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La Casita Moves Again!

The greatest lesson I’ve learned living the tiny life is flexibility. Being as flexible as possible is incredibly important. If you are not one to adapt to new situations readily then seriously consider living this life (as pictured left). Our lives since living tiny is a perfect example.

Capture1About a month ago Cedric and I found out that our neighbors were planning to rent their house, and subsequently the land we were on, to move out west. They offered to let us stay and work things out with the new tenants but we decided that we’d rather not deal with a rental situation with folks we didn’t know and the owners living 3000 miles away. Thus, once again, we found ourselves moving the tiny house. This is the third time we’ve moved the house in just over a year. It is truly the constant dilemma of living the tiny life…land. We rent because we don’t have the resources to buy in the area we live in. A friend of ours in Charleston recently asked me about the realities of living downtown in a tiny house and I warned him that he wouldn’t get away with it for more than a year and that was if he lives in a seedier part of town. Anywhere else and the town officials would be swarming in no time. His best bet-buy a property that he can rent out and live in a tiny house in the backyard. More and more I see that option as the least stressful way to live the tiny life.

We are currently facing the issue of zoning in a small, rural town in Vermont. I have to go and speak to the zoning administrator this week because the owner of the farm where we have moved wants to make sure we do things by the books. Talk about eye twitching stress! We totally understand this, considering she has a working organic farm, a solid place in her community and 4 children to feed and doesn’t want to sneak around behind the town’s back but it certainly won’t make things easier for us. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is connected in this town. There is no where to hide even if we wanted to.  When we lived in the city, anonymity was key to our being able to live in our home but out here in the country, it’s probably not the best policy. Stepping on toes is not advised. It’s the kind of place where nobody’s business is kept secret for long. Thus, by tomorrow morning I won’t be surprised if they town clerk is called and made aware of our presence. And I’m terrified. Cedric and I have read through the zoning lingo on the town’s website and our home just doesn’t fit in. There is no provision for a tiny house on wheels. It’s part of the beauty, but also the seemingly constant stress, of living in these houses. We can’t even unpack our things until we find out if we’ll be allowed to stay on this land and it’s making life that much harder.

zoningNever have we wanted to stay someplace so badly. It’s a gorgeous property with orchards, sheep, chickens, a private swimming hole, gardens everywhere and an amazing view of the mountains. That hardest part is trying not to get attached because come Tuesday, when the zoning admin is in office, we may have to pick up and move again. To keep running around and hiding isn’t realistic but it certainly seems our only option. Until tiny houses are excepted in the the laws that govern building and development, I fear we’ll just keep packing up or finally cave in and enter in a real estate market that we can’t afford.

Your Turn!

  • What do you think is the best option: being open with town officials or keeping a low-profile?

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DIY: Floating Bookshelves

<This is my favorite, no fuss project in terms of interior design! It takes about 20 minutes to do and can be completed with simple tools on a small budget. Until recently most of our books had still been in storage due to limited wall space in our tiny house. We put in so many windows it left little space to put up book shelves. We have installed a few over our windows which work nicely but too many of them create a crowded feeling in such a small space. I’d seen floating bookshelves on a few different design sites and decided to make a couple for the house so we could unpack some of our books. They’re great because they don’t take up much space and it’s a fun way to keep our favorite reads handy.

P1000356First I headed to my local library and checked out their sale section and bought two hardcover books for a dollar. These are the books that will act as the shelf so best not to spend much money on them. I then went to the hardware store and bought L brackets and a few screws. Some folks use metal bookends instead of L brackets but I didn’t have either and I thought the brackets would be stronger and better able to hold more weight.  Next I marked where the wholes would be and started the rather mundane work of getting the screws through all the pages. This P1000357could be done in 20 seconds with a drill but when I pulled out our trusty Hitachi the battery was dead. I was feeling impatient, so I pulled out a phillips and it took a few minutes longer but was fairly quick and easy.

I tried hiding the bracket in the inside cover of the book but it didn’t look quite right. It doesn’t make much of a difference whether you put the bracket, or bookend, on the inside or outside cover. The way I assembled it I thought you’d be able to see the bracket easily, which would defeat the ‘floating’ purpose, but it didn’t make much of a difference. You can also use two brackets on either end of the book and create a more stable base which I might do for my next set of shelves. I’ve noticed they’re slightly wobbly with only one but it’s held up no problem (so far).

