Hoffman’s Tiny House in the California Gold Country

Guest Post by Steve Hoffman

I bought plans from Jamaica Cottage Shop about two years ago and made a few modifications for my design. I built the Vermont Cottage on a 20 acre parcel in Calaveras County in the California Gold Country. This project has been my passion, my delight and my greatest satisfaction! After I finished the exterior, I finished the interior to have all of the comforts of home.

The property is off the grid so I put in a 400 watt voltaic power source and a 12 volt pump connected to a 275 water tank to provide water for the sink. I also build a 4 X 8 room off the back that I use for storage, power/inverter equipment, and a small shower (I have an outhouse for toilet needs).

The kitchen is self-contained with propane burners and a dual sink but I use the BBQ on the deck for much of the cooking. The power supply provides ample power for most of my power tools and I plan to add a small 6300 BTU air conditioner for the warm months. With low-voltage lights and 60 watt television, I’m able to pick up 13 stations with only a digital TV antenna or watch DVDs. Two deep cycle 12 volt batteries provide plenty of power for an evening of light, TV entertainment and music.

The only modifications I made to the original plans were to add a double French door that leads to the deck and our view of the mountains. I also purchased used windows and doors to keep costs down, including dual pane Viking windows. I wired the cottage with two 20 amp circuits that are in the storage area. Finally, I installed a used, but in very good condition, wood burning stove for the colder months. It keeps the place toasty warm.

I plan to build on a workshop as my next project–same size as the cottage but without the front porch for maximum utility.

Thanks Jamaica Cottage Shop for your great design and helping me to reach one of my life’s goals and greatest achievements!

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Angie - September 2, 2011 Reply

I love this! You did very well, and it’s so cozy looking. Thank you for sharing, and sharing the insides, too.

    John in Brisbane - May 24, 2014 Reply

    Yeah me too. I like most of them but this one more than most. I’d tweak it a little but this is pretty close to what I’ll build. Thanks for sharing!

robin yates - September 2, 2011 Reply

now this is a nice house! I like everything about it. Thanks for posting and very good luck in the future

mike - September 2, 2011 Reply

that is paradise right there…

jgodsey - September 2, 2011 Reply

absolutely LOVE it.
please tell me the brand of the double burner you installed. i need that sort.

Dovie - September 2, 2011 Reply

Nice! I do have one question, though. Is the bathroom in an addition on the back? Is that what the little red door is?

    2kids2cats - September 3, 2011 Reply

    Reading the post seems to suggest he uses an outhouse as the bathroom. That’s what I take from “(I have an outhouse for toilet needs)”. But maybe I’m just too literal.

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    Dovie and 2kids2cats, I added a 4’X8’ room off of the back accessible through the burgundy-colored door (a slight modification from the plans). Inside I have a workbench for my tools and placement of the solar equipment. I also put in shelves for storage and a small shower.

Bob H - September 2, 2011 Reply

Wow, fantastic small home. You did a great job. Added bonus it is not on an 8ft trailer.

Josh - September 2, 2011 Reply

This is awesome. The only thing I would change is to have an actual bathroom in it to avoid having to use an outhouse.

And to the author, the past tense of “build” is “built.”

    Karen - September 3, 2011 Reply

    And to the author, the past tense of “build” is “built.”

    Really, Josh? Was that necessary?

      Josh - September 3, 2011 Reply

      Really, Josh? Was that necessary?

      Well, I love the cabin, and I thought the article was pretty well written except for the build/built thing which occurred a couple of times, if I’m not mistaken. Call me crazy, but I like to expand my knowledge base – if I’m doing something wrong, I’d like to have someone point it out rather than let me make a fool of myself by continuing to do it wrong.

      Besides that, this website does a lot of advertising, and I would consider it to be a pretty commercial site. As such, I would expect that the operator of the site, who is receiving the checks for advertising, would do a little proofreading before posting an entry.

      I apologize to you, Karen, if my fondness for a more professional level of communication offends you. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me when I read, “I build the Vermont Cottage…”

        Kent Griswold - September 3, 2011 Reply

        Thanks Josh for pointing out the errors in the writing (once in a while they get missed and I will do my best to correct them) and yes this site does make money from advertising and selling peoples plans and books. Like many others out there my job went away a couple of years ago and I had to create an income to feed myself and my family. I am sorry if that bothers you but no one forces you to visit this blog and there are many other tiny house resources out there if it offends you.

