Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Story Behind My Tiny Bird House - Part One

Two days ago I welcomed my first official guest to My Tiny Bird House. And, in usual style, the last push to get all the details done was pretty brutal. (as is my hang over from our first tiny house village party last night....but I digress....)

This morning, however, I realized that although I have posted pics here and there about this latest addition to my tiny house collection, I haven't really told the back story behind this little, tiny, blue, Glamping cabin on wheels.

Step 1: Get it from the backyard to the road

When I was approached with the idea of designing and building Amelia for the Street of Dreams, I knew I wanted to say "yes" but the only way to justify the time it would take for me to do so, was to use the money I made from Amelia to expedite the build on the Hideout. 

Step 2: Get it off the road and onto the trailer.

As it turned out, however, Mark's work schedule didn't really support the Expedite Hideout plan.  

OK, we're ready to go!  Well, almost......

I am a bit of a craigslist addict and will often kill an hour just perusing what tiny houses are being sold there. And so, on one of these "excursions" I found this little skid-based backyard cottage that someone had originally purchased to offer on AirBnB but was not getting the bookings she had imagined she would.  I already had the money set aside for the Hideout, which wasn't being used, and so in the best interest of making money by spending money, I scheduled an appointment to go see it.

Strapped up and ready to GO GO GO!!

First check was the building itself.  Was it responsibly constructed?  Yep!

Second check was the Return-On-Investment math.  Did it look like a reasonably good investment as a short term rental? Yep!

Once I made the decision to purchase it, the cottage owner and I turned our attention to precisely HOW I could take it off her hands. So, who do you think I called?  Greg the Trailer Guy of course!  He had a somewhat-used 16 foot long utility trailer that he wanted to sell at a good price. The cottage owner's friend then donated his time and forklift and the next part of the plan was hatched.

I love this was so quiet that morning on the St. John's Bridge.

Next, I called a friend with a free Sunday and a truck.  He brought more strap downs than should be legal to use on a single load (and maybe was!?) and in the quietness of the morning we moved the house the 35 miles to the current spot where the Bird House now sits.

And, in true Oregon fashion, it was raining.

Seriously.  What better way to expedite the build-out of My Tiny House Village than by buying an adorable addition and merely remodel it and add a deck?

However, with only 48 square feet it was, and remains, a bit of a gamble.  

Will people really love it enough to pay to stay?

The worst is over!  Now, onward with the remodel.

The inside is pretty rustic and the paint they used is matte, and looks pretty old, and the trim is raw.  To what extent do I "remodel" it? I couldn't just touch it up. Once I started painting, I'd have to do the entire inside. So I decided to embrace and enhance the intrinsic personality of the space by choosing matte accessories and understated decor items, rather than embark on what would be an extensive aesthetic renovation.

"Add a shower?" You say!  "OK!" said Mark.

The goal: Get this new cottage listed in time to take some advantage of the busy travel season.

So much fun, but what a mess!!

But, exactly how much time and effort and money would it take to get this pretty little building, rent worthy?

Embracing the chaos.

The Story Behind My Tiny Bird House - Part Two

My Tiny Bird House is done.

It took less than 3 months to turn this dusty shed into an income producing short term rental.

Now, it is sooo pretty, and comfy; and I couldn't be more proud.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

I fell in love with the architecture of this building from the moment I saw it.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

A simple ladder sets the right mood in this tiny space.
Functional and oh so NOT fancy.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

I LOVE how the wood accent wall turned out.
Texture, color, and whimsy.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

The kitchenette is just large enough for prepping small meals.

The fresh air shower will no doubt be a huge attraction!

This hippie shower is complete with biodegradable shampoo and soaps!

Bring a bag of ice, some steaks, beer, and have a BBQ to remember!

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

A pup's view....and oh so lovely!

You should stay here!!  Right!!?

Just click this hyper link....easy peasy!

Photo Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography

Hmm.....wait....something's still missing.

Next: Add dining space!!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Amelia ~ The Tiny House with a Big Dream

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Once in a while, an opportunity comes along that you cannot say "No" to.

