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 www.tinyhousewithabigdream.com 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 entertaining...to 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...

THANK YOU TO.....

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

BUT ABOVE ALL....THANK YOU TO
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!

Builders

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…..giving 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.



Monday, February 19, 2018

Six Easy Ways to Find a Tiny House Parking Spot


There are really, only, two different kinds of tiny house people: Those who BUILD and PRAY, and those who PRAY to BUILD. And, since most people cannot stomach the kind of stress that comes with investing time and money into the unknowns of tiny house homeownership, those who PRAY to BUILD therefore define the un-tapped tiny house buyers (or builders) market.

The framing for my tiny houses is done at my build site in Tacoma Washington.

Many of these folks PRAY to find the money to build their tiny dream. And, although I used to believe that lack of funding was the primary reason for the log-jamb of dreamers, social media paints a significantly different picture. Nowadays, more and more often, the cries of “Where can I park my tiny house?” vastly out-number the “Where do I get the money?” queries.


Once you have a few nice exterior photos of your tiny house, it's time to start networking!

When I built my BUILD and PRAY tiny house in the driveway of the home I was renting at the time, “asking” for permission never crossed my mind. Whether it be my precocious or my optimistic nature, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have any issues with my landlord or my neighbors. And, until the very end of my build, I didn’t. I imagined I would eventually find to find a place to put it, but never envisioned I would have only 10 days to figure it out.

And since I intended to find a space to park it to professionally photograph it, and then have a house warming party, and then move it to a more permanent place to occupy it; I had to find not one but TWO spots!?

Yes, it's true, I DO most of the work myself.

In a nutshell, I didn’t have any problems at all. It took a bit of work, sure, but using the resources that already exist as well as some good-old-fashioned pavement pounding: I was actually able to finally pick from several parking options.

So if you’re wondering if a tiny house is right for you, and are reluctant to buy or build until you’ve found a Utopian Kind of Parking Reality, I would encourage you to be optimistic and build on!! If you’re already in, mid-build, or moving yours, here are some ideas for how to find a perfect spot for your Tiny Homestead.

This building lot, in my town, costs over $200,000!

Social Media
Many major cities have a tiny house Facebook page or a Meetup group. You can find spots in our near your ideal spot by engaging with these groups via their social media page and/or attending meetings. Even if someone does not have a spot advertised, people in the group often know of someone who does.

Networking
Most of us have "circles of influence".  Those are groups of people you work with, your family, your neighbors, close friends, club members, PTA, etc....  (or in my case, bartenders....lol....) While not all of them may share your enthusiasm for tiny houses, they may have never thought of hosting a tiny house in their backyard as a method to earn extra money.  Telling everyone you know that you're looking is a great way of expanding your search beyond the internet. Ask them, what do they need help with? Yard work? Babysitting? Animal care? They may not have a space, or interest, but they quite likely know of someone who does.


Friends have the best ideas!

Craigslist
Unfortunately, not all tiny house people seeking or having spots to park will list under the “Real Estate” section of this popular resource site. So, the easiest way to find ALL of the listings (including tiny houses for sale) is to use the words “tiny house” under “ALL” listing sections And, don’t hesitate to contact people with tiny houses for sale, they’ll likely know of a spot to park or will be vacating their own spot soon!


Cold Calling
If you are lucky enough to be looking for a space that is close to where you live now, you can drive around the area to find an ideal neighborhood or house. They’re normally in the “older” or “rural” section of town where the side yards and back yards are large. Once you find an area that appeals to you, print up flyers with a large full picture of the outside your tiny house and a “blurb” about who you are. Also, include the list of what you’ll need (garden hose, 120V outlet, southern exposure, space for a dog run, etc…) so if you have the leave the flyer on a doorstep, they’ll be more likely to call if they know a bit more about you. Or you can also hang a flyer in the local grocery store or local community board.

In a nutshell, get out there and knock on doors and ASK people. They’ll likely be your neighbors so a little hand-flesh-pressing is good for neighbor relations and shows that you are genuine and personable.



