Usually if you are camping in California, you need to have a tent, RV or reservations for a park model or yurt. Now, tiny house and prefab fans will have a few more stylish options thanks to the Parks Forward Commission. The Commission invited architecture students from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona to design new cabins to be placed in various California parks.
What if a person wants to take advantage of the benefits of a tiny house, but wants to keep their own home? A junior second unit might be the answer. These tiny studio apartments are built out of spare bedrooms in an existing house and contain everything needed for small, simple living. Rachel Ginis of Lilypad Homes owns a LEED and general contracting business in Marin County, Calif. and lives in her own 230 square foot junior unit—built out of the master bedroom in her home.
“After my daughter went off to college and I started Lilypad I decided to cut my overhead by moving into the efficiency apartment I created from the master bedroom in my home,” Rachel said. “To develop the apartment I converted a walk-in closet into a small kitchen and added an exterior door leading out to a deck that looks out to the wetlands and Mount Tamalpias. The apartment is laid out so that it feels like a diverse collection of rooms all in one. There are five distinct areas: the kitchen, the bathroom, the seating/sleeping area, the office/dressing area and, what I call with amusement, the great room.”
According to Rachel, Lilypad helps to create more efficient, sustainable and affordable homes in one of the most expensive places in the U.S. Rachel also mentioned that these types of apartments help to empower other people, particularly women, who are struggling to meet expenses.
Other benefits of this type of tiny house is that existing homes already have the infrastructure required to serve the needs of their designed occupancy. In the case of creating a Lilypad apartment, all the water, energy, parking, road use, etc. for the home has already been calculated in the original permit.
“By efficiently utilizing the spare bedrooms in homes we use resources more efficiently and do not create an additional burden on the existing infrastructure,” Rachel said.
Various challenges do come along with this type of construction including the permitting expenses and county requirements associated with converting spare bedrooms. This can make the process four or more times as much the cost of new construction. The Lilypad Flexible Housing Initiative is in the process of creating a simple and inexpensive permitting track for the creation of second units made specifically from repurposing spare bedrooms. LilypadFHI is also creating a portfolio of lending partners who will provide funding for the development of this type of second unit.
For Rachel, the process, the simple living aspect and the sense of community has been worth it.
“It has been an amazing experience pairing down my life to fit into a much smaller space,” she said. “The exercise deciding what was truly necessary and important to me was both insightful and freeing. I left my home furnished for renters, so not only did I create a wonderful small home for myself, but also I left a charming home behind to share with others. It is a truly rewarding experience to create affordable housing for people.”
Photos by Jocelyn Knight and Lilypad Homes
The amazing team from “Tiny House, Giant Journey,” Guillaume and Jenna (pictured above), are passing through San Francisco today, and have agreed to park their home in front of the Yerdle HQ for a little Sunday BBQ and open house.
So come on down to Yerdle HQ, this Sunday, March 29, from noon til 4 PM California time, take a tour of a real Tiny House, and learn more about how you can share your stuff and reduce your footprint with Yerdle.
501 York Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Noon to 4 PM
Airbnb has shown us there is an unending supply of unusual places you can stay, and PodShare in Southern California is one of them. I’ve slept in various “cube” hotels before including a Japanese capsule in Tokyo and a Yotel pod in London, but PodShare is melding together tiny spaces, affordability and community. Elvina Beck opened the PodShare co-living space three years ago and has since hosted over 4,000 “Podestrians”. She said the concept is perfect for minimalist, solo travelers who also want to meet new people. The design of the pods make them different from a typical hostel.
“I grew up on MTV’s The Real World and thought: what would happen if you put 10 strangers under one roof with technology to keep them busy, but with no privacy to help them stay engaged?,” Elvina said. “PodShare was built to answer that question. I wanted to create a comfortable and safe environment for people to sleep without putting up walls.”
Instead of individual bunk beds like in a hostel, each pod is build like a separate shipping container divided by carpeted stairways. Each pod contains a memory foam mattress, a personal TV, electrical outlets, adjustable nightlight, and a closet with a locker. The pods were built to face each other and each Podestrian can personalize their pod with their name. Guests are provided with a towel, toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and WiFi. They also have access to the community kitchen, bathroom, shower, and the computer station. The pods do not close up at night, but the top pods do have safety rails.
“We actually created more privacy than a traditional bunk bed, without closing the face like a Japanese capsule,” Elvina said.
“When I was laying out the floor plan for PodShare, I considered building the pods in a circle, so to not box people out, but then opted for rows like displays,” Elvina said. “This layout gives people an opportunity to horizontally work on their laptops, put their backs against the wall, hang their feet over the balcony to face the person across from them, or sit on the steps.”
Eight single pods are available for $50 a night and two queen size pods are available for $70 a night. Elvina said she will explore long-term housing in an additional location and will plan for more drawer space in the pods. Her goal is to build a network of PodShare locations across the country to offer membership-based housing. Guests would pay a monthly rental fee to travel to different pods.
House, bike and car sharing is now the norm and PodShare also promotes the sharing of common resources—with some personalization. Each Podestrian gets a lifetime pod number and a profile is opened for each guest.
“Since day one, we have created a profile for each guest—sharing a time capsule online helps us get to know the guest and helps the guest realize that they are more than a unique number,” Elvina added. “We believe in the sharing of space, stories, affordability… and curing the ever-growing world loneliness problem. I believe this type of minimalist social travel will inspire innovation and promote openness and discovery.”
Photos and video courtesy of PodShare
While walking through the traffic and noise of San Francisco last weekend, I found an oasis of peace inside the International Art Museum of America. In their main lobby, a small stream flowed past a whimsical tiny treehouse. Granted, the house would only be perfect for fantasy creatures like gnomes or fairies, but the design captured my heart. The treehouse, sculpted out of a redwood stump, was made by chainsaw artist Steve Blanchard and is just one of his many fairytale structures.
Blanchard began chainsaw carving about 28 years ago in Monterey, California. He uses the chainsaw and various other power tools to carve large stumps into benches, furniture, large Native American figures and animals. His charming fairy homes contain faces of wood spirits, gnarled porches, curved staircases and even working windows and doors. Blanchard has made about 30 of these tiny houses, but only makes about two unique houses every year for sale and they sell for around $25,000 each. The homes make their way into woodland gardens and yards in the Sierra and Lake Tahoe, as well as museums on Market Street in San Francisco.
“I don’t like to have any straight lines in my houses,” Steve said. “There are very few straight lines in nature and I like my houses to blend in with nature and tell a story, but it has to be believable.”
Photos by Steve Blanchard Wood Sculpture and the International Art Museum of America