LeisureLand Community River House

Guest Post by TR Kelley

We bought this 5 acre piece of land on Oregon’s Siuslaw River in 1998. In addition to the ramshackle house and barn, there were six creosoted pilings driven into the riverbank in front of the house defining a 6×10 rectangle under some huge old firs.

The urge to build some sort of platform for river viewing, birdwatching and outdoor summer sleeping was irresistible. We started with a dozen different 6×4 beams salvaged from a demolished plywood mill to frame the floor out to approx 11×11, with an additional 4x4x5 triangle nook sticking out over the river. An abandoned 100-year-old house upriver yielded the 2×6 T&G subflooring.

The River House at LeisureLand, looking upriver (ESE). River mile 34.5, Siuslaw River, Oregon.

The next year, we built the framework of the cabin over the top with recycled lumber. 3″ peeled poles were recycled from a tipi project to make the rafters, and a neighbor’s remodel gave us the door and vintage bead-board for the ceiling.

New stairway added in 2009.

All of the windows were bought from BRING Recycling in Eugene, Oregon for an average of $5 apiece. The high side of the building faces due south for passive solar gain in the winter, but the eave overhang keeps the sun out in the summer. The small vintage wood stove we already had, pipe and capper were salvaged. Insulation in the walls is a mixture of old polyester shag carpeting and clothes regular fiberglass batts and Reflectix radiant barrier mylar/bubble-wrap scrap insulation given away by a local yurt manufacturer. Foam board is under the floor.

Looking southeast over the river.

All of the insulation was acquired from other demolished projects. The heavy-duty vinyl wraps on the outer walls are discarded department-store banners and outdoor billboards, creatively cut. The roof is a well-secured tarp. Lighting is by Aladdin and battery powered lamps. There is no electricity, but there is a strong wireless signal from the community’s main house 100 feet uphill across the gravel county road that bisects the property. Water is carried in, a chamber pot serves as sanitation.

Woodstove and entry door, western wall.

Currently this tiny house functions as a bedroom and private area for one of our community members here at LeisureLand. He added the 4×10 deck and nicer stairs in 2008. It has been occupied and enjoyed by many different people over the last decade, and we hope to re-purpose it as a guest cabin this spring.”

TR Kelley, resident of
LeisureLand – http://directory.ic.org/20434/LeisureLand_Community

Triangular reading nook on south face of cabin.

On the eastern wall, an old bank billboard vinyl featuring sasquatch playing guitar, strategically trimmed. Makes a great homewrap!

View from the river rocks in late summer.

A winter snowfall here is usually short-lasting but pretty.

Early Spring, looking from the roadside south to the River house and the river itself.

