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Keepin’ It Tiny

Spotlight on Design: Wishbone Tiny Homes

From_storage_landscape_up[1]This month my spotlight on design features Asheville, North Carolina’s father and son design team, Gerry and Teal Brown, at Wishbone Tiny Homes. They were recently spotted at the Tiny House Conference this past spring. With their new location in the up and coming west side of Asheville, they are creating homes that offer “a return to some natural truth…a universal and natural connection to small” as Teal described when I spoke to him last month.

How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?Walk_thru_front_door_see_all[1]

Although we site Sarah Susanka, Jay Shafer, and Dee Williams as some of the trailblazers of the tiny house movement, we have been inspired by dwellings throughout world history that would be considered “tiny” by current standards. Indigenous cultures have always lived in spaces that accommodate necessary daily activities but do not demand excessive resources to build and maintain. You can see these principles in action in the modern, urban context as well. Looking even further into the subject, wild animals tend to build with locally sourced, sustainable resources, and usually take only what they need for their nests. The way we see it, tiny houses represent a return to some natural truth that we have somehow collectively forgotten as we have enabled our technologies to distance us from co-existing with the land around us. The urge to build tiny comes from a deep, innate place in our human existence, and we seek to explore that.

What is your ideal vision in building and sustaining tiny house construction and what life Ext_nw[1]experiences brought your developing such housing?

My dad has been building houses and doing fine woodworking for 40 years +. I learned a tremendous amount growing up under his lead. I also took and loved furniture and cabinetmaking classes in high school. Additionally, I have several building science-related certifications that provide a firm understanding of energy efficiency, sustainability, and renewable energy as they relate to residential construction. Tiny house design provides the ultimate platform to reflect these concepts in the highest form. My dad and I have always enjoyed working together. We share the same mind but also manage to compliment each other’s skills. The mere fact that we can do something as a team that we find meaningful to society keeps us motivated to push forward. We like to help people achieve their dreams too. This means that we might consult on one tiny house and build another. In whatever capacity we can be involved in making a tiny home come true, we are eager to do that.

What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?

_DSC7337_HDR[1]Rustic Modern, Craftsman, Japanese architecture, Greene and Greene, an architecture firm of the early 20th century which greatly influenced the American Arts and Crafts movement as well as aspects of Contemporary in regards to functionality, space saving techniques and energy efficiency.

What demographic are you attempting to reach?

Honestly, there isn’t a demographic we aren’t trying to reach. We believe that the inherent versatility of tiny structures (especially those on wheels), makes them relevant to all walks of life. A tiny home can represent a dignified solution to affordable housing for one group and a unique camping experience for another. In this burgeoning share economy, tiny homes can provide a legitimate investment opportunity as a rental as well.

Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?

We will hold workshops in the near future. In a previous career I worked for a company that specialized in job-skillPurlins_front_with_filter[1] training. During my time there I learned the cradle to grave process of curriculum development and delivery. Solar was my particular program and I was charged with creating a classroom and hands-on learning experience for our students. We created a 1KW roof-mounted array that simulated both grid-tied and off-grid applications. We are working on developing a similar program for Wishbone Tiny Homes that combines a classroom portion with an innovative hands-on training module to teach students the whole process of building tiny. More on that soon!

Keep up with the latest from Wishbone on their website and through their blog.

Thanks Teal for taking the time to talk to The Tiny Life. We look forward to seeing Wishbone flourish and expand that tiny life love.

Your Turn!

  • What design elements inspired your tiny house build?
  • Do you agree that tiny living is a natural inclination?

 

The Final Days Of Building

I just got back from my trip to Portland where I nailed down some of the details for the Tiny House Conference for April 2015.  We will be having the next conference in the city of Portland itself.  The city is a great place and I think you’ll like it too when you come to the conference.

photo 2Before my flight out I had to move out of my apartment, but I’m still making some sawdust in my tiny house while I finished the walls and install the floor.  I also needed to treat the walls with Tung Oil and then I can at least move into my house. I’ll finish the kitchen, but most of the cutting will need to be done outside the house.

Since I wasn’t quite ready to move into my tiny house yet I started to think about my next project and what I might want to do.  It lead me to getting an enclosed trailer which I was able to load my personal belongings into and would later serve as the start of my next project.  The trailer is a 7×12 foot dual axle trailer, which can hold 5,500 lbs of weight.  A convenient thing is I can drive my smart car into it, so when I later decide to go on long trips abroad or need to move I can park my smart in it to be safe while I’m away.

I drive a Smart Car which can’t tow my house or my trailer, but the truck cost me $65 a day in the city and with my Smart covering 99% of my needs and being only $13,000 I am glad I didn’t buy a truck now, especially after seeing how it guzzled gas.  One thing to note is that I had to rent a truck, but most car rental places don’t allow you to tow with rental cars.  I found a local company that allows you to tow, but if you’re looking in your area try calling the commercial arm of some of the rental companies.

