My Tiny Semester: Meet Nara

Hi! I'm Nara, Tumbleweed's staff writer.

You might have seen my name on the bottom of recent blog posts, or perhaps you noticed my face looming over a questionable gingerbread house. Now it's time for a formal introduction!

In addition to managing the blog and talking with you lovely people about your tiny house dreams, I'm in the process of finishing college in the glorious liberal woods of Western Massachusetts. For my what you might call my senior project, I have been attempting to dissect a small but crucial slice of the American Dream: The American House. 

Playing TinyPlaying tiny- I had to fend off some small children for this shot 

Beginning later this month, I'll be living in a Fencl on my campus for 120 days. I want to share the benefits and realities of living small, so I'll be writing about my "Tiny Semester" on this blog. I'll also be holding several open houses and informal workshops in the Western Massachusetts area- contact me if you're interested! 

I'm so excited to be a part of Tumbleweed, and to pursue these tiny dreams of my own. One of the things that drew me to Tumbleweed was flexibility. Instead of prescribing one set way to create a structure, Tumbleweed allows for houses and builders of all shapes, colors and sizes. Everyone is encouraged to create their own unique take on a tiny house. 

To me, creating my own tiny house set-up is the ideal way to wrap up my year of studies. I want to create an interactive, influential space on my campus that represents alternative possibilities for housing. This also presents the opportunity to live off-grid, which is an important step for me. With help from my college and fellow students, I've been working hard to develop sustainable, low-impact ways of residing in my tiny house. Hello composting toilet, goodbye refrigerator! 

And as I near my final semester of school, I want to try something different: I want to really, truly have to live with myself. To forgo plastic bins and cardboard boxes of hidden pasts, to be conscious of the line between useful and excessive. I want to address myself piece by piece, taking it apart, discarding the excess, and reassembling in an appropriate, Tumbleweed-sized venue.

I will graduate college all too soon, and I don't want to walk straight into a mortgage. I don't want to be told to buy a house on unrealistic credit and that it's my fault if I can't pay it. I want to joining hands with the young people all over the world that are saying "NO!" to an outdated American dream. 

Watch out for upcoming blog posts. Heads up: I'm packing up my life this week, so it's about to get interesting! 

Written by Nara Williams — January 07, 2013

Filed under: college   Downsizing   friends   ongoing posts   stories   student builds  

Tiny Tree Solutions

This year, my mom decided she'd rather not deal with a Christmas tree. At first, I was crushed-I'm not a Christmas fanatic, but I have some pretty solid positive associations with the smell of pine and the warm glow of colorful lights. 

Then I thought about how crazy it is to buy a dead tree, and how little time we'd actually use it before throwing it in the alley, and how many needles trees leave all over the place. Avoiding all of those complications started to make a little sense. 

Still, I had one remaining objection- I'd made ornaments as Christmas gifts for my family. If we didn't get some kind of tree, we'd have nowhere to display my creative generosity and artistic skill!

I don't live in a tiny house, but I figured that this would be the time for a tiny alternative tree. Here was our compromise: 

Tiny TreeCheck out that style! 

It's actually a rosemary plant, which is pretty great- it smells awesome, and we can put it in our garden in the spring. We found it at Trader Joes for under $10. 

Here are some other tiny tree ideas that I brainstormed. They can support ornaments, smell good, and are cool year round:

-The cut top of a tree, stuck into some foam or a pot of dirt

-A brussel sprout stalk

-A multi-armed cactus

-A bonsai tree

-A beautiful branch

-Other small potted trees- living trees that can be replanted outside are a great idea 

It's probably too late this year, but whether you live in a tiny house, apartment, dorm room, or normal sized space, a tiny tree is a great alternative. To me, my tiny rosemary tree represents simplicity, responsibility, and future possibilities of roasted potatoes. It's about time. 

Written by Nara Williams — December 21, 2012

Filed under: christmas   diy   downsizing   holidays   tiny house decorating   tree  

The "Benefits" of Big House Living

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a writer, researcher, environmental strategist, and author of the 2012 book Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet. Kendra  wishes more people would hop on the small house bandwagon if not for the planet, than at least to cut down on housekeeping time. She can be found online and on Twittter

Despite my strong sustainability credentials, I sometimes feel unqualified to speak out on the evils of big houses.  There is no priest nearby, so it is to you that I make this confession: although I eviscerate the big house trend in my book Green Washed I have never lived in a big house.

My current home, a studio apartment in the New York City borough of Queens spans a spacious 220 square feet, somewhere in between the Popomo and the Bodega. My childhood home – which quite comfortably housed my mother, father and older sister – clocks in at a mere 1,120 square feet. This was totally normal square footage for 1955 when the house was built (though still some 246 square feet larger than the largest of the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, but positively Lilliputian by modern standards. In 2010 median house size spanned some 2,169 square feet (and that’s after three years of house size deflation).

Kendra's Favorite HouseA view from Kendra’s favorite small house ever – a century old, single story house in rural Vermont

Did I mention these bigger houses also house fewer people?

I confess this fact of my limited exposure to larger homes because it’s easy for us of the small house clan to rest on the intellectual superiority of our position. The science shows that smaller houses require fewer materials to build, require less energy to heat and to cool, and better coexist with the population densities that have been linked to environmentally and socially sustainable lifestyles. And though, a well-designed small house may cost more per square foot to build, they’re cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain.

Check and mate, right?

And yet, lots of people love big houses. As a relatively eco-aware friend once told me, “I grew up in a 4,000 square foot home and it was gorgeous – one day I’ll have a similarly sized home.”

