My interest in all-things-tiny-and-old started at 12 years old when I became fascinated with a tiny abandoned farm house near my parent’s home...and I've been sketching floor plans ever since. My Tiny Houses are the culmination of a life spent dreaming of a tiny reclaimed space, all my own.
There is simply no way we would be able to build My
Tiny Perch without the generous support of you, our GREAT sponsors.
And, this time, rather than sending you all an email /
newsletter, I’m going to shout to the world (again!) my appreciation (and
affection) for you, your staff, and your products; via this blog post.
And while we have not yet cracked open the boxes of ALL of
the products we’ve received, there are a few sponsors and products that have
taken an expeditious front and center in our world. "Who are they?"
Sherwin Williams’ staff (which includes my son) was quite
surprised that I chose such a bold color for the exterior. But the comments that started out as a “you’re
painting it THAT color?” have now ended up as “I LOVE the color” from all who
Bright, Bold and Beautiful!
Mr. Plywood and their knowledgeable staff have gone above
and beyond to advise, select, and provide the lumber and siding which has, after
many nights of lost sleep, actually resulted in the under-weight shell that we
hoped it would be.
Working with such great materials also allowed us to stay
ahead of the build schedule,
even in bad weather!
Maybe the framing is not much to look at, but we've been oh so impressed nonetheless!
Here we are, espousing our love for Mr. Plywood everywhere we go!
If eyes are the window to your soul, our windows and door are
a peek into the caring souls of the flexible and supportive staff at ParrLumber. The amazing windows are a beautiful and
dominate feature of My Tiny Perch that gives the interior a not-so-tiny feel.
A HUGE view from where WE stand!
I am in LOVE with the orange door!
And last, but not least, thank you to Insulation Solutions for
stepping up to provide the house “wraptor” we needed, just when we needed it!
It’s that time of year …the time of year when we look at the
calendar, double check how much time we have in our vacation coffer, and then
make our summer travel plans. If you’re like me, with newly adult children,
figuring out where they want to go that will result in a minimal amount of
complaints; is a thing of the past. Yes, my travel plans can now include going
places and doing things I want to do!!
Burlington, Vermont; City Hall
As a West Coaster growing up in a large family and then raising
my own, I haven’t had as much time to travel to the East Coast as much I would
have liked. Or, perhaps it was the lack of travel that gave me the travel “bug”.
Nowadays, I think nothing of road tripping several hundred miles on a weekend. But,
there are some destinations that require a bit more work
This is what "travel planning" looks like in my world
And, as I ponder what my trip plans will include this year,
I can’t help but recall the bestest vacation ever that I took last year to….drum
roll…..Tiny House Summer Camp.
My 2016 Tiny House Summer Camp Accommodations.
Picture this…..ten off-grid wooded acres in the hills of
Vermont in late summer, the leaves have not yet started to turn, the smell of a
bonfire, and laughter…lots of laughter. I spent 3 of my 7 days of summer vacation
amongst the most fun, and funniest, helpful, fun loving, creative, and colorful
people I have ever met in my life.
Day One -
I arrived in Burlington Vermont with what felt like the
worst hangover I have ever had. After having not slept a WINK on the plane I
just wanted a horizontal space, ANY horizontal space, to lay my head. The “plan”
was to rent an SUV and car camp for a week, and let my whim be my guide. After
picking up my rental SUV I headed straight to Goodwill to purchase blankets and
then headed to Walmart, where I bought an air mattress. After finding a tire
shop to fill the mattress, I sacked out in the parking lot of a grocery store.
Minimalism at its finest!
Day Two – Thursday
I woke up in the middle of the deep woods in Vermont at a
camp ground that I found after hours of being lost. It was my day to “acclimate”
to the east coast time zone and I could think of no better way to start my
vacation than at a spa; so I ventured into a nearby resort village and asked
around for the best masseuse in town. Five hours later, freshly showered and
adequately relaxed, I put the elusive camp address in my GPS and headed out.
An Austrian Spa in the mountains of Vermont.
Day Three – Friday
Despite my best attempts at drinking myself to sleep, the
backwoods sounds of Vermont had other plans for me. Said sounds include what I
later identified as a porcupine scrape marks on the DOOR of the very tree house
I was attempting to sleep in. Friday morning, guests arrived and started
milling about, introductions were made, and they got started organizing the crew
and attendees into project groups. Then, a bonfire. But, like Vegas, what
happened there needs to stay there so that’s all I’ll say about that…..
My next-tree "neighbor".
