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Cargo Trailer Takes Off-Grid Off The Radar

With growing uncertainty in the nation, global strife, the fall of the American currency, and a host of other scenarios, the rise of the Prepper is growing as well. And for each prepper seems to come an idea of what housing for an emergency situation might look like. That coupled with the discontentment of RVers for where they have to stay may very well be the incentive for folks like Bill Southworth of Hybrid Propulsion for building what is now becoming known as the stealth camper or travel trailer. His particular build ended up being one of the slickest 80 sq. ft. transforming cargo trailers to date.

Stealth 1Turns out the precipice behind Bill’s build was – as he puts it – “Traveling with a Rottweiler means you stay either in really awful roadside motels or very high end hotels that treat the dog as a guest. He “decided that we needed a way to carry our hotel with us on our journeys. I checked out all the obvious travel trailer options and decided that they were either too large, too ugly, too inefficient, or too poorly constructed. I decided that I could do better.” And better he did. At just 16′ long this former horse trailer nicknamed “Son of a Buggy” is a solar powered gem that features some of the most clever and multi-faceted interior options one could imagine.

Stealth 2The walls, at first site, seem blank and sterile even. But interior designers would call them Scandanavian-inspired in that they are minimalist with high function yet little decor. The idea Bill insists is to make the space appear larger than it is by keep lines clean and make all furnishings and adornments invisible. The walls themselves are made from a honeycomb-type material that is recycled cardboard and covered with a thin birch veneer. The floors are recycled, compressed Mulberry bushes from Sustainable Flooring of Boulder, CO and is actually more durable  and more hard the Teak.

Stealth 4To make the trailer more comfortable and homey the sleeping arrangements are for a king size bed while the bed consists of one stationary twin which doubles as a sofa. When the bed is stowed, a drop down table can be slid into place to make a dining area for four. The entertainment system is a 26″ Samsung LED TV swings out above the bed for Apple TV or HD DirecTV. The printer , computers and WiFi storage is in the cabinet next to the TV. This level of technology is something that is becoming more predominant in tiny houses as even Tim and Shannon’s tiny house features a retractable movie screen with a HD projector and a surround sound system.

Stealth 6

Southworth designed and built his little cabin on wheels to use solar, battery, and power management and it’s designed to store for on board storage so that Bill and his wife can go for weeks off the grid and even off the radar!

Your Turn!

  • Would you want to disappear entirely with your tiny house?


If I Had $1M To Further The Movement

what if questionI was sitting on the porch of my tiny house the other night thinking about tiny houses and the movement when the question floated into my mind: “If I somehow became the steward of $1,000,000 to further the tiny house movement, what would I do?”  It’s an interesting question and I really like thought experiments like this.  So, here is what I’d do:

I think an important first step would be to establish a tiny house proof of concept with a city and create a model that other cities could follow.  I would most likely start in my hometown of Charlotte, mainly because I know the codes better and have some good connections with folks that I’d need to leverage in order to make my plan successful.

I’ve had some preliminary conversations with some community development leaders, developers, lawyers and a few political figures at the point, but have yet to take it much further because the later phases of execution would require funds that I simply don’t have.  So I’d start a dialogue with some key people and then also contract the services of a few people, primarily lawyers that have experience doing community development.  I don’t think things would need to get pushed into the court room, but a few of the lawyers I have in mind know the landscape better than I do, they have the personal connections, they know what meetings you need to show up for, they know who other follow on votes and they know the process.  These things are valuable to the execution of the plan.  I figure it will take about $50,000 in contractor fees, mainly because most of the people would be lawyers ($200-$300 an hr).

Running Total: $50,000

From there I’d work with these people to start conversations with the city about getting a program started where we would essential do a trial run on a particular piece of land for a tiny house community.  I figure about $5,000 in fees, filings, paperwork, etc.

