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This is a guest post from Ally & Priyan at Palm to Palm – Alternative Dwelling Design, Build and Consult.

My husband and I have a dream of creating a sustainable micro-homestead on a tiny backyard plot.  We built this 120 square foot home on a limited budget with zero construction experience.  Neither of us had ever swung a hammer before starting and we had less than $6k in the bank upon breaking ground.  As far fetched as it all seemed, we decided to trust that anything is possible with inspiration, vision and enthusiasm.

We learned framing, sheathing, roofing, drywalling, tiling, flooring, plumbing and wiring mostly from YouTube and a few select books.  Each part of the project had a steep learning curve as we gathered the necessary tools and materials and knowledge.  I mostly had to learn the art of patience and the supreme importance of good prep work !!

We designed the shell to be simple + approachable for first time builders. And because our budget was as tiny as the house, we used as much salvaged, reclaimed, restored, discounted and second hand materials as possible.  The chronic lack of funds inspired a lot of creativity and I discovered an amazing alchemical skill for transforming trash to treasure.  The whole thing cost less than $8500 to build and took about 9 months to manifest.

What a tremendous journey to build a house!  Besides being a dynamic, hands-on education, it was an absolute joy to see our vision manifest and take shape, step by step.  The result is a gorgeous labor of love that fits our simple lifestyle like a glove.

We have plans to develop the edible landscape with recycled grey water irrigation and to build a tiny greenhouse, rainwater catchment system and matching chook house.

Having completed this project, Priyan is now interested in the creation of tiny home communities where beautiful, functional, sustainable homes are affordable and available to average people.  Such communities would offer shared utilities and facilities and create safe, legal spaces to live large in tiny homes.

To learn more visit Palm to Palm on Facebook…







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Molecule Tiny Homes

This is a recently completed home by Molecule Tiny Homes in Santa Cruz, California. It’s 17-feet long and has a few notable features: a staircase to the loft, a bathtub, and a fold up porch. The whole thing is very nicely done, but those items really stand out in the crowd.

Stairs don’t normally work well in a tiny house because the height in the loft is too low by the time you climb to the top of the stairs. They solved this issue by using a shed dormer in the loft. I’m not sure why they chose to use a shed dormer just on one side, but it seems to work nicely making a nice asymmetrical loft space. The multiple windows and skylight in the loft also do a nice job of opening that space up.

The bathtub is tucked into a corner of the bathroom behind the sink. In addition to the window in the bathroom there’s a door that opens toward the back, which would seem to give the feeling that you’re soaking in a tub outside. I imagine this was a feature requested by the buyer.

The porch at the front door is hinged and folds-up when the house is being moved. Molecule Tiny Homes have been pioneering the implementation of fold-up porches on tiny houses. The porch on this house is small and appears to be partially supported by cables. I imagine it could also rest on a solid support for a firmer feel under foot. I really like the idea of adding fold-up porches to tiny houses, it adds a bit of extra outdoor decking without eating up precious indoor square footage.

To see more of their homes visit Molecule Tiny Homes. Photo credit to Molecule Tiny Homes.

Molecule Tiny Homes - Kitchen and Stairs Detail

Molecule Tiny Homes - Bathroom

Molecule Tiny Homes - Bath

Molecule Tiny Homes - Fold Up Porch

Molecule Tiny Homes - Loft Molecule Tiny Homes - View from Kitchen Molecule Tiny Homes with Stairs to Loft


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Healdsburg Tiny House by Students

Students at Healdsburg High School in California have built a tiny house from plans donated by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and modified by Quattrocchi Kwok Architects. The house will be on display on the Healdsburg Community Church campus, at 1100 University Ave., from 9 a.m. Saturday, July 13, 2013 until 7 p.m. Sunday, July 14, 2013.

Businesses and families in Healdsburg banded together to provide the materials and expertise to the students when needed. The house will be sold as part of a fund raising effort. Details about the sale will be available during the open house.

Learn more about this tiny house.

Read about another tiny house built by students and fund raising ideas for schools.

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Three Tent House - Exterior and Arbor

Recently Kirsten Dirksen visited Glen and Gerry at their unusual home in northern California. It’s a tiny tent cluster of three tents they  connected with a series of decks and paths. Mostly they live outside, cook outside, and bathe outside. The temperate climate of California makes that possible.

When they first bought the land their intention was to build a home, but first they wanted to experience the property to help inform the future home’s placement and design. But something about outdoor simple living must have convinced them that their tents were the way to go.

They bought the tents from a company called Sweetwater Bungalows and made some careful customizations. The main tent measures 14′ by 20′. The master bedroom tent and guest room tent are smaller. An old shed left by the previous owner serves as the bathroom but the shower is outside.

Everything was done on a frugal budget – but their careful attention to detail shows clearly in the style and presentation of the place. It’s really amazing that so much could be done so well with so little. My kudos to Glen & Gerry!