And, the invitation to design and build the first and only tiny house at the 
NW Natural Street of Dreams 
has been the opportunity of a lifetime.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

In addition to building the tiny house, she also had to be landscaped and staged.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

And, we had to "fit" in.
Here she is....our tiny 204 square foot house next to her 6,000+ square foot neighbor.

And next, we step inside...

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Inspired by "My Tiny Perch" the bed takes up the whole room and makes for a really cozy "nest" bed.
It also lifts up, assisted by air shocks, for easy access to almost 50 cubic feet of storage.

In a 204 square foot house, that's a LOT of storage!

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Just imagine, you can put your laundry in the all-in-one washer dryer unit....
come home after a long day at work...
take the clothes out...
and hang them up directly overhead.

Very efficient!

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Seriously, the washer dryer is not only efficient but it's beautiful!

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Not to be outdone by the bedroom, our bathroom has storage galore.
And not only UNDER the sink, but a built in cubby door doubles as a counter top.

(Dang, we forgot to take a pic of the cubby!)

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

If you look closely, you'll see a decorative nod to "Ralph" in the shower.
the infamous frog from My Tiny Empty Nest's youtube video...

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

If I told you how much effort it took to get these doors just the right shade of red, 
you'd never believe me.
In the end, however, I am so glad I did.

Everyone else may not agree...there was so much drama over these doors!

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

The kitchen is truly the center of this house and consumes over 1/3 of the total floor plan.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

These appliances are nothing short of amazing.

Who needs art when I can stare at these all day?

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

For the next few weeks if you can't find me, I'll be here...
working on my laptop and drinking coffee with this amazing view of the golf course.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Yes, a natural gas fireplace in a tiny house; the first of its kind.
And this baby really heats up fast, and comes with a convenient remote.

(you know, in case you don't want to get up to shut it off)

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

Yes. I am obsessed with ceiling fans.
Or, frankly, fans of any kind.
Amelia has four of them; one on the ceiling, one over the stove, 
one in the bathroom, and one in the laundry closet.

There will NEVER be any moisture problems in THIS tiny house.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

It's too bad that this blog format won't let me display this stunning photo in the scale it really should be shown on.

This shot was taken late, and reflects the truly quiet surroundings of this particular night.

Photo by Mark Sharley Photography

The next morning we arrived to find THIS stunning cloud display.

And I really couldn't have asked for a better backdrop to the finale of this project...

Now, I get to process the emotions of letting her go.

MJ Boyle
Empty Nest Tiny Homes
Designer. Builder. Occupant. Advocate.

Photos Provided by Courtesy of Mark Sharley Photography.
Please respect his talent by including credit to his work on all use of these photos.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Story Behind "Amelia" ~ the Tiny House with a Big Dream

This is the story behind "Amelia" - the Tiny House with a Big Dream, about how I was chosen to design and manage this collaborative build, and a theatrical bow to all of the amazing people who made it possible.

Being involved with this project has honestly been the experience of a life time. I never imagined that living in a tiny house would bring me so much joy, independence, and so much opportunity.

Amelia's first taste of sunlight!

And to think about all of the people that have been, and will be, impacted by my vision is truly humbling…

But first, a word for our sponsors….

Our Donors and Sponsors

Below you will find the extensive list of who helped with building the Tiny House with a Big Dream. The owners of these companies and their staff have given of their time, their money, and their products. But most of all, they have given from the heart. Working with these generous and talented men and women have given me a renewed sense of community.

Yes, there have been challenges. This IS a building, after all. But, despite it all, these sponsors have hung in there with us, returned more times than they originally committed to, collaborated on how to solve issues that arose, followed up, showed up, and manned up. And they have put their best foot forward, understanding the importance of the goal, the design aesthetic, our benefactors, and of how impactful this will be for so many.
An early rendering of Amelia; The Tiny House with a Big Dream.

Over the past 5 months, collectively, we have put almost $140,000 worth of products and labor into this 204 square feet. These sponsors gave, not from their dusty backrooms, but from the best they have to offer. Their sense of humor (truly needed for this build!) as well as their support and passion for this tiny house on wheels has been greatly appreciated and awe-inspiring.

Who Am I?