Why yes, we’re still talking.

Maybe, just maybe there’s something we denizens of small abodes are missing.  

Like the experience of being able to talk to our family via intercom like one acquaintance I know who was raised in a large sprawling home in suburban, New Jersey.

In contrast, when my mother wanted me for something she was more old school – she hollered; imagine how much her vocal cords could have been saved by a comprehensive intercom system necessitated by big house living?

Here’s another benefit to big houses– you can host a lot of people.

When a friend needed to host a wide number of friends and family because of a family emergency, a family friend was able to roll out the red carpet courtesy of not one, not two, but of four guest bedrooms.

You never know when you’ll have to host an entire basketball team on a moment’s notice.

Finally, let’s not forget the absolute best thing that large homes afford us: the opportunity to ignore our family members by never, ever, existing within the same space. 

In grad school I lived in a ramshackle cottage with questionable heat and plenty of personality with two other roommates, and it was the first time I noticed this curious trend. Namely, the less house per occupant – uniformly inhabited by strangers who had agreed to live with each other sight unseen courtesy of my grad school’s e-mail list serve – the closer the roommates became over time, even when on the surface they shared nothing in common (i.e. bacon loving, pot smoking, alcohol drinking atheists sharing a place with extremely devout, hijab wearing Muslims).  Small spaces are intimate spaces and force us to get along or go our separate ways.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to have these things in a big house.

It’s just harder.

And that, I think is the most compelling argument for tiny houses isn’t an environmental one – but a social one. 

Written by Guest Blogger — December 08, 2012

Filed under: big houses   bodega   Books   Downsizing   Green Washing   home design   popomo  

Small Kitchen Design Tips

The Best of Small Kitchen Design - The Little Rock Whidbey

Small kitchen design is unique in its need for both functionality and eye appeal. Lindsey Lewis of Little Rock, Arkansas adapted the kitchen in our Whidbey plans and takes high honors in both!

The small kitchen photos below offer great solutions for solving some of the most common small kitchen design dilemmas with stunning results!

Storage is one of the biggest issues confronting the occupant of a small kitchen. Kitchens, by their very nature, require “stuff” – pots, pans, utensils etc.  Storing these necessary items in a way that does not create visual clutter is key. Lindsey’s stunning banquet is a great option.  Linens, large pots and pans, over-sized serving platters or your Aunt Helen's favorite candle sticks will all fit snuggly and out of site in large, neutral colored baskets beneath the seating. 

An island at the center of the kitchen provides additional workspace and another option for covered storage. It has the added benefit of providing space to place items coming out of the refrigerator or, with the addition of a stool or two, a space to socialize with a glass of your favorite Sonoma wine while the meal is being prepared.

Cabinets with glass doors help make small kitchens look larger. In her Little Rock Whidbey, Lindsey uses frosted glass in her cabinet doors and a brightly colored back wall with stunning results. 

Shelves are another common option for kitchen storage. They keep things open and light but come with a few pitfalls. Most designers suggest choosing which items to place on them with great care to eliminate potential clutter. Stark white plates with cherry red bowls and stew pots make the perfect statement next to this sink. Handy hooks for coffee mugs hang below freeing up more cabinet space.

The flooring helps to create much of the character and dynamic of this custom Whidbey. Extending that flooring from the great room through both the nook and kitchen helps maintain the uniformity of the space.

Lighting is an often over-looked aspect of design.  The natural light in this Whidbey is astounding but Lindsey also took care to provide “task” lighting in key areas. Note the lights above the table, island and sink. Carefully assess how you are going to use your space and locate task lighting according to your needs.

Small kitchens do have several things going for them that their larger brethren do not. There is an inherent efficiency in a well-designed small kitchen that no large kitchen can compete with. Everything you need is at your fingertips.

The other advantage a small kitchen has is cost. Because a smaller kitchen is going to use less square footage of counter space and fewer cabinets you will be saving money. Apply the funds to upgrades. High quality counter tops have great visual appeal and wear better over time. Custom cabinetry with high-end pulls and handles add immense value and character.

Congratulations Lindsey on a stunning adaptation of Tumbleweed's Whidbey! Your kitchen is an inspiration! 

For more tips from the number one name in small house design read The Small House Book.  

 

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — November 13, 2012

Filed under: design   Downsizing   home design   kitchens   Whidbey  

5 Blog Post Worth Reading

 

Our blog is designed to keep you up to date on the latest happening in the small house universe. Here are 5 posts that you may have missed:

  1. How to Get Around Building Codes and Zoning for Tiny House Living - TinyHouseTalk.com publisher Alex Pino and Small House Society President Greg Johnson share their insights. You'll really want to note the cities that are beginning to allow tiny houses to be legal dwellings
  2. Have You Considered a Historic Neighborhood for Your Small House? - Kent Griswold, publisher of TinyHouseBlog.com explores an intriguing option for those looking to find a spot for their tiny house.
  3. Building a Tiny House on a Mountain - Laura LaVoie is currently building her tiny house and has shared some very informative information about the building blogging process.
  4. Virtual Tumbleweed Contest - Top 10 Finalists - Our fans are some super creative folks! Check out our latest Pinterest contest and get some ideas to personalize your own tiny house.
We've got a lot more great posts coming your way. We are grateful for our many quests bloggers and look forward to sharing the best information we can to help you get started on your own tiny house. Grab your own tiny house plans here.         

Written by Brett Torrey Haynes — July 20, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   Downsizing   floor plans   green building   home plans  
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