Small Homes

Small House Review

A remarkably talented artist who spends her time in the U.K. and Scotland. Her work reminds me greatly of two of my favorite artists. I fortuitously stumbled across her website one day while running queries for work.

To my delight, I discovered she is a kindred spirit who is charmed by little homes on wheels. She now lives out of an old van that was remodeled by her partner and herself. Their little place, makes me think of a hobbit-hole on wheels. It has a quirky kind of warmth and bohemian beauty that I suspect is a close reflection of her inhabitants.

They have recently been traveling in their little home through Scotland, and recent posts on her blog show some fantastic countryside. If you’ve ever wondered what modern-day gypsies might look like, here they are.

She has a fascinating blog. I encourage you to check it out both for more photos of the Hermitage and to see a lot of examples of her lovely artwork. (Two prints of which are on their way to me now.)

Small Homes

Fighting Chemical Sensitivities with Small Houses

From the wide array of tiny house discussion lists and blogs I frequent, I like to think I’m familiar with at least some of the more common reasons people find tiny homes appealing—an opportunity to live more simply, a low-cost housing option, a way to have less negative impact on the planet, etc. Today, however, I read about a reason I’d never encountered before—Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

MCS is a chronic condition in which sufferers have anywhere from mild to life-threateningly extreme reactions in response to low levels of chemical exposure. Common triggers can include substance such as: pesticides, secondhand smoke, fresh paint, scented products, formaldehyde, cleaning compounds, and many others.

Just to give you a sense of the scale of the problem, the MCS America website reports that over 1 million Canadians are incapacitated by MCS. And, unfortunately, current disability laws both inside and outside the United State do not currently cover MCS in terms of either protection or services.

I had heard of MCS before, but it had never occurred to me what the impact would be for individuals with the condition in terms of trying to find viable housing

“When one develops MCS… and needs to find a safer place to live, there is no organized help,” reports MCS America. “There are no registries of safer places, no agents who know what to look for, few landlords who understand that even a small repair or touch up with problem materials could result in months of ill health. Rare are the places with safe tenants (who don’t pollute the air) or buildings with safe maintenance plans. Too many people become very ill searching for a safe home, as each subsequent exposure adds to a cumulative toxic load. Many become homeless, and more than a few commit suicide as a direct result of not having access to safe housing.”

After fourteen moves in fourteen years, the were driven out of their final rental home by the unannounced spraying of pesticides immediately outside their front door. They spent the next six months living out of their Subaru Forester, Scout. Thankfully, they have subsequently found temporary housing with friends in Washington state while they work on their more permanent solution… a nearly chemical-free tiny home of their own design, crafted in the shape of a Gypsy vardo.

According to a study headed by the CMHC, 86% of people with Environmental Sensitivities improved significantly after access to safe housing.

Building a tiny home is either within the current skill setor can become with some educationof most reasonably able-bodied individuals. Tiny homes also tend to be lower cost (overall not by square foot) than more traditional homes, which may be a significant concern to individuals with a condition that limits their ability to function in the traditional work sector.

By designing and building their own homes, sufferers of MCS can select materials that are safe for them. (For example Salizar and Little are using denim-based insulation, white oak, milk paint, and a beeswax finish.) They can incorporate items which make day-to-day living much more comfortable: such as Hepa air filters, tightly sealing windows and doors, and appliances such as washer/dryers that have not been compromised with fragranced laundry soap or dryer sheets. (Quick aside: I just looked up the list of chemicals in a standard laundry sheet and it scared me enough to take the last couple of sheets in my box immediately out to the trash and bury them UNDER the used kitty litter, which with my cat is a frightening toxic substance all of its own.)

Moreover, self-building takes times which gives the builders exposure time with any of the products going into their house as an added check of what they can and cannot tolerate. And necessary changes can be made midstream in the project much easier than working with a regular builder. Salizar discovered she had a reaction to their initial choice in insulation, which sent her back to the drawing board. In the case of a tiny home, changes such as these are much less cost-prohibitive than they would be in a larger structure. Additionally, if a tiny, chemical-free home is built on wheels, it allows the MCS sufferer to relocate should something change in their surrounding environment making their current location unliveable.

Both of the blogs are extremely well written and thought-provoking. I recommend taking the time to check them out and to follow their ongoing story of tiny house living.

Small Homes

What is a Folly?

For whatever reason, tiny housers seem to like to name their homes. Perhaps because of the small size of these homes it’s impossible not to become intimately acquainted with them. After living so closely together, how could you not come to know their name?