So when I got back to Charlotte I have a house that needs to be finished, its now very hot and humid here and I’ll need to figure out a gym membership so I have a place to shower and then I’m going to have a water service come out for a while until the water gets hooked up.   For the time being I’m going to have to use my generator while I figure out solar, read all about my woes with the city.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with a guy to go over laying down some gravel and clearing a spot for my tiny house.

 

The Search For New Land – Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series, check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 if you’re new to the blog.

Alright I have some pretty bad news, but first let me go back to where I left off in part three.

So I hired my electrician and he put in a plan for the permit, the city had a few questions, but a quick phone call later they approved the permit.  So with a permit in hand the the city’s blessing I had my electrician install the power box.  The box was installed and we notified the city that it was ready for inspections.  The inspector came out and said we needed to push the stranded cable through the main lug another inch because there was some damage to one of the strands, so we did that, quick fix.  He came out again and said everything looked good, but the inspector’s boss wanted me to call him first.

photo-2So I called the number and the man told me that he was going to rescind the permit because they had made a mistake.  The stated reason was that if I just had power out there on this empty land, someone could mess with it.  More specifically he said, and these were his words, not mine: “Junkies will break in to steal the copper and kill themselves.”  I was beyond angry that they messed up and I now had to pay the electrician even though I couldn’t get power and floored he’d say an excuse like that in those words.  So after talking with them, my electrician and the power company, the three people involved called me back and said “we figured out a solution”… I was ecstatic!  ” and it’s only going to cost you about $10,000″…  I was devastated!

I am not going to spend $10,000 for a power pole to be installed, only for them to then turn around and charge me every month.  Its just not in the cards, particularly because I’m only leasing the land.  So plan C…

Plan C was to get a solar power system that would run my house.  Not a big deal right?

Now many people would just swing by Harbor freight and pick up a cheap solar panel kits, but those honestly are woefully underpowered.  You can basically run a cell phone and laptop off that, maybe a fan for a few hours too.  In my house I have the following items that use power:

  • Mini Fridge – 100 watts
  • Laptop – 50 watts
  • cell phone – 5 watts
  • LED lights – 100 watts total
  • Mini Split HVAC – 500 watts on low, 700 watts on high

So if you times those watts by the hours of use, add it all up, you get 11,530 watt/hours.  This translates to a pretty big system, I got a few quotes and they seem to range between $14,000 and $18,000.  The system is so expensive because of the battery bank, I was looking at about $8,000 just in batteries and cable interconnects.  Again, just not in the cards.  What is crazy is that most of the system at that size is just for the HVAC, which currently is the smallest mini split on the market, but also the most efficient on the market at 27.8 SEER rating; compared to a standard AC unit today, most are around 13 SEER.

Before people start emailing me and commenting.  I know I could live without AC, I could use a swamp cooler, I could use a cooler with ice and a fan.  Sure I could, but I don’t want to and that’s my choice. I live in NC and when its 95 and ridiculously humid, I want AC on those days.  I’m also thinking about next year “summer-ing” somewhere colder, as in, finding a place to rent up north during the summer months.

So now to plan D….  Without the HVAC I am looking at a system around $6,000-$8,000 which is a whole lot of money, but its more manageable… Relativity speaking.  I figured that I can start with this smaller system, use my generator on the really hot days to run my AC; I already own a Honda EB2000i (almost identical to the popular EU2000i, this just has a pure sine inverter and GFCI).  Running the generator with the load of my AC unit via a drop cord, I used a Kill-a-watt meter to determine it would run at a quarter load or less on the “eco-mode” and could run 24 hrs on a little over 1 gallon of gas.  So the arrangement is not ideal, but I could at least have power, use fans most of the time and those days that I just want to enjoy the pure bliss of a AC cooled house, it would only cost me about $4 a day.

The Honda EB2000i is also ridiculously quite.  At a quarter load at about 200′ line of sight you almost can’t hear it. If I was inside my house I doubt I could hear it 50 feet away, if the AC was running, it could be at my front door and I wouldn’t hear it.  In this approach I’ve also opted to be in a different place on the property, where I am 100% shaded during the entire day, I’ve found this makes the heat much better, so all you have to deal with is the humidity and a little cooling around the hottest part of the day.

So that is where I am now.  Even though the city had said yes, then changed their minds, I still owe the electrician $800 and have nothing to show for it.  The lesson I’ve learned is if you have land or going to buy land, first figure out power and water.  If you’re buying the land, I’d make an offer contingent on the ability to get both; in fact I’d tell the seller: “I’ll buy it, if you get the power and water running before the sale.  If you can’t I walk away”

 

North Carolina Tiny House Community

highlandlakecove

On Easter morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Kerry Lindsey, an innovator and developer in Flat Rock, North Carolina who has begun a project to bring tiny houses to his existing retreat centered community. I was excited to hear about his plans and what he has going on in this gem of a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was so inspiring to speak with Lindsey about his experiences living the tiny life, what he’s accomplished and his continued plans involving tiny houses, community and the importance of mindfulness in our current world. Check it out!