Day Four –
Camp was in full swing! There were hammering sounds coming
from all directions in the woods and several projects, of all shapes and sizes,
were happening at once. A space ship-esque tree house was started, a hillside cabin
was getting some much needed siding, a tiny house on wheels was being
constructed, and impromptu survivor class participants were learning about how
to make an insulated shelter from sticks and leaves. That night, the bonfire was epic; a deep woods speaker-filled experience lit with candles on a moss
covered mini-amphitheater in the shadow of a huge robot tree house. (say THAT
tree times fast!?)
The one....the only....ROBOT TREE HOUSE!!
Day Five – Sunday
I was sad to go but eager to explore. And, like any good
explorer, I headed straight to a nearby town with a hotel and a bar. I
showered, ate spaghetti with the loveliest bartender I have ever met, and then
slept like a rock for 12 hours.
Do these earrings make my face look fat?
Day Six – Monday
Yes. You guessed it. I got lost again and arrived not at the
ice cream factory which allows tourists, but the ONE that doesn’t. On my way
back from almost-Canada I stopped to get an impromptu tattoo. And, if I need another reason to return to Vermont,
the artist is it. He imagines a unique and fun new tattoo to augment my 90’s
inspired left-ankle bracelet of pansies.
Pain? What pain?
Day Seven –
Time to head home. It was truly the first vacation I have
ever been on where I felt like I didn’t want to go home. I’d gotten lost several
times and didn’t shower every day but the new friends I had made, and the fun I
had, and the memories we created, were more than well worth the investment.
I may have been a visitor, but welcomed I was not.
Your Tiny House Summer Camp experience will not likely
involve getting lost quite as much as I did. But, I guarantee you, that if you’re
looking for a fun way to combine your love of all-things-tiny-house and a fun-loving
backwoods story to tell your friends and family about, Deek and his crew won’t
disappoint. Deek provides all of his attendees with hands-on building and
learning opportunities, in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.
I have never seen a more lovely "parking lot" in all my life.
His mantra is “It’s better to screw up on my projects, than
your own!” and I appreciate that about him. He takes all the risk and his
attendees get all the rewards.
No"screw ups" in this adorable tiny cabin.
It’s tough to fit an adequate description of the
life-changing experience I had in Vermont, into a brief blog post that will
hold your attention. (Are you STILL reading!?) So, please know that while I
have strategically left out some of the details, I hope I have still conveyed
the amazing time I had when I attended Tiny House Summer Camp and slept in a
see-through tree house.
As I watched the most recent “my tiny house builder screwed
me over” video on youtube I couldn’t help but feel thankful; thankful that I
have the health, and resources, and support from my friends and loved ones, to build my
own. I have a unique sense of
accountability this way. If something
does not get done, or is done wrong, or is late; I have nobody to blame but
myself. My timeline is self inflicted
and my material choices are my own. Yes, there is stress from this kind of
build, but not having to collaborate (or doing so, on a pretty limited basis)
results in “the buck stops here” level of responsibility. Ironically, that is a calming mantra in my
world. I have been on my own for so long
that depending on someone else at this point in my life feels very
uncomfortable, very insecure.
Mourning the Loss of 9 Square Feet
And speaking of collaboration, as we considered the fender
replacement options, Mark expressed very strong feelings about using a
particular type. So I spent $100 on the
fenders and then $200 to have them welded on. It wasn’t until AFTER this was done that I discovered that we had lost
6” of width off of the house. On a tiny
house that is only 18 feet long, that 9
square feet is a BIG deal! Mark and I
exchanged some heated words and he wasn’t happy that I was “blaming” him. I wasn’t really. I was frustrated, sure. I hadn’t asked enough questions about the
fenders to understand the implication of using them. But after a few hours of
pouting and mourning and identifying the “sacrifices” my design would have to
absorb, I moved on. Yes. I could have torn them off. But, in the end, the advantages of a better
roof overhang outweighed the lack of wiggle room at the end of the bed and the
slightly smaller bathroom.
Three years ago I attended my first tiny house networking
event. Almost two years ago, I completed
my first build. And today, I am feeling so thankful that the tiny house
community has embraced me as one of them. However, I feel odd even typing
this. Like I have no right to assume
they feel the same. I feel like I
deserve it, for sure, and have worked hard to contribute to the movement in a
positive way. But it still feels odd
when I get invited to speak, or write. It’s like someone is talking to me and I am looking over my shoulder to
see who else they might be complimenting. Because I am estranged from my
family, a firm sense of who I am and who my “people” are has eluded me most of
my life. I would love to believe that I have found “home” but my insecurities
still bite at the heels of my self confidence. So, until the feeling of peace and security is second-nature, I’ll
settle for feeling thankful and motivated by a strong sense of needing to earn
my way into the cool kids club.