          Josh - September 4, 2011 Reply

          …I had to create an income to feed myself and my family. I am sorry if that bothers you but no one forces you to visit this blog…

          I didn’t say it necessarily bothered me. If you can make money from something you enjoy, I say, “Congratulations to you, sir.” The advertisements and book sales on the sidebar don’t bother me. The blog posts that basically amount to an advertisement – I’m not a fan of those, so I just don’t give them much attention.

          I was just trying to plead my case to Karen and explain why I pointed out the error. I know there are other blogs out there; it’s maddening the number of blogs there are. I’m the stubborn sort that finds something they like and sticks with it. I don’t want to try to sift through all the others to find something worth reading. There are only three blogs that I check almost every day – this is one. I enjoy the blog and think you’re doing a fine job, Kent. Karen and I were just having a difference of opinion, I guess.

          Kent Griswold - September 4, 2011 Reply

          Thanks Josh for your explanation and your loyalty to the blog. I will try to keep that type of post to a minimum and keep the quality of posts up there so that you and others will want to continue to return. If in the future you see some proofreading errors that Kasey or myself have missed please email me directly at tinyhouseblog (at) gmail.com and I will fix them ASAP.

          Yojimbo - January 16, 2014 Reply

          Hi Kent ~

          Longtime and enthusiastic reader here. I do think Jason makes some salient points. I’d like to see the posts from which the site derives income clearly labelled as advertising, at the head of the post. To continue to fail to do this strikes me as manipulative and disingenuous. To start would be a step in a more ethical direction.

          My two cents. Thanks for the otherwise great work, and long may you run!

      Irene - September 5, 2011 Reply

      Kent, I do not come back here so much anymore but I am an editor by profession, and I am happy to contribute my eye if you ever want another set of eyes. That being said, the one letter being wrong in the story does not phase me at all; the blog is great and it did not detract from the story. 🙂

        Lynne - January 16, 2014 Reply

        Haha, I see what you did there, using ‘phase’ instead of the correct word, ‘faze.’

        As a former proofreader for non-profit newsletters, I sometimes get bogged down in the wrong-spelling, wrong-word mire. I’ve been trying to train myself to look at the content, and not do my usual fussing bit. 🙂

        Doris - January 16, 2014 Reply

        Irene, you must be having a bad editor day. Let me continue Josh’s anal retentiveness, and add that it’s “faze” not “phase.” 🙂

      Doris - January 16, 2014 Reply

      Karen, he has a history of strong critiques, then long defenses. My pet peeve is people who misuse “there, their, and they’re,” but it isn’t my life’s work to troll the blogs and correct them. Certainly, journalists have a responsibility to set an example, but people from all walks of life should feel comfortable commenting on a blog without the self-appointed grammar police handing them a ticket. A lady who offered her services as an editor also misused a word in her offer! Nobody’s perfect. And a blog editor who probably has a very busy schedule shouldn’t be castigated for an error, then further insulted regarding earning his advertising money. That’s a cheap shot and I was surprised by how quickly some people jumped on it. I thought we were here to look at the houses.

        Patricia - January 16, 2014 Reply

        @ Doris: I couldn’t agree more! The grammar nazi’s are so offensive. Not only is it rude and unnecessary, it’s just plain bad manners! None of the people commenting here have asked for a grammar lesson, and i’m pretty sure that most don’t want one. My gosh, if you have to be perfect to comment than you will lose a whole lot of very interesting comments and information.

    Kristy - September 14, 2011 Reply

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. However, I can see how a word being misspelled makes reading something a tad difficult. Your mind stops to correct the spelling then continues. I have no doubt that I have misspelled something, as that would be Muphrey’s Law 😉

    Great job on the tiny house! I will be returning to view further improvements! Thanks!


    Susan - January 16, 2014 Reply


    I agree. Professional blog writers should be watching their grammar. When you get paid to write, you should learn how to use grammar check and spell check.

StacySix - September 2, 2011 Reply

I really love this! Especially the woodstove with the tile surround, and the antique sideboard. Looks perfect!

Fran - September 2, 2011 Reply

Give yourself a pat on the back! Job well done…
You may, however, want a covered porch on your future workshop. Gives you some storage space and outdoor work area if needed.

Greg - September 2, 2011 Reply

You did an amazing job! Thanks for sharing.

Maija - September 2, 2011 Reply

I love the wide open layout of the kitchen. However, I’m wondering where the bathroom is…

    Wendy - September 2, 2011 Reply

    Per the article, ” I also built a 4 X 8 room off the back that I use for storage, power/inverter equipment, and a small shower (I have an outhouse for toilet needs).”

