Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life website has been keeping us posted about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. In addition for guest writing for Tumbleweed, Ryan has been blogging about simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible lifestyles on his website: we think he's awesome!
The devil is often said to be in the details, and this
couldn’t be any truer than in a tiny house.
Many times I have made the argument over at my blog that tiny houses are more complex and intricate to build than your standard
McMansions. This is because in a small
house, you have so little space to work with that the small facets seem to jump
out at you.
When it comes to traditional homes, mistakes are easily
covered through various tricks of the trade, but they have one major thing in
their favor, lots and lots of space.
With that space you can easily hide the mistakes. Compare that to a Tiny
House, and the tolerances are so small that sometimes being off by 1/8th
of an inch means re-doing hours of work.
It is here in the details that tiny houses have made a name
for themselves, because you have to be so intentional about how you use
space. Here are 5 tips to help you make
sure the details given the reverence they deserve.
Make a list of the most important activities
your home must be able to handle, form should follow that list
Tape out your floor plan to scale and act out a
day in it. Be sure to have extra tape because you’ll be changing it a lot!
Stop looking at other Tiny Houses, make your
house for you.
Consider storage for all your things, including
often forgotten things like trash, recycles, and dirty laundry.
Obsess over the look, feel and form of
everything in your house to make sure it fits in well.
A popular small space shower design is an “open shower”.
This design involves no shower walls or curtain – just the fixtures and a drain
on the floor. It is a great space saver! Having used showers like these before,
I feel it is important to note some serious drawbacks. Everything in the bathroom
can now potentially get wet – your towel, your clothes and, my least favorite,
the toilet seat. Safe, dry storage becomes nearly impossible. Successful open
shower designs are possible, but most that avoid the above mentioned issues are in
much larger spaces than those of our Cottage bathrooms.
If the goal is to keep the shower space from breaking up
your already small space there are other solutions. Glass shower walls or
curtains with ties that pull them back to the wall allow the eye to travel the
full length of the room.
A glass shower wall inside a Tarleton
See more images of Will's Tarleton
Read our tips on baths and toilets
Recently, we posted
an article about J.T.'s modified Walden. It started a great conversation- blog readers responded with over 160 comments! J.T. has done his best to answer some of
the questions you asked.
Alexis asked: When the septic tank gets full, is there
somewhere to empty it or does it go to one of those sewage processing plants?
J.T. says: Black water is
collected in an 18 gallon waste water tank by Thetford. They make a lot of RV
supplies. The tank is on wheels and sits directly below the toilet under the
trailer. This can be dumped at any RV park that offers a sewer dump station. For the grey water I use a separate waste-line which collects and drains daily onto topsoil/mulch pit and vegetation.
Peatstack asked: Can
the house harvest rainwater, does it have a tank/filter, does it generate
electricity or use a battery system with solar/ propane generator? Can it
accomodate a composting toilet that the house needs no septic system? I would
like a house that can sit on open agricultural land without any systems
connections, the occasional propane tank and grey water drain accepted.
J.T. says: The roof's surface area is
quite small, but you could divert rainwater into a collection tank for
irrigation: a standard rain barrel would be overkill, but a 10 gallon tank
would work. I have a 25 gallon drinking water tank onboard with a water pump. I
can also hook up to a 3/4 inch garden hose. Make sure you put an RV/Marine
drinking water hose or your water supply will have an off plastic odor. Water
heater and pump are powered by 12v batter. 120v comes from a 20 amp extension
cord into a 30 amp circuit breaker box using around .5 to 1kw per day.
Annette asked: This looks like it would be the PERFECT portable office for
our mounted drill team. I do have a question regarding using solar power as an
energy source. Has anyone installed a solar set up and if so, what did they use
and how is it working to help out with their energy usage?
J.T. says: A Solman Action Packer System could run this house
easily. A plug and play system is the solution for a tiny house- something for
sure in the near future. I am considering A. 2 fixed panels on the roof of the tiny house. Orientation
to the sun could be limited when a new location is found. The Solman Action Packer could easily fit in the loft area above the front door or B. 2 fixed panels on the top of my truck with the Solman
system in the back of my truck. It could be parked daily in different spots to
optimize sunlight, then plugged into my house daily to charge on board batteries.
Stove and Oven:
Erica Gott asked: In mine, I want a full stove, with range
AND oven, even if it's small. I love cooking and need one. I can't wait to have
my own tiny home.
J.T. says: I have a 2 burner propane stove by Suburban. No oven, though a typical RV
oven would fit in nicely. I use a 20 gallon propane tank under the trailer,
which runs about $6 a month.
Libertymen asked: Is the refrigerator too small?
J.T. says: I have a 3.1 cubic foot fridge under standard
counter height. A 9.9 cubic foot fridge takes up the same foot print and stands
around 50 inches high. You would lose useable counter space, but gain storage
asked: How does
he keep things from falling off the shelves when he is moving? As well as the
furniture sliding around?
J.T. says: It takes about 10 minutes to pack everything up, and
it all goes in a box!
Jan Dregalla asked: Love the customization, especially the up-lighting towel window shades, kitchen shelving and Ikea shelving. I'm
curious, does the 2' addition on the front affect towing?
J.T. says: The extra 2 ft and added weight is on the rear, actually
distributing the weight more evenly. The standard design has a lot of the weight
on the towing hitch
Thanks for your great questions!
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.
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.
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).
A 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
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.
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
I try really hard to be a
loving granddaughter: I visit my grandma as much as possible, take her out to
lunch as often as she'll allow, and occasionally even help clean out her
basement. So naturally, I've always had reason to believe I was the model grandchild.
That is, until I met Jonathan Black at
the Tumbleweed workshop in LA.
A former CalPoly student, 26 year old Jonathan chose to seek a different
educational path after several unsatisfying years of school. He currently works
as a server at a restaurant in San
Luis Obispo, and says he's much happier dealing with
"life stress" than "school stress." Now, he's setting out on
a whole new meaningful adventure: tiny house building for a cause.
Jonathan's grandpa has
stenosis, and is trying to plan ahead for the unfortunate possibility of needing to use a wheelchair.
His house in Morgan Hill,
however, is not wheelchair accessible. To solve this problem, the family has hatched a brilliant plan: Jonathan will build a wheelchair accessible wing on
his grandparents' house.
There's only one problem: to work on the house, Jonathan needs a place to
stay. His grandparents owned both a motor home and a shed, but neither was an
option. The motor home needed too much work, and grandpa had already converted
the shed into an office.
The perfect solution? A Tumbleweed
Tiny House for Jonathan.
Jonathan loves the idea of avoiding
debt, and is excited to integrate his tiny house into a larger meaningful
project for his family. He purchased the Fencl plans before coming to LA.
Brainstorming at the workshop
Jonathan played around with many different designs at the
workshop, getting input from his mom, Bethany, and other helpful attendees.
He will build the Fencl in
January, hoping to use as many found
and donated materials as possible. He will be blogging about the
process as he goes, as well as checking in with us here.
After he completes his tiny
house, he'll begin work on the wing for his grandparents. "My mom doesn't
want it to look like a disabled
wing," explained Bethany.
"We want Jonathan to do something that doesn't look ugly, because it's a
sensitive issue." Jonathan will be mentored by a local building inspector
who is also an ADA
inspector, seeking ways to make the wing both aesthetically pleasing and wheelchair accessible.
By the end of next year, he'll
have not only blown me out of the water in the best grandchild competition, but will have completed a little house of his own. Two birds, one stone anyone?
Jonathan with grandparents and mom
Right now, Jonathan is
looking for trailers in the Morgan
Hill area, so please let us know if you can help!