Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Oops! I'm Doing It Again!?

Could you live in 144 square feet?
Can one build a tiny house for less than $20,000, without sacrificing ANY amenities?
Do tiny houses really NEED lofts?
Since the completion of My Empty Nest last November I will admit to feeling a bit lost, and bored.  It’s not like I have nothing to do.  I am a VERY busy person and have remained very active in the tiny house community by attending events, near and far. (even as far as Vermont!)  I’ve written blogs, I still record the Tiny House Podcast every week, and have actively kept my finger tight on the proverbial pulse of the movement.

But, big creative projects are my vice. They’re what keeps my mind distracted from my otherwise very stressful life. (Ironic, I know.) So, for as much as I have going on in my life I have felt like I need something to scratch my creative itch! Problems to solve, challenges to overcome, etc… (ones that I can control!)
I have thought long and hard about what my unique contribution to the tiny house community might eventually be. I have had many people ask me if I plan to build, and sell houses. I’ve thought about writing a book or offering consulting services.  But, those are paths that so many others are following. I really want to contribute in a way that few people have, or can.  And, of course, I want it to ultimately create an income stream.
As I look at the people who are making money in the tiny house movement, they all appear to fall into one of four major categories: tiny house or trailer builders, consultants / workshop instructors, short term rental hosts (Hotels, AirBnb, and VRBO) and tiny house bloggers.  As I consider where I might fit into these categories I have to admit that I am drawn most to the social aspect of tiny houses; the hosts / hostess gigs. Yes, I love building tiny houses but what I love the most is TALKING about them!  (Side note: If you know me you are no doubt shocked that it took me any time at all to figure that out for myself. But I digress…) I love sharing my story and I love inspiring others with the idea that they too can build one for themselves!
So, without further ado, I am hereby formally announcing the launch of my next project:
My Tiny Perch!
My floorplan.
I have carefully considered all of the feedback that I see, and read, about my tiny house and others.  So many concerns about the tiny house movement appear to be focused primarily on zoning.  This makes total sense but there are others blazing those trails so it’s not something I can address with MY project.  But, what I can address or call attention to is the number of people who have trepidations about climbing stairs into a loft bedroom. So, my next tiny house won’t have stairs or a loft. My newest design is a single story tiny house, with a separate bedroom and a full bathroom. (and room for dining, for two!)

Next, hauling a tiny house is a HUGE undertaking and not for the faint of heart.  The bigger the house, the bigger the truck that is needed, and the potential pitfalls and nightmares.  Believe me, I’ve heard them all. (and, as you recall, My Empty Nest actually tipped over while being moved!) So, my next tiny house will truly be very tiny, only 144 sq feet. This means it will be lighter, shorter, and much easier to haul with my boyfriend’s ¾ ton truck. No need to hire a mover. 

So, what about the design / floorplan? As a beginner builder it’s pretty tough to wrap ones head around the trailer / house combo. Do you design the trailer around the floorplan or the floorplan around the trailer?  How does one account for the fenders in the floorplan? These are all tough questions. Questions, however, that I won’t have to answer because a single story tiny house built on a deck over trailer is a super practical and much MUCH easier way to accomplish a tiny house goal than building between the fenders and calculating the exact ceiling height needed in the sleeping lofts!
And, finally, who has over $50,000 to buy a tiny house? Not me. As the movement grows larger, so do the tiny houses and their sale prices.  Yes. I know. It’s ironic and odd but “practical”.  So here’s the bottom line: Can you actually build and live in an affordable, teeny, tiny, house without sacrificing any basic amenities? One that costs less than $20,000 to build?  I intend to prove that you can. I am designing OUT the costs of some materials like flooring and siding; and reducing labor at the same time.
My color and décor scheme.

So here I go again. And, to clarify I am starting out (again) with NO money. I am again seeking the support of sponsors and then augmenting my budget with money I earn through sources other than my primary income. Then, when it’s done, My Tiny Perch will be put to use as a short term rental to help others experience the tiny house lifestyle, even if only for a weekend. 
I can indeed be a builder, AND a blogger, AND a Hostess with the Mostest!
So, stay tuned! I’ll be posting pictures and how-to articles and this time I’m jumping onto the Instagram bandwagon.  
It’s gonna’ be a fun, but no doubt bumpy, ride!




