Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

New Zealand Tiny House

In the winter of 2013 Brett Sutherland of Auckland, New Zealand set about to build a tiny house of his own design on a tandem-axle trailer right in the driveway of his parents home. Start to finish took just five months but with a bit of experience and  a lot of tenacity and dedication Sutherland built one of the most unique, space-saving, tiny house trailers visible on the web today.

Mobile Villa 1

Nicknamed the MV (Mobile Villa) by Sutherland himself the inspiration behind the build was really a practical one. As Brett explains to Bryce Langston in a recent interview, “The biggest thing I was trying to avoid was losing all my money as soon as I touched down and that’s what happens when you pay a rent.” Brett truly wanted an off-the-grid, self-contained home that would allow him to concentrate more on his art than making money. He wanted to do more in life than just survive economically.

At 161 sq.ft. the Mobile Villa cost just $10,185.00 USD to build and features a sitting area, a kitchen, an upstairs sleeping loft, and a small bathroom with shower.

MV layout

MVtoilet

The roof line of the MV is a two-tier shed roof which Sutherland admits was done for airflow purposes in the sleeping loft as the top tier features a crank-out, horizontal window. The slope of the roof also allows for generous rain catchment which further allows Sutherlands pursuits for total off-grid living. The lower tier supports Brett’s two solar panels which then further feed into his electric panel situated just above the toilet area and out of direct sight and hosting a 30-amp solar regulator, battery isolator switch, and switchboard.

Upon walking in the tiny house there is immediately a twin-size day bed to the right offering guests a place to lay their head when visiting as well as a couple of sitting chairs directly across the room for more social moments. Another interesting aspect of the house is the use of what looks like standard plywood with a semi-gloss finish rather than the pine tongue-and-groove more frequently seen in tiny houses. This technique has been used before in several inexpensive yet practical ways such as the Zen Cube Mobile Living Space.

MV Living RoomIt’s what is under the day bed that is perhaps the coolest element as it houses the Flexi Tank water storage bag which is connected directly to the downspout of the gutter on the lower roof tier and holds roughly 100 gallons.

MV Water StorageOther features of Sutherlands tiny house are typical of many tiny houses:

  • 12-volt water pump (which services the sink and shower)
  • Propane cook stove
  • 12-volt outlet(s)
  • Sawdust toilet

Since construction on Sutherland’s Mobile Villa ended he has moved it to a friend’s property in Bethells Beach in Auckland. With the ocean as his front yard, no shortage of palm trees as his neighbor, and plenty of room for friends and guests to come and enjoy a barbeque Sutherland and his MV are perfect testimony to the freedom, mobility, and consciousness that tiny living can bring!

MV Moving

Your Turn!

  • Can you see yourself living tiny at the oceanfront?

 

Via

 

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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A Tiny House In The City

New York City – and the borough of Manhattan specifically – has long been identified by its micro apartments and somewhat comical living spaces where you can wake up, shower, eat breakfast, and get dressed without ever leaving your bed! But what the tiny house movement has continued to illustrate is that it isn’t about size. It is about appropriation. Such is the case with the Manhattan Micro-Loft designed by the Specht Harpman team.microLOFT layout

Actually a renovation project the micro-apartment is situated on the top floor of an Upper West Side (the UWS  is considered an upscale, primarily residential area with many residents working in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. It is seen as the home to New York City’s cultural and intellectual hub) brownstone. The idea for its layout was seemingly more out of necessity than ingenuity. While the footprint is just 425 square feet the vertical space allowed for another 25 feet in height as well as boasting a roof terrace. Besides the obvious issues of heating and cooling as well as acoustical issues the apartment was less than ideal for modern living.

As seen in the photos (taken by Taggart Sorenson) the reno reimagined the space into four platforms laid out so that each space had room for the essentials without sacrificing light and space.