The story of the role that tiny houses play in my life started in early 2014…

After spending over a dozen years as a single mom, I came to the conclusion that living in a tiny house after my children moved out, would help me prepare for and live comfortably in retirement. However, my paycheck to paycheck existence had not provided me with the ability to save money for retirement OR a tiny house. As such, I realized I would have to find a alternate way to pay for my first tiny house; later named “My Tiny Empty Nest”.

$35,000 and 15 months later, My Tiny Empty Nest was done.
During the research phase of my build, I discovered a book that introduced me to the concept of sponsorship. At the time, there were only a relative few tiny houses under construction and most people I talked to had no idea even what a tiny house was. This also meant, however, that there was an opportunity for product suppliers to partner with, and an opportunity for me to help them advertise their products in this very unique and rapidly growing market.

Late in 2015 I finished my first build with the help of my boyfriend Mark, 22 generous corporate sponsors, and the cash I earned by “flipping” a vintage RV, selling refurbished furnishings, and taking on odd jobs and projects. I also attended the first annual Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado and met a group of like-minded people that later provided me with a stage, and a mic, and a platform to tell my story.

With a mic, a script, and a stadium; I'm good to go!
After being added to the list of Most Popular Tiny Houses of the year in 2016 by House Beautiful Magazine, I decided to dip my toes more deeply into the pool of tiny house opportunity and to invest my time in 2017; traveling to as many tiny house events as I could manage. By the end of 2017 I had attended 12 events in 12 months, from coast to coast and back again...and blogging all the way...

Also during 2017 I decided that my ultimate future in tiny houses would not be as a builder or a speaker, but as a hostess of my own tiny house village. My plan was to design and build 4 tiny houses over the span of 4 years, and to rent them out as short term vacation rentals, or to anyone wanting to “try on” the tiny house lifestyle. And build I did. Again, with the support of Mark and over a dozen mostly-local sponsors, we started building both my 2nd and 3rd tiny houses in the span of 6 months.

Tiny house #3: "My Tiny Hideout".
And Then I Met Gerald

Whew…..2017 was a busy year! And it was also when I met Gerald from Westlake Development Group. We had been introduced by a mutual friend, we met to chat over lunch and share our passion for building. We had a fun time comparing notes, and it was there we found a common thread of desire to pay it forward; to the Veterans community as well as the tiny house community.

To simply say that working with Gerald has been an honor, undermines the real importance that his advocacy has played in this project. To say that Gerald is influential, is not words enough to describe the number of generous and supportive people he has recruited to help build this tiny house that will help so many. And to say that Gerald is a leader, does not pay homage enough to his dedication to helping Veterans. It was his idea to incorporate the tiny house into the Street of Dreams, to promote the auction of this beautiful project to help Veterans, and to inspire people to lend their hands and hearts to the amazing results.

From that day that Gerald and I first met to discuss the project, to the delivery at the 2018 Street of Dreams, would be less than 5 months. I would need help, and a LOT of it, to build a tiny house using only donated money, labor, and materials. 

But first, I needed a design….

Design and Collaboration

The original design of “Amelia” was simple. The floor plan was inspired by both  “My Tiny Empty Nest” and my first short term rental;  “My Tiny Perch”. It was deemed easily doable but it was also TOO simple. After a bit of reflection, I realized that the design was more reflective of my subconscious desire to live inside my comfort zone than of the expectations of the Street of Dreams organizers and attendees. Thankfully Mark, my best friend, framer, and boyfriend; knows a lot about complex design and building and was there to lend his best ideas.
Mark's brainchild, this amazing roof line!
When I tell people this was a “collaborative” project…that was only the beginning.

Tiny Innovations’ BIG Commitment

Jeremy and Ryan with Tiny Innovations are “never say no” kind of guys. Knowing that, you now know why I chose them and their team to join Gerald and myself on this crazy adventure. Theirs and their crew’s knowledge about tiny house building for the masses, filled the gaps in my tiny house experiences of designing and building tiny houses for myself and my village. And with such a short timeline, having a back up to the sponsors would be the true key to this project’s overall success.