Running Total: $55,000

land_for_sale_29cConcurrently I would be shopping for land, somewhere in the 10-20 acre range of which I have about 5 locations that would be ideally suited for this project.  The key here would be land that could be rezone for a cluster housing setup and located within a 30 minute drive of downtown Charlotte.  The location would be key.  Most people today want the amenities of a city and Charlotte is a decent sized city to meet that need, plus land is relatively cheap and still available.  For the land I’d be looking to spend up to $250,000 which would be the home of the community and a common house that would also later be used to run training events, meetings, etc.

Running Total: $305,000

Next once we had the land and the city’s support, I would work the land (grading, access, roads, parking), install infrastructure (water, sewer, solar, internet, gas), then begin construction.  For this I’m assuming $75,000 to meet city requirements.  I’m also assuming they’ll require us to install storm drains, side walks, and a retention pond because of the number of people, it would be similar to an apartment complex in their eyes.

Running Total: $380,000


Once I had the land secured, I’d put out a call for residents.  There would be an application, interview, and selection process.  The goal would be selecting people who would be good stewards of the first location, would have the ability to interface with the public and the media very well, and people who could help us put a good foot forward in the community.  The group would also have to function well as a team, because I would want a community, not disparate individuals that just want a place to put a tiny house or live cheap.  I envision the people selected would go through a lengthy interview process, jump through a lot of hoops and prove that they are the right people for the mission.

With that group I’d want to do some team building, some communications training and community building.  There will also be some media interface training, so that they can keep calm when a reporter tries to pull a “gotcha”, when a detractor speaks out, or when something goes wrong and they need to operate under pressure.  For that I’d budget about $5,000 for various activities and facilitators.

Running Total: $385,000

 From that point I’d design the houses with each of the people using some tiny house designers I know.  The plans would be used to build the house and then either given away or sold as a revenue generator for the non-profit mission of this incubator.

Established Revenue: $1,000 / month

Each house would be designed, built and paid for by this project, but each person would enter into a 2 or 3 year lease on that house.  I’d guess between $200-$400 for rent and utilities a month.

It might be possible that some of the paid work needed to be done by this project could be paid to these members if they had the required skill sets for the job.  This could also aid in keeping the project accessible for low income individuals.

I would want 10 houses to on the property, half to be people bringing their own house, half built onsite built with about half the labor done by the people themselves.  I figure total cost per built house would be $40,000 for the five built on site for a total of $200,000.

I would also have a common house built (about 2,500 square feet).  I figure about $200,000 for that building.  That building would have a large room, community kitchen, a guest bedroom, laundry and toilets.

In this space I’d tried to save a lot of costs here by doing workshops where people come for the week and get hands on with building a tiny house.  Tickets would be pricey because of the time, meals, organizing etc.  I figure $1500 a person.  This would help offset the costs of the houses.  For the common house I’d try to do that with straw bale or ob and again, make that an event that we would sell tickets to.

Worst Case Running Total: $785,000
Target Running Total: $600,000
Established Revenue: $3,500-$5,000 / month

 This would close the initial phase of the first location.  From here the idea would be to document the entire process and produce some high quality materials, media, and website.  These could be used by tiny house people and by municipalities.  I figure there will be some coding, design and material fees with this $5,000.

Running Total: $605,000
Established Revenue: $3,500-$5,000 / month

The next phase would be taking the revenue generated and building that revenue to become a self sustaining non profit.  The hope here is that with the initial $1M we could build an engine that could pump out tiny house havens and develop training for DIYers, Builders and cities to elevate the community.

The remaining funds to kick off the next location and essentially do lobbying on behalf of tiny houses.  I would also look into tiny house financing, developer partnerships and tiny house insurance.  We would develop tiny house codes that municipalities could plug and play for cities and we would help them in that process.

I’m also playing it safe with the budget because things will inevitably be more expensive, unexpected costs will come up and there will be some staffing costs.

Final Total: $850,000
Revenue: $13,500-$15,000 / month

So that is how I’d move the movement forward with an infusion of $1M.

Your Turn!

  • How would you use the $1M differently for the movement?