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SoPasCat - December 22, 2010 Reply

~~~ Cute & Cozy. All it needs is a WetBath installed.

Gene Wallen - December 22, 2010 Reply

Eyesores like this are why we can`t put our small houses on our land!

    alfred - December 22, 2010 Reply


    You hit on a really important problem: the perception that somehow tiny homes are not just physically smaller than ordinary houses but “less” in lots of ways (they are less attractive, the people who live in them are less likely to be good neighbors, etc.). And yup, this misperception is one of the things keeping planning and zoning regulations the way they are.

    Now this place sure is funky, but who is to decide what should be allowed (especially in a rural area like this)? True, in many subdivisions, PUD’s, “historic” neighborhoods, and the like, even changing the color of a porch rail needs approval. That’s fine, as long as you know about the rules when you moved in (and they don’t try and change them mid-game).

    But what about in other areas. Shouldn’t people be allowed to build what they want? I find many McMansions a desecration of the landscape and an abuse of the environment, but does that mean they should be prohibited?

    And lastly, after reading that article in the Oregonian a couple of days ago, I am surprised the powers that be tolerate this (but that’s a separate question).

      Gene Wallen - December 22, 2010 Reply

      I am not talking about what it should be,I`m talking about how it is.

      Josh - December 22, 2010 Reply

      But what about in other areas. Shouldn’t people be allowed to build what they want?

      Is your position that people should be able to build whatever they want on land that they have the title to (there’s a reason I don’t use the word “own” there). If that’s the case, and you owned a 5 acre parcel with a tiny “house” on it, is it fine if I build a hog confinement building on the property that I own that’s 200 ft. away from your little structure?

      My point here is that it’s necessary to recognize that we live within a society that has rules, which includes zoning and building regulations. When you purchase property, what you’re actually purchasing is the fee-simple title to the property. If you actually owned the property outright, why would you have to pay yearly property taxes? Why would utility companies have the right to run pipes or wires through what belongs to you without your agreement? How could you be forced to turn over property under the doctrine of eminent domain?

      I’m reminded of what a former boss of mine in the Army used to say – “If you’re not going to be good, be good at it.” In other words, if you’re going to do something potentially problematic, be clever and discreet about it. So, with respect to this, and previous articles about people violating zoning laws and such – if you’re going to do that sort of thing, do it on a place bigger than a 500 foot square. (This place may not actually be a problem to anyone, but I saw on another blog today a reference to the story about the guy with the little trailer with no septic or utilities being evicted, and that’s a good example – you don’t park your dumpy little trailer right outside of town next to, and visible from, other homes.)

        Mike - December 23, 2010 Reply

        Josh is right. One aspect of building a tiny home I find
        appealing is you can use better grade materials and apply them with
        furniture-grade craftsmanship to create something really
        noteworthy. A structure poorly made, poorly planned and poorly
        maintained – no matter the scale – is an eyesore. It only takes a
        little time and effort to pick-up the yard as well. Showing a
        little care for the surroundings communicates your intentions to
        the adjacent properties and helps make the distinction between a
        dwelling and a dump.

          Mike - February 6, 2011 Reply

          This is a slow, ongoing project (neccessarily, when part of the goal is to spend as close to zero dollars as possible). It’s been continuously evolving over a number of years, and these are before and during photos.

          You bring up a good point, though, Mike. A cleanup around it is certainly in order. Sometimes tunnel-vision of the goal,(park-like), blinds me to the present.

    April - December 25, 2010 Reply

    It’s totally cute. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed. Seriously.

    Abi - December 30, 2010 Reply

    There is a large difference in taste or aesthetics and safety/good engineering. It is one thing to say that this house “does not look safe”. It is another thing to say that this house “does not look attractive”. Building code is (and should be) an issue of keeping people safe, popular opinion and current trends notwithstanding.

    You taste is your own and just because this house does not look like it walked out of Better Homes and Gardens or the latest Swedish pre-fab website does not meant that it’s aesthetic does not appeal to other people. The tiny house movement is all about THIS; people being able to build and have homes that look like they want, are the size they want and are safe without putting them in life-enslaving debt. You have a right to not like the way this house looks. And people should have the right to build something like this without having to worry about someone else getting them in trouble because their siding isn’t all one color.

