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Building My Closet

One thing I talk about a lot is taking care to design your storage in your tiny house very carefully.  Making your storage work for you is very important because in such a small space, to not have an ideal setup for you can make things tough.

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My initial drawing of my closet plan.

When I first approached designing my main closet, I knew that I’d be storing mainly clothing, a few containers of office items and toiletry items.  So with this in mind I knew that the bulk of the space should be dedicated to clothes.  Not only should it be dedicated to clothes, but designed to suit the way I store my clothes.

I have written about my dislike for clothes in general, obviously I need something to wear, but trends, fashions and shopping is something I could do without.  For me I don’t like anything that needs to be hung.  I basically have one jacket, one suit, and one button down dress shirt.  I measured how much this takes up and it only needed 4 inches of hanging rod, I added 2 inches for good measure and that’s all I dedicated to hanging items.  I much prefer to have things stacked or piled if it won’t wrinkle too bad.  So for that me that meant drawers.

I needed one drawer for socks and underwear, one drawer for shirts, one drawer for pants and shorts and another for other miscellaneous items.   I then needed a single drawer that was over sized for my dirty laundry until laundry day.  This totaled 5 drawers in total, with one being much larger than the others.

So here is a video which in the beginning shows of my closet space in its raw form.

From there I built the outside walls and the main interior wall out of 3/4″ birch ply.  Right now its in a raw form, I will later face it out with 1×2 trim parts.  After that I decided to take a crack at building the drawers.  This was also the most technical part of the closet because I wanted to make the drawers from scratch and to do that I wanted to use a technique called dove tail joints.  The exterior of the drawer unit was made of more birch ply, but the drawers themselves were made of poplar.  I should note, I am brand new at this stuff, I’ve never done it before, so its certainly not perfect; I just call the mistakes “charm”.

Here you can see the outside of the main drawer bank.  I used dados that would later become the drawer slides.  I opted for a wooden style drawer slide because I really liked the look compared to what it would look like with the metal slides.  Also quality drawer slides are very expensive, so all around I’m happy with my choice.

One thing to note is you’ll see on the top I used pocket screws made with a kreg jig (these are amazing, get them here), I opted to put these on the top side because I’m going to put a top piece of wood that will cover the holes completely.

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You can see the dado cuts on the inside for the drawer slides

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Better view of dados

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Top pocket screw holes will later be hidden by another piece of wood.

Next I tried my hand at making dove tails.  Technically I used “half blind” dovetails.  The jig I used was a dove tail jig from porter cable, which you can find by clicking here.  This jig made it pretty easy and was great for this project.

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Routing the dovetails in my jig

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The finished joint, I love the contrast.

Next up I cut the drawer bottoms, which I was going to seat in a internal dado of the drawer box, but then I decided to do the drawer slides like this.  So I made the drawer bottoms 1/4″ too big on each slide and they nested in the 3/8″ dados really well.  After tacking it all together, I dropped it in the dresser and then mounted the drawer pulls.  Here is the final drawers.  The gaps are not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with them none the less.

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Tiny House Living: Security and Simplicity?

After Ryan’s post earlier this week, I got to thinking about sense of security. Living in a tiny house definitely decreases dependence on money but living the tiny life does not necessarily mean a life free of worries.

happinessBefore jumping in, I have to say that the completion of La Casita came at a time of great upheaval in the lives of my fiancee and I. Our rental had been foreclosed on, the bank had kicked us out, the tiny house was 3/4 done and we were essentially homeless. Luckily I had family in the greater Charleston area that took us in but it was a harsh reality for a couple of months. Since moving in to our house, life has been easier in terms of money but in terms of legal shelter there have been distinct challenges.

I guess my first question for someone thinking about a tiny house would be:zoning do you mind living in an illegal situation according to most zoning codes? If this doesn’t bother you then my second question would be: does possibly not having a home address, which can make acquiring a driver’s license, a post office box or your citizenship difficult, concern you?

These are some of the realities we’ve faced living in a tiny house. Without a home address, it is very difficult to get our driver’s licenses in Vermont. Without a home address my fiance can’t start his citizenship application and in Charleston I couldn’t get a po box without a street address. Not everyone has this issue when it comes to tiny living but it has been a constant for us since moving in to La Casita and I never considered this would be one of the issues I would face.

Having just moved to a new community in Vermont, we’re slowly meeting folks and people are incredibly nice and open to what we are doing but we’ve already had a town official contact us about living in the house and its questionable legality. In a town of 3800 people, it’s not going to take long for us to be noticed. In a city of 100,000 it was much easier to hide from zone enforcement although they would roll by in their truck about once a month. They never stopped and asked questions but the possibility was there and we knew it. La Casita was a “temporary studio space”  to anyone official who asked but it was fairly obvious we were living in it. Luckily, we planted it in the ghetto where cops and officials were more worried about busting drug dealing than some illegal zoning issue. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that neighborhood and living there was wonderful. We had great neighbors and no one ever messed with us but if we had parked anywhere else in the historic district of downtown Charleston, I’m certain we would have been forced to move.

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Welcome Alan and Marie

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A few months ago I did a post about forming a Tiny House Cohort to connect with other people that were building a tiny house at the same time I was.  The idea was that we could meet up and share thoughts, problem solve and have fun through our building process.  From that post I found a couple that was building the same house as I was, at the same time, in the same city.  Not only was it great to find someone, but it further confirmed my belief that Tiny House people are awesome, and Alan and Marie defiantly verify that theory.

So please join me in welcoming Alan and Marie to the ranks of The Tiny Life.  They will be joining us and sharing their story as they build their tiny house.  Here is a little bit about them:

We’re total neophytes when it comes to building, but we have a very strong drive to live as simply and freely as possible, with as little negative impact on the planet as possible. Walk softly and carry very few sticks, (unless they’re 2x4s, in which case, always carry at least 2 extra). Alan’s works in money, and I work in market research, but our focus is on getting ourselves out of the rat race as soon as possible, and if that means living in a 130 square foot house, so be it. We’re in our early 30’s, no kids, one dog, two cats. We decided to build Big Red in 2011, bought plans in 2012, and “broke ground” in 2013.

As they post you can follow their posts specifically here:  http://www.thetinylife.com/category/alan-and-marie  They will of course show up on the regular blog so you can see them along their journey.

Day Two – Tiny House Workshop

I wanted to do a second update from my time at the Tiny House Workshop put on by Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.  The second day was focused on the design of tiny spaces.

Jay spoke about subtractive design, which is a process of design where you remove elements to refine a design without detracting from the design at the same time.  The balance between removing elements and simplifying the design while still maintaining the core functions and needs that a home provides are inspired by a list in Christopher Alexander’s book, A Pattern Language.

Another point that Jay hit home was that of “vernacular design” where certain design element subconsciously signal us to understand that the design is a home.  Things like a porch or a defined angle on a gable roof.

The last part of presentation was done by Greg Ramsey of Village Habitat Design.  His company specializes in designing small house communities.  It was a really great presentation on how we can rethink traditional housing, layout traditional urban lots to have community, interaction with nature and higher home density that is a quality not typically seen today.  What I really like about Greg’s approach is that his goal is to turn 60-90% of the land into green spaces and gardens.

All in all it was a great workshop, the design approach was an interesting one, to see and understand that Tiny Houses are so intentionally designed.  The added conversation of community building was really fascinating and really got the wheels turning!

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