Internet Lists
When I had a tiny house spot for rent, I listed mine on www.tinyhousemap.com and got lots of calls. And now due to the rising popularity of tiny houses there are actually more websites jumping on the bandwagon including www.tinyhouselistings.com and a Facebook page called “Tiny House Hosting”. They’re a great place to search for, and post for, what you’re looking for. However, they do generate interest from people who are “just looking” so it’s hard for a land owner to judge the seriousness of the renter until they’ve invested some time into correspondence. If you do contact someone offering land via these sites, be sure to give them enough information about yourself and a pic of your tiny house so they know you’re real and not just using them as a local zoning or tiny house expert.

Our first moving day for My Tiny Perch.

Try It Tiny
When a friend of mine and I were chatting about the complexities of finding our spots, and wishing there was a “one stop shop” to find parking, we thought of launching a website strictly devoted to connecting land owners and tiny house owners. While the internet lists are a great resource, we thought that a truly focused approach would provide the support needed to connect and foster good community relationships. So while my friend and I talked about it at length, we never launched it. But I’m happy we didn’t because someone (my new friend Maggie) actually DID and came up with a concept that clearly surpassed even our wildest ideas. On www.tryittiny.com, listings are added every day and the opportunities continue to grow for tiny house enthusiasts to connect.


Our 2nd Moving Day, getting close now!

Honestly, nothing about building or financing or moving and finding a place to park your tiny house is truly EASY. While tiny houses are for-sure “trendy” on the internet , occupying a tiny house will require getting OFF the computer and getting out in the world and meeting people and putting a hammer to nail. It will involve making tough decisions, and saving and spending money, and being very introspective about your own goals.

If your goal, however, is to find a spot to put your tiny house; it may not be as hard as other articles (or nightmare stories) may lead you to believe. It may not really be “easy” but it’s certainly doable and every tiny house occupant out there has a success story to prove it.

So beautiful. So quiet. So proud.

My first spot I found by posting an “In Seek Of…” on the local community Facebook page. My current spot I found by networking with local friends who owned large plots of land. And I couldn’t be happier. 

My expenses for TWO tiny houses on the same lot are currently less than $150 per month; which includes utilities. Not only are my tiny houses tiny, so are my bills!



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Flooring That Isn't Boring! But IS Affordable AND Easy to Install!

When designing My Tiny Perch, or any tiny house to be used as a rental, the material choices make a BIG difference when it comes to how well it will "hold up" to abuse and traffic. While you or I may treat our floors gently, and take off our shoes, and clean the floors frequently; the same cannot be assumed with guests in a short term rental.

My sign by the door....hoping the guests honor the request and appreciate the humor.

When I was deciding on flooring I knew I wanted it to be 1) easy to install myself 2) durable 3) waterproof 4) easy to repair scratches.

And the flooring I found at Lumber Liquidators fit my needs perfectly! I chose Coreluxe Dark Hollow Oak floors because I chose white "cotton" as the wall color, black as the accessory accent, and am using lots of other colors throughout. I didn't want the walls or floor to "compete" with the design, but rather, blend into the background.

There is so much to love about this flooring. First and foremost, there is no need for an underlayment. It can be easily installed on top of existing flooring, or in my case: OSB subfloor.

Next, because I installed the flooring in a new space there was no need to pull up the baseboard trim.  The baseboards would be installed after the flooring was done so the hardest part of a typical or renovation install didn't really apply to me.

Getting Started

The MOST important thing to do correctly is setting the first "course" (aka section of flooring) Because the flooring is engineered (aka perfectly symmetrical) any tiny error in the placement of the first row will cause the ENTIRE house or room to be off. So, measure, measure, measure, and then measure again.

It took less than an hour to install the flooring in the bedroom, including prep time!

I have to admit, although the instructions do not say to do so, I put one trim nail on each end of the first row to hold it in place. I tried to place the 2nd row without the trim nails but they both ended up shifting so badly I had to remeasure and re-place the first row. The floor will expand (according to the documentation) so I have no idea how my two tiny trim nails will affect that but I'm crossing my fingers. And, the first section of flooring is UNDER the bed so any future buckling won't be seen really.  It may have been a mistake, however, I don't know....

