The Postcard Underground – supporters of the tiny house movement

Unless you’ve built a tiny house, you may not realize that it can often be a very lonely and discouraging process.  Sure, it’s fun and exciting, but there are many things that are challenging and frustrating about the build process as well.  Yet it seems that for every challenge, there is something positive that keeps you going through the build.  For the last two weeks I’ve been struggling with this nasty flu – for a whole week I hardly left the house, and then the second week of it, I only made it into my work twice.  Yet those two days that I did make it in to work last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find postcards waiting for me from an organization called the Postcard Underground.

A google search revealed several organizations who had also been recipients of their postcards.  Through this search I found out that the Postcard Underground sends anonymous postcards with encouraging messages to individuals and organizations who they believe are doing inspiring work.  Even though I don’t know who is behind this effort, I feel so fortunate to have been the recipient of a few of their postcards.  They came at a time when I really needed some encouragement, and they made me remember the joy it is to receive snail mail in this age of emails and texts.  The fact that the postal stamps are from Minnesota, my home, makes me even more appreciative of their effort.  Thank you, Postcard Undergound, for your support of Boneyard Studios and the whole tiny house community!

A workshop designed like a tiny house

We believe tiny house workshops should be like tiny houses: small, intimate, and designed to your individual needs.  That’s why a couple of the professionals involved in building houses at Boneyard Studios put together a tiny house design workshop for the DIYer who wants more technical information and planning materials for their tiny house build. Our first workshop this past fall was a success and a lot of fun to put on, so we are redoing it again this Spring at Howard University.  Find out more details about the workshop and watch a video from our past workshop.  Check out our photos and materials from the past workshop below and see why I, Lee, was motivated to help design a workshop with these professionals after my experience building a tiny house.

Throughout my tiny house project, I have realized how much building requires project planning, understanding major decision points in the process, and a knowledge of building code and materials.  I didn’t fully understand how one decision impacted another or what building decisions and techniques were unique to tiny houses.  I had naively bought into some of the promotional materials in the tiny house world that claim you can build a tiny house with just 14 tools or that make it seem like building a tiny house is simpler and easier just because it’s smaller than a regular house.  Our experience has been the opposite: a tiny house actually requires more planning, and a pretty thorough knowledge of building science, health and safety, and codes (International Building Code, RV code (ANSI/RVIA), and city code and zoning) in order to build a structure that is safe, durable, and is an efficient use of space.  Come learn with us again this spring!

 

Al Jazeera America airs a documentary and specials on Tiny Houses Nov 22-24

Update on dates/times for Al Jazeera specials on tiny houses:

Watch the documentary Tiny: A story about living small on Al Jazeera America station on Sunday, November 24 at 9pm EST  Details here. This is the television premier of the award-winning documentary by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith about their experience building a tiny house in Colorado with no previous building skills!

In addition, you can also check out two Al Jazeera shows on tiny houses where you’ll get to see a tour of the Boneyard Studios lot and our houses and an interview with Christopher (the filmmaker).  The Stream airs on Friday night, November 22 at 7:30pm EST and America Tonight will broadcast their special at 5 pm or 6pm EST on Saturday night, November 22.  If any of our supporters have cable and DVR and want to record these shows for us, we would greatly appreciate it! None of us subscribe to cable and Al Jazeera U.S. doesn’t post their shows online, so make sure to catch them live if you can!

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Al Jazeera America crew at Boneyard Studios

Insulated at last…Pera house update

What a busy month it’s been.   After I finished up the siding of my house with other furloughed feds at the beginning of October, I built my my kitchen cabinets with a professional cabinetmaker at the Build Tiny workshop that my friend Robin Hayes led. Robin has been an amazing resource in my build.  As a master plumber and general contractor, she has helped me to understand how important project management is in construction and even more so in tiny house construction where every decision and detail matters.

Most newsworthy, however, is that last week my house WAS…FINALLY…INSULATED! (with closed-cell foam by AC&R insulation). Eight months after originally planned and with freezing temperatures descending upon Washington DC, it could not have come at a more appropriate time (unless it would have been installed last winter when I originally planned it to be!).  Insulation was a big step – no longer am I just building the structure of my house, but I am moving on to the interior, a more personal space.  Given that shift in the build process, I took some time the morning of insulation to do a space clearing with some sage that my friend Margaret, another tiny house builder, had given me.  When she gifted me the sage a year ago I had fully expected to be done with my entire house when I used it. Yet I felt I needed to honor this step in the build process to thank those who’ve helped me on this journey up until now, and to challenge myself to finish this project in a timely manner.  I’m now very motivated to move forward quickly with the interior of my house, and I’m excited to be working with some new builders/designers since Tony and Matt have moved on to other full-time jobs (thank you both so much for getting the exterior of my house looking so wonderful).

