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My Tiny House Story

After owning several large, century-old houses, I was ready to downsize. Although my houses were impressive, each had been built to someone else’s taste and for somebody else’s needs. There was much unnecessary space and inconvenient layout. After seeing a friend’s tiny house, I realized this was what I wanted.

I’d always dreamed of actually building my own house, and the beauty of this TH for me is that “I did it my way.” And it’s the first home that I—and not the bank— actually own. And there’s nothing so wonderful as living in a piece of art! I smile every morning when I wake up in the loft.

 
 

STYLE – The Vienna 1900 style was inspiration for my Tiny House. Although it is contemporary with Art Nouveau it has more straight lines, but still possesses Nouveau’s warmth. Since the Germans and Austrians pioneered what was to become Art Deco, my house shows influences of Deco, too, as well as American Craftsman. Many people, seeing my arched roofline, have called my TH a gypsy wagon, but I was gratified when my friend, who is experienced with vintage design, said, “It looks like Vienna 1900!

FRAMING and ROOF – My experience with old houses taught me that roofs eventually leak, woodwork rots, and termites infest. So for my TH I chose steel studs that are about 30% lighter and much stronger than wood. My standing seam barrel roof panels and siding are also factory-painted steel.

ROOFLINE – I chose a curved roof for it’s graceful symmetry. Also because there are no hip or valley joints to be flashed, and eventually fail as they always do. This is also why I didn’t include any skylights; I’ve seen too many that leaked. A curved roof also provides greater interior volume than a peaked roof. Those assymetrical shed roofs that are popular on THs do give the most interior volume, but the assymetry feels like bad feng shui to me, and poor aerodynamics when driving on the road.

INTERIOR WALLS – In a Tiny House, sheetrock is heavy and potentially brittle. I used 1/4" plywood—some of it high-quality white oak—which, like the 3/8 ply exterior sheathing adds dimensional stability once glued and screwed to the steel studs. AND plywood will hold a picture hanger nail sufficiently.

WOODWORK is entirely of quarter-sawn white oak with mahogany accents. More-expensive quarter-sawn oak was the wood of choice for Mission style furniture and Craftsman homes. It is noted for its “figuring” or “flake” that makes a dramatic contrast of pattern in the finished wood. Mahogany makes a beautiful contrast with the golden oak that is also very classic.

INSULATION – Due to the milder climate here in Southern California, I used a combination of Rigid foam insulation board with an R-value of 13 and an eco-friendly mineral wool product called Ecobatt from Germany made of spun basalt that is highly flame resistant and non-toxic. (Roxul, an American product that is the equivalent of the insulation I used, has now become widely available.)

RADIANT BARRIER of double-thick foil surrounds the entire house interior. An airgap of minimum 1/2" between the insulation and the interior wallboard effectively repels the heat hitting the roof and walls. When a portion of the ceiling was still open, I could feel the vast difference beween the intense heat entering the rafters and the relative cool on the interior side of the radiant barrier.
The radiant barrier serves another important feature. It reduces microwave cell tower radiation from entering the house. The manufacturer noted that some commercial outlets use it for the very purpose of shielding their cash registers from the radiation coming from the anti-theft barriers at the front doors.

INTERNET – Within the TH there is no wi-fi. Internet connection is hardwired through ethernet cables to a range extender device placed outdoors that picks up the signal from my landlord with whom I have a sharing agreement. And ethernet plugs on the walls allow a hard-wired connection to internet in the office area and main sleeping loft. On an Electro-smog meter, my house registers zero radiation within, yet cell phone reception is unimpeded.

WINDOWS are Milgard double-paned glass that reduce heat gain and also do a marvelous job of limiting noise from the outside. They are wood clad on the interior to match the woodwork.

FLOORPLAN – Frank Lloyd Wright spoke of the sense of “Ah!” when entering a house through a lower-ceilinged space that lets onto a larger space. So we enter my TH on a raised platform (hiding storage beneath trapdoors) that also serves as a stage (with the tiny, 1947 upright piano beside the entry door). With the smaller loft above, this entry, despite its 7’-2” ceiling height, is more confined than the amusingly called “great room,” that we next enter, with its ceiling height of 11’ at the arch center.
I like varying levels in a house, so I raised the studio room 24” above the frame and placed a large storage area underneath. You walk to steps up to the studio and there also is the ladder for the sleeping loft.

KITCHEN & BATHROOM – These remain unfinished in my TH . . . for a reason. Legalization of THs seems imminent around the country. A multitude of groups are working with Counties to legalize living in Tiny Houses. Most people find it absurd that THs are not legal, and they are correct. The reasons come down to many complicated issues having primarily to do with how City and County agencies do NOT get paid when people create housing they have built themselves.
Until we are legalized, I have avoided completing a “livable” structure.