The Octagon Tiny House Is At Least 8 Shades of Amazing

Yurts are typically thought of as Mongolian round huts that can easily house a family through the harshest of conditions. But there are a new breed of yurts that appeal to those looking for luxury in a smaller size. One of those is Maui’s ‘Octagon Studio’ at the Aromatherapy Foundation of Maui. How are they different? Unlike the Nomad Yurt the Octagon Tiny house has no wooden bone structure and the roof is made of wood and shingles rather than a roof covering with a compression ring to keep it tight. In fact,  the one room yurt in Maui is more of a cottage or tiny house or even a studio than a true yurt. No matter though as it The provides guests with a charming accommodation and an incredible opportunity to get away and escape from reality. Coupled with sensational views from each window the beautiful wooden house is nothing short of relaxing and rejuvenating.

Yurt 1The cabin, if you will, accommodates 2 people in a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom setup. The bedroom features wood ceilings, a wooden bed frame, nature inspired linens, wood flooring, and an incomparable set of floor to ceiling windows that overlook beautiful fragrant and edible gardens. In addition the bedroom has drapes that surround the bed acting as more than mosquito repellants but rather as privacy curtains from anyone passing by in the gardens and potentially looking in.

Yurt 2While the studio cabin is in a rather remote location removed from society it does has electrical outlets, WiFi, a pool, and a hot tub. It also feature a small kitchenette that allows for food preparation and basic sustenance. It includes a small fridge, a 4-burner range, and a small sink. But with so many exotic fruits and vegetables as well as native meals available cooking may be the last thing on the mind of someone in Makawao (the Upcountry where the studio is located).

Yurt 3As with all houses though – small or large – the room most asked about is the bathroom and this Octagon does not fall short.

Yurt 4With appears to be stained and finished Oak the bathroom is spacious with its almost overly-exposed views. The only thing separating the person bathing and Mother Nature is glass and some beautiful white drapes. It allows for a true natural feel with access to unlimited hot water, great water pressure, and rainfall pressure.

NOTE: The Octagon Studio is located in the beautiful area of Olinda just a few miles above the quaint cowboy town of Makawao. The air at three-thousand feet is fresh and vibrant and the pine and eucalyptus forest above the house provide great hikes and adventures. The cottage is located on an aromatic farm and the mesmerizing scent of rose geranium and lavender is always present. A beautiful 20 minute drive down the hill will bring you to Baldwin Beach near Paia for swimming and beach time and two miles north of Paia are the famous windsurfing and kite-surfing beaches of Hookipa. Both Makawao and Paia provide excellent shopping and dining experiences.

Your Turn!

  • This studio brings up the question of how small is too small? Could you live in this size space?
  • Do you like all the floor-to-ceiling windows?



Mississippi Tiny House Could Be Your Next Vacation

Located in the Boise-Eliot neighborhood and bordering on the very cool and very modern Mississippi Street, this luxurious, single-living tiny space has ideal access to some of Portland’s best shops, restaurants, microbrews and pubs, music venues, boutiques, cafes, and studios.

Miss 5

The space itself is a clever mix of textures featuring primarily wood, metal, and concrete, giving the one and a half bedroom house an Old World sensibility with an infusion of modern and a splash of eco-consciousness! It is at once beautiful, comfortable, and functional. At first glance it is difficult to look past the craftsmanship and hand-shaped details. Just the garden-level, private entry alone seems like an art installation with its oversized glass insert in the front door, its brick flooring, and it subtle use of old wood for the exposed footer.

Miss 1

The invite of the entry is continued in the use of concrete in the main living area. With a much warmer and inviting feel that it would lead on to have the handcrafted Japanese carpentry space is much like the Andrew Reeves designed (for client Patrick Flynn), 566 sq.ft. house in Toronto with its mix of otherwise cold materials: in this case, wood and concrete.

Miss 6Once inside the front door there is overwhelming warmth of the natural including clay walls, wood beamed ceiling, an infusion of natural light, rough hewn furniture pieces, and neutral seating, all set against the backdrop of a gourmet kitchen.

