Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages…

I just ordered a copy of this new book by “Deek” Diedricksen so cannot do a personal review yet. In the meantime I thought I ought to get the word out and Amanda Kovattana wrote this wonderful review over on flickr and I thought I should pass it on. Here is Amanda’s review of the book.

I felt so compelled to merge with “Deek” Diedricksen’s uber building gene, after reading his self-published book, that I got out my highlighter pens and helped him out by adding some color to the cover.

Printed at a local Ma and Pa printshop, then assembled by hand with a garage sale velo binder, this is a true Do It Yourself venture in bookmaking, financed, he points out, by dumpster diving the trash of others to sell stuff people were too lazy to fix. The marketing he leaves to us micro housing enthusiasts for there is a growing population of would-be tiny home dwellers who can’t get enough of this under the wire lifestyle.

Thus Deek’s book is important not so much because it is another entertaining zine produced by an overly creative young person, but because he is both fed by a movement and contributing a large chunk to it with his mind bending, Houdini like acts of radically small, home-built shelters.

The casual observer might have suspected that there was a backlash to the decades of MacMansioning, embodied by the books of Sarah Sussanka and her Not So Big House concept, but on closer inspection I was personally aghast that most of these books were about living well in less than 2,500 sq. ft. I beat a hasty path back to books published 20 and 30 years ago for it was there, in the wake of the counter culture movement, that I was first informed of the idea that what held people enslaved to corporate jobs were their mortgages. Thus the path to freedom lay in finding a way to live without one.

The live-lightly-on-the-earth simplicity movement revived this concept, most popularly exemplified by Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed, a tiny house on wheels making the rounds of eco minded publications and fairs. And while Jay argues that $150 per square foot is justified in light of the quality of materials used in his beautiful handmade house, the $10,000 to $30,000 cost of materials, plus copious amounts of time aspiring to such perfection, imposes restrictions on the mind that, practically speaking, have more in common with a mortgage.

Freedom being as much about where the mind can go as how one actually manages to escape the shackles of one’s obligations, it shouldn’t be surprising that so many are fascinated by the possibility of truly accessible housing even while living comfortably in a suburban ranch. Enter the DIY backyard tinkerer and consummate recycler constructing tiny free houses from discarded pallets and sidewalk trash much like those who convert gas cars to electric while awaiting a more affordable Tesla roadster. Carpentry, however, is the domain of conventional thinking. We all know what a house is supposed to look like. Scores of books fill the need for constructing sheds, playhouses and tree houses that look just like big grown up houses.

Derek’s book is a far cry from anything so conventional. He aims to inspire with his ideas, ideas that may well earn his book a place in tiny house history. What he ends up doing is reconstructing the mind into accepting what constitutes shelter. Could I sleep in that I asked myself of several drawings that borrowed quite a bit from Japanese capsule hotels. On the other hand I could certainly build it with the space, time and materials I had available.

Having, himself, been inspired by a copy of “Tiny Tiny Houses” by Lester Walker, which he received for his tenth birthday, he understands the importance of such books at a young age and includes a number of whimsical structures and indoor forts that would appeal to a child builder.

On his website, the drawing that convinced me to order the book (which he will mail wrapped in recycled cardboard or whatever lying around) was one showing a tree house platform with a ladder enclosed in a shaft so as to have a locked door for security. Such attention to detail, I realized with delight, promised practical follow through that would further my search for a hut I would be able to and want to build.

In the end it is his more loosely worked out ideas that compel my mind to take up pencil and paper to figure out how I could work it up into something I could use. My mind needed the exercise, but my soul needed the freedom of such thinking to expel the limitations of a system that does not aim to set us free. For such an experience at $15.95 (for a limited time only) this book was a bargain.

by Amanda Kovattana

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Epperson - February 17, 2010 Reply

I agree with Amanda’s perspective on the Tiny House, Sustainable living movement. There are numerous offerings in the market catering to all tastes and budgets. However, I feel most of the well-known companies out there “miss the point”.

When companies place a higher premium on its product’s “art” rather than its “function”, a disconnect between producer and consumer is realized.

Would you spend $1,000 for a plan when you know you others are offering something similar for substantially less? Would you drop $30,000 for a Sterling Engine option when it doesn’t cost more than $5,000 for alternatives? Anyone think storage spaces justify the mark up over the competition or the amount of time it takes to produce such a design? Do you think wood lattices, architectural fabrics, radiant bubble wrap, steel cable are priced higher if you purchase these items separately?

There are well-established brands in the market that are worth every penny. And then there are others that clearly are not.

deborah - February 17, 2010 Reply

To me, Tiny house living is attractive because I want to enjoy life, not be in constant fear of foreclosure. If I have to get a mortgage for my Tiny house then I have not accomplished what I set out to do.

Small houses are not out of the ordinary; millions were built right after WW2 and are all over the place. It is not something new, but the prices ARE. What people paid 7-15,000.00 for back in the early 50’s ballooned to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the new Millennium. Unfortunately, they still are over-priced.