Two BIG guys, one tiny house company!
Their warehouse provided me with a secure (and secret!) place to build where we’d never have to consider the weather into our timeline. Their enthusiastic crew was fun to work with and even more fun to drink beer with. And their resources were invaluable when it came time to consider the “what next” for this design.

The Portland Home Builder’s Association - Promoting More than Just Building

And last, but certainly not least, the role that the Home Builder’s Association and its staff members has played; has been instrumental in pulling together this tiny dream with a BIG to do list! Every single one of them has been friendly, encouraging, helpful, and they have introduced me to a whole new world of opportunity. I entered their office as an outsider and now I visit as an esteemed colleague. 

Their feedback has validated my direction, sustained my vision, and given me hope that this will be a successful and welcome addition to the Street of Dreams.

Time to Celebrate!

This not-so-tiny project is the culmination of my fascination and ongoing involvement with design, building, sponsorships, speaking, hosting, and writing. And now that we’re wrapping up the final details of the build, it’s time to put my thoughts to paper….

I am writing this on July 4th; a day when our country celebrates the anniversary of their independence. Today, however, I am also celebrating a different kind of independence; the financial freedom that living is a tiny house has afforded me.

Door too short? No problem!
But more importantly, I celebrate the opportunity to give back to those who have given so much to our country; our Veterans.

Now For Sale!

During the Street of Dreams, well over 50,000 people will have the opportunity to view, and BUY the Tiny House with a Big Dream.

So tiny, so much to offer.
But since we don’t want ONLY our visitors to have a chance to enjoy Amelia, we’ve developed an online auction website where anyone can sign up and bid. 

And It Only Takes 3 Steps:

Step 1: Scan the QR-code at the Street of Dreams or go to and enter your basic information so we know how to reach you at the conclusion of the auction on August 30th, 2018. Considering this home’s value, the minimum bid of $78,000 is a true bargain.

Step 2: Enter your credit card information and make a $50 donation to the Tiny House with a Big Dream Project.

Step 3: Submit your bid.  You’ll receive an initial email giving you more information about your donation as well as a follow up email if someone else outbids you. If that happens, a link will be provided for you to make another bid, but no additional donation is required since you’re already signed up!

What’s Next?

While all of this craziness has been going on, “My Tiny Perch” (my short term rental) has been a popular place to stay. I am both proud (and tired) to admit that keeping up with the growing demand has been a daunting challenge; but I have done it and received 5 Star Reviews from EVERY visitor. I eagerly look forward to returning to the days of “just” working a normal work week at my job, and managing my guests and their expectations.

My 2nd tiny house and first rental; "My Tiny Perch".
I am also proud to announce that, ahead of my self-imposed schedule, I have recently added a 2nd rental option.  “My Tiny Bird House” is a minuscule 48 square feet of cuteness in the woods with an outdoor shower, bunk beds, breakfast included, and a deck for bird watching or just relaxing with friends and family. Discovering how I can fit so much into so little space, and watching my guest's reactions, will be immensely say the least.

And not wanting to be left behind, even after her sale, "Amelia" will play an ongoing role in my tiny house adventure. She will be offered by my friends at Tiny Innovations, as a fully customize-able, moderately affordable, RVIA certified housing option to non-loft-tiny-house-loving Baby Boomers. (or anyone else who loves her, of course!)

And in closing, without further ado...