I look forward to posting our progress on the interior over the next couple of months.  In the meantime, check out photos from the past month, including cabinet making during the Build Tiny workshop, a trip to the Hicksville lumber mill (best prices in the area for lumber), a visit from my mother who helped me to organize my supplies and our shipping container (thanks, Mom!), and my closed-cell foam insulation.

 

Boneyard Studios featured in Dwell magazine

Boneyard Studios was fortunate to be featured in the November issue of Dwell magazine. The current issue highlights small space design and we were photographed and interviewed for an article on microhousing communities.  You can check out the article online or in the print magazine. If you don’t already “like” our Boneyard Studios’ Facebook page, go there to see some photos from the photo shoot (thanks to Eli Meir Kaplan Photography for sharing the photos) .  Also, I don’t blog as regularly as I post new photos and announcements to the Facebook page, so follow us there for regular updates or if you’re an Instagram user, link here.

Screenshot of Online Article in Dwell

Screenshot of Online Article in Dwell

Screenshot of Dwell print magazine cover: Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

Screenshot of Dwell November 2013 Issue: Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

A few clarifications to the Dwell piece/photos:

1) We are a friendly bunch who has fun! (Dwell must have a rule on no smiling as the guys look very serious in all of the photos!)

2) Boneyard Studios is not just dudes (Lee Pera, the female founder of Boneyard Studios, and Elaine Walker, the owner of the little white house, were not on the lot the day of the photo shoot).

3) In addition, many other members of the community were also absent from the photo shoot, including our architects and and another builder.  So many thanks to Foundry Architects, David Bamford of Element Design&Build for the beautiful execution of our projects at Boneyard Studios!

Another impact of the government shutdown – siding on Pera house finally complete!

As many of you readers know, I work as a geographer for a government agency which means that I have been furloughed this week.  Although Congress cannot get their act together, I figured it was a great opportunity for me to get my act together after a busy month of travel and finish up the exterior of my house.  So yesterday several furloughed friends and I spent the afternoon finishing up the siding on my dormers and roof. Although we couldn’t do our jobs to protect the environment as we do most days, it was great to do some physical labor and see the results of our work immediately.

Furloughed feds working on the Pera house

Furloughed feds working on the Pera house

EPA employees are quite skilled at carpentry too!

EPA employees are quite skilled at carpentry too!

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Last of the dormer siding!

Last of the dormer siding!

For those of you who have kept up with my posts over the past year, you’ll know that this siding project has been the longest and most labor intensive siding project in the history of tiny houses (okay, I don’t know that for sure, but I’m pretty certain!)  It’s been a very emotional process – especially upon discovering things I’d done wrong, wish I would have done differently, or things I had to do and then redo.  In the end, though, it challenged me to learn new skills  – planing, sawing, drilling, organization, project management, with which I still very much struggle!  In addition, I gained confidence in building (I hop onto my roof now to work where a year ago I was too scared to even climb the ladder to get up there!). Another positive outcome of it being a laborious process was that it allowed me to host numerous work parties with friends and volunteers, and I have such fond memories of all the folks who contributed to the siding, yesterday’s siding party being the last one!  Yes, we finally knocked off the remaining siding on the dormers and roof yesterday, and I’ve ended up with a pretty amazing-looking design.

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I have such gratitude for everyone who has helped with the siding of the house, whether that be a weekend of planing wood, an afternoon of treating boards, multiple work parties screwing them in, or spring afternoons helping me on my roof.  And then there were the numerous weekends I worked by myself – slowly, tediously, but meditatively, challenging myself to complete something I thought I would never finish.  There were many days I cursed the night we came up with this design, yet now that’s it’s finally done I think I’ll put on the rose-colored glasses and just remember the many weekends working on the house with friends and feel proud that we actually finished the most labor-intensive task on my house (well, let’s hope that no other task will take me almost a year to complete!)  Thanks, all!  Next up…insulation and interior!