What a shame that monetary reality cannot once again be the norm. Unfortunately, a Depression would be necessary for this to occur. Then prices would have to drop drastically.

Lucas - February 17, 2010 Reply

Epperson, I’m afraid the consumer branding and advertising blitz will taint every movement. Look at food. People are always grouching how much it costs to shop Whole Foods, etc. Yeah, if you buy all of their pre-made, processed foods. However, raw ingredients are not that expensive and make a much more wholesome meal. When I go shopping, I look at my cart and analyze whether the items in there are basic raw ingredients or overpriced, pre-made stuff. Our housing needs should be no different. Does Italian tile provide my dwelling more than stained concrete? Can I use corrugated metals, instead of expensive woods?

Deborah, I think “constant fear” is the great control mechanism exercised by power brokers over their constituents. Maybe someone can help me with this quote. But, somewhere here or elsewhere, i read a line from the 50’s that stated a homeowner couldn’t be a communist because he was too busy mowing his lawn, caring for his home, etc. (or too busy not to notice his basic human rights being swept away) Sorry for the rant, job searching today has made me a bit testy!

Dan T - February 17, 2010 Reply

I am glad to say that I have a copy of Deek’s book. I ordered a couple of copies a few weeks ago and it is a joy to read. The second book was a gift for a friend.
Congratulations to Deek and I hope that others are inspired to use self publishing techniques to spread the word about appropriate housing.

Tree house dweller - February 17, 2010 Reply

I have built a number of tree houses as “tiny homes.” Most are not intended as full time year round homes, but some are and they work well so long as the lifestyle requirements are modest. They don’t insulate as easily as earth based or earth bermed homes, though.

Epperson - February 18, 2010 Reply

“Epperson, I’m afraid the consumer branding and advertising blitz will taint every movement.”

This is true in all aspects of life. I’m thinking of how the GOP/Palin are trying to hijack the Tea Party movement when there’s no coherent platform for such.

As I mentioned in the “Gertee” post, Niki can design and construct a Ger/Yurt/Tent for not even a fraction of what the colossal McYurt companies are charging.

There’s a well-known Tiny House company which offers very nice designs but they confuse the terms “art” and “function” in their model. I have yet to see them reconcile the two in their pricing structure. And as a result, their business have suffered from poor management (ignoring basic fundamentals) because of “pride”.

Like Whole Foods, some of these brand name Tiny House companies are gateways for neophytes. More savvy followers of the movement would not think of spending that much for something that’s meant to save money and leave a smaller carbon footprint.

Deek - February 18, 2010 Reply

Thanks so much Kent and Amanda- I was just told that this mention of the book was up on your site and I more than appreciate it! One thing I love about the tiny housing interest-group is that everyone is so very open-minded, friendly, and supportive….its just amazing. And Dan T- thanks so much once again!
-Deek
http://www.relaxshacks.com

(for more info, pix/illustrative examples, a frightening bio photo, and ect about the book mentioned above).

PS- Kent, your book just went out today….so it should be there semi-soon

    Kent Griswold - February 18, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Deek, I’m looking forward to seeing your book and adding it to my growing collection. I like your style and the fact that you self-published the book too. Keep up the good work and keep me in your loop when you have something new going on.

Margy - February 18, 2010 Reply

Thanks Kent for keeping us in touch with people like Deek. I checked out the website and it looks like a very creative publication. I love reading about others with similar interests in unusual housing structures. – Margy

Craig Lombard - February 19, 2010 Reply

This is my first adventure within “Tiny House”. I’m impressed with the information, organization and general blog population. What a great community! I wish I had found you sooner (so much info to sort through!)Our plea to the Tiny House community is this… can you assist with our “minimalist” recreational goals?

We are trying to connect with people like those who belong to Tiny House. We live and play in NH/USA. We love the mountains, lakes, rivers and seacoast. We leave “the woods” to visit to Boston now and then to fullfill our “cosmopolitan quota”.

We are interested to form a “community” of like-minded “wilderness-lovers” who want to “share” some recreational opportunties on private land (nearly a thousand acres in two different White Mountain locations). Our spin is that we want to keep the land “wild” yet “develop a community” (I dislike using that phrase)of small (sleeping 4-5), primitive “accomodations” (cabins/yurts)to be used/owned/”rented” by “the membership” individuals/organizations. Tiny House seems to be full of this type of people… but you’re located on the West Coast!

I’ve suscribed to your newsletter and plan to survey the listings in the THB Directory for potential East Coast connections (as suggested by another blogger, a sort by state or region would be useful, at least from our perspective).

I am also interested to provide or become a subject for a post/article on THB.

Thanks for the information and congratulations for building such a great blog!

Craig

Mike - February 19, 2010 Reply

I’ve been reading and thinking about small houses for a while, and have two questions:
First, aside from building such a structure on a trailer, what do you do about building codes and such?
And second, is anyone living in these tiny houses (under 200 sq. ft., for example) with a family?
M

Teresita Ciallella - March 25, 2010 Reply

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