      Gene Wallen - December 31, 2010 Reply

      What it should be and what it is are completely different things.

        Abi - December 31, 2010 Reply

        You’ve said that before and, while it is true, change was never affected by people with that kind of attitude.

    Owen - October 14, 2012 Reply

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, do you believe your aesthetic is so perfect that it should be enforced on all that surrounds you.? Is that desire constitutional.?

    If it were a permanent home, with composting sanitation, would you be pleased that someone had somewhere warm and dry, and able to live off the land locally, with near zero impact on the welfare state, or the environment, and had helped a little extra along the way by recycling materials.?

    From my perspective, if there is a construction report saying the structure will be safe to build, and meets sanitation requirements, I say good on you, and git’er built – I’d rather the value of my community be based on the people, than waste my breath on a 1st century *problem* like this.

    I love the upcycled timber and the billboards!

Margy - December 22, 2010 Reply

I think it is a creative use of recycled products. The interior is especially cozy. It looks a bit close to the river, but I assume flooding isn’t common in that area. – Margy

BigBud - December 22, 2010 Reply

Eyesore is a little (or a lot) harsh…if local zoning is okay with it, you should ease up a little bit with the vitriol…besides, a good undercoat and paint job solves the eyesore problem.

alice - December 22, 2010 Reply

I am constantly amazed that when Americans discuss “freedom”, as they are often wont to do, it usually means the “freedom” to conform within certain narrow limitations. While championing the right of an old man to live in his somewhat tatty looking RV on his own land seems to be not only tolerated but celebrated, somehow this admittedly less than magazine photo perfect little home on privately owned land is not. Yes, it’s a shack. So what? Personally I wouldn’t want it at my place or visible from my place, but it’s their shack and it doesn’t look like it’s being shoved in anybody’s face but is tucked away on a 5 acre plot.

    Josh - December 22, 2010 Reply

    Having grown up on a large farm in Iowa, 5 acres doesn’t sound like much to me. In fact, if you want to do a little math on it, 5 acres would be 217,800 square feet. That means that a perfectly square 5 acre parcel would be about 467 feet on each side. Even if this thing is “tucked away” dead center, it’s only a couple hundred feet from the properties around it. That’s not what I would consider secluded or away from the view of others.

      alice - December 22, 2010 Reply

      The photos show a lot of trees and bushes close up to the building which would hide it much better than open terrain. The one distance shot which may be near a road doesn’t look too bad and they claim to be in a very rural area. Their stripy painted wall looks an awful lot like the tiny house in a landscape photo of the beach huts in Scotland, which didn’t seem to cause much of a ruckus. Tiny shacks like this can blend into the shrubbery quite well once you’re not right next to them. Makes for interesting walks home on dark nights though.

        Josh - December 22, 2010 Reply

        Undoubtedly it’s hidden better than it would be in open terrain, but that hideous paint job isn’t helping conceal it. If it were my place, I would want to make it blend in more by painting it something other than the way it currently is. But you pointed out that you wouldn’t want it visible from your place, and I was simply pointing out that it can’t possibly be very far from neighboring properties.

          alice - December 23, 2010 Reply

          I don’t really like having my neighbour’s well built house visible either, it’s painted teal blue. I like dwellings that blend into the landscape and don’t catch your eye, makes a better vista. My shed is painted red, which I’m going to change to brown this year, so I’m just as guilty. It took a couple of years of looking out at the landscape to decide I prefer houses that blend into the background, but that’s a personal aesthetic decision. Any activity on a person’s own land needs to take health and safety into consideration, the rest is up to you and how you want to get along with your neighbours. I wish my neighbour’s house wasn’t teal blue but he’s happy with it and if that’s the only disagreement we ever have I’ll be content.

Angie - December 22, 2010 Reply

Well, I especially like the flowers on the back!
It’s cheerful!

Roger - December 22, 2010 Reply

I don’t care what this remote tiny house looks like. I’d have a hard time sleeping there though. Nightmares of being swept away during a flash flood would keep me from being comfortable there. Even if the river it overlooks has a history of not rising too much, with climates as unpredictable as they are these days, storms of historic proportions happening more frequently all over the globe, and the remote access for emergency services, I doubt I could sleep a wink.

Monica - December 22, 2010 Reply