West Coast versus East Coast: Tiny Houses

Okay, in all honesty, that title was just to grab your attention.  There’s really more collaboration than competition, and Portland has some great tiny house action happening! Indeed, part of what inspired the founding of Boneyard Studios was to show folks on the East Coast that tiny houses aren’t just a West Coast thing even though it’s where the majority of tiny houses seem to be (up until recently that is…North Carolina now has a whole tiny house organization!).  Having lived for 7 years in the Pacific Northwest, I make a goal to visit often and I just returned from a lovely week in Oregon.  While there I was able to visit with some folks active in the tiny house community, including PAD Tiny Houses, Lina Menard, and Kol Peterson, the founder of the nation’s first tiny house hotel – the Caravan and a great advocate on small housing and accessory dwelling units.

It was wonderful to meet with such engaged people working on code, zoning, building standards, design, and education around tiny houses.  I even was put in touch with a guy who started up tiny house shows in Portland (as blog readers know, I started up a tiny house concert series here on the Boneyard Studios lot this past Spring), so look for some bi-coastal collaboration on tiny house shows sometime soon as well!

Below are some photos from the visit.

Tiny House Design Workshop – Special discount for 2!

We had a great raffle for the tiny house design workshop being organized by Open Source Tiny House Sept. 14 and 15 in Washington DC.  Given the level of interest we have received from couples or friends who want to take this workshop together, we are offering a special discount for 2 people who register together.  More details are on the workshop website.  We look forward to sharing our knowledge and experience with you over the weekend helping you design and plan your own tiny house project.  See more details here.  And please contact us here with any workshop questions you may have.

Tony

Tiny House Design

Tiny House Design

Learn how to design & build a tiny house with Boneyard Studios!

We are excited to offer a tiny house design and build workshop in Washington DC this September.  We have designed a workshop that includes everything I wish I would have known before starting my project.  I took a tiny house workshop before starting my project, but I still left wanting more technical and design information.  We want you to leave this workshop with all the technical knowledge and the planning tools to start your project!

We will be giving you the tools to effectively and efficiently get started on your own tiny/small house project, including an online project plan with major key decisions and technical resources and a base set of plans from which to design your own house. In addition, the workshop will allow you to tour and learn about different design and construction options from the builders and architects of four tiny houses on the Boneyard Studios lot, the nation’s first tiny house community.

Big Ideas, Small Spaces: A Tiny House Design Workshop

Sept 14-15
Washington, DC

Workshop location is just two blocks from the convention center metro stop and at Boneyard Studios.  We will help workshop participants to get to Boneyard Studios via public transportation or car share.

*Limited to just 30 participants to allow ample time with architect and builder on your technical and design questions

Detailed Workshop Schedule Here

Register Here

We are emphasizing quality over quantity and limiting participation for that reason. You will not be in a workshop with 80 participants but rather 30 participants maximum. This is to allow ample time for each participant to get their technical and design questions answered by the architect and builder.

Questions?  Please enter them below.

Tiny House Fair

We just returned from the first tiny house fair at Yestermorrow Design School in Waitsfield, VT.  Elaine Walker, whose tiny house resides on the Boneyard Studios lot, worked with Yestermorrow for over a year to design and organize the fair, and we were delighted and honored to be asked to speak.

After almost ten hours on the road, Brian and I arrived just in time for dinner on Friday night and then kicked off the fair with a presentation on Boneyard Studios.  While we were exhausted, the audience was not and peppered us with many good questions.  Unfortunately, since we were both presenting, I don’t have a photo of that!

What fun it was to meet and reconnect with so many of the tiny house folks I’ve been following and learning from over the past couple of years.  I was especially excited to finally meet Dee Williams of PAD Tiny Houses in person – even more of an inspiring, lively and generous spirit than I had imagined.

Listening to Deek of RelaxShacks present is always a treat – he and his brother kept the audience laughing with their antics and tales of salvaging materials to make creative and whimsical tiny structures for every possible purpose.

Other folks we were fortunate to connect with and learn from at the fair were Mariah Coz of Comet Camper (she’s just as hip as her camper!),  Abel from Zyl Vardos, who designs very unique and beautiful tiny homes out of Olympia, WA, and Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith who are great tiny house and simple living bloggers. Check out Tammy’s beautiful photos from the fair.  Other tiny house bloggers, builders and filmmakers came from around the country.

If this weekend was any indication, there’s no doubt in my mind that the tiny house movement is growing.  Sometimes it’s easy to get a bit discouraged when weighed down with the building process, but we received such wonderful and encouraging feedback about our project that I’m coming back inspired to keep building and doing outreach work.

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