P1000355Once you get all the screws in it gets even easier. Just pick a spot on the P1000353wall, mark the holes and screw it in to the wall. Voila! Stack you favorite books on top and you’ve got yourself a stylish and functional storage solution.

 

 

 

Note on Assembly: Don’t drop your screwdriver where playful puppies might try and “help”.

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Your Turn!

  • What are you favorite interior DIY projects for small spaces?

 

The Biggest Tiny Move

First off, I want to give a big shout-out and say thank you to the community of readers here at The Tiny Life for the wonderful advice many of you sent me on moving our home.  When you’ve never done something like this it is so incredibly helpful to gain insight from those who’ve gone before you!

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Thanks to suggestions from this blog, as well as the Facebook page and CharlestonTinyHouse.com, we decided to set up a profile page on U-Ship.com and give it a whirl. U-Ship is an online global shipping service connecting individuals and businesses with transportation providers. It works like this:

1. Create a username and password.

2. Fill out a profile.

3. Load a picture and description of what you want shipped.

4. Enter your price range and location.

5. Wait for bids.

After a couple of days we had 3 bids! I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. I figured most service providers would be out of our price range, but lo and behold we found Roger Howell, or really he found us. With a great price, lots of positive reviews and an excellent, professional profile we thought he was the best bet for the job. He not only moved our home within our budget but without a scratch on it! It was such a relief to be without all the added stress and time of towing it ourselves, especially through a northeastern winter. Plus, it would have cost us as much, if not more, to move it ourselves after renting a truck, paying for gas and taking out insurance. Uship covered us up to $15,000 in damages and as the carrier, Roger also had insurance providing us with a sense of security that was well worth the investment.

The experience was not without hiccups. There were delays on our house due to the severe winter weather we had up ushiphere in early February but Roger was very communicative and sent e-mails and texts as soon as we had questions or something happened en route. We figured it gave us more time to find a place for the house so we weren’t upset at the delay. Nevertheless, it was great to work with a professional who was in the business of towing large shipments, provided quick, clear communication and was first and foremost concerned with getting us our shipment safely.

moving la casitaWe were a bit skeptical of this site at first but in the end we were really happy with the experience. The website is very clear and informative and carriers have profiles and reviews by customers who’ve shipped with them. With very little time to prepare for our move it felt like a huge weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t without work on our part. We had to hook up lights, check our brakes, pack and board up the house and get a license plate for the trailer. It took about 2 weeks to get everything together and ready to go but it was well worth it. We left ahead of the house and were able to arrive in Vermont, place ads and find a home for La Casita in a couple of weeks. If you have a tiny house to move, I’d recommend the services the website provides. Doing it yourself is a rite of passage for some but for us it was going to be more hassle and expense than we wanted to deal with. Hopefully, we won’t have to move the house again. It ain’t cheap moving a tiny house, no matter how you do it. We figured it out to be about a $1/mile so at 1200 miles there was definite expense.

Living the tiny life has its perks but before this adventure I was foolish in thinking it would be a cheap and easy dwelling to move. It’s definitely a more flexible option in life but I’ve learned that more than anything, I want to stay put in La Casita and not have to uproot her too often. Hopefully, this is the last move we’ll be making for a long time and we can settle in to this new chapter of our tiny life.

Your Turn!

  • What alternatives do you know of for shipping a tiny house?
  • Has anyone else used Uship? What was your experience?
  • How has The Tiny Life readership helped you?
  • If you’ve moved a tiny house, what did you find were the most cost effective options?

 

Building Tiny Bathrooms

When folks ask us what was the most challenging aspect of building a tiny house we will chorus in unison: BATHROOM. Several factors made this the most difficult part of construction.

IMG_7842Firstly, this is the room we spend the least amount of time. For Cedric, this meant that finding inspiration to work on the bathroom was not easy. It was more interesting for us to design and build the kitchen where we spend the majority of our time. Secondly, designing a bathroom on wheels is challenging in and of itself. We love tile but the fact that the motion of moving the house would likely cause cracking and/or breakage threw that option out the window. We tried buying a shower pan but nothing fit our tiny space. We looked to RV and boat design but we wanted as little plastic as possible and much of those use plastic to create a waterproof space.  We considered using a hardwood such as teak since it was available through the warehouse where we constructed, but we feared it would be too heavy. Our bathroom is on the tongue side of the trailer and we didn’t want to weight it down. That was another reason for throwing out the tile idea-too heavy.

