Must-Haves, Layout Considerations, and (HELP!) Interior Design

As we continue to research and plan our build, we’re starting to think of what we’d like to see in the floor plan and overall design. This is both exciting and immensely frustrating, because there are so many different styles that we’ve seen and liked for various reasons. We have agreed on a handful of things that we are thinking of as “must-haves”:

  • Shed roof. This will give a greater surface area for solar panels and give us the ability to catch water when/if we live in a place that actually gets rain. Also, more headroom in the loft, at least on one side.
  • Big kitchen. Of course this is a tiny house so we won’t have a full-on restaurant sized kitchen, but counter space is important. We cook a lot at home now and have very little counter space. Given some of the floor plans and layouts we’ve seen, we know it’s possible to upgrade from what we we are currently working with. This includes a 3/4 size or full-size fridge, depending on what works best for the layout.
  • Double lofts. One for sleeping, with stairs. One for lounging, with a ladder. Unless there is some not-totally-ridiculous way to make both lofts with staircases. Either way.
  • Lots of windows. Natural light is awesome. Of course with a lot of windows, we’ll need a lot of curtains or blinds, but I’d rather have “too much” natural light than feel claustrophobic and cramped without it.

There are a lot of layout considerations to be made, and this is where things are getting tricky.

  • Kitchen and bathroom on opposite ends. I don’t think I want to have the bathroom RIGHT BEHIND the kitchen. We’ve read that it’s more expensive to do plumbing on either end of the house as opposed to all of the water-needing-things being on one wall or one end, but if the trailer is only 24 feet long, how much of an extra expense are we talking?
  • Where is the kitchen? I’m in love with the kitchen being at the end of the unit, like in the Minim House. I think there’s less of an opportunity for wasted space in that kind of configuration. Or having it all along one wall, not an L-shaped kitchen.
  • Where is the front door? If it’s on the back end of the trailer, then it makes it a bit more difficult to do the bathroom on one end, kitchen on the other. The hOMe build has it on the side of the tiny house, which allows for different configurations on the inside.
  • Wet bath or regular bathroom? In theory, I like the idea of everything being one, and we’ve seen some that have a really cool design. But then again, I don’t know that I want to be washing my hair over the toilet, especially if it’s a composting toilet. And if it were a wet bath, then I wouldn’t really have an excuse to keep our water buffalo shower curtain. ;)

And finally, when it comes to the overall look and feel, I think we’re going to need professional help on this one. There are so many elements of existing tiny houses that we like, that if we try to take all of it and roll it into one, we’re going to have some issues. Our interior design tastes are questionable at best. Buuuut, there are some things that would be really awesome to see in there:

  • Sliding barn door. Anywhere. Like this:
  • Dark wood and stainless steel, seen in the “Miter Box” model by Shelter Wise.
  • White and pops of color (thinking blue and/or green)

For those of you who are still in the planning stages, where do you draw inspiration from? For those of you who have already built, is there anything you’d incorporate now that you didn’t think of? Anything you have that you don’t need?

Storage: Where Are You Going to Put XYZ?

Storage: Where Are You Going to Put XYZ?

Since we went live with the website yesterday, we’ve gotten a lot of “where are you going to put _____” with regards to storage inside the house, not the house itself (that’s another post for a different day). Most of these questions are in jest, some of them serious. I love these questions, because some of them we have the answer to, and the other ones make us think about the layout of the house.

Where are we going to put the beer? A popular question since we’re both big fans of all things craft beer, especially Barry. At our house now, we currently have a 3/4 size fridge and were previously contemplating getting a dedicated beer fridge. I’m glad we didn’t go that route now that I think about it, because that would be one more thing we need to find room for or give away. I think if we can get a full size fridge in the tiny house and not have it be weird or out of place or whatever, we should be totally fine on beer storage. If not, we can fit plenty of big bottles/growlers of awesome beer in a 3/4 size fridge. Either way, we’ve got this covered.

Where are we going to put our skydiving gear? Fortunately, we have a locker at Skydive Elsinore that is pretty much the perfect size for all of our stuff, and something we could easily integrate into the storage (I’m thinking under the stairs to the loft). The locker at the dropzone is something I’ll need to measure, but it has four rig racks and room to hang our jumpsuits, helmets, and a bunch of other junk we don’t need in it. We could do one with two rig racks and be totally good to go. YOU GUYS, OUR TINY HOUSE WILL HAVE A RIG RACK CLOSET! This is so exciting!

