Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Expecting Company

With all the interest in Tiny Houses I had many visitors. The long season of rain pre-empted using the little bit of yard I had for entertaining. And so we sat inside. My cushioned benches sufficed for seating for my guests while I sat on my one chair. When someone came to interview me I sat on the bench and they would sit on my rocking stool. The chair wasn't available at this point as I would park it on top of my desk to allow for more floorspace for people coming into the house. There was just barely room for the stool in my foyer by my shoe storage, but I had kept it anyway and used it to sit on when I put my shoes on. Later it would come into use when I built a table in the kitchen area.

Building a table for eating was the next task on my list, but since I could eat at my desk I was able to put off this task nearly indefinitely. It was also raining endlessly and the more pressing task was to get a tarp tied to the eaves to shelter me from rain as I unlocked my door. The tarp was a clumsy affair that flapped in the wind, but it only took an hour or so to tie up and it did the job.

Then late in the season a client hired me to get rid of a pile of items in her garage which included a single giant nylon leaf. As I mulled over where I could best donate this item it occurred to me that I could possibly make use of it as a rain shade and though it didn't offer as much protection it added a stylish touch. The fiberglass frame like tent poles fit between the cinder shingles and the door frame. I learned later from a friend with children that it was an Ikea item meant to decorate a child's room in a jungle style.

So much time did I have during these long winter evenings that I could spend hours writing e-mail letters to a new love. (Someone from my past who had reached out to me after a year plus of watching me build my tiny house.) This old fashion correspondence kept me company over the long rainy winter until I yearned to see her in person. It would be easy to leave the tiny house I realized since I could just lock up and go. I had no pets or indoor plants and no worries about water heaters or plumbing that might leak. Plus my lowered overhead had allowed me to save up some money. So in March I took off on a trip to meet her. Thus this romantic chapter of my life brought up a new concern. How would I accommodate a visitor let alone consider a live-in partner. Luckily my bed was big enough to share thanks to my original decision to widen it to accommodate the possibility of a lover, but now I really needed a table for two.

I researched all the usual ways to incorporate a table and decided that a removable one would be the thing. I ordered a special bracket online. There were traditional ones made for boats with two chrome slots that would attach to the wall, but I came across another kind that had the added benefit of allowing the table to slide. This didn't turn out to be the case, but it was a good choice as it supported the table along the whole length.

I had two nice 4' pieces of shelving 18" wide that I had thought to make into a folding table joined together by a piano hinge. This table would seat four sitting two on a side. My movable benches (which were barely big enough for two) would be moved into a parallel configuration to make diner style seating. Such a folding table with a piano hinge and the need for a folding leg made the design quite complex so I decided to simplify to just  a table for two using just one of the shelves. When I got the bracket I realized that I could mount the long edge of the shelving to the wall instead of having the table sticking out into the kitchen. My companion and I could sit at each end.

There remained only the question of the supporting leg. I had bought a fold up leg, but I didn't end up using it on my table for two because I saw another design in a tiny house video that a friend had posted that would work out. This design appealed to me because it was so simple being just some scrap wood cut with 45° angles and friction fitted.

I finished the table in time to have two friends beta test it for me. At which point my little red stool made it a table for three.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Adjusting To The Tiny Life

Moving into the tiny house required more than a little adjustment. It was part art installation, part moving trauma. To communicate the ups and downs I wrote a long post on my personal blog so all my family could feel my pain as I chronicled the physical and emotional adjustments I made to adapt myself to the tiny house systems I had chosen to inflict on myself. This included using a cooler instead of a fridge, boiling water in an electric kettle for hot water and using a waste water tank that would need to be emptied within a week. Many of my organizing colleagues were surprised that I had designed such a primitive way of life, but the simplicity of it had appealed to me.

The first week I mostly installed hooks so everything had a place to hang as it were. I also installed a nifty dumb waiter to bring my laundry crate down. I had seen one at the tiny house of Alexis and Christian when they came to town. A tiny pulley was all that was needed with some lengths of parachute cord. An S hook was attached to the end of the cord. This would hook to the harness I made for the laundry crate. The pulley would hang from a hook screwed into the ceiling. I made loops in the cord to make it easier to pull. And I installed a hook under the last stair of my loft ladder where I could hook the first loop to hold the crate in place while I unloaded it. When not in use I coiled up the pulley and cord and hung it on the wall. Using it was part of the fun of loft living.

Cooking was also fun with my stove in a drawer, but washing up was a chore I had to finesse in order to conserve water and adapt to the tight spacing. I also spent a lot of time figuring out how best to heat the tiny house given an excessively cold and wet winter. I now have three different space heaters. A tiny one under the desk of only 250 watt. A large dish style one in the kitchen area that I used on the low 750 watt setting and a propane one that would really crank out the heat. But my flower pot heaters were my favorite given the pleasant and silent ambient heat coming off the pots. At first I used tea lights as suggested in the youtube videos, but they didn't last through the night and I was left with a heap of little aluminum casings. I upgraded to votive lights and ordered a case of 288 candles from which should last me 10 weeks using two flower pot heaters. Once I had raised the temperature with my various space heaters, the flower pot heaters would maintain that heat and offer a warm glow into the bargain.

I've now been in the tiny house for three months and all in all I am happy to have such a sanctuary to return to at the end of the day. I count myself as a refugee of the housing crisis and feel lucky to have finessed such a solution. The brilliance of it is that I have absolutely everything I need close at hand.

A student journalist came by to interview me. English was not her native language so I'm a little stiff as I searched for words that would not be cultural references or colloquialisms. She made a little video that offers a tour of my tiny house along with interviews with all of us local tiny house dwellers. I offered a few words about how the tiny house movement has started a dialogue about excess and what is really necessary to live a comfortable life.