All Arranged for their donation of our interior and decking plants
All Fuel for installing our gas appliances and providing on-site utility hook ups
Barrelcraft Studios for the kitchen shelving, mantle, and coffee table
Bliss Roofing for installing and providing materials for our lovely roof
Camps Lumber for your support and generous donation of the interior paneling
Chown Hardware for the cabinet hardware, hooks, and bathroom accessories
Comcast for their donation of internet and security services
Complete Exteriors for the challenging installation of the interior paneling
Countryside Painting for providing talented painters for both the interior and exterior
Delta for contributing to the plumbing fixture costs
DT Glass for designing and installing the shower door
Elite Bath for the handmade kitchen sink
Farmington Gardens for your generous discount of the landscaping plants
Fireside Home Solutions for your cash contribution
Fisher and Paykel for the super-efficient stove, range hood, and dishwasher
Gary's Vacuflo for the first ever built-in vacuum system in a tiny house
George Morlan Plumbing for your support and donation of plumbing fixtures
Globe Lighting for your generous donation of the light fixtures and ceiling fan
Gotcha' Covered for their donation and installation of window coverings
Home Depot for their contribution of our AC unit
Karla Elvis Glass Design for the fused glass art panel
Lakeside Lumber for your contribution of the siding, recruiting, and advocacy
Lippold Plumbing for the installation of our plumbing systems
Macadam Flooring and Design for the flooring, tile, counter tops, and AMAZING accent wall
Marvin Windows for the truly stunning collection of custom windows
Medallion Industries for their generous contribution of the interior and exterior doors
Media and Image Consulting for your media support and recruiting of other creatives
NW Natural for their support and contribution of the natural gas fireplace
On Electric for providing materials and installation of our electrical systems
Oregon Custom Cabinets for producing our kitchen cabinets
Parklane Mattress for their contribution of a custom sized mattress
Pat Fitzgerald for his more-than-generous cash contribution
Pro Finish Painting for painting our doors, bathroom cabinets, and trim
Rinnai for their contribution of our ultra-efficient hot water heater
Tualatin Sherwin Williams for providing the interior and exterior paint
Standard TV and Appliance for our All-In-One washer/dryer and the refrigerator
Taylor Metal for their discount of the roofing materials
Tiffany Home Design for providing our living room chairs
Tiny Innovations for their generous donation of above-and-beyond materials and labor
Tone Proper for the materials and installation of our impressive sound system
Trantel Heating and Cooling for the installation of the AC unit
Urban Pillow Co. for providing the bedding

Westlake Development Group LLC 
for their ongoing support, generous cash contributions, and personal advocacy.

I am humble. 
I am inspired.
I am done!

MJ Boyle
Empty Nest Tiny Homes
Designer. Builder. Occupant. Advocate

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Am I a Builder or a Hostess? Or Both?

Four years ago, I wrote my first post on this blog. I was focused, optimistic, and inspired but simply had NO idea where this idea would take me.

Now, here I sit in My Tiny Empty Nest, my 204 sq ft tiny house with two lofts, leasing land from a friend, and calling it my “home base” for when I’m not traveling. My most recent tour video has been viewed almost a MILLION times on YouTube and my friends still can’t decide if I’m crazy or brilliant.

Mid-Build in 2015.

Just down the hill, is My Tiny Perch, my first short term rental and, at only 148 sq ft, it pushes the boundaries of what a livable tiny house feels and looks like. Over the next 3 days I have 3 guests checking in and just returned from yet another trip to the grocery store to get the above-and-beyond goodies my personal standards require.

Look! I made the COVER!!??

One hundred and sixty miles away, currently under construction at my boyfriend’s house, is My Tiny Hideout. It’s only 14 feet long, with two lofts, and at this point it is my favorite floor plan with 12 windows!

My Tiny Hideout.

As if that wasn’t crazy enough, this morning I found a 12 foot long trailer for sale on craigslist for only $500.  I’m not sure if I’ll buy it, or can make it work for a tiny house, but suffice it to say I’m not stopping this insane ride until I have four tiny houses in My Tiny House Village.

Why am I doing this to myself?

Why have I decided to be a builder AND a hostess?

To put it simply, people making money in tiny house industry are divided into six categories: Builders, Consultants, Events, Websites, Land Developers, and Hosts. As the Tiny House Podcast Hostess for over two years, I’ve had the opportunity to be the ears and eyes of the movement at large; I’ve heard their stories and followed their successes. Or in some cases…their failures.

My Tiny Empty Nest: Completed in November 2015, and no system failures yet!


With a few exceptions, tiny house builders are financially struggling.  The ones who have embraced business-to-business model are definitely doing better but those whose sole source of income relies on a business-to-consumer revenue stream are dealing with keeping prices down, while trying to make money, and satisfy customers with custom built homes. And, almost every week, I hear of another traditional home contractor that’s decided to jump on the tiny house bandwagon. 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the supply is adequate or the market is saturated, but not all of the builders have a fairy tale to tell. More than a few have declared bankruptcy, are being sued for “bad builds”, or are dealing with legality drama that leaves them actively considering leaving the business all together.