How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?

My interest in tiny houses began when we were kids. My folks built their first home from the rock and logs off the land of their mini farm, and as kids we copied them; building 2 fairly sophisticated tree houses (for kids) and a tiny log cabin. That interest continued and a couple of years out of high school I bought a junked school bus for $150 and converted it into a camper/house , traveling for several months (Kesey style) around the southeast in it with a handful of hippie friends . I continued building small outbuildings at my own first mini farm and after buying this property, restored all the old summer camp cabins here as we started the first conference center. By the time Jay Schafer came to town the first time, 4-5 years ago, I had the bug bad and was dredging and creating waterfront sites in the early stages of this project.

What is your ideal vision in building and sustaining tiny houses IMG-20140228-00049construction and what life experiences brought your developing such community?

This place is the intersection of three strong paths in my life: creating artistic buildings, a 5 business entrepreneurial streak and the understanding gleaned from my own spiritual community about the essence of community. So many of the outcomes we’ve looked for in the so called “American Dream” can’t be found in a media driven consumerist approach to life. It takes slowing down. Living a simpler lifestyle (like Tiny House living) as well as creating a more intentional approach to community can be a great support for the peace and happiness we all aspire towards. While I think many folks want to build these to garner more independence, I think its the fact that one can both have that, and create truly supportive communities (by “rounding up the wagons” so to speak) that is so interesting. We all need privacy but there is also a certain magic in coming together more collaboratively to create things together.

What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?

I lean towards the Appalachian cabin vernacular but with a whimsical twist. Tree houses….hobbit houses…. Creativity is energizing and the more that people are connected to the shelters they build or personalize, the more life it brings into the community. It creates a felt-sense of place. This is not to say we don’t have guidelines….we are in the middle of a retreat center business after all, and the place needs to feel congruent with our reason for being here.

IMG-20140228-00048What demographic are you attempting to reach?

Like we did in our first neighborhood across the street, we strive to appeal to an inter-generational market because diversity adds to the value of communities. I can see our larger models clustered together around a common house to create a pocket neighborhood akin to a senior co-housing community: because we also put an emphasis on creating business opportunities within the projects we’ve done, and have kid friendly areas, I’d also expect to see a younger crowd here, learning both how to build a home and start a business. The third market is “second home” folks like here in the Garden Hamlet People that are simply wanting a quiet place to get away to on weekends or to take a vacation. Like the Hamlet cottages that surround the goat meadow, these cabins can also be placed back in the retreat rental pool so that folks can earn a little off their investment when they’re not using them.

What is your timeline for development? Have you started construction and when do you project to complete this community?

We are 28 years into the overall community and the retreat section is the 4th of the 7 planned phases. We’ve got our primary infrastructure in as well as the new cafe/community building. Four tiny’s are under way (mostly students from Dan Louche’s workshop here last fall) as well as our first double-sized one, a 400 sq ft unit. This is a two module design that can be moved with a normal pick up truck. Because there are many great Tiny House providers on the market today, our focus is primarily on the next size up. While its not something one would haul around day to day like an RV, it would be moveable so that people could have more flexibility about where they live. Here we’ll have lots that can be leased which will make it a very affordable community for young folks starting out or retirees looking for an unencumbered, active, learning, community based life style.

In what ways do permaculture and tiny house ideals coincide for you? How do you feel they compliment each other?

Well the obvious first part is their small footprint and how well they can be integrated into a mini-farm like layout. Here at the Garden Hamlet, even though the cottages are larger, over 60% of the land is held in permanent open space for gardens, greenhouses, fruit trees, farm animals and gardens.

Can you elaborate on your community incubator series and how highlandlakecove1that has played a role in your development of community?

The fundamental learning tracks in it grew out of my experience working with key employees over the course of my 43 years in business….helping them take a more “intra”preneurial approach to running their departments. My approach is more along the lines of the Integral Incubator Series at Integral Institute in Boulder. Beyond the basics, I’m more interested in helping folks with a Four Bottom Line approach. . . People Planet Profit & Personal Transformation. Part of the purpose of the incubator is to help people create meaningful work in their own communities. I deem myself lucky because I always found myself in a business that arose out of personal passions and creativity and always kept me learning and evolving. So many folks work so they can retire. I prefer to help people create work that’s inspiring.

Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?

Yes our next on is May 24th-25th. It will be taught by Teal Brown of Wishbone Tiny Homes here in Asheville along with some of our students and staff for certain elements. It will also include an introduction to building with cob for folks thinking about creating more fixed structures.

To find out more about workshops, retreats and the community visit www.highlandlakecove.com!

Thanks again Kerry for talking to me and for growing tiny house love and community in the Carolinas!

 

Your Turn!

  • Are you inspired by tiny houses to build community? If so, how?

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