In a nutshell, the flooring slides and snaps together. The grooves are engineered, however, so even a slight bit of misalignment will cause them to not snap correctly. It's easy to do, but does take a bit of practice.

Installing the bed frame, the next day. What a mess!

The next thing I had to remember was the flooring could only be installed from left to right. Because the flooring snaps on the short sides AND the long sides, once you cut a piece, the cut renders the spare piece usable ONLY on the left (starting) edge.

For cutting I HIGHLY recommend using a chop saw. After having just installed an entire house of cladding, my chop saw was handy and made perfectly square end cuts.

My already-installed bathroom door did cause some issues. I had to slide the flooring under the door frame because I couldn't "click" the floor together using the 45 angle degree that is necessary. This is pretty impossible to explain here (and I tried to chat with my boyfriend over the phone about it and after 30 minutes we gave up.  It's hard to describe a 3D problem without standing over it!  LOL) and suffice it to say it looks amazing but required a bit of brain work to figure out how to slide it under the frame.

My quandary is hard to explain, but the results are arguably easy to appreciate!

After the install I taped down some protective paper I had which certainly helped but didn't keep the floors completely scratch free. After the worst of the construction process was over I pulled up the paper and cleaned like a mad woman. It was then I discovered a few deep, and several little scratches.

Oh Crap.....

Luckily, I found an amazingly well designed scratch pen which works literal wonders on fixing scratches. For my next install I'll use a cardboard product meant specifically to protect floors, instead of the kraft style paper I had available.

Poof! Scratch is GONE! 

This flooring is really awesome!  Unlike many AirBnB's, I will allow pets and have NO concerns RE the floors. They clean easily, look great, I won't be worrying about water damage, and if all else fails, scratches are easy to fix!

Looking good, but still a lot of work to do.

Thank you, Lumber Liquidators, for your support and help with choosing and installing my new and totally amazing floors!

Spills in the dining area? No problem!









Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hot Water, Guaranteed! Installing My Eccotemp Externally Vented Heater


When I originally envisioned My Tiny Empty Nest, I decided that since I wouldn’t really know where I’d be parking it; I wanted to design it so it would be easy for a potential land owner to say “yes” when I asked for them to host me. I may have mentioned this before but it’s worth repeating: By design I only need a 20 amp circuit, a 110V extension cord, and a garden hose to “run” my first tiny house and now….My Tiny Perch as well.

And HOW I do this is by using as many propane heating appliances, as possible.

On demand hot water heaters are quite complex. 
So, before I go a moment further let me say: 
Do NOT install one yourself! 

There are some things you can do to PREP for one but the installation itself involves water AND electricity AND propane gas. Seriously. Things can go horribly wrong (KA BOOM!) if not done by a professional.

WATER

I install all my own plumbing lines and fixtures. Sometimes I have help and sometimes I don’t but in the end, the buck stops with me. I do this because it’s a great way to save money and there is virtually NO risk of injury or damage if I don’t do something correctly. I pressure test the lines before I close the walls and if they leak (but they never have) I fix them.

Getting the water lines in is the easy part. Designing a tiny house that will accommodate an externally mounted and vented hot water heater, is the hard part. And, when I say “accommodate”, it means you have to have enough gap space from the closest window opening and the eaves, and enough wall space for the propane gas lines and the unit itself.


Behind the wall, inside the house, the cold water source line will pass through the wall.

I prefer externally vented hot water heaters because they free up the interior space needed for this important appliance, and they typically have a better service record and capacity than their smaller cousins meant more for recreation than full time living.

PROPANE

My Tiny Perch’s propane gas needs are VERY simple. I need a gas line for the hot water heater and one for the stovetop in the kitchen, just inside the front wall. Normally, I wouldn’t advise installing black gas pipe yourself either but I happen to have a pressure meter, bubbly water (to test for leaks) and the design was so simple I simply couldn’t justify spending $700 to have it installed.

