Tiny Porch Design For Your Tiny Tumbleweed Home

tumbleweed-tiny-porch-016-MWhen looking at pictures of tiny houses with tiny porches, there’s often a part of the mind that wonders whether this space wouldn’t be better made use of inside the living area instead of out. It is a logical thought when considering every ½” of your design, but I want to highlight some of the saving graces to tiny porches that I believe make them worth it.

Using Your Tiny Porch As An Exterior Work Surface

During construction, I quickly got over my uncertainty about the Fencl half-porch when it became one of my primary work surfaces. Being level and close to the project, I clamped, cut and sanded lumber, and put together countless small sections of my house there. Now the build is done, I still use the tiny porch as a work surface whenever I have projects I’m likely to make a mess with.

A Transitional Place to Sit

I love to sit on my tiny porch when the weather is nice. Out there I’m not quite in my house, but I haven’t really left either. Even though I have places for sitting further away, I always prefer the tiny porch.

Your Tiny Porch—A Shelter From the Storm

When you come home in the evening and it’s raining cats, dogs and small hamsters, having a covered area to hover in for the moment it takes to get your door open is quite the relief.

The Classic House

Aside from functional benefits, porches are a familiar aspect of the classic house image. Small as they are on a tiny house, the attached exterior space still imparts the distinct look and feel of a complete house.

So there you have some reasons why tiny porches can be practical even in tiny spaces. Anyone considering going porch-less?

- Ella Jenkins 
Workshop Presenter

Written by Adam Gurzenski — May 09, 2013

Filed under: design   Tiny Home Decor  

Tips for Inviting Personality Into Your Home's Interior Design

Our home is our sanctuary for rest and pleasure, and its design is most likely a reflection of our lifestyle and personality. If the look of your home hasn't changed for decades, you may be stuck in a rut. Do you play it safe with neutral colors and low-key decor? Perhaps you're the type of person who prefers to stay within a comfort zone. Invite excitement and unpredictability into your life by starting with some home improvements and design updates. Similar to our wardrobe and hobbies, updating our home can have a positive effect on our mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Take risks and stay fresh by adopting any of the following interior-design ideas:

Eye-Catching Color

Transforming the energy of your home doesn't have to be an expensive renovation project, and your walls don't have to be the only source of bright and stylish color. Accent a subdued wall with bold and colorful accents. Grommet curtains in colors jonquil, azalea or currant add character to white or beige walls. You can also play up your drapery with fun patterns and prints. Home decor store Z Gallerie offers Venetian Blue and Citrus Grey panels in a variety of geometric shapes that create a contemporary appearance. Minor room accents in bold hues can also instantly and easily give a home personality. Pair couches, sofas and sitting chairs with throw pillows in an orange geometric pattern or grey, orange and turquoise contemporary print available on Etsy.com.

Opposites Attract

Unexpected design choices and pairings can create an interior space that's anything but ordinary. Live life outside the rules and make life more interesting by marrying two unlikely design elements into a contrasting, yet stunning interior-design theme. Envision a modernistic style with retro accents. Pair antique furnishings with luxury furniture. Imagine an elegant design theme decorated with DIY crafts.

MiamiHerald.com recommends the design advice of Emily Chalmers, author of "Contemporary Country" and "Modern Vintage Style." In "Modern Vintage Style," Chalmers is an advocate of mixing old and new elements as well as looking for opportunities to "restore, reinvent and rescue."

As you juxtapose design contrasts, strive for balance. Chalmers suggests using artifacts and old-fashion pieces in conjunction with more modern and refined elements. Light fixtures and textiles are excellent options for adding dimension to the design of a room. From mid-century modern floor lamps and Victorian wall sconces to Oriental floor rugs and elaborate tablecloths, a wide variety of lighting and textile options can serve as excellent contrasting design accessories.

