Training Tomorrow's Builders Today

Tumbleweed and Southern Adventist University - Partners in Education

Tumbleweed and Southern Adventist University are introducing the concept of tiny home construction to the next generation of American contractors. In the spring of 2013 students in SAU’s Construction Management program will be building Tumbleweed’s newest model.  

As you can see from our early drawings of the new house on the left, The new Tumbleweed is going to include a full sized murphy bed with built in couch on the first floor. 

Tumbleweed’s focus on education is longstanding. Through workshops, books, open houses, partnerships with high schools and community events we are trying to change the perception of what is possible. We are thrilled to be working with a community of future builders that have the ability to change the way America lives, literally, in the palms of their hands.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with two of the Tumbleweed staff involved in developing the partnership with Southern Adventist. The first thing I wanted to know was why they felt it was necessary for the next generation contractors to understand the concept of tiny homes.

Pepper Clark, a Tumbleweed workshop presenter, was nothing less than enthusiastic in her response. “It's essential for the next generation of American contractors to understand the idea of tiny homes because they provide both the most logical response to our growing economic and logistical housing challenges. Future builders need to be aware of how many problems can be solved with a tiny house; providing means for multi generational families to live happily together, allowing people to work at careers they love instead of high paying jobs they hate, enabling folks to move their homes as needed to respond to changes in their lives, and giving young people a way to live independently with little overhead as they start out.”

Our head of business development and sales, also sees contractors as an integral component to solving America’s housing and financial crisis. American contractors have the opportunity to help Americans with the financial headache of getting into home ownership. When contractors assist people in getting a better financial foundation under their feet, it will be assisting future generations. We want to refill the building pipeline in a healthy and sustainable way!” 

When asked about Tumbleweed’s focus on education Pepper discussed the importance of homeowner awareness and creating a financially sustainable lifestyle. “If we can assist people in making the decision to live in a tiny way, to reduce financial stress and increase financial stability in the average home, we will have been successful. Many people are having a hard time making ends meet. It is a path to less stress and financial stability.”

Southern Adventist University is pioneering a new and more responsible approach to educating the next generation of American builders. Tumbleweed is looking forward to the day when the concepts involved in tiny space design and construction are standard components of all university level construction programs.

 

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — January 21, 2013

Filed under: 2013   20132   build   Build it yourself   builders   college   education   Fencl   new   student builds   Tumbleweed  

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: 2013   20132   design   guest blogger   Houses   tips  

Ryan Mitchell on Being a Good Neighbor

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!

While I have been building my Tiny House, I have been living in a traditional house until my house is finished. The unfortunate thing about modern neighborhoods is that people don’t really know their neighbors, while my neighborhood wasn't any different; an interesting thing happened when I pulled up with my trailer and started building. At first it started with people craning their necks to see what was going on.  I didn't quite know what to think of it, so I just waived and gave a smile. 

For a few weeks I toiled on the floor framing and insulation, and then the magic happened.  Within one hour of the first wall going up I had three neighbors walk straight up to me and started asking questions. 

 Ryan

At first I was a little nervous on how they would react. Would they think I was crazy? Would they call code enforcement? Well as it turns out they thought it was really interesting. All of them. I had made sure to keep a few photos of what the house would look like handy to show people who wanted to know more and they were instantly on board. 

What is more, a few days later I stopped to talk to my newly acquainted neighbor and he asked if I’d be interested in moving the house to his lot when I was done building.This was a very welcomed surprise and signaled a very positive acceptance of my little house. 

So when you build your tiny house, realize you aren't just a builder, you are also a PR person; building connections and being a good neighbor is an important part of building your home!


Written by Guest Blogger — January 15, 2013

Filed under: 2013   20132   neighborhood   neighbors   new builders   ongoing posts   public relations  

A Look Inside Ella's Tiny House

Check out this video of Ella giving a tour inside her Tumbleweed.

You might recall Ella being on the front page of Yahoo! a few weeks back. 

If you would like to see more about Ella, check out her blog

Written by Adam Gurzenski — January 14, 2013

Filed under: 2013   20132   Build it yourself   Tumbleweed   video  

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: 2013   20132   childhood   design   new builders   seattle workshop   small spaces  

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