When people hear that I work a desk job 40 hours a week, AND
am building a tiny house, AND I’m the Hostess for Tiny House Podcast, AND I
write for Tiny House Magazine, AND I drive almost 200 miles to my build site
each weekend they always ask “Do you sleep!?” The short answer is “yes” because I LOVE TO SLEEP! My problem, however, isn’t my lack of sleep
but my lack of balance in life right now.
It is an intentional choice, but one that leaves me bone tired from the
go-go-go pace I have going right now.
This weekend, after attending 3 straight days of tiny house events, I
drove once again to my boyfriend’s house. (aka the build site) Of course I had a list of stuff I wanted to
get done but his TO DO list was much different than mine. He had also worked a full week and his
weekend consisted of spending one day doing what he loved (watching boat
racing) and one day getting caught up on chores. So, in a nutshell, my build day turned into
his chore day but I am totally fine with that. The strength of our relationship is that I speed him up when he’s
feeling unmotivated, and he slows me down when I need it. I got some “tool staging” done and picked up
the cabinet for the tiny house bedroom, but other than that it was a totally
slack day. And one that I desperately
needed but would have never scheduled for myself. I also found an affordable tea cart on
craigslist for my living room. And that
reminds me, I need to text them and go get that today….
It drives me absolutely NUTS when I read social media posts
written by people whining about how tiny houses are sooooo expensive. And, inevitably, the resulting conversation includes
harsh comments about tiny house builder’s greed and waste and how fancy tiny
houses are “not the point”.
And, while I
will fully admit to having a bit of an elitist attitude towards what people
refer to as “tiny houses” (a blog post for another day) and will admit that I
have seen a $100,000 tiny house that was only 24 feet long and said to myself
“What’s the point?”; I will also admit that hearing people complain about how much the movement's popularity (demand) has increased prices sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. It's basic math. It's not as if the movers and shakers in the tiny house world are making money hand over fist. On the contrary; for the most part, they're struggling to keep up.
Building a tiny house is a LOT of work!
So, why all the drama?
I think it's because people don't know what it takes to build a tiny house and/or understand the dynamics at play.
After receiving a message from someone this morning wherein
she asked me if I could build My Tiny Perch for cheaper, I have decided to
write this article so I can respond to every future question about this subject
with the thoughtfulness that it really requires; rather than the brief
offhanded responses I often have time for.
Regardless of the size, or how fancy a house is, there are
FIVE things that every tiny house (or any house project, for that matter) has
in common. They all need space, tools, materials, labor, and supplies. When I
was recently in Georgia I gave a speech about this subject but with a slightly
different twist. The gist, however, is
that when you embark on a tiny house build you can pick ONLY two of the
following; FAST, CHEAP, OR GOOD.
For each attribute
of a tiny house build you have the opportunity to save, or spend, money or
time; depending on your motivations and goals.
On my first build, My Empty Nest, I spent just shy of
$35,000. However, most of the materials came from sponsors in the form of
materials. When, for instance, Rheem
sponsored me by providing an on demand hot water heater worth $1,200, then $1,200
was applied to the budget. Just because
I didn’t pay cash for it does not mean the value of the product should be left
out of the budget, right?
For My Tiny Perch, however, even though I am collecting sponsors
again, the materials are more in line with my more moderate budget of only
$20,000. For my Empty Nest, I received almost $2,000 worth of recycled,
designer, glass tile from Ann Sacks for my last build. This time, however, I am using no tile at
all. Is that $2,000 saved or $2,000
avoided? Is there a difference?
So how do you save money on a tiny house and not sacrifice
I have posted a few ideas lately about utilizing a used trailer, windows, and how to save money on labor by using T1-11 as sheathingand siding. And I am pretty proud of my cost savings efforts. But people don't necessarily want to read a dozen blog posts to understand this complex issue.
So, here you go.
Here in a succinct
graphic I designed to help get to the crux of the issue:
As you review this graphic, I hope you will notice the pattern; Fast = Expensive. And so, since time and money create a trade off, so do the decisions. And, to clarify, the approach I took with My Tiny Perch is highlighted.
Worth Repeating For each attribute
of a tiny house build you have the opportunity to save, or spend, money or
time; depending on your motivations and goals.
Just because you want to save money by building it “yourself”
does not mean you cannot hire a pro to do the tough stuff.
Just because you don’t have access to all of the tools
you will need to build your tiny house, does not mean you need to spend a small
fortune buying new ones.
Maybe, consider saving some money on the build space, and
splurging on the labor.
Maybe collect materials for a time, then kick start your
build schedule by buying some new materials to complete the next phase of your
Tiny House builds are as unique as they are complex. They are as cheap or as expensive as you want
them to be. They are as palatial or as cozy
as you design them to be.