Three Tent House - Bedroom Three Tent House - Beroom Tent by Koi Pond  Three Tent House - Exterior View Three Tent House - Exterior Three Tent House - Interior of Living Tent 2 Three Tent House - Interior of Living Tent Three Tent House - Kitchen View Three Tent House - Outdoor Kitchen Three Tent House - Path to Bedroom Tent Three Tent House - Shower Three Tent House - Steps down to Living Tent Three Tent House - View onto Deck

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This is a bit off-topic but seems to be a worthy alternative housing cause.

I normally don’t give door-to-door solicitors the time of day. Sorry but the numerous scams I’ve seen come to my door have tainted this face-to-face sales method for me. But I typically listen politely for a few seconds before telling them ‘good luck’ and send them on their way. After all sometimes you do find someone with a worthy cause at your door.

Today a nice fellow with a very worthy cause came to my door. While I never give people money at my door, I do check out their websites and do a bit of research. Here’s what the United States Mission is all about:

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This design was inspired by a little house in Pacific Grove, California, that we rented for a few days. The main distinguishing feature was the bay window up front. The original house was about 10-feet wide and 40-feet long. My tiny house adaptation has been scaled down to about 8-feet by 28-feet. It can be built on or off a trailer.

I’ve not seen too many tiny house plans for such a long house. Most of the longest tiny houses are 20-feet which reflects the longest length for easily available trailers. 28-foot trailers are out there but small in number and probably a special order. I would suggest looking for manufacturers of enclosed triple-axle 28-foot double car haulers and then asking them to build one without the enclosure.

The length can be shortened too… in case you like the look of the front facade but want a shorter home. The walls, floor, loft, and roof are simply framed 16-inches on-center so it would be very easy to adapt these plans to whatever length you wanted. By the same token you could also make it longer.

Like most of my plans these cost just $9.95 and show how the house goes together in a step-by-step process. I’ve included some key 3D illustrations in the plans that show the details for how the front bay window is created. Below are some samples from the plans.

Update 1/1/2012: Version 1.1 released with the addition of 8 sample floor plans.

Add to Cart

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Julian and Jessica are building a tiny house in California based on one of my free tiny house plans, the 8×16 Tiny Solar House. They made a few changes to the design to suit their needs. To begin with it’s built on top of a 24-foot trailer, has a 6-foot deep porch, and 18-feet long. They’ve made it wheelchair accessible which makes it more comfortable for their good friend and host.

You see a year ago Julian and Jessica owned a business in Florida and were living a normal life when they decided to make a change. To make a long story short it was one of those wake-up calls they makes one rethink their values and goals. Ironically part of their wake-up moment included seeing a television segment about tiny houses with Jay Shafer and Dee Williams.

So in the last half of 2010 they sold their stuff, closed down their business, and took their good friend in California up on an offer to live on his land. Their friend is living with progressive multiple sclerosis so designing the home to be accessible was important to them. This tiny house may also be the first (partially) ADA-compliant tiny house.

The house is also 100% off-grid and currently DC only – with no AC inverter. One of Julian’s degrees is in electrical engineering so he’s been having fun building-out the power and telecommunications systems. Their friends jokingly call their house the “space station” because it’s equipped with a ton of electronics and electrical equipment for supporting their off-grid living lifestyle. The metal siding might have something to do with that too.

Their water comes from a well, which they use (via a generator) to fill a 550-gallon water tank higher up on the hill. Gravity provides their water pressure at the house.

You might also notice that the house is filled with all sorts of different kinds of wood including pine, cedar, beech, birch, doug fir, redwood (deck), teak, cherry, bamboo (floors) and spruce. Early in the planning stages they decided that to build their home with as many different types of beautiful wood as they could find.

I’m really looking forward to watching this project’s progress and learning more about what they did to make it wheelchair accesible. I’ll be sure to post what I learn here on Tiny House Design.

Julian and Jessica, thanks for sharing your home and story with us!



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Ryo Chijiiwa’s cabin (a.k.a. Hut 2.1) is still very much under construction, as you can see in the video tour below, but despite the cold weather Ryo has continued to make steady progress on his tiny cabin in Northern California.

You might notice he’s approached the construction a little differently than most. His cabin is framed a bit more like a tiny timber frame and he’s installing the insulation on the on top of the exterior sheathing, right under the exterior siding. I imagine in the future he’ll have the option to insulate the wall cavities, which would make it very cozy.

Ryo once worked for Google in the Silicon Valley but chose to escape the cubicle farm in search of true freedom. I suspect many people would jump to the conclusion that he’s gone bonkers for buying remote property to live in a tiny house… but of course… I think quite the opposite. I think Ryo figured out – like many of us are starting to figure out – that life might be a lot more fulfilling if we just dialed back the speed a little. A simpler life doesn’t necessarily require building backwoods cabins, but that is definitely one path to take.

If you’d like to help support Ryo in his efforts, he’s produced a 2011 calendar (which I have hanging above my desk now) and has added a donation page to his blog. I don’t know Ryo personally, but I’m happy to chip-in to help him succeed. After all… we’re all stronger together.