Whatever the reason behind it, I’ve been envious of the various names of these structures: The names are all as wonderfully individualistic and creative as the homes themselves.

I want to find the name for my little place, dang it. To date, as close as I’ve come in the process is catching myself referring to it more than once as “the Folly”. And, yes, it’s a deliberate pun. At various points in the renovation process, I’ve meant folly in every sense of the word.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the architectural definition, follies are small, whimsical buildings usually constructed in gardens or family estates. They are rarely intended for actual use but, rather, to serve as a kind of ornament. Often there is an element of artifice in their construction. For example, one very common type of historical folly was a fake ruin. Dont ask me why, but at one point is was quite the thing for well-to-do English lords to have a Grecian ruin tucked away in some corner of their garden.

Which leads me to the real point of this entry I recently discovered the U.K.’s Folly Fellowship, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of follies. This organization describes itself as: Initially a group of enthusiasts keen to record what was at first seen as a peculiarly British aspect of architecture, it has grown into a serious conservation and consultative architectural heritage charity, while not losing sight of the basic idea that these buildings are fun – they were built for pleasure before purpose. Some make us laugh, some provoke contemplative thoughts, some can frighten. Some are mere whims, others demand to be taken seriously. People take their pleasures seriously – why should buildings be any different?

I love that thought buildings that refuse to take themselves too seriously. I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly the kind of home Id like to live in.

But beyond just an appreciation for architecture with a lighthearted spirit, The Folly Fellowship has created a Flickr pool with some absolutely wonderful photos of these eccentric structures. Not only do I think this a wonderful collection of images to page through for the sheer fun of it, but I suspect many aspiring small housers could find inspiration in some of the designs.

Floating homes Small Homes

Floating Office Design H2Office

Along the floating/small home theme, I recently came across an article on the H2Office, which is designed as a floating office. The H2Office is the brainchild of Cardiff-based WaterSpace Developments and industrial design and marketing company.

The first model is slated to be available soon. Planned features include:

Enough space for 1-2 to work
Both a private work area and a breakout area for (small) meetings and/or meals
a deck
a bathroom equipment with toilet and shower
foldaway bunks in case of the need to pull an overnighter
built-in storage space
a small tender dock which could be used to stash something like a kayak or to catch a few rays
dimensions compatible with docking in a standard marina space

For additional information check out the designers blog.

Aside from finding this a cool idea, I’m filing this away in case I someday want to expand my living space by having a nearby office at the marina rather than simply using my back room. (I just wished it looked a little less like a floating airstream trailer.)

Daily Life Small Homes

Tiny house Building Workshops

I just figured out what I’m giving to myself as a Christmas gift this year Ive been longingly looking at the schedule of Tiny House building and design workshops all summer. Tiny home experts drove right through Portland a few months back towing an a small home (top picture) and I wasn’t there to see them or attend their workshops, dang it.

Well, low and behold, I just discovered I’m going to be pretty close to Orlando for work when the workshops arrive there next month. I’m cashing in some air miles and shamelessly using my company’s corporate hotel rate to travel on the cheap. And, by God, I’m going to attend the two workshops.

Now, admittedly, I already have my own small home project that I’m in up to my eyeballs right now. But Ive been enamored by tiny home designs for a couple of years, now. I would love an excuse to build one of his little homes someday. Moreover, his design workshop is of quite a bit of interest to me because I’m at the point in (re)constructing my own place where I need to figure out maximize the internal use of space to best meet my needs. Even if I don’t ever build by own Tumbleweed home, they have several clever features I think I may be able to adapt for my own floating cottage.

I also think Id really enjoy meeting some other people who are passionate about small housing in person.

So, all in all, I’m pretty excited that Ive found a way to attend.

Daily Life Small Homes

Small Home Alternatives

I’m beginning to wonder if my ongoing posts of renovation angst are beginning to grow a bit stale. Since that’s where a great deal of my time and energy have been going, I’ve had trouble motivating to write about anything else. But one thing that continues to fascinate me without fail is reading about the creative solutions other small-housers have come up with.

So, while I continue to slog away at making my own place habitable, I plan to post brief write-ups every Friday morning on a variety of other small home examples.

Perhaps one of the most unusual solutions Ive read about recently is a gentleman whose decided to live in a seriously modified interior of a garbage truck. I love how hes cleverly incorporated a sleeping loft, storage cabinets, a kitchen, and a work area into a limited amount of space. Plus, the concept of recycling a garage truck, of all things, makes me grin from ear to ear.