I read the installation guide for the heater to determine the size of pipe I’d need, drew the plan on paper, measured the lengths I would need, made a shopping list of parts (“T”’s and “Corners” and “Caps”, etc….) and then had Home Depot cut everything to size. And, to be safe, I did have some help with this project, someone who was there to bounce ideas off of. (or bring me to my senses, if need be)

Black Pipe Installed? Check!

Once the lines were installed, and the test valve was installed at the entry point, I applied air pressure via the compressor and…..the lines held! No pressure was lost. (Caps were placed on all the ends at this point)

ELECTRICITY

Electricity freaks me out. Although it is likely that, for my next build, I’ll be pulling the lines myself rather than just designing the system and directing the install; electricity also needs a professional installation or inspection. In order to save money, I have been hiring people who know what to do; and then hiring licensed pros to inspect the work that was done. And, this has worked well. As a matter of fact, except for one incident involving someone I hired who installed some fixtures incorrectly, this “plan” was perfect.

When moving short distances, no protection is required for the heater.

And fear, for the record, is a very very good thing. Fear makes sure that you either 1) don’t do that stupid thing you shouldn’t, or 2) that you take a looong time to consider the consequences and train yourself thoroughly, or 3) that you hire someone else, or 4) that you don’t do it at all.

For me, my fear meant I did both 2 AND 3.

INSTALLATION

Due to a boom in construction right now; finding someone to install a hot water heater takes a long time. Luckily, I have “a guy” who did my last one (and still returns my calls) but even he took over 6 weeks to find a spot in his schedule for my 30 minute install.

The vent outlet is as far from the window, and eaves, as possible!

Cost wise, it also cost MORE for the installation than the heater itself but I also asked him to add a source line heater to ensure that the hot water heater does not freeze and burst in freezing temps. This is an affordable way to prevent a LOT of heartache and has already proven to be a perfect way to protect my investment for my first one.

There is also one thing I don’t do during the installation that I do need to comment on. Yes, I know that hot water heaters are not pretty. Yes, I know they take away from the esthetic of your cute, little, tiny house. But don’t, please, try to build them in a box and then try to figure out how to vent them. Mine are not designed to be vented through a vent pipe, and my installer said ALL of the problems he has seen with external models similar to mine are caused by someone who built them into a box.

FINAL ADJUSTMENTS TO THE SYSTEM

With so many contributing factors, turning on the hot water for the first time may not result in the hot shower you envisioned.  When we finally got all of the ducks in a row, once all lines were leak tested, and once the tiny house was moved, and the local water lines were installed; my first test resulted in barely warm water. Ugh!

I love this entry view.

After hearing mix reviews of the Eccotemp heater I chose, I was nervous. I assumed that the dissatisfaction that others had experienced was due to improper product selection (not enough gallons per minute flowing) or improper installation. (Gas leaks, crossed wires, DIY install, problematic gas regulator, etc….) And, in the end, I was right.

My shower faucet has a small disc that sits on the inside of the handle assembly and can be adjusted to provide more or less hot water for the shower. Once I quietly considered all that could go wrong, and discovered then adjusted the faucet,  the only-warm-water-problem was fixed and all my nervous energy and time and investment and optimism was rewarded!

Now THAT is a beatiful hot water delivery set up!

MY CHOICE

The Eccotemp Model 45-H really was the perfect choice for this build.  It’s an affordable and reliable provider of endless streams of hot water that will only run out if your propane does. It has an adjustable thermostat, and an easy-to-understand operations manual. 


Stats!

I may not have looked any further than my “externally vented hot water heater” internet source would take me, but I’m VERY glad I found such an efficient solution. I highly recommend Eccotemp heaters and, specifically, externally vented models for tiny houses.

Whenever I see a social media post about hot water heaters, it makes my heart proud to tell my story about how BOTH of mine are awesome AND freeze proof!



Saturday, February 3, 2018

No Loft? No Problem! A Custom Bed Frame To The Rescue!

When I first started to design My Tiny Perch I knew I wanted a smaller, lighter, simpler, and much more colorful home than My Empty Nest is. Those ideals certainly come from the practical side of me.