The bottom level is the entry as well as a small kitchen with modern white lacquered cabinetry with flush doors and hidden hardware.

microKITCHEN

A few steps up is the main living area with a grey, upholstered ‘L’ –shaped couch, bright white painted brick walls, and an expansive 12-foot ceiling. Jutting out into the living area is the third platform; a cantilevered bed platform of dark wood that matched the flooring throughout.

micro Entry

The eye catcher though is the bed platform is supported by exposed metal beams.The last set of steps leads up to the rooftop garden area. The entire layout is impossibly large feeling because of the absence of doors and hallways allowing for a downright cavernous feeling.

One of the features in the micro-apartment is one that is being used in clever fashion by a number of tiny house builders as of late. The stairs double as cabinets with a footer of drawers.

microSTAIRS

The bathroom is even “built-in” below the staircase.

microBATH

The absence of traditional closets, shelving units, and storage spaces is forgiven, as every flat surface seems to hide ample storage. The kitchen has concealed cabinetry, hidden appliances, and a countertop that wraps into the living area doubling as a breakfast bar and all-purpose table. The apartment also lacks the furniture pieces that too often add clutter and confusion to a house. Perhaps a few extra amenities and furnishings could be accomplished by incorporating “transforming” pieces as seen in the Micro-Apartment designed by the team at Resource Furniture. The apartment is complex and sophisticated by design, simple by execution, and even simpler by lifestyle.

It might also be noted that Specht Harpman is the team behind the zeroHouse which has been seen as a tiny house inspiration for a number of architects and designers.

Your Turn!

  • Can you see yourself in a tiny, modern space?

 

Via

Don’t Go Gentle Into That Night

I recently was listening to a podcast where a quote was given that struck me.  I have been thinking a lot recently about how predetermined and designed life can be for us unless we wake up and take charge.  The quote was:

It’s called the American dream because you

have to be asleep to believe it.

Wake from your slumber!

The scary thing is if we don’t wake up from this slumber of complacency, our lives are influenced to a point that defies common sense.  It may be extreme sounding, but to be a cog in the machine, to work long hours only to “buy, buy, buy!” it’s like we are merely an engine which we fuel consumerism.  That isn’t to say that to consume, buy or trade is inherently wrong, but to do it with such abandon that the average American has over $15,000 in credit card debt is insane. (source)

dulyposted-live-your-life_quote-610x610Being “awake” is an odd experience when people some call tiny housers crazy for living in a tiny house.  If I were to have no debt of any kind and $10 in my pocket, I’d have more wealth than 25% of Americans combined!  If I have no debt and $15,000, I’d have a higher net worth than about the bottom third of Americans… combined! (source)

We are told debt is normal, that credit cards are normal, that a home loan and a student loans are a “good investment” and people believe it.  I believed it for a time!  I have a Master’s degree and after crunching the numbers, it panned out financially, but that is quickly changing for many people. (source)  A home loan… no thank you.  I have friends who talk about buying a home, with no money down and all I can think of is “I want you to be happy, but I can’t but help question the wisdom of not being able to afford a down payment, but thinking you can afford a house”.

I don’t think it’s my place to say people can’t shop till they drop, have no debt of any kind or they should live in a tiny house.  But I struggle when I see people – particularly friends – taking this predetermined path without giving it serious consideration.  If someone were to be fully aware of things and still decided to proceed, I’d be okay with that, but blindly following the pattern is scary.

tumblr_mzzdbvaN5A1sk4myeo1_1280As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen more and more of my friends get into the grind of adulthood and be miserable in their jobs; luckily I think this is the minority of my friends/acquaintances.  I’ve had friends comment that they now drink more than they used to because it makes the work week a bit more bearable.

I see consumerism as a troublesome band-aid for many folks who are unhappy with some aspect of their life.  Again, I’m not saying no consuming, there are things we need in life, but it shouldn’t be a coping mechanism like it is used today for so many.  I was shocked to find out that I know several people who go to the mall and shop 2-3 times a week!  I think the city where I live, Charlotte, is on the extreme end of this, because I have 6 large malls within a 30 minute drive of my home; there is even tour bus companies here that bring people to our city just to shop!

To not just complain about it all, below are some things that might help determine your own path.