Monday, January 25, 2016

When You Just Gotta' Go! (My Composting Toilet Story)

I met a new friend at a bar the other night.  She read an article in the local paper about my tiny house and reached out via facebook.  She is just starting to plan for her tiny house build.  She had so many questions! 

Most of them, however, had to do with how she might go about finding a host for her tiny house.  What would she tell them?  What did she need?  Should she build first and THEN look for a place to put it?

During this conversation I realized, more than I had before, how many of my initial decisions regarding the design and amenities for my tiny house were based on my goal of being as “low maintenance” as possible to my host. I wanted to make it easy for them to say “yes”. 

Lina Minard once said “All tiny house conversations turn to the subject of either poop, or sex, within the first ten minutes.”  And there I was, in a bar, explaining to a stranger, how to select a composting toilet, what it does, and how to become an expert on composting.
Reduce your water consumption by using a composting toilet.
Reuse the box as a collection bin for charity donations.
Recycle your old linens and pillows and extra household goods by donating them.
Win. Win. Win.

There really was never any question about whether or not I would have a composting toilet. I already have a portable RV toilet for my camper. And, I hate emptying it, so much, I have never used it.  And, I had no intention of using a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket.  So when it came to choosing a composting toilet, the main question really was “Which one?”
Hard at work on my water closet!
I turned to Google and YouTube and started my research. And, I discovered, out of all of the composting toilets out there, Nature’s Head had the best reputation and several glowing recommendations. 

You can do your own research as well but in a nutshell, here’s how it works:
1)      The liquid waste (pee) is diverted to a front-loaded and sealed container to prevent it from mingling with the solid waste. 

2)      The solid waste (poo) and toilet paper is diverted, via a manually opened latch, to a centrally-located tank where is it stirred, via a manual crank with peat moss to help remove the moisture and smell.

3)      A tiny fan runs 24/7 to remove smell and moisture from the solid waste tank.

4)      To clean it you just spray vinegar and water on the bowl after every use.
5)     Here's a link to a very cool and informative video review:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24LimUrb4LM
Almost ready, my Nature's Head toilet, sitting quietly in the background.

Here are the less than obvious attributes:
1)      Guests will need a set of instructions in order to use it properly.

2)      Male guests need to sit, to pee.  I can tell you that this is NOT a popular mandate in my tiny house.

3)      It is super easy to install!

4)      My guests are amazed at how you cannot smell it, at all!
The vent tube and fan are hardly noticeable!
As easy as it was, to install, I did have a few Oops moments:
1)      Don’t use Miracle Grow peat moss. I bought some and THEN read the manual where it says, several times in BOLD type, not to.  Doh!?  LOL

2)      You’re supposed to attach the toilet to the floor.  My floor, however, is glass tile.  There is a section in the installation manual that says I should attach it to a piece of plywood but, to be honest, I’m not sure why I even need to attach it to the floor.  It’s quite stable already.  I am sure, however, that I will eventually figure it out.  Maybe when I’m moving my tiny house and the full toilet tips over?  Note to self: empty toilet before I move my house again.

3)      I had to buy yet another tool, a hole saw, to install the vent tubing.  And, I find it very ironic that I spent so much time and money making a weather proof house and then have to drill big holes in it. 

4)      I read the instructions and they said to buy the converter if I would be plugging it in to a 110V outlet.  So, I went online and ordered one.  Then, when I went to unpack it I discovered that Nature’s Head had already sent me one, pre-installed on the toilet already.  Lesson:  Unpack the toilet, survey the supplies, read the manual and THEN buy extra stuff you may need to install it.
A throne to be proud of!
Larry at Nature’s Head is a great guy.  Heck, the entire staff is.  I received my shipment notice via email on a Sunday!

So, if you’re looking for a composting toilet that will last you a lifetime, from a company with a great reputation, and a product with unsurpassed quality; you really should buy a Nature’s Head.

Or you can use a bush.  My guy friends still do that and it works great for them…..

Friday, December 18, 2015

Window Coverings - They Matter More Than You Think

I’m not an interior designer. I would love to think I am, or go to school to be one, or get paid to be an assistant to one.  But, alas, I am not. 

I have, however, read a lot of books on design and space utilization. I understand the basics of color application, use of voids, and the whole color-texture-and bling concept. I’ve spent more than a passing afternoon on building and painting and designing my living spaces and would like to think I’m pretty good at it.

