Oakland Tiny House

by Matthew Wolpe

So, I’m designing and building a tiny house. Last year one of my students showed me a picture of the Tumbleweed houses and said she wanted to build one and wanted me to help out. I laughed and thought it was funny and intriguing, but inside I was like “Are you serious, you’re gonna move into one of those?” Okay, so fast forward six months, and the New Yorker article came out and I was reading it in bed. It was a rare moment of epiphany, aided by some lovely company.

It was the ideal next step for me.

There were a few considerations:

  1. I loved my housemates to death but don’t love my basement room, particularly in the winter
  2. I’d been building chicken coops for the past year, something I’m a little tired of, so it was like a giant chicken coop with new challenges
  3. I had been trying to buy a house with friends in oakland for over a year and am convinced this is my only way towards home ownership in the bay area, and
  4. After finishing the manuscript and seeing my sweetheart leave the country for a long while I had the compulsion to throw myself into a giant project.

Some people do drugs, some people drink, I do really ambitious projects I suppose: an attribute and sometimes a flaw. So, I designed it in August and started building on August 30th. I am using our advance from the book to finance construction, but being as thrifty as possible. I bought the trailer used, most of the lumber is salvaged, along with all of the doors and windows, and the siding is all reclaimed redwood fencing I am re-milling that were only $1 a piece!

The final design will have a full kitchen, composting toilet, outdoor shower, sleeping loft, living room, fireplace and eventually a porch swing.

The next phase is doing the interior finish work and custom furniture, that part I’ve been looking forward to most.

17 Comments Oakland Tiny House

  1. Luke

    I like the original 3D plans. But your mostly finished photos looks like you’ve took out a door and have forgone the stairs.

    I do like the sleeping loft with foot of bed at bottom slope.

    Reply
  2. alice h

    That staircase idea is pretty cool. Incorporating storage makes sense, wonder if you could work out a way of having the bathroom under the stairs and still have decent head room. You could also work out some kind of counter that sits across part of the stairs and flips out of the way when you need the stairs. If the stairs replaced some of the other storage perhaps more space could be left open elsewhere to compensate.

    Reply
    1. Krystal

      I like the idea of maybe having a bathroom under the stairs leading to the loft. I thought about the same thing after viewing the plans up there. It could probably fit depending on the size of the stairs. Having stairs, I think, is a great alternative to ladders. Then there’s always the choice of having bed space on the main floor for those who can’t do ladders or stairs.

      Reply
      1. alice h

        Actually I’m in the difficulty with stairs and ladders group too. There’s just something special about sleeping up high though. I still hope to figure out a good ‘elevator’, some version of a bosun’s chair like someone else mentioned, or some kind of step-in loop arrangement, run by a hand crank. Also need one for a treehouse. The main problem is making a safe self-braking system in case of something going wrong. If anybody out there has this perfected please let me know! There are some similar things for worksites but they’re a bit clunky and really expensive. The tree climber solutions seem to all be for really fit people.

        Reply
        1. Abel Zimmerman Zyl

          Ok, this could get a little Rube Goldberg-esque, but: if, for example, you were using a gear reduction to turn a spool to climb a cable. You could put an old school speed governor on the quick turning shaft (hand crank). These are the things with two weights on them, and a brake of some sort driven by centrifugal force. Simple… Or not… Depending on who you ask. But fun!

          Good luck with your project. I like that youve incorporated so many practical elements of a house into it.

          And good luck putting standing room under the stairs. My sleeping lofts are usually just high enough to clear the hair on the top of your head. I have to make them extra height for the over 6′ 2″ set. There just isnt much headroom when you build on a trailer, put in a loft, and have the overheight restriction!

          Reply
  3. Nhuly

    I live in the Bay area and would love to come and see your place and even help out. Although it looks pretty finish from the pictures above. Awesome home!! Where are you going to park it?

    Reply
  4. Veronica

    I also live in the bay area and would love to see your home once it’s finished. I feel the same way about tiny homes and want to build one for myself someday. Cost aside, I can’t figure out where I would be able to park it in this area! I live in an apartment now and don’t know anyone with space in their backyard. What is your solution?

    Reply
  5. jack burgess

    putting 2 joists from edge of sleeping loft to wall and installing a pull down stair will give you more room

    Reply
  6. froogs

    Great post, I agree when you laughed about living in a Tumbleweed house. Who wants to climb up a ladder to bed unless you are a kid. It is quite a common idea to build stairs as a storage unit. Much better though as a ladder.

    Reply
  7. liza

    Hello,
    I was wondering if you know of any other people you know who own a home in the East Bay that would be open to someone building a tiny home on their property.
    Cheers,
    Liza

    Reply

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