PAD

Naj Haus: evolution of a tiny house design

Trailer

The original vision…

If you’re up for a glimpse into the tangled workings of my mind, I thought I’d share the convoluted way I got to my final design for Naj Haus. It all started last summer at a music festival. Camping next to a woman who had a fiberglass “egg” trailer similar to the one above, I found myself obsessed with the idea of getting one. At first it was just for camping and tootling around, but I was also looking ahead to splitting my time between Oregon and California and the idea of living in one started to grow. Turns out if you get one that is about 17′ they come with a tiny kitchen and bathroom. My first serious thoughts of tiny living started to sprout.
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Categories: design, PAD, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Designing sparefully – a manifesto of sorts

red fox

Red fox in front of a Swedish house. Credit: Jonn Leffmann

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

~ William Morris

Tiny house design forces you to consider every square inch. If you’re going to live in something smaller than a parking space, each structural element and object needs to be there for a reason. There’s not a lot of room for that broken vacuum cleaner gathering dust in the basement, that unused dining room, or that guilt-producing Wii fitness program that seemed like a good idea at the time.

As I’ve embarked on the design for my tiny house, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of spare.  It’s an awesome word, one of those rare cases where it means both one thing as well as its opposite. Scant, frugal, economical, minimal, but also: being in excess of present need, to give or to lend without inconvenience or loss, such as “spare change” or “spare time”.

All of these meanings apply to tiny housers who downsize to small, simple dwellings, often built on very tight budgets. At the same time, without soul-crushing mortgages and high monthly utility bills, they have more time and money to pursue the lives and careers they really love, to connect with those they care about.

Even better is the obsolete word spareful. Last spotted in the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, it means prudent and restrained in the use of resources. Many tiny housers are motivated by a desire to leave a smaller footprint on the earth. Much thought is given to building highly efficient tiny green homes to reduce energy consumption and carbon production. Materials are selected based on the least chemicals and lowest environmental impact in their manufacture. Roadsides and salvage stores are scoured for siding, windows and other items that can be reused.

Let’s dust the cobwebs off spareful and give it the honor it deserves! Breaking it down into its component parts, spare + full, gives a glimpse of just how meaningful the word can be. The pop phrase “Less is More” is similar, but what does it really mean and how can it guide us in our design choices? Let’s plumb the depths a little. Continue reading

Categories: design, PAD, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

PAD design workshop just announced

PAD logo

I am a huge fan of PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings) and all that their awesome staff is up to. They are experienced, knowledgeable, helpful, and totally fun. It’s been a great way to connect with the tiny house community in the Northwest since I will likely end up there at some future date, but what you learn from them is transferrable to wherever you live.

In gratitude for all the generosity they’ve shown, I’ll be using this blog to help spread the word on what they’ve got going. To kick it off, PAD just posted this on their Facebook page:

Check it out! PAD’s Tiny House Design Workshop (February 23 & 24) is officially open for registration! 

We are super excited about the line-up of local experts presenting and the topics we plan to cover. Check out the complete description on our website…..

Deadline to register is February 9th.

I literally just walked in the door from a similar workshop that Dee Williams of PAD taught for Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Seattle. Can’t say enough good things about it. Chock full of great information for anyone considering building or living in a tiny house (not to mention highly entertaining!)

Now that I’ve returned, I’ll get back to more Naj Haus posts in the near future. Stay tuned…

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On camels and tiny houses

One day in May 1978, I had one of those transformative moments: the National Geographic arrived in the mail. I loved the articles in each issue – my first experiences with other cultures and countries – but only one story made a lasting impression. I still have the original magazine:

RobynCover

original photo: Rick Smolan

It was the cover story. Robyn Davidson, 27, had walked 1700 miles across the Australian outback alone except for four camels and her dog, Diggety.

RobynWalking

original photo: Rick Smolan

RobynRiding

original photo: Rick Smolan

RobynMap

Robyn’s route

Her blunt prose talks about the challenges and hardships she faced, but also about the deep appreciation for the beauty of the desert solitude and the friends, both Aboriginal and white settlers, she made along the way.

At 13, I was completely captivated. She was my first personal hero. I was in awe of her independence and courage but she was also someone I could relate to, who resonated with my tomboy side that loved digging in the dirt and exploring the woods.
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Categories: PAD, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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