And while all of this sounds very high brow, and while the decision for what window coverings to use in your tiny space should be very easy; when you’re starting from scratch like I did, there are actually a LOT of considerations for choosing window coverings.

Here are some of mine:

My Inspiration

I started with fabric.  When starting an interior design plan, it’s a good idea to find a piece of fabric that embodies your overall design theme.  Flowered? Colorful? Modern? Bright? Neutral?  This fabric then becomes the basis for your overall design and from there on out the rest of the choices are easier.  You can choose paint colors, complimentary fabrics, fixtures, and even artwork using your fabric inspiration as your baseline.
Where it all started...
I chose a very modern aesthetic with a neutral cream and grey theme. The squares in the fabric were then repeated throughout my design with the tile and the storage boxes and even the “boxy looking” window trim.

Curtains or Blinds

Decorating a tiny space is a bit more challenging than a “normal” house with doors and individual rooms. When you have a normal house you can design individual rooms with their own color scheme or design theme.  Since most of the space in my tiny house is basically one big room I wanted to make them visually unique and yet blend well.

Since I have 11 windows in my tiny space, choosing a window covering that would blend well with any of my individual room choices was key.  And, since my theme was “Modern Nostalgia” I decided to go with cellular fabric blinds.  They would be less obtrusive than curtains, but yet still provide a soft glow and privacy.  I also hate, simply HATE, cheap metal blinds. If I would have been forced to use duct tape and bed sheets for window coverings until I could afford what I wanted, I would have.
Basic But Beautiful!
With that said, I love to sew curtains. But, since I wanted the window coverings to blend, rather than stand out, and since I have so many windows, having 11 sets of curtains in such a small space would have been visually quite heavy.

Where To Buy Blinds

Big Box stores are good for a lot of things.  Helping you make key design decisions is not one of them.  (in my experience anyways)  If, like me, your creative process involves staring at swatches for days and painting walls just to see how they would look with a particular color, then you’d probably appreciate Blind.com’s methods of helping you make a decision.

Their catalog is dizzingly large and amazing.  If you have questions about how to choose one blind style over another you can call them or watch videos.  Your level of engagement is entirely up to you.  Personally, I like to have my hands held while I walk through that kind of decision.
A snapshot of their selection page
I chose 12 different colors / styles of blinds and they immediately (the same day) sent me actual samples of each.  I fiddled with my decision for, literally, months. After endless discussions with myself and a day spent measuring and re-measuring the windows, I was finally ready. I emailed them the sizes, they sent me the order to confirm that no data entry errors had occurred between my email and their computer, and the blinds arrived within 2 weeks.

Easy Peasy!
Once I received the blinds, the installation was very simple.
Step One:  Screw the two or three brackets (depending on the size) to the top of the window.
Step Two: Snap the blind into place.  No joke. It was one of the easiest parts of my entire build.
So easy, a dummy can do it!
Step Three: (Optional) If you choose blinds with cords, you then screw the cord “wrangler” to the window frame.  No more dangling cords!?  Yep.  Problem solved


I discovered that I had measured the kitchen window correctly, but a “1” looks a lot like a “7” when scribbled on a piece of scrap paper.  I ordered a 46 - 7/8” blind when I needed a 46 – 1/8” one.  They made a new one and sent it to me NO CHARGE!  They told me I could keep the other blind and donate it to charity or give it to a friend.  I can honestly say that kind of service is truly rare and I appreciate the lengths that Blinds.com goes to, to make the whole experience as great as possible.
I love my kitchen!

All the Final Touches

I love how my cream colored blinds blend in to the background, but stand out against the grey walls.  I love how their subtle texture provides depth and interest and a touch of class.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cordless blinds in the loft that can close from the top or bottom with the slightest of touch. They were so easy to install, they look amazing, and they’re warm and inviting even from the outside view!

I’ll never buy my Blinds from anyone but Blinds.com.  Ever.  And you shouldn’t either.  :o)~

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Tiny House Podcast - What Makes Us Tick?

Every Wednesday morning, three unlikely friends commute to downtown Portland to record the Tiny House Podcast.  In true Portland fashion, Perry pedals in on his bicycle; Michelle stops by with her coffee in hand on her way to work, and Mark’s beard arrives before he does. The first few hours of their collective day begins with a chat about the guest-of-the-week, 45 minutes of recording, and then concludes with a brief what’s-next discussion.