  1. Consider what your goals are in life, then look at why they are your goals, dig deep.
  2. Write a personal mission statement.
  3. Do the math on what debt really means for you.
  4. Ask yourself “if I could do anything right now, what would it be?”
  5. Identify the reason you cannot do number 4 right now… How can you eliminate that?
  6. Consider how resilient your currently are in your situation.  How can you be more resilient?
  7. Identify stressors and potential disrupts, guard against or change to eliminate.

 

To close I thought I’d share this poem, which I used part of in the title.  It’s by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Finally, I’d like to hear your thoughts about this topic. 

Your Turn!

  • How did you “wake up”?
  • How do you help people consider their path?
  • How can we awaken loved ones we care about?

Moving My Tiny House

It finally came time to move my tiny house from the land where I built it, to the land where I planned to live on it.  Initially I had planned to build and live in it on the same property, but circumstances changed and it was time to move on.  Besides the land that I found to move to was much more suited to me and tiny living, plus it was a much bigger lot that I could tuck my house into out of sight.

photo 2The day arrived and step one was to get the house down from the blocks that I had jacked it up onto so that I could get it off the tires (prevent tire shock) and to get it level.  This was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be.  It was tricky to get it up on the blocks, but now I had added another 4,000 lbs of materials on top of it.  This process was slow and made me a little nervous honestly.  The thing I kept in my mind the entire time:  never let your hand come between the trailer and the blocks.  It’s easier said than done, but if the house were ever to fall, the only thing you can do is run.

Once we got it back on its wheels, I felt a lot better.  The trailer was holding the tiny house nicely even when fully loaded.  To move the house I opted for a Ford F150 which I rented from a local car rental place.  The rental was trickier than I had thought too because most car rental places don’t allow towing with their cars.  I could have gone with a Uhaul box truck which allows you to tow and can pull that weight.  I opted for the pickup truck because I had better viability and it was cheaper.  As a side note, I drive a Smart car which couldn’t ever tow the house, but the truck rental was about $65 for the day.

photo 1(1)Next time I rent to tow my house I think I’m going to opt for a “dually” which is a truck with double back tires.  This allows it to handle a lot more, the F150 did fine, but it’s suspension was put to the test even though it said it could handle it fine.  I should note that I have a dual axle trailer so less force was put on the trailer hitch than a single axle; then again if you have a single axle your house shouldn’t be more than 4,000 lbs total.

I had planned my route out to be the fewest number of turns, least traffic, slower speed roads and no bridges.  It did mean going through one of the more congested intersections, but we planned to go during the middle of a work day, so it wasn’t too bad.  The other thing that I did was in my truck I had my Father ride along to sit in the passenger seat to monitor things and check my blind spot, that was a huge help.  I also had Mother and Brother following behind me in another car.  Their job was to play interference for me; Basically keep cars from behind me and to block traffic when I change lanes.  We coordinated it all with cell phones and it went very well.

photo 3The only two things that had me worries was pot holes/bumps in the road and we saw two state troopers, which I knew were staring at me with curiosity.  I took my time, going just under the speed limit and it was very helpful to have my follow car who kept people from tailgating me.

photo 2(1)Once we got to my land I had my tail car go ahead and open the gate, take a look around to make everything looked good. I hung back about a mile away until I got the all clear.  I then was able to come in and duck into the property out of sight very quickly.  I also planned this for a day and time when I noticed most people were at work and not around, less people seeing the house the better in my mind.  I was able to zip down the road and into the property very quickly, unless someone happened to be already looking I don’t think anyone saw us.

 

Once we got to the property I had already planned out how I’d orient and place the house.  The turn into the pad area was too tight to make with the length so I drove past the parking pad, into the field, did a little off roading with my tiny house to circle back around.  After parking the trailer and chocking the wheels we could disconnect and I had installed a back exit to the pad to drive the truck out of easily.

All in all it was a good bit of work, quite nerve wracking and in the end, we landed safely in my new home.

I put together a tiny house towing checklist, download it by clicking the link below.

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