Tara - September 2, 2011 Reply

Yay!! My favorite type of post on the tiny house blog. I adore the kitchen area and the beautiful porch and deck. Great job and thank you for sharing this with us. Very inspiring.

molly - September 2, 2011 Reply

What a great little house! I could so see myself living here. Cozy but not cluttered, and I love all the windows. Thank you so much for sharing your home with us! I have some new ideas for my own little house plans….

alice - September 2, 2011 Reply

Now that’s a livable house! Love the double French doors to the big deck.

    Yojimbo - January 16, 2014 Reply

    Agree. The double french are key. The huge porch — great addition. And the expansive counter and double sink in the kitchen.

Heda - September 3, 2011 Reply

Just brilliant. I could easily live comfortably in something like that. Thank you.

2kids2cats - September 3, 2011 Reply

What I love the most about this cabin is it seems there is actual head room in the loft. Were the plans modified, or do the Vermonter plans allow for room to sit up in bed?

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    2kids2cats, I followed the suggestions in the plans which called for the around seven feet head room in the kitchen. There’s still room to sit up in bed or when then futon is used as a couch. We moved the futon to the loft before putting on the railing. We will need to disassemble it if we ever want to take it down. –Steve

Leslie - September 3, 2011 Reply

I agree! I agree! I agree!

JT - September 3, 2011 Reply

Very nice !!

Liz - September 3, 2011 Reply

Clearly, you have some serious skills. Really polished-looking job. The only thing you might want to do is keep the firewood further away from the house. Having it stacked next to the house invites termites.

Any chance you get internet service up there?

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    Liz, Good tip on moving the firewood–it also improves ventilation under the home. The internet service is very spotty on my mobile phone—I haven’t tried anything else yet. –Steve

Benjamin - September 3, 2011 Reply

Really nice place! I like the color choices for the trim too.

Al Mollitor - September 3, 2011 Reply

I like this! It’s large enough to be truly livable. How big can a tiny house be before it becomes just a small house?

I guess refrigeration will always be a problem for truly off-the-grid houses unless they have a large PV system.

    Susan - September 5, 2011 Reply

    We have an off- grid place in the Sierras…it came with a good solid used Dometic refrigerator. Runs on our propane tank. Uses just a tiny flame to keep a refer/freezer (yes we can keep ice cream up there) going great. Some kind of reverse osmosis way I guess…the food gets cold but the refer doesn’t really. Anyway, it’s about double the size of a dorm refer and is a big help in Bear Country where we don’t dare leave coolers on the porch and don’t have room inside (the place is only 8’x10′) Try craigslist in your area for one of these.

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    Al and Susan,I had a small apartment-sized electric refrigerator in the kitchen but moved it outside below the kitchen sink window (fortunately, no bear problems in Angels Camp CA). I don’t use it much as a good cooler is usually sufficient for weekends. A propane fridge is also a good alternative. –Steve

SUZANNE - September 3, 2011 Reply

Hi Mr. Hoffman, my dream has always been to live in a log home. This is adorable and so me. I put in 25 yrs with State of Ca and got laid off 2 yrs back from UC Davis Med Center economy. I am entertaining the thought to move to the size of a cottage place where there is wildlife to enjoy ect. Bless your hard working hands and thank you for sharing….suzanne alexander

jon v - September 3, 2011 Reply

Really nice but no refer?

Gina - September 4, 2011 Reply

May God Bless everything you touch. This is a dream house for everybody. Thank you for showing us.

LC Gorby - September 4, 2011 Reply

Absolutely love this. Now would love a modified version of this with a bedroom also on the first floor for those over 65yo with disabilities….love the deck and whole setup. Thanks for sharing this lovely home.

ZANNE - September 6, 2011 Reply

This is so cute and comfy looking. You should be PROUD! Job, well done! I love the tile behind the pot stove, I’m assuming it’s marble or feaux marble? And I love the decking addition off the side too. Just a few questions? How did you get that bed in the loft? LOL…and the 2 rain catch barrels in the front, are they actual rain catch barrels? It looks like wire or netting and plywood over, is this for a specific reason? Just curious! GREAT JOB!!! Thanks for sharing your pix with us!

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    Zanne, The empty wine barrels in front capture rain for watering plants I have since planted through a drip system. I had to cut a hole in the top to install the spigot and have screening and a plywood top in place until I reinstall a top. The tiling around the wood stove is marble (a close-out bargain at Lowes!). –Steve

Dave Lingelbach - September 6, 2011 Reply

Do you think your 400 watt solar cell and 2 battery system will be able to run a small 6000 btu window air conditioner as well as the tv and low voltage lights? Just curious.