My name is Michelle, and I am the very proud hostess of the Tiny House Podcast, and this is our story…

I met Mark Grimes several years ago during a funding competition. I was representing my little startup company and hoping to capture the attention of investors. After my speech, Mark introduced himself and offered his time and resources and contacts within the vibrant startup community in Portland.  Needless to say I was more than grateful and our connection grew as we bumped into each other at various events throughout the city.

Mark Grimes, our Glue Guy

Mark is a fan of all things trendy, and unique, and quirky, and odd, and seeks out opportunities where ever they present themselves. Even if it means doing things he’s never done before and meeting people he’s never met before. That’s what I love about him the most. He almost always finds a way to say “yes” and he will say “yes” to finding time to connect with me during his very busy weeks; even if only 15 minutes’ worth.

During one of these 15 minutes touch-base-sessions, after not having seen each other for a few months, we were somewhat surprised to discover that we had a common interest in tiny houses. He and his business partner, Perry, were exploring the notion of a tiny house community of converted shipping containers.  Then, their research led them to consider tiny houses on wheels. 

Mark’s and my conversation regarding a podcast went something like this:

Mark:  “So. This Tiny House thing is pretty cool. Would you be interested in hosting a podcast?

Me: “Sure. But I don’t know anything about podcasting.”

Mark: “We’ll figure out the hard parts, you just have to talk.”

Me: “Deal.”

Mark: “OK, let’s sit down with Perry and brain storm some ideas.  Next week good for you?”

The following week all three of us met at Nedspace, Mark’s downtown incubator for creative minds. It was my first opportunity to meet Perry. We brainstormed the concept that we envisioned for our podcast and the words “irreverent”, “fun”, “funny”, and “informative” came up often. We knew we didn’t want to be boring or too politically correct. We came up with a list of creative questions, and people in the tiny house community we wanted to interview. We talked about the kinds of subjects and people outside the tiny house community that our listeners would relate to and enjoy. We agreed on a timeline, synced our schedules, and then met a couple of weeks later for our first recording session.

To say that we threw caution to the wind and mutually agreed to “throw shit at the wall and see if it stuck” would be a true understatement. Mark is our glue person (the guy who holds it all together) I am the hostess and keep close tabs on all things tiny, and Perry is the recording technology guru.

Perry Gruber, Mister Technology

Perry, is also the most socially responsible one amongst us. His passion for sailing and his lifelong goal of finally living on a sail boat is what drew him to the tiny house movement. His proclivity towards tiny spaces, his interest in all things unique and small, and his avid pursuit of a sustainable economy makes him the perfect third leg on our little stool of Portland weirdness. He is an artist, and an entrepreneur, and a true innovator who seeks to transform societal norms. And nowhere is that more evident than on his website; Copiosis.com. As in his daily life, he also has very high standards for the podcast. But, he is also patient enough to set them aside and allows me to be my zany, rude, and sometimes awkward self.  If you’re cringing while I am excitedly interrupting someone, yet again. So is he.

So, who am I?

Just little, 'ole, me.....

First off, I was raised in a family with 13 siblings. Competing for attention, talking loud and over other conversations, was a required skill set and one that I learned very early in life. Then, I discovered much later in life that interrupting is NOT skill set that is actually considered to be a social asset. Since early habits die hard, it remains my nemesis. So, now you all know why I am what I am. As embarrassing as that is. I’m working on it.

But enough about my need for therapy…..

I am a single mom, first and foremost. I have two college aged children who still live at home but someday they will fly the nest and I will live in my recently completed tiny house named “My Empty Nest”. By day, I spend my employer’s money working as a Buyer, and by night I do more than most people can imagine will fit into a single lifetime. I am a patented inventor, entrepreneur, published author, public speaker, Glamper, craigslist stalker, foodie, blogger, coffee enthusiast, wine drinker, tiny house designer/builder, and lover of an amazing guy named Mark. (Not the podcast one, another one) People often ask me if I ever sleep and I have to admit that I sleep more than most. I am VERY grumpy if I get anything less than 8 hours of solid sleep and I fervently protect my downtime.

If you’ve listened to one of our podcasts, you know that the dynamic between Mark, Perry, and myself is pretty comfortable and I personally consider that to be one of our best assets. We laugh, we have good days and bad, eat breakfast during the show, drink our coffee, make fun of each other, confess our desires, share our lives, and enthusiastically try to produce an entertaining and valuable addition to your day.