Open Shelving vs. Kitchen Cabinets: I’m a sucker for the look of the open shelving. It makes everything seem so much less narrow, and if you have cool stuff to put on it, even better. One reason I want open shelving in the kitchen is so we can display our growing collection of tiki mugs. At our house now, they’re just chillin in the cabinet. Each one is a memory, and each one is really, really awesome in its own way. Definitely need at least one open shelf thing for the tiki heads. Priorities, people. Functional decoration. I think that’s a thing.

My new obsession with Pinterest. I never thought I’d say this, but holy smokes, Pinterest is AWESOME. I kinda tinkered with the site back when it first launched, but I hadn’t really had a practical use for it since then. I have started a board about Tiny Houses and Permaculture to keep all of the ideas/articles/bookmarks in one place. Everything from mason jar for spice/dry good storage (it’s like freaking ART what you can do with those things, all the colors), to how Barry wants the stairs to have some kind of lighting (good idea), to color schemes. I haven’t crossed over into borderline-dangerous obsession mode on Pinterest, but I have started to utilize it as a tremendous tool to keep track of the things we’re interested in incorporating. Never EVER thought I’d say that. Awesome.

Do any of you guys have tips for small-space living? Websites or magazines or blogs or shows that inspire you? Let us know in the comments!

A (New) Reason To Wake Up In The Morning

A (New) Reason To Wake Up In The Morning

I used to write. A lot. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about something. My other blog was down for more than a year and I really didn’t care. Life was go-go-go and I barely made time to write my columns for Blue Skies Magazine.

Since we started our Research Bender, I have been more compelled to write. Even if it’s only to document this process for ourselves, it’s really nice to get back in the swing of things. This year has been a rough one, probably the hardest of the years I’ve been on the planet. It feels like we’re losing friends left and right, massive (for us) financial setbacks, and everything pretty much created the perfect storm. There’s a lot that has happened this year, both really really awesome (Barry getting promoted) and really really sucky. A roller coaster, for sure.

Our good friend Adam died on August 1st. Without getting too far into it, his death rocked me to my core. At 23 years old, he had his shit together. He was dreaming big dreams, living those dreams daily, and gave everything to everyone, without expecting anything in return. When I heard of his passing, it caused me to take a good hard look at how I’m living life.


Adam, Barry and I on his first official day in California.

By any definition, life for us is pretty freakin’ sweet. We’ve already managed to break free of the things that would inhibit us from living the life we want to live: largely with our careers. We’re making enough money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table (and in the dog bowls) and have some leftover for fun stuff. We get paid to do something we’re wildly passionate about, which is a blessing in itself. But with Adam’s death, I know that my list of things I want to experience isn’t getting any shorter, and we aren’t gaining time on this planet in this life.

Realizing that there is a lot we want to see/do, coupled with some Who Is Sydney soul-searching on my behalf, led to this journey with our tiny house project. I’m still processing the fact that Adam won’t come strolling on to the dropzone this weekend, or that he won’t respond to messages if I sent them, and I find myself taking pictures of healthy stuff and thinking “Adam would be stoked on this.”

I had to make some tough decisions this year. One of my teammates was injured early in our training season, an injury that, when the news was delivered, was supposed to keep her on the ground through (if not beyond) the USPA National Skydiving Championships in September. A big part of me was bummed out, because we were on a hot streak with our development. But I couldn’t ignore the tiny voice in my head that was relieved. Committing to the team and the schedule we set was a huge financial commitment, and while we were making it work, I was actually okay with the idea of being able to save the money.

In the months that we weren’t training, we didn’t try to find a replacement. We assumed everything would be good to go and then we’d go about our business and go compete at Nationals. And that plan would have been fine. I could have just held on to the money I would have spent and saved it and a trip to Nationals would be no big deal. But then we had a million and a half unexpected expenses all at once: account theft, car repairs, mishaps with technology that needed replacing, etc.

All of this, and then Adam dies. I’m a huge believer in silver linings, and I’m usually annoyingly optimistic, but 2014 has felt like one blow after another, a fight I just can’t win. We found out on the Monday following Adam’s death that his memorial services would be in Chicago that Friday. This was an absolute no-brainer, not even a discussion point, we were going. As anyone who travels at all can imagine, buying flights for Friday on a Monday wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

But as soon as we bought those tickets, a little bit of the fog was lifted. As soon as we got to Chicago, saw our friends, and started the healing process together, things started coming into view. Suddenly I could appreciate the memories we were making, and I wasn’t preoccupied about everything else that was going on. There were a lot of tears shed, a lot of “what is your favorite thing about Adam” recalled, and all in all, it was a life-changing trip for us.

