Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finding Home - On the Trail of the Tiny House

Sometimes the universe hands you something so right, so timely - and so unexpectedly - you just know beyond a doubt that it's more than mere coincidence. That was how I felt when I discovered a yahoo.com feature about people who are in fact building the condo sized single family homes I'd imagined while trying to figure out my own lifestyle conundrum. And so my search for the perfect tiny house begins. Unfortunately, the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses book I ordered sold out immediately after that yahoo.com feature and delivery of the next printing has been delayed another two weeks, so I'm going to have to be patient and wait for my copy to arrive. In the meantime, I've been poring over information on other tiny house companies and plans as well. Here's a summary (in alphabetical order) :

BC Mountain Homes
Most of these are two story models; something I'm not interested in. The porches and decks are nice, but for the most part I don't find the exteriors attractive and there aren't enough windows.

Country Plans

The Builder's Cottage model is cute, but the sleeping area would have to be in a second story loft in order to have enough space. I'm too old to climb a ladder to go to bed, no matter how cozy that loft might be - not to mention those middle of the night trips to the bathroom! The Grandfather Cottage looked interesting, but there were no floor plans on the web page.

Goodfit, Ross Chapin Architects
I didn't like the boxy style of these houses, and it didn't feel like the interior space flowed well.

Stone Mountain Cabins
These are really lovely. I'm afraid the cost of some materials (stone) might be prohibitive, but perhaps there are other exterior finish options. The Cub Creek model is very appealing, the right size, nice big windows, and a good floor plan. The entry is through a covered side porch and into the kitchen - I like that.

Timberframe Houseplans Ltd.
The Gaspereau Cottage is cute and its floor plan is nice and open, but again, it's a two story house.

Very nice models, and very professionally rendered on the web page. The exteriors are a little 'much' for my taste though, and while the floor plans are interesting, they probably don't work well for my needs.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
The Whidbey seems to be the Tumbleweed model I like the best. All on one floor, about the right size (though maybe a bit too tiny), a good layout and I love the exterior and all the windows. It has a cute little front porch, a transition area inside the front door, and extra storage space in the loft.

So it would appear that from my initial investigation of companies and house plans, I've narrowed it down to two models - Stone Mountain Cabins' Cub Creek plan, and Tumbleweed Tiny House Co's Whidbey plan. In future posts I'll look at these two sets of house plans side by side and in more detail. I also welcome information from readers on other builders and homes I've not already stumbled upon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding Home - The Dream Sheet

When I was younger my ideal home was a rambling old farmhouse, Victorian era preferably, with lots of wood and architectural interest, a wrap around porch, and plenty of land for growing things and catering to wildlife. Of course, that vision included a husband and children to help with it all. Once I was a single working mother, I learned to appreciate the feeling of safety and convenience living closer to 'civilization' afforded. Now my son is grown and about to launch, and I find myself at yet another turning point in life.

So what do I want now, really? To some extent it depends on when you ask me. If you ask while I'm doing laundry, I'll tell you I want a laundry room that isn't two floors away from my bedroom. If you ask me in the spring, I'll tell you I need way more room to garden - in mid-August I'll tell you a small garden is really more practical. If I've just stubbed my toe or whacked my elbow on something, I'll tell you I need more room. But when I'm cleaning or doing exterior maintenance, I'll tell you I need a much smaller place. You get the picture. Obviously I need to organize my thoughts about how much and what kinds of space I need.

The basics are fairly easy:
  • Kitchen/Dining - I like to cook when the conditions are right and the kitchen is organized and well stocked, but I'm not a gourmet chef and have no inclination in that direction. Moderate amount of space here.
  • Bathroom - bigger than I have now, that's for sure, but again fairly basic. As much as I love a good relaxing soak in a garden tub, I don't want to have to clean it - I can do without.
  • Laundry room (or closet) - I'm flexible here but I'm also a woman; gotta have room to hang up those delicates.
Now it starts to get a bit more difficult. The spaces that, theoretically, I should be using on a regular basis are the living room, my large bedroom, and my workroom. The reality is that I spend most of my time in my bedroom. I rarely use the living room, and the workroom almost never except to store materials. Clearly, I can be happy with less space, especially if it's well organized.

The problem of course, is my hobbies. I read a lot, I engage in a variety of fiber arts, I draw and photograph, and I garden. Translation: books, paper, yarn, thread, canvas, beads, fabric, markers, brushes, assorted tools, and photographic equipment. How do I create storage and workspace - a studio in effect - without having to live amidst clutter? This will be the biggest challenge.

Finally, I want everything on one floor, with lots and lots of windows. A transition space at the front entry, and a covered porch somewhere would be lovely. Extra storage is always a plus. And yes, more room to garden - even in August.