Natural Instincts

Home remodeling and design platform Houzz.com suggests designing your home by following your heart and speaking to your soul. Most importantly, don't be afraid to execute a design theme or decorative idea because it's too outrageous or eccentric. Design theme rooms to reflect your interests and passions. Are you a sentimental person? Create a nostalgic room adorned with family photos, achievements and heirlooms. Do you enjoy the tranquility of being at the beach? Transform a special space into a beachy nook with picturesque outdoor wall art and sea-inspired ornaments. With a little introspection, you can explore your inner creativity and then approach your interior space as a blank canvas for personal, aesthetic self-expression.

Written by Guest Blogger — January 18, 2013

Filed under: design   guest blogger   Houses   tips  

Small Comforts

Shannon Borg is a wine writer, sommelier and poet who lives on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. She is excited about taking the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop in Seattle on January 12th and 13th, which will focus on the very practical skills and tools you need to build a very small house. As a preliminary exercise before taking part, she thought she'd put down a few (very non-practical) ideas that have been rattling around in her tiny brain. She's inspired by the people that have done so, and who have changed their lives to live simply - we’ll see where it takes her!  

As children, we were fascinated by the miniature. We loved baby ducks, baby bunnies, baby dolls, and, of course, babies. Maybe it is because the small thing was closer to our own size, maybe we felt less threatened around something smaller than ourselves. When it came to toys, my favorites were my Easy-Bake Oven and a kid-sized doll house built by my mother and sister for me for Christmas one year, complete with brick exterior (ok, wallpaper) and garden (ok, plastic trees). It was a canvas for the fantasies of my eight-year-old imagination. 

barbie house

“Toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions, and obviously cannot but prepare the child to accept them all,” says French cultural critic Roland Barthes in his fascinating (and small) collection of essays, Mythologies. Boys practice being workers and soldiers with little trucks and guns, girls learn how to be homemakers with little kitchens and dolls. Our toys are society’s way of “training” us to live the lives we are expected to live. Mini-brainwashing you might call it. I get that. It makes sense that this part of our lives is formed by a higher percentage of “nurture” over “nature”. These days, boys play with dolls and girls with guns, but there’s still a strong magnetic pull for each gender to their “accepted” toys, and still, their accepted roles.

Whether or not my toys trained me to be the person I am, I’m not sure, but that dollhouse was the best present I ever had. It was almost more important than Barbie, its single inhabitant. Barbie lived alone, you see, because in my mind, this two room apartment was too small for a couple, and Barbie was in her early thirties, a career girl. This was 1973, and I grew up Mormon. Everything in my life pointed me towards marriage and babies. Then why did this toy not do its job? Maybe, as with many women of my generation, a myriad choices took me different directions. Or maybe I re-interpreted the message of the dollhouse to fit my own dreams.

It began life as a large wooden trunk-like box that had held my brothers’ train sets. Turned on its end and remodeled with a board added to separate the space, the box had a large lid/door that opened to reveal two rooms. The top room my mother had decorated as a bedroom, and the bottom was the little living room and kitchen. The top of the box wasn’t forgotten, and was laid with little toy trees and a small Astroturf lawn and Lilliputian park bench, too small for Barbie, really, but adorable. It was a rooftop garden. The whole thing was clad with human-sized brick contact paper and had a neo-Classical front door with columns, windows and long black shutters made from cardstock glued in place. This was a brownstone, or some other turn of the century apartment building, and it wasn’t a family home. Therefore, Barbie had to be single. My real-life family home was a 1962-built redwood-sided (Yes, REAL old-growth redwood from Northern California) ranch-style house in the post-war suburbs of Spokane Washington, roiling with my four brothers and two sisters who all shared rooms, clothes, shoes, toys, arguments and laughter. Barbie lived blissfully alone in her tidy little pied-de-terre. It was small, it was beautiful. It was hers.

And it was mine. I remember imagining myself in two rooms, and loving the idea of having everything I owned in one place.

A table, a chair. A few books. One pot, one bowl, one spoon. A stone. A beautiful shell.

