Read The Small House Book Online

Authors: Jay Shafer

The Small House Book

THE SMALL HOUSE BOOK

JAY SHAFER

First published in the United States in 2009

by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Post Office Box 1907

Boyes Hot Springs, California 95416

www.tumbleweedhouses.com

Copyright 2009-2010 Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

ISBN 978-1-60743-564-8

Designed, photographed and written by Jay Shafer

Additonal photography by...

Povy Kendal Atchison, pages 14, 16 & 17

Janine Björnson, page 196

Mike Johns, pages 70-76

Greg Johnson, page 64

Jack Journey, pages 138-145, 148-155, 160-163, 188 & 189

Michael McGettigan, page 59

Marty Shafer, page 5

Mary Wolverton, pages 62 & 63

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means,

electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise.

Contents

Introduction
4

Confessions of a Claustrophile

6

A Good Home

24

Making Space

64

Portfolio of Houses:

120

New Popomo

122

XS-House

124

Epu

130

Weebee

138

Burnhardt

146

Lusby

150

Tarleton

156

Fencl

160

Bodega

164

Harbinger

166

New Vesica

168

Loring

170

Enesti

172

Sebastorosa

174

B-53

176

Z-Glass House

178

Whidbey

180

Biensi

182

Wildflower

186

Tvee

188

Vardo

190

Endnotes

195

Biography

196

Endorsements

197

Introduction

I live in a house smaller than some people’s closets. My decision to inhabit

just 90 square feet arose from some concerns I had about the impact a larger

house would have on the environment and because I just do not want to

maintain a lot of unused or unusable space. My house meets all of my do-

mestic needs without demanding much in return. The simple, slower lifestyle

it affords is a luxury for which I am continually grateful.

If smaller, well-designed houses aren’t the wave of the future, they certainly

are a significant ripple on that wave. On these pages, I explain why. I also

share my personal experiences with living in diminutive homes, meeting

codes, and designing small spaces that work.

This book is a revised edition of the one I published several years ago under

the same title. To this edition, I’ve added a section on how to build your own

tiny house and a portfolio of my own designs. I hope you enjoy it.

Sincerely,

Jay Shafer

4

Jay, at home.

5


There is only one success – to be able

to spend your own life in your own way.”

-
Christopher Morley

PART ONE:
CONFESSIONS OF A CLAUSTROPHILE

Living Large in Small Spaces

The Airstream

I have been living in houses of fewer than 100 square feet for nearly twelve

years. The first of my little abodes was a fourteen-foot Airstream. I bought

it in the summer of 1997 for three thousand dollars. It came as-is, with an

aluminum shell as streamlined and polished as what lay inside was hideous.

The 1964 orange shag, asbestos tiles, and green Formica would have to go.

I began gutting, then meticulously refurbishing the interior in August, and

by October, I was sleeping with an aluminum roof over my head. The place

looked like a barrel on the inside, with pine tongue-and-groove running from

front-to-back and floor-to-vaulted ceiling.

I settled in on a tree-lined ridge at the edge of a friend’s alfalfa field. It was

a three-minute walk to Rapid Creek Road and a ten-minute drive from there

to Iowa City. I carried water in from a well by the road and allowed it to drain

from my sink and shower directly into the grass outside. I carried my sawdust

toilet (i.e., bucket) out about once a month and took it to the sewage treat-

ment facility in town. My electrical appliances consisted of a fan, six lights,

a 9-inch TV/VCR and a small boom box. A single solar panel fed them all. It

seemed that this simple existence would provide all I needed.

Then December came. I had reinforced most of the trailer’s insulation, but

some areas remained thin. I spent over a half-hour each morning, from Christ-

mas until Valentine’s Day, chipping ice and sponging up condensation from

my walls, floors and desktop. This went on for a couple of winters before I be-

gan construction on the tiny house I have since come to call “Tumbleweed”.

8

Tumbleweed

It was not until after I thought I had al-

ready finished designing my little dream

home that I became familiar with the term

“minimum-size standards.” Up to this

point, I had somehow managed to re-

main blissfully unaware of these codes;

but, as the time for construction neared,

my denial gave way to a grim reality. My

proposed home was about one-third the

size required to meet local limits. A drastic

change of plans seemed unavoidable, but

tripling the scale of a structure that had

The Airstream’s exterior...

been designed to meet my specific needs

so concisely seemed something like alter-

ing a tailored suit to fit like a potato sack.

I resolved to side-step the well-intentioned

codes by putting my house on wheels.

The construction of travel trailers is, after

all, governed by maximum - not minimum

size restrictions, and since Tumbleweed

already fit within these, I had only to add

some space for wheel wells to make the

plan work.

At about eight by twelve feet plus a porch,

loft, and four wheels, the resulting house

... and interior.

9

looked a bit like American Gothic meets the Winnebago Vectra. A steep,

metal roof was supported by cedar-clad walls and turned cedar porch posts.

The front gable was pierced by a lancet window. In the tradition of the formal

plan, everything was symmetrical, with the door at exterior, front center. In-

side, Knotty Pine walls and Douglas Fir flooring were contrasted by stainless

steel hardware. There was a 7’ x 7’ great room, a closet-sized kitchen, an

even smaller bathroom and a 3’ 9”-tall bedroom upstairs. A cast-iron heater

presided like an altar at the center of the space downstairs. In fact, the whole

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