Now that I have a clearer picture, it will be easier to evaluate those tiny house plans.......next time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love" .... Me

I went to see “Eat, Pray, Love” last night. Not because of the incredible hype surrounding the release of the film, but because I wanted to see if I would relate to the heroine. At first it was hard. It’s tough to feel sorry for a woman who’s feeling sad while taking an entire year to travel the globe in search of herself, starting with four months in Italy eating pasta, shopping and sight-seeing with new-found friends. Still not with her as she whines her way to India. (I didn’t have to go scrub floors at an ashram in India to build my character, sweetie - plenty of opportunity for that here on the home front, ya know?) But about halfway through India, Liz’s story and mine began to seem not all that different, really.

Without spoiling it for anyone who might want to see it, the film is about a lot of things. It’s about having lost yourself. It’s about understanding your past and its context in the present. It’s about finding your place and your peace with your God. And it’s about how - having reclaimed your balance - to be unafraid to lose it again in the interest of life and love. It’s about understanding the process. For Liz and for me, it’s about daring to be happy.

Next time, back to "Finding Home."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Progress Isn't Linear

Today I'm having a hard time imagining where the energy for all this 'daring-do' is going to come from. I'm feeling draggy, a big gaping hole where my motivation should be. It will pass. Just thought it important to point out that I'm not Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and sometimes this initiative is going to feel all uphill. Ah well. Another cup of coffee please . . . .

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Finding Home

When it comes to domiciles, I’ve done just about everything. I’ve lived in single family homes, I’ve lived in apartments, I’ve lived in a condo. I’ve lived in a large townhouse and a small townhouse. I’ve rented a room in a house, I’ve lived in a dormitory, and I’ve lived in a camper traveling across country and back. I’ve lived in a motel waiting for a house to be built, and I’ve set up temporary homes away from home in luxury hotels a week here and a week there while traveling on University business. One would think that with all that experience I’d have developed a clear preference by now. But the truth is, they all have their pros and cons and I’ve been having a hard time deciding what would make me happiest.

Then a couple of weeks ago yahoo.com did a piece on a fellow named Jay Shafer and his Tiny Tumbleweed houses. The model featured was an 87 square foot home on wheels that you’d really have to say is a glorified camper. But the reader was regaled with stories of individuals who had built tiny homes for barely more than their annual tax return, thereby freeing themselves from mortgage payments, sky-rocketing utility bills and the trappings of a materialistic society. Hmmm. Come on though – 87 square feet? My bedroom is bigger than that. Still, the concept itself is intriguing – small, space-efficient homes that are fiscally, physically, and environmentally sustainable. Even for someone like me.

It turns out, there’s a whole tiny house ‘movement’ going on out there. Somehow I doubt there’s any danger of the tiny house becoming the home of the future – this is America after all, we’re not big on small and humble – but apparently it’s an option. And it’s one I intend to research further. I need more than 87 square feet to be sure. But if I think about the amount of space I have now, and how much of it I actually live in on a regular basis, the not so big house concept really makes a lot of sense. Especially for someone like me.

In coming posts I’ll look at some of the tiny or not-so-big homes and builders out there, but for now check out the photos (right) of Simon’s Eco House in … wait for it ….. Wales, home of at least half of my ancestors. Clicking on any of the photos will take you to more information.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beginning Again

Not too long ago I read an article – a collection of case studies, really – about some people who had made life altering decisions in the wake of this country’s economic bust and, by extension, their own personal Armageddons. Their choices were unconventional, creative, and in some cases bold. While the jury was still out for some, others had discovered that – huh! – their lives before hadn’t been working all that well for them anyway. It got me thinking.

I’ve never been much for the American dream of more, bigger, better. All I’ve ever wanted was a quiet, meaningful life. But it can be hard to swim upstream against the current of affluence and extravagance. As a single (divorced) working mother, life has often been a struggle. Still, I’ve been more fortunate than many in my position. I have a roof over my head, enough to eat, a loving son, and if my job isn’t exactly lucrative and the professional satisfaction is waning, I am – at least as of this writing – still employed.

Over the coming year there will be changes in my life whether I do anything or not. My son will leave the nest. In September I will turn 55. The sand is still shifting under the nation’s financial foundation, and a global climate and environmental crisis looms large. Sure seems to me like a good time to make some daring moves. I hope this blog will help me sort out my thoughts and keep me on track along the way. And if, through my experiences, someone else gets a spark of inspiration or some insight into their own situation, then my work here will be done.

I feel it only fair to warn you, this is also my first experience as a serious blogger – I may or may not know what I’m doing. Where appropriate, I promise to change the names to protect the innocent, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be sharing anything here that could potentially pique the interest of Homeland Security. Thus endeth my disclaimer. Come along if you dare ……