I like this little house. I didn’t even think eyesore at all.

Jonathan stark - December 22, 2010 Reply

An important debate here. There is one group that wants the freedom to create whatever they want on an affordable (subjective) piece of land, raising the ire of those who’s focus is the property values of “neighborhood”, therein lies a debate that this forum can address to find middle ground if we are ever to make “tiny houses” a cohesive movement.

ginmar - December 22, 2010 Reply

Well, there’s a lot of idiots with very conservative ides about how houses should look. How far does that go? Do they feel the same way about everything? And how boring would that be, anyway?

One of the biggest charms of the tiny house movement is the way it offers freedom to people—freedom to do stuff, and freedom from stuff. I think frankly we could benefit from more color in our neighborhoods rather than less.

Felicity - December 22, 2010 Reply

I love it! Especially the flowers.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - December 23, 2010 Reply

This discussion reminds me of freedom of expression with respect to who is around. This place accomplishes that.

It’s pretty simple, you don’t like something, don’t be part of it.

It’s not like anyone has to drive out to a remote piece of property to be offended, whereas the point about McMansions is easier to grasp. They’re a little more difficult to avoid if you’re a city dweller.

And five acres is a lot in a remote area.

I had a school bus on five acres in a very remote area with no building restrictions. I was within my rights and no one could complain about being offended because they’d have no business being that far out on private property, which I’m sure is the case with this place too.

And I’m not saying others don’t have the right to complain. They sure do.

But as far as having a place to put small houses, there’s plenty of land without building restrictions.

I do agree it’s unfortunate that some places have laws about dwelling size. (Is this true even in remote areas?) I guess it must be, since I’ve seen other comments about that subject, and I’m sure it’s more common in some states compared to others. I’m unfamiliar with remote areas having building restrictions unless they’re a subdivision development nearby a small town or a lake.

Victoria - Ozarks Crescent Mural - December 23, 2010 Reply

Oh, and I forgot to say I like it. There’s some rough edges to it on the outside that could use some smoothing out, but the inside is very pretty. That tongue and groove is beautiful, love the windows and that bed looks so cozy and comfy. I particularly like the side with the old bank billboard. I too agree that the painted side reminds me of the colorful cabin that was just in the “landscape” post. I wouldn’t mind looking at it. But on even a few acres of heavily wooded property, if you’re not on the edges of it, no one’s going to see your place anyways. Good luck to you guys. It sounds wonderful what you’re doing. I love how you are reusing. We build that close to the water here in Missouri too.

Jonathan stark - December 23, 2010 Reply

Being in the “Paycheck to Paycheck” bunch, I think this place is great, artsy, whimsical, and I cant see where anyone should get pissed if they have the
place “next Door” Why do people move away from the city just to bring the city, and its constraints, with them!

Ali - December 23, 2010 Reply

At first I too was a bit put off by the first photo. Did
seem like more of a shack than a “home”, however the interior seems
quite nice, especially since everying is recycled, etc. I think it
is the underside of the house more than anything, the stilts, that
make it look rather unfinished and somewhat “shack-like” A little
cammoflage there with either some boards or lattice would do alot
to give it a “neater” appearance. I actually love the billboards on
the sides, the flowers are so colorful and the sasquatch is just so
funny.. I don’t even mind the multicolored siding but I think a
coat of white paint on all the outside trim would go a long way in
unifying everyting and making it appear more finished. That said, I
still will hold to my belief that on 5 acres you should pretty much
be able to do what you please. It appears that the home is not
located right next door to anyone, seems rather secluded and lets
face it, I’ve seen other traditional homes/yards look pretty bad
too. To each their own. 🙂

Alfred - December 23, 2010 Reply

@Gene, Mike and Josh above:

I wasn’t arguing against zoning, or a building code, just to its excess. Of course, what’s excessive?

I was in the process of buying an 18 acre parcel in Boulder County, CO (near Allenspark), and went to the county (which is notoriously strict) and inquired about permits. (There are issues in Colorado about building on parcels of less than 35 acres.)

After research, the P&Z guy told me the lot was indeed buildable, and if I bought the county would come out and mark off a ‘building envelope’.


Yup, the county would tell me where I could build on the 18 acres (that is, it would not be enough for me to just comply with code and set back requirements an so forth), but I had to site my house where the county wanted.

There is no excuse for this sort of arrogance, but it is seen all the time. (Most often, its the real reason is to maintain or inflate property values.)