THAT is one colorful house!

Conceptually, however, this means I am a bit of a rebel amongst the rebels. Or, more succinctly, while the rest of the tiny house movement is focused on larger, heavier, fancier, more expensive, and more high tech designs; I’m designing a tiny home that still actively embraces the “heart and simple soul” of where this all started.

Rest assured, this doesn’t mean My Tiny Perch is simple at all. This merely means that anything heavy, expensive, complex, or hard to install; wasn’t considered for my design.

And my "new" color inspiration didn't stop with my tiny house!

So, the first thing to GO was the need for lofts and stairs and a ladder. In review, by far, the most commented attribute of My Tiny Empty Nest is my floating stairs. And although I love them and MUCH has already been written about their design, function, and perfect fit for the space; for My Tiny Perch I wanted to host those who want to go tiny but never want to clamor into a loft. I wanted to offer an usual opportunity for my guests to be able to live tiny, for a day or a few, without any perceived risk of falling.  (no alcohol required)

After having acquired and reworked an 18 foot long RVtrailer, and after having mourned over the loss of 6” worth of precious width, I then set about figuring out HOW to make a single story floor plan work in my spatially challenged home on wheels.

After a few clichéd sleepless nights, I finally found inspiration for the solution: a custom built bed frame and mattress that fills the entire bedroom.

How To Make A Storage Bed Frame With Five Easy Steps!

Step 1: Start with 3 sheets of cabinet grade plywood, provided by Mr. Plywood. My affection for this Portland Oregon based source of all-things-building-materials is no secret. And now that you know they sell cabinet grade plywood that will work perfectly on your next DIY project, yours won’t be either!

Step 2: Add in one splash of Design Genius (aka Todd Evans with Barrelcraft Studios) and his 3D rendering of our vision. I once heard an industrial engineer exclaim, “Just because you can draw it, doesn’t mean it can be built”. But, I have to admit, in consideration of my friend’s talent and experience; I highly doubt that engineer was talking about Todd. The man can build anything, I swear.

Conceptualizing...

Step 3: Toss in an affordable and easy-to-install lift mechanism set from Rockler Hardware. Building a tiny house takes a lot of work, time, talent, and imagination. But, there’s truly no reason to reinvent the wheel when it comes to your hardware needs. Rockler is the GO TO place for barn door, cabinet, ladder, bed frame, and ottoman hardware. They have an impressive selection of tools, hinges, casters, hangers, accent items, and everything else you WISH your big box store carried for creative and fun furnishing results.

The 3D Rendering...

Step 4: Reserve a few hours for the perfect-fit installation.

Hard at work...

The design also includes a couple of "hidden" (and now, not so much) compartments in the back.  They're hard to get to but that way, nobody really can....or would want to anyways.  I won't tell you what I store in there now.  (insert grin here)

With construction, comes mess. (and on the new floors!?)

Originally I ordered the biggest lift mechanism that Rockler offers. Bigger is always better, right?  LOL!  After Tood installed the frame he quickly realized the 48" ones we had were TOO big so we ordered the 36" ones. Dimensionally, they wouldn't fit but also the weight of a queen size mattress wouldn't be nearly enough to hold the bed closed because the big lifts were really, really strong!  And we couldn't even close them!

Working, but still needs work.

Even with the 36" lifts, we could only install one of them until the bed was finally added. With both lifts installed, it wouldn't stay shut without a LOT of weight. (Its also the reason why it looks like the bed doesn't open flat / level in the picture above....)

Step 5: Fast forward a few weeks, do some sanding and add a coat of stain, order and move in a custom mattress and voila'! 

Perfect!

Side Note: The bed is bigger than a double, slightly smaller (but longer) than a queen but the custom price tag was oh so worth it.  I LOVE the completely custom look of the bedroom!!

Functional but sooooo cozy.

Thank you, Todd and Rockler Hardware, for your support and help!

I really couldn't be any happier without how the bed frame turned out! 
It's easy to open, easy to close, and there is NO risk of slammed fingers.

Such a great idea, product, and install!