Finally, we decided on corrugated tin which was light and attractive. Before DSCN2756installing the outer materials the walls and floor were painted with reclaimed, heavy duty marine paint that’s used on ships to prevent water damage. For the flooring we decided to make a stainless steel shower pan. Cedric found the material at a junkyard. It was previously a kitchen counter but Cedric shaped, cut and welded it to fit our  bathroom space. This is where our community came to our aid because we did not have the equipment to reconstruct the stainless steel counter top.  We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of our friend Bill who has a machine shop. It was not a cheap option and it took a lot of work to get right but we don’t regret the time or the money spent. Our bathroom will probably outlast the rest of the house!

Once we had installed the tin and pan we noticed we had issues with standing water. We fixed this by banging the shower pan in around the drain allowing for better drainage. We built in a box on one side with a hinged lid where our bucket composting toilet is located. We heat our water with an on-demand hot water heater that’s propane powered. It works like a charm although we did have trouble keeping the flame lit on a very windy night!

IMG_7841The bathroom, or the wet room as we call it, is still not quite finished with one window left to trim but other than that it has turned out to be a great space.  We created a drainage field based on a gray water system we had used while working on an organic farm. It allows us to water our plants while showering which our banana and pineapple plants love! We are careful with the products we put down our drains using biodegradable soaps and shampoos that won’t harm the soil or plants. If comments on our garden are any measure of success than we hit the nail on the head. Of all the gardens I’ve had in Charleston, this one received the most praise from neighbors. I definitely think the extra watering had something to do with that! Ultimately, we’d like to build an outdoor shower for summer months as well as a possible outdoor kitchen but we still have a few months to consider those options!

Your Turn!

  • What challenges have you faced designing WCs for tiny spaces?

Multifunctional Furniture

When designing and building a small space, functionality is vital. Each piece of furniture in our tiny house was designed, re-designed and then tweaked again before we installed anything. It took us nearly a year of living in the house to finally figure out what we thought would be the best living space we could have in La Casita. Our style throughout the house is heavily influenced by boat living. Cedric lived on his parents’ sailboat as a young child and as an adult he re-built a small sailboat and lived in the Ashley River in Charleston. His experiences in that particular tiny living community have inspired much of La Casita’s design. Our built-in furniture is a further testament of that fact.

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When drawing out our seating arrangements we knew they needed to be multi-functional, allowing for reading, eating, relaxing, working and sleeping. We were asking our living room to do quadruple duty since space is so limited in the house. Below is our bench seating. To the left we have drawers that pull out and act as a storage space/dirty laundry hamper which helps keep our entire house more orderly. Two little drawers make all the difference in a tiny house!

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Under the seating you’ll notice a small hole in the flooring. That is where a stainless steel tube fits into our floor which allows the transformation from bench to dining table. The boards mounted to the wall stabilize the table and keep it from shifting during use. We had the hardest time figuring out how to attractively stabilize the table so that it was functionally sound but also visually appealing. We also wanted to keep as much room as possible available under the table for our long legs. The pipe was left over from our kitchen counter set-up and all the wood you see in the pictures was reclaimed. It ended up costing us nothing to build which was a plus!

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We are really enjoying the use of a dining/work table!

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Sleeping on the converted bench is a bit like camping. Cedric and I have both tried it out and it’s not quite as comfortable as we would like so we will probably continue to tweak the design. We want a space where a guest could sleep comfortably and not feel quite so cramped. Lengthwise it’s fantastic but it is so narrow it makes sleeping through the night a bit challenging.

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All in all we’re pretty happy with the results of our efforts. It’s truly made our house feel more like a home. The space will continue to evolve and we’ll continue to challenge our design but that’s part of the fun of living in a tiny space. It doesn’t take much time or money to recreate it if you want to change an aspect of your design.

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Your Turn!

  • What’s your favorite multi-functional tiny house design idea?
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