Here’s my list of things important to me if I were to build a tiny house. Crazy weather has become a major issue in designing any home. It’s pretty obvious global warming is changing things.
1. Roof being able to survive giant hail (tennis ball size and larger – now common in tornado alley where I live)
2. Wild fire survivability.
3. Comfort in temperature extremes. My front temperature dial on the front porch has read from -21 F to 120 F in the last 9 months with high temps close or above 100 F from early June until September.
4. And, of course, high wind survivability. (tornado alley stuff)

RutaAzul - September 6, 2011 Reply

Can the author give more details about his/her solar system? Thanks, enjoyed the story, photos, and detail.

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    Dave and RutaAzul, During a sunny day, the solar panels pull in up to 12 amps of electricity (I think)—plenty to power an 8-amp air conditioner suitable for the room size. However, it requires a high-quality inverter (capable of running up to 2K watts for power on). I can only run the AC when I have good solar coming in as it will drain my batteries quickly. For the roof, I used a product called Ondura (www.ondura.com) which is a light-weight composite material. Since I built the place with little help, I needed something I could easily handle. –Steve

FredMG - September 7, 2011 Reply

Hi Kent,

Terrific job! VERY functional and very attractive!
If you haven’t checked these out, many possible things for use in such a home can be found being sold for use in boats (like bright, high efficiency LED lighting), stoves/ovens using various fuels (including nice big wood burning stoves useful for both cooking & heating, though wood does produce noxious emissions), and lots of other stuff. Also, often you’ll find similar or the same products at RV/car-camping/trailer supply stores, but without the “yachting” price sticker! – Think of old used sailboat masts, useful for recycling into antenna/wind power supports/flagpole combos, as one example. Composting heads (yup, some are made/sold to boaters), etc.

As for mobility, consider recumbent bicycles/trikes which are far more comfy than upright bikes, hence better for longer trips to town, etc., and velomobiles, enclosed and useful for winter rides, carrying some cargo, and keeping you healthy & warm as you ride! Add a small electric motor (charged via solar/wind) to help with hills, and you may not even need a car.

I’ve sailed most of my life, worked in boat design way back, know/have known lots of live-aboard boaters, and even a 35 – 45 footer only has the room of your small home, so there’s parity in both approaches to housing.

Again, GREAT JOB! Keep up the good work.


    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    FredMG, good tip on considering product made for sailboats and RVs. I’ve installed LED bulbs and 6 watts puts out the same as a traditional 60w incandescent, and a 23w CFL bulb. I love them! –Steve

CC wannabee - October 25, 2011 Reply

Great job. We’re planning to do the same in Calaveras County. Was the permitting process cut-and-dry? And is the outhouse a composting or pit toilet?

    Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

    CC wannabee, Concerning the outhouse, it’s a commercial port-a-potty that will need to be pump when it fills but that has not been a problem after 2 years of weekend use. –Steve

Steve Hoffman - November 19, 2011 Reply

I didn’t know this website/blog existed until I visited the Jamaica Cottage Shop on Facebook. Much thanks to Kent Griswold for the posting, and a big THANK YOU for all of the nice posts; I am truly touched! And based on your comments, you are a very detail-oriented bunch! I will respond to each question shortly. Thanks 🙂

John - January 10, 2012 Reply

I like it! Great job! Very nice. I own 4 acres in central NY state and have the plans for the no porch version. I was planing to build in the spring. I was wondering if you have house wrap under the exterior siding and how you insulated the walls and roof.
Thanks, John

John - January 10, 2012 Reply

I like it! Great job! Very nice. I own 4 acres in central NY state and have the plans for the no porch version. I was planing to build in the spring. I was wondering if you have house wrap under the exterior siding and how you insulated the walls and roof.
Thanks, John

Ricke - January 27, 2013 Reply

Hi all. I own a piece of land in the cloud forest in Costa Rica. The place is gorgeous, lots of beautiful vegetation, orchids, emperor butterflies, jaguars, boars, coyotes, leopardus tigrinus, toucans and many other species of beautiful animals.
Mr. Hoffman, I have a lot of vacation time that I must use and I was thinking about building a tiny house that I can use when I visit once a year. How long does it take to build a house like this ? If I understand this article, you built it yourself, correct ? I have to ask this, may you be interested in traveling down there and built it with me and locals that I can here to get it done asap, as a return, we can work something out. You may wonder why I just don’t buy the plans and built myself or hire someone else to do it, but the way they built in Costa Rica is completely different and I just don’t like it. To built it we can use teak (B quality that is durable and affordable)Please let me know if you are interested. Regards,

Interested in Sacramento - March 10, 2013 Reply

Hi Kent, I enjoyed reading your post. I was wondering what if any issues you might have faced with the city planning and zoning department? I am new to the Sacramento area and am in the research gathering phase of trying to figure out which counties nearby would allow me to build a tiny house close enough that I could still commute to Sac for work. I’d appreciate any insight you might have!

