Russ and Sheila's Weekend Retreat

Sheila Working on her Weekend Retreat

Russ and Sheila are avid cyclists and have always dreamed of owning a weekend retreat that's bike-able from their permanent home. “I remember how excited I was when I stumbled on the Tumbleweed site for the first time in early 2013. Right away, I knew I had found what I was looking for,” Russ recalls. “I love the efficiency of the design, that it’s moveable, affordable and I love the way the design and look will blend in with the forest setting I plan to place it in.”

Russ (front, center) & Friends 

The problem? Russ wanted to build his Tiny House RV, but like so many DIY tiny housers, he had no construction experience. He attended a Tumbleweed workshop in Berkeley last year to learn more about the project he was about to undertake, and he was delightfully surprised by the amount of new friends he made over the two days.

“One of the couples I had met at the workshop contacted my wife, Sheila, and I about some property they were going to look at in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” Russ told us. “The four of us loved it so much that we ended up buying the property together and now we all have a place to put our Tiny House RVs!”

At Tumbleweed, we structure our workshops to be social and encourage our attendees to stay in contact long after the weekend is over. Whether it's a carpenter looking to help out on a small project or a family who has extra backyard space available for constructing a Tiny House RV, countless friendships have been made just from meeting like-minded people and starting the conversation.

Russ in his Framed Tiny Home

It's been a year since Russ and Sheila attended the Berkeley workshop, and they are now almost half finished with their Tumbleweed Elm 18 Overlook. “It’s probably the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life,” Russ admits, “and I have done some pretty difficult things, including getting a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford and riding my bike 520 miles in 40 hours.” Russ and Sheila have encountered a few difficulties during construction, including finding the right trailer.

“I thought I could save money by having one (a trailer) custom built by a local trailer manufacturer.  However, the final dimensions ended up being less than perfect.  By the time I had paid a welder to modify the design and add the all threaded rod to tie down the house, I ended up spending about the same amount of money and much more time than I would have if I had simply purchased the Tumbleweed trailer.”

Russ on his Ridge Beam

Even thought they've encountered a few challenges, Russ has found the experience to be extremely rewarding, adding that he can't wait to spend the night under a roof that he built with his own two hands. 

As always, we asked Russ to share three pieces of advice for future builders. He gave us four, including links to his website with more information! 

Russ's 4 Pieces of Advice:

1.  Stick to the plans. Especially if you don’t have a lot of building experience.  Early in the build process, I made a few changes that I thought were minor but ended up causing major headaches.  
2.  Purchase the highest quality tools you can afford.  Doing so will save you a lot of time and effort and you will thank yourself every time you use them.
3.  Whenever possible, support your local lumberyard instead of the big box hardware stores.  You might pay a little extra, but it will be worth the good advice and high quality materials you will receive.
4.  Its OK to make mistakes. Welcoming a little imperfection often results in unexpected beauty you might not have otherwise experienced.


*All photos provided by Russ and Sheila

*Russ and Sheila have an extremely helpful, detailed blog about their build. It's a great resource. Follow them here


Jenna BioJenna Spesard is currently living and traveling around North America in a DIY Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop host. They are photographing and writing about their adventure and occasionally they will be hosting an open house. Be sure to follow their tiny house and giant journey here.


Written by Jenna Spesard — October 27, 2014

Filed under: 2014  
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