Made to cook in the house boasts a Viking 6-burner stove and convection oven, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops with ample work space, and handmade cabinetry. The subway tile backsplash and open shelving only add to the contemporary achievements of the unit.

The bathroom – with its separated shower area and bathroom area – are perhaps the hidden gem of the space though.

Miss 4The shower comes across as more sauna and massage spa than it does rain locker. It features cedar siding, walnut, elm and cherry shelving, as well as a very artistic and smart mix of tile and glass giving a very bright and open sensory experience. Because the bathroom is separated it is useable while the shower is also in use.

The living room is more a gift than a necessity in this home. It is well appointed and cozy including fir flooring, handmade furniture, a Danish-modern sleeper sofa, and a gas stove/fireplace. There is even a flat screen TV for those who desire more modern entertainment!

Miss 1Directly off the living area and through what appears to be a built-in cabinet is a hidden bedroom. Reminiscent of a traditional Asian pagoda room but taking cue from an Old World Norwegian box-bed, the doors of the cabinet slide open to reveal a very private sleeping nook perfect for complete privacy.

The main bedroom however has a large closet with a queen mattress and frame. All of the linen is natural cotton in the house and the bedding has goose down fill. To add local flavor the walls of the house are appointed with original art from local artists.

Miss 2A beautiful home with handcrafted charm, luxurious amenities, and ideal location, the Handcrafted Japanese Carpentry tiny house is intelligent, inviting, and serene.

Your Turn!

  • Do you like the use of concrete for flooring?
  • Does the mixing of wood types inspire you?



One Tiny House Is Never Enough

Perhaps better known online as the tiny house prairie girl or that girl in Idaho, Kristie Wolfe has become an icon in the tiny house world having designed and built not one, but TWO tiny houses. The first is her home in Idaho which she documented and continues to build and share on Tiny House On The Prairie. At just 97 original sq.ft. her THOW took just 30 days to build and only cost a few thousand dollars as she used 80% reclaimed materials. But in 2014 her ambition to build a tiny house in multiple locales around the world and help motivate others to live a more sustainable life, took her to the Big Island in Hawaii and her tiny treehouse which she will be talking about at the 2015 Tiny House Conference in Portland, OR.

THOPUpon purchase Wolfe had not once actually seen her future building spot. Rather she had found the listing online and toured it via Google Earth. She knew the basic topography of Kona and felt confident in placing a down payment. A calendar year and dozens of sketches later and she was ready to go begin the building stage.

Kristie had a few months off between her seasonal job(s) to get it done. She flew to Hawaii with her parents and began almost at touchdown with clearing a spot for a tiny house, purchasing an old truck, and buying materials.

KristieThe property itself is nearly a half-acre of dense rainforest about 12 miles from Volcano National Park, on a dead end street. The weather is about 78 degrees with a chance of rain day in and day out. This worked to her advantage as there simply is no need for insulation, heat or even air conditioning. With only a $15,000 budget, Wolfe and her mom worked tirelessly for an entire month constructing what would become one of the Internets most popular tiny house image searches.

Everything in the house is custom-designed, and the home is entirely off-grid, capturing rainwater and solar energy to run. For anyone who has visited her website, you know how industrious and creative Kristie is. Incorporated into the tiny house are some remarkable things including a DIY toilet and sink combo, a DIY hanging bed on the lower floor, and a beautiful DIY tropical chandelier!

Tiny House Big Island

Kristie's BedroomWolfe completed the majority of her build in April 2014 and almost immediately began offering it for rent on AirBnB. The entire effort was a labor love and industry. The income gained from rentals will allow Kristie to begin a potential third tiny house as well as recoup her initial investment. In the meantime she is living in Idaho again and speaking at workshops and events like the 2015 Tiny House Conference.

Wolfe Living Room

Your Turn!

  • Where in the world would you like to build a tiny house?
  • Is multiple tiny houses a wise investment?



NOTE: Tiny Treehouse Photos courtesy of Julie Harmen

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