Yes, I do think its legitimate to ask property owners to build to code, to comply with health and safety concerns, and even to respect neighbors (perhaps on parcels of greater than a certain size, structures should not be visible from the road or to abutters), but all too often governmental regulations are in place for the intended benefit of a given group.

Heather - December 23, 2010 Reply

I must admit that when I first read this post I thought this was the “before” picture of what they originally found on the property where they mention a “ramshackle house”. It does look rather dumpy and it’s not because of the whimsical colors or billboards plastered on the side. It’s because of the debris scattered around the property and under the cabin. Is that a painted toilet seat hanging over the edge of the porch?

It also looks a bit like it was thrown together with what was on hand and doesn’t look to be that stable or properly built. I think it’s great to recycle but you also have to build something correctly and safely. That is why codes came into place.

The land is beautiful and I think when you have a property like this, you should be enhancing it, because it is so lovely.

However, (and I am guilty here as well) someone decided to share their project here on the blog and here we go and rip it to pieces. That’s a bit harsh I think, especially when someone was proud of their accomplishments and wanted to show it off. I wonder, if I met the owner, would I have the gonads to say what I said to their face? Probably not.

Blondrea - December 23, 2010 Reply

This is one of the most enchanting little places I’ve ever seen! I love the wonderfully cropped billboard images. Thank goodness there are still colorful, creative people in the world!


Benjamin - December 23, 2010 Reply

Delightfully creative and whimsical!

The only people who have ANY right to criticize the judgement of the builders are the neighbors who can see this from their property. And I’m guessing this is in a community of creative people who are fine with it.

Personally I’d much prefer to see this out my window than a lot of multi-million dollar homes I’ve seen.

    Gene Wallen - December 23, 2010 Reply

    The problem is that the neighbors do criticize,then they complain to their city or county councilman or building commissioner. He then writes rules to protect property owners who don`t want to live in a shantytown. Those rules have minimum size limits or conform to the International Building Code. Mobil home parks require a HUD sticker, campgrounds require a RVIA sticker. What are we going to do? Maybe if the shanty hadn`t been built we would not have all these rules.

Toto - December 23, 2010 Reply

The area along the Siuslaw River is populated, in part, by people who are poor. My guess is that this dwelling does not stick out like a sore thumb; It probably has similarities to other dwellings nearby.

The structure, with a woodstove, does not conform to local code for a bedroom. In Oregon, as in most states, there are people who are renegades, doing what we can to get by, or idealistically bucking conventions.

Living this close to the river in Oregon’s climate (I live in the state), has got to be cold and damp. It is not an easy life. I think someone has to crave a life close to nature to want to live in the dwelling pictured.

Even so, a love of nature seems to be offset by the amount of gas it takes to drive out of the coast range here: it’s not a practical or sustainable way to live. Even Thoreau came out of the woods within a couple of years.

The reason many of us leave shacks and, in my case, a school bus, is because we want an easier way of life that is close to services we need, incuding more opportunities for employment.

    TR Kelley - February 6, 2011 Reply

    “Even so, a love of nature seems to be offset by the amount of gas it takes to drive out of the coast range here: it’s not a practical or sustainable way to live. Even Thoreau came out of the woods within a couple of years.

    The reason many of us leave shacks and, in my case, a school bus, is because we want an easier way of life that is close to services we need, incuding more opportunities for employment.”

    Sorry that happened to you. Love of nature? No, it’s just…..home. I’m a hillbilly by heritage, i tried the city gig for decade and came home to the sensibility of the woods. This is my easy life. That’s why it’s called LeisureLand. I’m 48 years old, i know what is important to me, and it is not in town. I don’t commute, i don’t even own a car. I go to “town” with others about twice a month for supplies. I free-lance work from home, as do many folks out here. I live on 10K a year, very well thanks. I own my time, which is the most important thing to me. Should some law-enforcement agent come for my house, i’ll dismantle it and build a chicken coop with the parts and another shack in a different place next year. The building is the fun part. Nothing lasts for long. Non-attachment and the ability to do for yourself the ultimate freedom. 🙂

Deek - December 23, 2010 Reply

I dig it- unlike a good many fancier tiny homes I’ve seen- this one certainly has an organic, fun, free feel to it= lots of character too….

However, I DO understand how people could be torn/divided on liking/not liking this….