But we outgrow these things, right? We grow up and enter society, and go to college, and read French philosophers and get jobs and work hard to buy that 800, 1,200, then 3,000 square foot home with the perfectly green yard smelling of fertilizer and the three bedrooms smelling of 2.5 children. The problem was, I never really wanted that. Maybe because I was a “spare” kid. There was the heir - in my family’s case - there were six - and seven years later, there was me. My parents  told me that when I was a baby, the other kids read an article about how to make your child a genius, so the kids wanted to experiment. They heeded the article, never putting me in a playpen, which was the style of the day, but letting me roll and roam freely. I was a product of a two-parent family, plus six proxies. Who knows? I think they created a bit of a monster, myself, but nevertheless, I was of a different generation than they. The very last Baby Boomer, (born the last day of the last year of the Baby Boom, December 31, 1964) with the attitude that I could do anything. I could sell the tiny Red Velvet Cakes I made in my Easy-Bake Oven to my brothers for five cents a piece, I could move to New York City and live in a 300-square-foot penthouse apartment  and have a fabulous career. Which is kind of what I did. Kind of.

Well, I went to too much school, lived in San Francisco and London and Houston.  I got married twice, but it never really took, and I had a potential career in the world of the InterWebs, making a more-than-decent living. But here I am at 49, living on a small island with a great boyfriend (who also doesn’t want to get married) and a tiny career as a writer, happy as a clam in a tiny clamshell, and happiest when I can pare down to fewer possessions and set up my nest in the small nook of a tree.

I wonder how many of us are like that? How many of us grew up practicing our lives on small toys, which seemed comforting and safe, and then let our lives and houses get out of control, too big for our bodies and our psyches and our nerves?And then, as we listen to ourselves - to the original child in us - we start to reel it in, to desire fewer possessions but more freedom?

Another French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, wrote in his fabulous book The Poetics of Space, of our fascination with the miniscule domiciles of nature - shells, nests, and hollowed-out trees, and the small spaces of our childhood imagination - corners, closets, hiding places: “The house grows in proportion to the body that inhabits it.” He isn’t talking only about physical size, but emotional size. A tiny house grows with the love and joy the person living there brings to it. In contrast, vastness can evokeloneliness - for me, and for many, I think. But he sees the two sides as necessary for completeness:

Sometimes the house of the future is better built, lighter and larger than all the houses of the past, so that the image of the dream house is opposed to that of the childhood home... Maybe it is a good thing for us to keep a few dreams of a house that we shall live in later, always later, so much later, in fact, that we shall not have time to achieve it. For a house that was final, one that stood in symmetrical relation to the house we were born in, would lead to thoughts—serious, sad thoughts—and not to dreams. It is better to live in a state of impermanence than in one of finality.

I have never seen an idea so manifest in reality than the story I saw in a recent documentary film, The Queen of Versailles. In 2007, billionaire Time-Share King David Siegel and his wife Jacqueline, at the height of their wealth, designed and began to build the largest home in America, a 90,000 square foot replica of the Versailles Palace, complete with swimming pool, bowling alley, health spa, 30 bathrooms and 10 kitchens. Et cetera, et cetera. It was a modern-day Hearst San Simeon. No, beyond that. A dream house beyond dreams. A modern day Citizen Kane’s Xanadu.

In the meantime, the bottom falls out of the market, and the bottom falls out of the Siegels’ life. Still, with impending foreclosure, Siegel vows to finish the place, which is now a vast languishing carapace of a castle, more ruin than royal. As Bachelard says, if this “home” is ever finished, it will be the place of “serious, sad thoughts,” of nightmares, no longer dreams.

More and more people, especially after the economic downturn, have begun to reevaluate their living situations, their half-empty 3,000 square foot homes miles from the closest grocery outlet. We hear of people attempting - whether by choice or necessity - to bring their lives in line with the changing realities of our “Twilight of the Giants” culture. Others are throwing off the bigger-is-better idea,  simplifying their lives for environmental reasons, hoping to consume less and thereby create a more sustainable planet. But I think a part of it we might not recognize is the fact that a smaller house, fewer possessions and a simpler life is what we want, not only what we need. I think I’m a part of a whole culture of people that are romanced by our memories of a simpler life, even if it was never ours.  