I'm VERY busy, but still find time to volunteer in my community.

Don’t get me wrong, the industry is FULL of builders who are making a good living, and building decent houses, and who still have a good reputation. But from where I sit, as I consider MY future in the industry, I’m not interested in competing with the great builders still hanging in there or dealing with high maintenance customers.

Consultants  and Workshops

Very early in my learning curve I attended a Meetup event and went armed with my floor plans, confident that I would find someone to answer my questions. At the end of a presentation, they asked if anyone had any questions. I raised my hands, asked my succinct question, and was more than disappointed in their answer: “We really can’t answer that here, but we would love to consult with you later.”  Later I would discover that their consultant fees were $75 an hour.

Today, the shoe is ironically on the other foot.  I am inundated with requests from people who want to “pick my brain” or “meet for coffee” or “ask a few questions”. And, I am now faced with how to answer them.  

My "job": Give away stuff in at the NC Tiny House Festival in 2017.

Do I really want to charge for answers? 

Do I think, after all, that I’m the best person to answer them? There are soooo many more talented and knowledgeable people out there.

So, as much as possible, I wrote blog articles that can answer most questions that come up, I encourage people to read the articles in lieu of my personal time, and offer Tiny Dinner for Two for $100 which includes a 3 course meal and a two hours of “consulting” during the meal. Even so, I’m constantly in fear that I’ll make someone else feel like I did when I stood up and raised my hand to ask the experts.

Do I want to charge $75 an hour to answer questions? Not really. But there’s not enough of me to go around so I’m still struggling with the “right” responses.

Speaking at the World Treehouse Conference.

However, once in a while I am invited to attend workshops that other tiny house experts organize, to provide my unique insight to their attendees. It’s my favorite way to meet people and give one-on-one advice without being too uptight about my time or theirs. 

And the conversations around the fire pit after a long workshop day, are the bestest!

Events and Websites

Do I have the resources, time, patience, and organizational skills to pull off a great tiny house event that will be worth the time and effort expended?  No. Way.

Do I love, respect, support, and openly compliment those who do? Absolutely.

Do I love attending said events, speaking, supporting the staff, or being an Emcee? You bet. (I go where I’m invited and appreciate every opportunity to do so.)

Was I lucky enough to grab one of the highly successful domain names that have expedited the advancement of this explosive movement?  (Tiny House Swoon, Tiny House Listings, Tiny House Blog, Tiny House Build, etc….)  Nope. 

Luck favors the prepared and who’d thunk there would be enough interest to sustain the creative geniuses who manage those websites and hugely successful events?  Not me. That’s for sure.

Land Developers

If you would have asked me a few months ago, I would have never considered this as an income possibility in the tiny house movement. However, in the past few months I have seen at least a half dozen new communities popping up across the country.

How do they overcome the legal, financial, and political hurdles? I don’t know.

No community here...yet...

But I look forward to learning more about these opportunities and how others can follow their lead.  I look forward to visiting some, to interviewing their inspired leaders, and helping the owners count their money….oh….did I say that out loud?.....I meant… credit where credit is deserved….yeah….that’s what I meant….

Hostess with the Mostest

And this is where I’ve landed.

I can build a tiny house and make a few thousand dollars, or I can build a tiny house and rent it out and make a few thousand dollars every couple of months. (if all goes even reasonably well)

Projects are my vice. Sponsors are the wind in my sails. I have a talented co-builder / boyfriend, and cheap land to lease. I love the creative process, the project management, even updating budget spreadsheets. 

My Tiny Spaces give me both solace and security.

As long as I have sponsors, I'll build on!

Being a hostess scratches my social itch. (Or should I say “itches”…does that sound creepy?  Lol!)

My role as hostess is the culmination of my personality, my skills, and passions, and I have enough time and energy to be really great at it.  I’m not competing with my tiny house friends, or charging for my mere advice. I’m closely managing my financial risk, and hoping for the best, but also preparing for less than stellar results.

This is where I belong, my little corner of this big world of tiny…and so far it fits me perfectly.