Want our recipe?

Take three creative and fun people, put them in a tiny padded room, add a dose of common interest, throw in a recording device that works (Thank you, Perry!) sprinkle in some super informative and funny guests, and BAM!......out comes the tiny house podcast.

If you have NOT listened to our podcast, then you totally should.  But, of course you knew I’d say this.

We interview VERY cool people in the tiny house community, movers and shakers on the forefront of socially responsible living, and creative types who will hopefully rule the world someday.

Seriously.  What are you waiting for?  Like……go listen……  Right now.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Heating My Tiny House and Water - Part I

There are, basically, four ways to heat a tiny house:
Propane / Natural Gas

 And, I considered them all….

DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am NOT a professional contractor, an electrician, or a natural gas aficionado. This blog article is about the thought process behind why I chose, what I chose. If you are looking for more technical details, there are lots of tiny house design and technical and safety-related people out there that are way smarter than I am, who are happy to help and answer the questions I cannot. Every tiny house is different. Please use this article merely as a starting point for your research.


During the design phase of my tiny house, when deciding on the electrical and heating systems, I first considered where I would park my tiny house. And, I decided that my overall goal was to minimize the impact on my future hosts. And, since I assumed that not everyone would have a spare 220V plug or circuit available, I set out to design a home that can (under a worst case scenario) fully function with a small generator. Or, in other words, plug into a 110V wall outlet. After all, everyone I know has a wall outlet on the outside of their garage or deck.

In order to meet this goal, however, I would have to ensure that all heat related appliances would run on something other than electric.

A cheap heater but NOT a cheap option!
Mathematically, most household plug outlets run on a 15 AMP circuit. A small electric space heater (too small to heat even my tiny house) needs 15 AMPs. Yes, there are some out there that run on 12 AMPS or maybe even 10 AMPS, but they are sorely inadequate for a cold winter’s day and I still wouldn’t have enough power left over for even my ¾ sized refrigerator.


Like so many people, I grew up with a wood stove in my parent’s living room. In my case, the wood stove augmented the electric furnace. It was a pleasant addition to the living room and added ambiance. But, it was never more appreciated then when the electricity went out. And, that happened several times a year.

 Since my parent’s house was situated on 13 ½ acres of treed land, finding wood was never a problem. I remember wood cutting “days”. The boys cut the wood with chain saws, and then split the wood with axes, and then the girls hauled and stacked the wood. (I never much liked this division of labor, personally. The boys got to play with the fun, loud, power tools!)

Cute as a button but SOOO HOT!!
 When I considered a wood stove for my own house I, again, considered my likely host. There was simply no way I could predict how available wood might be and/or if my host would enjoy a stack of spider riddled wood stacked on their property. And, as you know, space inside of a tiny house is limited so inside storage is probably not an option. And, yes, there’s again that whole spiders-in-the-wood-pile thing.

 Now, in addition to the spider and wood storage issue, is the humidity issue. When wood burns it releases moisture. And in tiny houses, moisture management is a HUGE factor. So minimizing the moisture that is created by a wood stove would require additional vents or fans or other things that may require additional electricity. So I would be heating my house and still adding electrical demand? No thanks.

 And, also, I want to CONTROL the heat. I remember the days when my parent’s wood stove would get so hot we’d have to open all the windows in the house. All our work, literally, went out the windows!?

So, a wood stove was ruled out.


I have to admit that although I did research into solar, because it was so far askew of my comfort zone, this option hardly had a fighting chance. I went into it thinking there would have to be a VERY convincing reason for me to use it. And, honestly, I never found that reason.

First off, for me to invest in a solar array large enough to power and heat my home I would need to invest between $3,000 - $4,000 in panels and batteries. Assuming my house would run on less electricity than a toaster oven, my electric bill would be less than $25 per month. So, purchasing a solar array instead would mean my return on investment would be several YEARS! My solar array would literally be obsolete before it would be “paid off” by savings in my electric bill. And, the batteries would have to be replaced every few years as well. The whole math thing, didn’t pan out.

Yeah.  That doesn't look complicated at all!?

 And, I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen on asking my host to allow me to use an ugly solar array in their front yard or where ever it might need to be to catch the sun. And, besides, I don’t want a solar power system to dictate where I would park my home. I quite like the idea of parking it under trees.