rob - December 24, 2010 Reply

I have to say that while I do think that folk should be
able to build more or less as they please (as long as it’s safe) I
really did think the photos were all “before” photos and there was
going to be a series of “here is what we did after we ripped down
the ugly shack… Oh well. I can’t see it from my house…

Cheryl - December 25, 2010 Reply

Great post and I have no problem with it being an eyesore… Work in progress is apparent. You do with what cards you are given in life. I find their place homey and right on. I can relate. Merry Christmas everyone.

Cheryl - December 25, 2010 Reply

I forgot to add that woodstove I liked. Who manufactured it?

TR Kelley - February 6, 2011 Reply

Hey all! I didn’t know Kent had actually posted this. All the discussion is very interesting. Let me clarify a few things about the house: Our 5 acres is grandfathered into the middle of an industrial tree farm in a very rural part of the county bordered by BLM land. We have no neighbors for nearly a mile in any direction, they’re friends and like our place. The little stilt-house is most often seen by drift-boat fishermen in the winter, they smile and take pictures. The stilts are necessary for the free-flow of water underneath in the winter. Flooding the house itself is possible, but hasn’t happened yet, and doesn’t happen fast enough to be truly dangerous. No one sleeps in there during storms. How long would it take to evacuate uphill to the main house? About 2 minutes.
Personally i find this house and the MANY like it out here to be beautiful in a way that matched siding and Lowe’s aesthetic will never approach. Glad i don’t have to look at shiny cars and big houses or smell anyone’s perfume. Folks would have to drive a long way to be offended by this house. Want to see some of our other ones? The main farmhouse looks even “worse” 900 sq-ft of low-mortgage freedom. Glad this post caused such an uproar, that’s what creating a new paradigm is about. Peace and cozy homes to all!

    Mary - January 31, 2012 Reply

    I like your little house. We drove past it about a month ago. But I am sorry about the recent flooding.
    Guess you have to expect it there.

    Once A Visitor To The Old Fishing Shed - March 28, 2012 Reply

    Hey TR! I think it might be important for people to understand that this little shack is the normal for that area. The property is a haven for artists and musicians who love the uniqueness. Many artists have added a piece to the shack through the years and the neighborhood LOVES this little house project and often come to see how it is progressing.
    Values and tastes of people from the city are not values and tastes of people from Deadwood/Swisshome/Mapleton, Oregon.
    To let the city dwellers understand better, if they were to drive through the main town, they will see similar graphics and decorations on the sides of bridges, stores and pretty much anything else an artist can use for a canvas. This is artist area. Probably the biggest artist area in Oregon. Art is everywhere. Everything is a project. We wouldn’t have it any other way. Can’t wait to see who adds to the old place next!

Teryl - August 26, 2011 Reply

Love this!!!! Thanks for sharing

Roy - October 26, 2011 Reply

I think the appearance is fine, and a good use of recycled materials. I applaud the creativity.

If you don’t like it, don’t look at and mind your own business. Go build your own place the way you want it to look.

Once A Visitor To The Old Fishing Shed - March 28, 2012 Reply

This house is nice and it’s actually the “normal” for that area. This is just across the street from a commune that houses musicians and artists and is down the street from one of the most artist filled areas of the country. You can’t see this house from the road, you have to know where it is and get out of your car and walk to it through trails of brush. I’m glad the old place was saved and repurposed. It is a beautiful example of the unique folk art that lives in that area. A hundred years from now, it will be considered folk art by the same type of people who I hear talking here, that can’t stand it existing in their world. Thank the creator that we don’t all have dull brown houses.

Enjoy the diversity that is found in our world, because it’s not going away.

As far as the “legal” part of this conversation, the little house is considered a ” grandfathered fishing shed” (meaning that it is an old fishing shed only needs to meet the building codes that were in existence when it was built)and it does meet those.

Good grief people, learn to relax a while! The world can be a beautiful place if you let it!

Bob - July 2, 2012 Reply

It was awesome, until the clown. Seriously, no clowns.

    valerie - July 10, 2012 Reply

    clowns? Noooooooooooo! I loved this little place up till then, no clowns!!!

Gail M - December 12, 2013 Reply

I like it…The whole idea is to be creative & build something small & comfortable. I especially like that Sasquach! LOL Just remember that SOME people are offended by anything thats not in a gated community & costs half a million dollars! To me, this looks like a fun place to visit. Its sweet!

Garry Brastad - May 28, 2014 Reply

I see a really cool start of a place with a really cool landscape

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