also reclaimed. Some of them are reportedly from an old church while others are rescued from old houses. To help pass time in the fort Lynn has an excellent collection of books in the small loft just above the salvaged barn sink and coffee area.

Treehouse InteriorThe house is a quaint one and offers inspiration for a number of builds above or below the treetops!

Your Turn!

  • Do you dream of a house in the trees?
  • Would it be your escape or your entry point?

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A Tiny House On The River

Not all dreams of life on the water involve sails, starboard bows, trolling motors, or pontoons. Some, like that of Margy and Wayne Lutz involve just a floating foundation of cedar logs, a modest 675 sq.ft. cabin, and a secluded spot on the water in Hole in the Wall located on Powell Lake in Coastal British Columbia.

Floating CabinLike This Old Boat – a project by John Kolsun – the Lutz cabin was designed and built to be moored. While it can move it is not truly designed to. Rather it is designed to take advantage of a location more or less created by substantial logging and mining in the region.

Cedar Log FloatThe tiny house is completely off-grid and has water access only through a crude but functional pipe and hand spigot, well system. The remainder of utilities come from solar power, wind power, thermo electricity, and wood (for their heater). The Lutz cabin is the third one built by their friend John back in the mid-1990s. Margy and Wayne purchased the float cabin in 2001 for just $25,000.

While 675 sq.ft. may not sound very big it offers Margy and Wayne everything they need including a sizable living space, a lofted bedroom (with a large, double bed), a full bathroom (complete with compost toilet), and a full kitchen which runs primarily on propane.

Their outside living space is vast and gives them large overhang porches for enjoying afternoon showers and winter dustings, a dock big enough for a couple of boats and several water toys, a grilling and a picnic area.

Living Area

Former employees of a school district in Los Angeles both Margy and Wayne are now able to focus their energies on other pursuits. In addition to keeping many of the systems up and running Wayne is also an author penning Canadian stories of boating, hiking, and survival off the grid in coastal British Columbia. Margy is a consultant in grant writing working primarily for a school system. It can be argued though that their full time employ is the cabin itself. Floating Garden

With a garden on its own floating dock and a potato patch on the hillside, Margy spends a lot of her time cultivating plants and providing food for the couple. This allows John to work more on their experimental thermal electric generator that’s attached to their wood stove. It also allows him to keep their stock of wood tended. The pile itself also has its own dedicated float of cedar logs. The other systems that keep the floating cabin comfortable involve two golf cart batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines.

Kitchen

And while it may not be the ideal home for most it is perfect for the Lutz couple as it provides them a breathtaking view of life from a vantage point many will never experience.

Outside View

Your Turn!

  • Could you live both off grid and on the water?

 

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