Archive for ‘architecture’

January 29, 2014

American Dream, Human Scale: Announcing Tuula and Hannah’s Tiny House Project!

Tuula and Hannah

Living out of bicycle bags for six months taught us just how little it takes to live comfortably!

Hannah and I have always been people who try to live by our beliefs. We believe in eating fresh, whole foods; we have spent several summers working on farms. We believe that a car-free world is possible; we bicycled across the country last winter to prove it. We believe in love, joy and laughter; every day is a choice between just muddling through or finding positivity and creativity in the most mundane of tasks.

We relocated to Ashland this fall because we knew that Southern Oregon holds a community of people who care about how they live their lives. We immediately found great jobs and our “niche” here – a good sign. I work at the Ashland Food Coop, helping customers solve their grocery conundrums. Hannah bakes at La Baguette, where music — her life blood — flows like flour from the sack.

Spending half of the year 2013 on bicycle saddles, camping or staying with strangers almost the entire time, taught us a lot of things: That there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we put our heads together, that people everywhere are helpful and extremely generous, and that our basic needs are pretty, well, basic.

We love our country but are chagrined that the standard American home goes beyond the necessary to the point of wastefulness. Not only that, but good housing is no longer affordable to young people with entry-level jobs, even in a small town like Ashland.

When it comes down to it, we want quality over quantity, in our lives and in our living space. We want to inhabit a place that we shaped ourselves, showing others that decreasing their footprint on the planet can also increase their happiness. Lucky for us, the folks who are part of the Tiny House movement already share these ideas.

I don’t like the term “tiny house” because it implies that the living space is less than what might be preferred. “Efficiency house” would be more descriptive, but it sounds a little bleak. If I had started this movement, I would have gone with something like “human-scale homes”, but I didn’t start it. Really, it’s been how most people – excluding the very rich –  lived for eons, until the last few decades in America when floor plans bubbled along with the economy and spread out with the suburbs over our wild and farmlands.

A tiny house is usually under 300 square feet and is often built on wheels or skids. Many incorporate recycled materials, solar panels and composting toilets — these assist the owner in going off-grid and keep the home’s footprint very small. Tiny houses are popping up everywhere, from the Tiny House Hotel in Portland to survival shelters in the Texas desert. They’re not just a counter-culture thing, either. Average, middle-class people are realizing that they can live richly without going into deep debt with a a mortgage or throwing money away toward rent.

For the last couple of months, Hannah and I have been abuzz with ideas for getting this project off the ground. The house we live in now is being foreclosed on and we’ll probably have to move out by the summer, so the timing seems perfect. Hannah has been drawing up plans for our tiny house and pricing out materials. I’m fantasizing about putting in the garden. We’re both scouting for a perfect piece of land. We can’t buy just yet, but our hope is to lease or trade for a year or two on a property near town where we can assemble materials, build, and – eventually – live.

Our human-scale home will be on wheels so that we can eventually move it to our own piece of land. We will build it to run independently of electric or water hookups, and, we hope, it will add to the landscape as a work of functional beauty.

The place to put the house is highest on our priority list right now, and we’re open to creative ideas. Thank you for taking the time to read about our little dream.

Click here to read more about the Tiny House movement. 

A sample tiny house on wheels

A sample tiny house on wheels