Monday, March 16, 2009


For the past two years I have been living in an old firehouse with 14 foot ceilings and expansive open spaces. It has been amazing living in a space where many people can live together and still have room to work on large projects and host events. At the same time, I have been intrigued by small efficient living spaces. A small space, if it is well laid out, can be very comfortable. Fitting the necessities (a bed, basic kitchen, space to relax) into a small space can be a challenge, but it has been done well throughout history. Minimalist dwellings as diverse as living quarters on boats, to small huts in the woods have been laid out comfortably.

There are many reasons why I have become enthralled with the idea of small spaces. With all of the talk of sustainability, we have come up with all sorts of new technologies that will help to reduce our outrageous energy consumption and carbon emissions. Unfortunately, it is so easy to get caught up in the hype of green technology that it is easy to overlook the most effective method of reducing our consumption- and that is simply reducing our consumption. New houses are being built at an alarming rate using unsustainable methods. Some people don't seem to think twice about moving into a $750,000, 6000 square foot home with 5 full bathrooms (one for every bedroom), a three car garage and a sprawling one acre, single-tree yard no farther than fifty feet from their neighbor's house of the same design(this information comes from a listing of an actual house in a sub-development next to my parents house). The houses are constructed quickly and cheaply using materials with a high carbon footprint. They lack any form of uniqueness and craftsmanship and are not designed to last. Small spaces are obviously much more efficient. The energy consumed in processing the building materials and actually building the house is significantly less on a small house. Because it is small, local and sustainable materials can be more easily obtained. Instead of spending money on sheer size, it can be spent on hiring local craftsmen who will add their own personal touches to the house. The house will become something that will be more appreciated by everyone involved. There will be more of a desire to maintain the house in the future rather than the current trend of demolish and rebuild. A small house also requires significantly less energy to heat, light and cool making practical to implement sustainable energy systems including everything from tried and true wood heat to some of the newest photovoltaic technology.

I am going to take the idea to an extreme by building a house with a footprint around 100 square feet. I knew right away that I wanted it to be timber framed. This allows me to use local timber rather than lumber that has been shipped all over the continent. I also love the history, beauty and structural integrity of a timber frame. After thinking about my needs and looking at some small house designs, most notably those of Tumbleweed Tiny House Co (, I settled on a footprint of 8'x13', just over 100 square feet. One-third of the space will be a simple kitchen, and the other two-thirds will be sitting/living space. A loft for sleeping will cover half of the footprint over the kitchen. The design is a combination of elements from many styles, but he prevailing themes will revolve around the Craftsman style. Following the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, I would like to know as much about the materials and construction of the house and everything in it as possible. What I cannot build myself should be made by someone I know or can meet in person. I hope to stay true to William Morris's philosophy - "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Anyway... after getting all of that out of my system, I will try to catch up on the thoughts and progress of the past couple of years. Check back often and leave questions and comments for me!


  1. Just happened upon your blog when I did a Google search to get staircase ideas for my tiny house design. Look forward to reading more about your building process!