We got home and the team needed an answer about whether or not I could make it to Nationals. Before Adam died, I had said that once I saw the numbers (registration for the event, my share of our coach’s/videographer’s expenses, our coaching fees, travel, etc), I could make a better decision. Once I saw the numbers, my heart sank. I knew I couldn’t make it to Nationals. Did I have that specific amount of money in my account? Yes. But if I went, then I would have completely drained my account in order to do so. I couldn’t justify that expense or that decision. I tapped some of my trusty mentors to tell them where I was at, and get their opinion on the subject.

One of them said (loosely): “Think of it this way. If you spend all that money (that you don’t really have to spend), and you haven’t been training for months, are you really going to be happy there, or will it you hold resentment because you’re spending money you know deep down you shouldn’t have spent? If you choose not to go, this isn’t the end of your competitive skydiving career. You’ve been to Nationals once. And, that’s a lot of money to go ‘for the experience’ when you’ve already been there, seen it, competed. Also, if you don’t go, and you hold on to that money, you could be opening yourself up to other opportunities that could better serve your interests, that you might not otherwise be able to pursue if you went to Nationals.”

That conversation, and a few others, helped me see what I needed to do for ME, not what was expected of me, or what I thought was expected of me. And that is something I’ve been challenged by for most of my life – I’m a people-pleaser at heart. I took some time to process what was at stake, both positively and negatively, and let the team know I couldn’t go to Nationals.

Well as it turns out, that mentor friend of mine was totally right. I don’t remember what was the tipping point exactly. Suddenly, the tiny house thing was all I could think about. I had freed myself of the weight of the pending Nationals decision, and with it, came more clarity. Our friends Raelynn and Travis are building a tiny home as well, and seeing their excitement really lit a fire under my ass to get some ideas down on paper and figure out how to get our “someday” plan in motion. What started with a simple “you (Raelynn), Travis, me, and Barry. Costa Rica. Living completely sustainable.” before they moved to Oregon last year, had somehow manifested into this full on obsession we’re in now. Maybe not Costa Rica, but thoughts are things, and now all the pieces are starting to come together. More on that in the coming weeks, and months.

For the last week or so since I started building out this website, my mental commitment to making this dream a reality, I’ve actually been up super early with no problems. It’s really, really nice to have something to look forward to, a (new) reason to wake up in the morning. Other than waking up next to Barry with the Puggles strewn about the bed, of course.

Downsizing, Planning, and Saving, OH MY!

Downsizing, Planning, and Saving, OH MY!

There is actually a lot of correlation between our skydiving lives and our preparation for this tiny house.

In skydiving, downsizing is the act of progressing to a smaller canopy, thus giving you (potentially) better performance. The thought of downsizing in skydiving shouldn’t be taken lightly, as there are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re deciding to go smaller.

Though downsizing to a tiny house certainly doesn’t have the same potential consequences, it does require a lot of thought.

The act of downsizing your life to fit in a home somewhere between 100-300 square feet requires us to really reflect on what is important. We’ve always been able to relocate with what can fit in the trunk of my car, so we don’t have a lot of stuff to get rid of, but we have accumulated quite a bit since we moved to California.

The good news is, we aren’t attached to much beyond what will fit in our dream tiny house. The furniture here was all stuff we either picked up off Craigslist for really cheap or was given to us by friends. This is good in the sense that we don’t have to get rid of a lot of stuff. But if we, like so many other potential tiny housers, were relying on the money we could make from selling what we have to help fund the project, then we would be pretty hard up.

Beyond the whole “what will fit in our new tiny house” thing, now we can get creative about how to best utilize the space, and determine what features we would like to incorporate into our plans.
So far, we have a handful of “must haves” and some general ideas of the look/feel we are going for.

Barry says: I want a funk/metal fusion, with a mix of Tom Jones and Tom Waits.

Sydney says: I like dark wood, stainless steel, clean lines, and blues or greens to tie it all together.

Some must-haves for the build: Shed roof, solar, ample kitchen space with open shelving vs. cabinets, double loft (stairs to the bedroom, ladder to secondary), composting toilet and plenty of windows.

Going through this process has reinvigorated my love for writing, so a place to chill out comfortably and write is also on the docket.

For now, we are saving where we can, waiting for a couple outstanding financial things to come through, and then we can get serious about the rest of the process. We have been doodling designs and floorplans, scouring YouTube for tours and design ideas, and looking at some of the pre-fabricated models for inspiration. Neither one of us has any construction experience, but I have a feeling everything will come together to make our Dream Tiny House a reality.

Fellow Tiny House enthusiasts or residents, where did you draw inspiration? Since we are in the very early stages of planning, what do you wish you had incorporated? What did you add that you find you would change?