Propane/Natural Gas

By the process of elimination I decided I would heat my house and water with propane. But, here’s the thing. I was deathly afraid of propane. It’s pretty far outside of my comfort zone and there’s the house-might-blow-up thing……

 Before proceeding with the selection of my propane powered heater I would have to admit to myself that my fear was based on an overall misunderstanding of what propane is, what it does, why it blows up or kills people in their sleep, and the fact that it was just not something I was familiar with. But, since the other 3 heating options were already ruled out I pushed onward in my quest…

Heating My Tiny House And Water - Part II

After having considered all four of the heating options, I decided on propane. It was a somewhat reluctant decision, given the very large learning curve I would have to endure. But, then again, everything about building my tiny house represented a pretty steep learning curve so why would installing propane powered appliances be any different?

 So I…

1) Hired professionals to install my propane line, giving myself the security of knowing there would be no leaking or errors by doing it myself. When safety is an issue, you really should spare no expense! They installed it so all of the connection points are exposed and can be easily tested with soapy water, for leaks. That makes a lot of sense to me. They knew how big the pipe would need to be, they knew where the line should go (under the house) and they pressurized it before they left to ensure there were no leaks.

Workin' hard at what he does best!

2) Considered that there are hundreds of thousands of homes and RV’s that are heated by propane. They don’t normally blow up, and if anyone dies in their sleep it is because there was a leak and they didn’t install a CO2 detector properly, or at all.

Working in tight quarters!

3) Sourced a hot water heater from a nationally recognized company with an excellent reputation. (see Part III of this blog for those details)

Smiling for the camera!

4) Sourced a directly vented, propane powered heater with 14,000 BTU’s.

I found my whole-house-heater / furnace at Williams Control Products. There are other manufacturers of propane furnaces but once I did my homework I discovered that the directly competing product was no longer being supported by the manufacturer. They are no longer able to provide parts. There is a lot of inventory in internet land but I am a sourcing professional and when a company shuts off their parts supply it’s only a matter of time before servicing the machines becomes very problematic.

Installation Step 1: Install template and locate vent hole.

My 14,000 BTU direct vent furnace is the smallest one that Williams offers and it is perfect for my tiny house! It arrived when they promised and I then made an appointment to have it installed.

This installation, however, was not without it's dramatic moments.  Just a few days before the installation I woke up in the middle of the night in a bit of a panic mode.  The wall where the vent would have to pass through also contains the PEX plumbing.  How did I miss that!?

Installation Step 2:  Cut the vent hole.

So, I had to cut a hole in my drywall to locate the PEX and then hope that it was far enough away from the vent to avoid heat build up.  The good news is that it was......but I lost one night of sleep because of it.

OK, back to my story....

I called back the same guys who had installed the propane gas lines. They were great the first time so I was happy for the opportunity to work with them again. Unfortunately, their minimum charge for installation was $400 (2 guys for 2 hours) so even though it only took them 50 minutes to get it done I still had to pay the minimum.

Installation Step 3:  Don't cry when you find a huge hole in your new house!
I also, however, paid for a thermostat upgrade. I had the wire all set for the hard wired one but they convinced me that having a remote thermostat would give me more flexibility RE the temperature AND the location. If I want the loft to be warmer, I can set the thermostat to control the temperature there. If I want the main floor to be warmer I can set the thermostat there and turn on the ceiling fan.

Bottom line, I can lie in bed and turn up the heat! Bonus!!!

Installation Step 4 - Hook up the gas line and remote thermostat.

The installation process was fairly straight forward. But, given my nervous nature around the explosive gas I was happy to have someone to calmly assure me of its reliability and cost effectiveness. Lighting the pilot light was easy enough and it heat up the house in no time at all. It was, however, July so that wasn’t exactly a challenge.

Fast forward a few months...

After I moved the house twice, I was set and ready for the heater to work its magic. When I tried to light it, however, the pilot light wouldn’t stay lit. I contacted Williams and they called me back within hours. In the end, I discovered that it was a loose wire, no doubt worked loose by 2 moves within one month. And, the heater warmed my tiny house from 32 degrees to 42 degrees in 10 minutes! I set the thermostat at 45 and left the house to “test”.

Installation Step 5 - Fire it up and make sure it works!
Fast forward two days…..

I stopped by the tiny house today to make sure the heater was still working and holding the temp I had set. It is! The house is 47 degrees and the pilot light is still lit.