Again, Bachelard:

"Memories of the outside world will never have the same tonality as those of home and, by recalling these memories, we add to our store of dreams; we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost."

The small toys and spaces of our childhood did their work, sent us out into the world to become its citizens, but the memory of them never left, and remain something we value. We’ve gained a heck of a lot in the past 100 years - monetarily, technologically and culturally. But I think as a culture we are realizing that we’ve also lost much of the poetry of the past in the clouds of complexities of our world, and that finding a smaller place to dream, a simpler way to live, may be one thing that helps to save us from ourselves.

Written by Guest Blogger — January 11, 2013

Filed under: childhood   design   new builders   seattle workshop   small spaces  

Small Bathroom Design Tip #5

Storage, Odds and Ends

Storage set in to the wall is a great option. Enclose the lower portion of the cabinet and leave the upper cabinet open to create the feel of a larger space. Using glass shelving helps keep the feeling of the room light.

Repurposing furniture is a great way to create more storage and allows you to find something that specifically meets your needs. We recommend using a marine varnish on wood furniture to protect it from moisture.

Keep your window treatments simple. If you can, avoid curtains completely. Frosted glass provides privacy without clutter. If you decide to use a window treatment choose a fabric that allows light to pass through and cover only the bottom half of the window.

Proper ventilation of a small bathroom is a must! To save energy and still remove moisture install a ventilation system with a timer. To remove the heat and moisture the vent may need to be on for as much as an hour. A timer allows you to leave it and not waste energy.

Create the illusion of more space by leading the eyes up. Vertical lines on the walls or simple molding at the ceiling draws the eye upward and creates the feeling of a larger space.

Fight clutter! Take your assessment of your storage needs seriously and plan accordingly. Avoid busy or large patterns in your space. Instead, accent a neutral pallet with bold color.

Brittany did an amazing job designing her Fencl's bathroom
See more images of Brittany's Fencl

Design your lighting with your needs in mind. Florescent lighting is energy efficient but can completely wash out natural color. Invest in full spectrum florescent lighting to get the color and the environmental benefit. Install both ambient lighting and task specific lighting. That task might require a good strong light above the sink for shaving or applying make-up or it might require warm lights with a dimmer for long leisurely baths. Again, keep your needs in mind and design around them.

Pocket doors are incredibly handy in small spaces. The space saved where the door would normally swing can be used for storage or simply open space which is a luxury in itself. 



Read our other bathroom design tips on siniks, showers, baths and toilets

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — December 30, 2012

Filed under: bathroom   design   storage   tips  

Small Bathroom Design Tip #4

Sinks and all the trimmings...


JT went with a Pedestal sink in his modified Walden
See more images of JT's modified Walden


Opinions on sinks are surprisingly strong among designers and there are so many variables to consider. For the sake of this discussion we are going to look at a bathroom that needs storage. Pedestal sinks are beautiful and keep a space open but when storage is an issue they do not provide a solution.


Sink and vanity sets are available that are narrower than the standard 21 inches. Some are as narrow as 16 inches. This allows you to open up your space a little and still provides a place to store your towels.

Another model to consider would be a sink and counter supported by four legs. This allows you to store baskets and towels while still keeping your space open. Many manufacturers offer a “best of both worlds” design with drawers below the counter top and open space below.

If space for the swing of doors in a below counter vanity is an issue fabric curtains require almost no space and still hide your unmentionables.


The countertop is a fun area to splurge if you can fit it in your budget and you get a lot of bang for your buck. A beautiful marble countertop can transform a room and it doesn’t care if it is mounted on a less expensive cabinet system.

The vanity mirror can do a lot to extend your space. It opens up your room and creates the illusion of a larger space. If possible, keep your mirror close to flush with the wall. If storage is a consideration the cabinet behind your vanity mirror can be built in to the wall.

Read our other bathroom design tips on showers, baths and toilets

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — December 29, 2012

Filed under: bathroom   design   sink   tips  
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