To follow his progress be sure to bookmark and/or subscribe to Laptop and a Rifle.


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I have to hand it to Ryo Chijiiwa for toughing it out at his remote place in Northern California; and I wouldn’t knock him one single bit for choosing to head for warmer climates at this point either. It’s got to be so-dang-cold up at his off-grid cabin right now. Pictured here is Hut 1.0, the tiny shelter Ryo built last year. I imagine this is where he’ll be sleeping until he can get his new cabin closed-in and heated.

This past summer he started construction on the cabin below. It’s 120 square feet and is coming along nicely, but as you can see it still needs some exterior sheathing followed by insulation and a wood stove. At that point it will still be a work-in-progress, but it will be a warm work-in-progress.

I was also glad to see that Ryo put together a 2011 Calender (via Lulu.com) featuring photos from Serenity Valley.

I ordered a copy strait away to help support his efforts. He’s been operating on a bit of a shoestring budget, so buying his calendar seemed like a great win-win to me.

To learn more about Ryo’s most recent efforts at Serenity Valley and/or the 2011 Calender visit his blog, Laptop and a Rifle.

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A great way to build a tiny house is with friends – kind of like a mini-house raising. Ryo Chijiiwa did just that a couple of weekends ago at his property in a remote part of northern California. Ryo had already built a little hut but wanted something a bit more substantial so he came up with a simple post and beam design and invited friends to come camp out and help build. Hut 2.0 just 96 square feet but will have ample loft space and will be much more comfortable for Ryo’s extended stays.

For more about this project visit Laptop and a Rifle.

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The latest update by The Urban Rancher reports a few updates and a lot of determination in the face of sore muscles and continued unemployment. By day he works as a freelance designer in the entertainment industry and business in Hollywood in still sluggish. Luckily the few pennies he has saved up are being put to good frugal use on his tiny cabin through his careful choice of building materials. Here’s a short quote citing his most recent learnings:

“Building this cabin by myself is teaching me several things…

#1, I really can do anything if i set my mind to it.
#2, The devil is in the details
#3, There are LOTS of details and…
#4  This is taking WAY longer than I ever imagined.

I started clearing and grading the land for this cabin last September. I need to be done with the darn thing by this September. Am I getting discouraged? No.”

I can totally relate; making progress on my tiny free house has been much more difficult than I ever expected. But like the Urban Rancher I can see the real value in the life lessons our tough projects provide. I also suspect that the end product, a mortgage free place to live, will pay off big. Photo credit to The Urban Rancher.

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I like to think of Earth Day more like Good-Humans-on-Earth Day because it seems like its our symbiotic relationship with Planet Earth that we’re really celebrating. So I thought I’d share something that I’ve noticed emerging from the wider community that shows how we’re becoming better humans by embracing diversity and sharing.

You might remember reading about Ryo’s hut in the mountains on Tiny House Blog last November. Let me recap that story… Ryo Chijiiwa bought 60 acres of raw land in a remote part of northern California where he began building a tiny 6′ by 8′ hut that will serve as a cozy place to stay while he’s living up on his land. His most recent trip was just a short visit but he plans on living there full-time during the warm months.

By day Ryo works in the computer world, is socially liberal, politically independent, and an avid supporter of Second Amendment rights. In other words he’s a free thinker that carefully considers all aspects without a lot of bias, but his conclusions don’t follow typical party/social lines.

A recent post on his blog, which included the video below, actually sparked a few concerned comments from readers who were responding to the part where he loads his shotgun before hiking up to check on his hut for the first time in four and a half months. He subsequently responded very eloquently in a follow-up post on the issue of guns.

(News From Serenity Valley, Episode 6: Return to Serenity Valley from Ryo Chijiiwa on Vimeo.)

This is not a pro-gun or anti-gun argument and guns are totally off my normal topic; but this event jumped out to me as an opportunity for me to share this observation on diversity and sharing.

Simple living and small houses seem to bring together a diverse group of people who all seem to share a few common values. I’m going to go out on a ledge a little, but I think these are things like the following… so please correct me if I’m wrong:

  • A desire to protect and increase freedom.
  • An ability to question the norm.
  • The insight to see that careful choices can help us achieve our goals faster, (like downsizing, living simply, and eliminating debt).
  • An interest in learning to solve our own problems and become more self-sufficient.
  • A passion for sharing information.

I think Ryo is an excellent example of the diversity I’ve seen growing rapidly across our community. I’m not saying we’re all like Ryo. I’m suggesting that tiny houses are emerging as an icon of freedom; and that the idea of living more sustainably is drawing people together who are passionate about freedom, and willing to put aside differences in order to benefit from the strength we gain through our diversity.

In other words we’re discovering that… we’re stronger together.

If you’d like to follow Ryo’s progress be sure to bookmark his blog, Laptop and a Rifle.