It’s been a FRANTIC few weeks. Finally having the warm and cozy house that I built, available for wine parties, and to rest and relax, and entertain friends...is AWESOME!!!!

And there's my Williams Furnace, next to the stove, keeping me nice and toasty warm!

Psstt...don’t tell the kids but...do you want to guess where I’m hiding all the Christmas presents? My tiny house is now Santa’s Workshop, complete with wine and hot cocoa and gift wrap galore.

It feels so good to have it done.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Countertops - Step by Step / From Sourcing to Installation

I have an old butcher block table that I had originally thought I would cut up into pieces, and use as my countertops.  I still think it was a fabulous idea except for the fact that I never measured to see if it would actually work.

But, I didn't, and it wouldn't; and so like many other tiny house projects I was left back at Square One and searching for a cost effective and not-too-complicated answer to my countertop dilemma pretty late in the build process.

As you know by now, I am always on the hunt for sponsors for my tiny house but most of them had already been found and were on board with the idea long before I started my build.  With the countertops, however as I mentioned, it was very late in the build process when I discovered I would need a new solution.

My countertop inspiration.

Just down the street from where I live, there lives a cabinet maker.  On three different occasions I have stopped by and we have chatted.  I have given him my contact information and he said he would "stop by to take a look later in the week". I talked to him about my kitchen cabinets, about my fender boxes, and then about my countertops. All 3 times he failed to follow up and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for "buying local". Never once had I mentioned that I was seeking sponsor so its not like he didn't want to subject himself to an uncomfortable conversation of saying "no".  As a matter of fact over 50% of the cash I spent on my build was for labor that was NOT sponsor provided.  I had money, I just needed help. 

I mention this only to illustrate a point about integrity. More than a few times people would say they would show up, follow up, bid on, or help me. And, more often than not, they didn't.  Seriously  More than half of the time, people didn't show up, even when there was money to be paid.

Integrity Matters!  It matters to me and it matters to most.  So, from here on out if you do not want to help someone or participate in their project, just say no.  I know I would respect you far more for your honesty than your lack of support or enthusiasm. 

OK, back to my story.....

How I Found and Installed Recycled Countertops in 5 Easy Steps!

Step 1 - I found Aaron and Oregon Lumber Works on craigslist.  I emailed him.  He responded.  We chatted.  I told him what I needed.  He invited me to stop by.  It was that simple. 

A barn full of reclaimed goodness.

And speaking of simple there is nothing terribly complicated about buying some reclaimed slabs and then installing them.  Assuming, of course, your measurements are right.....and mine weren't.


Oregon Lumber Works takes old barn beams and mills them into thick slabs to be used for table tops, countertops, shelving, desktops, and what ever else you can dream up for them. They don't look like much when you see them but if you have a vision (and I did have THAT!) and some mineral oil, they'll look amazing with little to no effort.

Big, Small, and HUGE!

Step 2 - I picked out two slabs and hauled them home in my SUV.  I then measured the width and, as it turns out, I was off by 1/2".  So, the 18" wide slabs would need to be ripped to fit and since they had to be cut to fit, anyways, that was not a big deal.  I, however, was not going to tackle the job.

In my garage, awaiting their fate.

Step 3 - Cutting milled slabs that are practically irreplaceable in an area like a countertop that is the very definition of "visible" was not in my handy bag of skills.  I hired a local contractor to come cut the slabs to size. It cost me $40 and a few hours later I saw him at the wine bar "reinvesting" my keep-it-local money.

Safety Glasses?  Check!

Step 4 - I sanded the slabs and added six coats of mineral oil that I bought at Walgreens for $2.65.  I waited 24 hours between coats, and now, liquid beads off them like water off a duck's back.

Sold as an "digestion aid" at your local pharmacy.
Step 5 - I now had two beautiful slabs so I just had to figure out how to support them on the non-wall side. So, I built two short walls, the width of the countertop, as supports.  I originally covered the half walls with barn wood but didn't want to waste such beautiful material on a wall you couldn't see so I ended up covering them with plywood and painting them instead.

I am VERY happy with how my countertops turned out and KUDOS to Aaron for his help.  They look amazing and go very well with my vintage appliances.


If you're looking for a company that is actively involved in the reclaiming industry and doesn't have an expensive store front, Oregon Lumber Works is a great source. Their website is basic, they run ads on craigslist, and Aaron is a supporter of all things tiny, small, and reclaimed.

What's not to love about that?