Thanks 🙂

sandals and flip flops - June 21, 2013 Reply

Then keep the pair of jeans in your box of the things you just can’t let go of.

Jimmy - January 16, 2014 Reply

Great Job. Nice details.

Dominick Bundy - January 16, 2014 Reply

Perfect little house all it needs is a complete bathroom.I’d try to find a way to install a flush-able toilet in that 8×4 room in the back

    David Remus - January 16, 2014 Reply

    Companies like Sun-Mar make composting toilets that give you compost for your garden while protecting the groundwater. They come in electric, non-electric, and solar.


Robert - January 16, 2014 Reply

Nice space. What do you do with the grey water from the sink and shower?

David Remus - January 16, 2014 Reply

Great job and 20 acres to boot.

A composting toilet would solve the outhouse issue and give you good compost occasionally for any garden you might have. You can buy one or build your own.

Beautiful job on the house.

David Remus - January 16, 2014 Reply

Check out Sun-Mar for the composting toilets I mentioned above.


Thomas Giacomelli - January 16, 2014 Reply

Really good job! I wish we were that creative, but our micro-house serves its purpose.

dawn - January 16, 2014 Reply

just lovely! well done! i love it when people use drywall instead of wood all the time. i think white walls makes the cabins look and feel bigger. even though i want drywall walls in my home i still want the beeboard and wood on the ceiling! this is a very , VERY nice home! dont have anytime to help a lady build hers?? lol! would love to see more photos when you get your shop built and any other adds!
thanks for sharing!

Kenise - January 16, 2014 Reply

Love it Steve. This is similar to what I want except I’m going to go for a ‘Dutch Barn’ roof. I was going to have the door on the short side like a shotgun home but I really like the way you’ve laid (proofreaders?) this out. Thanks for the pics

Whitworth Deen - January 16, 2014 Reply

Very lovely and liveable casita…. if one is young enough and has good legs for ladder climbing– to say nothing of trips to the outhouse in bad weather. But I look at this delightful house and similar ones and know that it and they could never be for little older me at 64 due to arthritic knees that only get worse as the years fly by. Yep, if one is lucky, old age happens. FYI small and smaller houses like these when built for seniors and their needs get very high attention from people like me who wish to live modestly and sensibly. . . . As to the pissing contest between the author and a commenter over poor spelling and grammar, may I add my 5 cents worth: such is modern America. I cringe when I see spelling and grammatical errors in modern writings. But face it: very few people these days are interested in the subject of correctly written English.
Respectfully submitted,
Whitworth Deen

Megan Carroll - January 17, 2014 Reply

Gorgeous. So nicely done and beautiful and cozy inside. Congratulations!

Donna Vanscoyk - April 30, 2014 Reply

Imagine a dormer on the front side of the loft, a clear story on top with a roof running off the back to house a sweet little sunroom and bath. a nice little walk-in basement for root cellar, mud room and rec. room and at the opposite end of the main floor from the big outdoor kitchen cooking lounging deck French doors and a nice airy bedroom….I have bought my plans and those are our add-on’s and we hopefully get to get started this fall….we will post pictures….Donna and Greg

beautiful small house plans japan | Small House Ideas - November 2, 2015 Reply

[…] Hoffman’s tiny house in the california gold country […]

Mik - May 14, 2017 Reply

Mr. Hoffman,
Great story on your build and enthusiasm. Did you face much difficulty with Calaveras County and permits for your house? I may want to do the same in that area and would like to know your ‘bumps’, if any…
Thank, Mik
(grammar trolls, you’ve ruined a nice blog about houses, not words)

    MT - July 11, 2017 Reply

    Yes, same question. Beautiful home…wondering how the zoning process went for you. Thanks!

JM - July 17, 2017 Reply

Same here. I would really like to know what kind of issues you may have faced building this way in Calaveras County.

If you see these, PLEASE let us know. I am also trying to do the same thing, in the same county.

Thank you.

Cheri - March 29, 2018 Reply

I am also interested in whether it was difficult to get this tiny home approved in Calaveras County. Is there a tiny home settlement or community in or around Angels Camp? Did you just have a piece of property and then take the plans to the county building department to get them approved?

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