The Coyote Cabin Story

by JB McCauley

For a the past year, I have been following Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith’s story at Rowdykittens.com, and was envious of the great life they orchestrated. The tiny house inspired my husband and I to begin building our own “Coyote Cabin.”

We live near a nature center and the “escapees” come to our backyard, which is a large clearing surrounded by woods. It’s not unusual to spot deer snacking in the vegetable patch. For several days I kept seeing what looked like a large dog near the garden. I snapped a picture while it was investigating what was in the red wagon. My husband identified it as a coyote.

coyote

When we started building our tiny house, we dubbed it the “Coyote Cabin” since it was in the same area of the back garden. Most of the materials are re-used – the trailer from a generous family member, wood that was destined for the dumpster. The design is my husband’s and he is building it without plans. Every inch will be created just for us, including a staircase to the sleeping loft (we’re not getting any younger) instead of a ladder.

I was still working at our local school district as an administrative assistant. Although I loved my boss and co-workers, I needed a change from sitting at the computer in an underground building for most of the day. My inspiration to resign came from two quotes by Danielle LaPorte at daniellelaporte.com:

tiny house

“Obligate yourself to your dreams.”

“Fear hardens us. We over-protect ourselves and we get further from who we really are.”

I was afraid. ‘What If?’ kept playing in my mind. It was time to let go of the fear and begin making our tiny house dream a reality. I turned in my resignation the next morning and only have 7 more working days left. My husband is still employed so we will have income. As we begin downsizing from 900 square feet to an area 16 feet long and 8 feet wide, I plan on donating most of our belongings.

It’s an exciting journey and I know this will be a positive change!

JB

Finding Freedom: a return to Usonia

“Tiny House History” is not so much an actual academic topic as it is a supposed idea of how we got to the place of sustainable homesteading, as it were. While it may come with some argument or even disdain I propose that tiny house history did not begin in the late 1990’s with a man, his 100 sq.ft. house on wheels, and a discipline in beautiful, functional, little dwellings. I propose rather that tiny house history began in the “old world” with caves, huts, squats, and other primitive but very natural dwellings. I also propose that tiny house history is not just an exploration into the architectural aspects of a dwelling but also the philosophical, academic, spiritual, and relational aspects of a housing movement. Because of this definition I find myself more and more curious about the homes built in the last 2,000 years. And so it is because of this curiosity that I have come across the Usonian Houses developed by Frank Lloyd Wright beginning in 1936.

Pratt HouseUsonia was a word used by Wright to refer to his vision for the American landscape including urban planning and building architecture. Wright proposed the use of the adjective Usonian in place of American to describe the landscape as being distinct and free of preceding architectural conventions. The homes would be smallish, single-story dwellings without a garage or even storage options. The majority of the designs were L-shaped so as to compliment a garden terrace on unusually shaped lots. They incorporated passive solar heating and natural cooling by way of flat roofs and large, cantilevered overhangs, natural lighting with high windows near the ceiling line, and radiant-floor heating. Even at this point it is easy to see how the influences of Usonian houses work into tiny houses, small houses, and sustainable homes.

Usonian is the term used in reference to 60, middle-class, homes designed by FLW. The first home was the Jacobs House built in 1937 in Madison, Wisconsin.

As history has it Madison newspaperman Herbert Jacobs – a friend of FLW’s – challenged the architect to design and build a home for $5,000. (with current inflation that equates to $80084.70 in today’s currency.) Wright went about designing and L-shaped house with an open floorplan and just two bedroom. To make the build more economical Wright developed a 2-1/4″ thick plywood sandwich wall for the house. (think SIP in today’s building world).

Jacobs House

Jacobs House courtesy of Florida Southern College.

Declared a National Historic Landmark in 2003 the Herbert Jacobs house has undergone some renovation, modification, and ultimately restoration since the mid-1950’s.

Wright continue to explore his Usonian idea even after the Jacobs challenge. Wright saw this as an opportunity to redefine architecture and economy just as the nation was in the throws of the Great Depression. FLW knew his homes could control costs on a number of levels while still providing style and substance to American homeowners.

Besides being small, one-story structures on concrete slabs, Usonian homes also had kitchens incorporated into the living areas. They had open car ports rather than garages. In short, they eliminated ornamentation in favor of function. In the 1950’s as FLW got older he continued to explore the notion of affordable housing by expanding into Usonian Automatic homes which were – in short – Usonian style houses made of inexpensive concrete blocks. The three-inch-thick modular blocks could be assembled in a variety of ways and secured with steel rods and grout. Wright hoped that home buyers would save money by building their own Usonian Automatic houses. Unfortunately assemblage proved to be a bit more difficult than intended and most buyers ended up hiring pros to construct their homes.

Pope-Leighey House

Photo of the Pope-Leighey House in Falls Church, VA courtesy of Library of Congress.

While Usonian homes actually built was limited to just 47 and while the costs to build often exceeded Wrights own projections causing them to overshoot the middle-class, they had great influence on what we now know as ranch style homes (complete with open floor plans, flat roofs, and connections to nature through glass and natural materials) that have helped define the American suburb experience.

Even today a number of Wright’s Usonian houses are still lived in by the families of their original owners. A couple have recently come on to the real estate market commanding millions of dollars. While this price point may be a long shot from FLW’s initial intention of affordability they are a great testament to his design ability and commitment to homes for the masses.

The Pope-Leighey house in Woodlawn, Virginia as photographed by Rebecca Robertson.

The Pope-Leighey house in Woodlawn, Virginia as photographed by Rebecca Robertson.

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

Ethan’s Tiny House Story

by Ethan Ramirez

My name is Ethan Ramirez, several months ago I posted pictures of my first tiny house. A 100 square foot silver rectangle that my girlfriend and I built and lived in…at the time. Well since that time a gentleman approached me asking if I would be willing to sell him our house. I was so excited I told him yes immediately, because I had so much fun building the first one and was already thinking of how I could do it again. This time more efficiently and dare I say it, smaller.

front door

The gentleman told me the lease on his rental house was up in February and without much thought I told him great I will have it available. Keep in mind he approached me around late October/early November giving me around 3 months and with my job of working overnights I have several full off days during the week so I figured sure my girlfriend Kelsey and I could totally build another in 3 months. Well turns out that November was a pretty rainy month so we had to scratch November out of the picture and then came December and with it the Holidays and travel so we went a head and scratched that out as well. Which had us frantic and left only with January and February.

table

Well after putting on our “grown up” pants and “work ready” gloves (we actually don’t work with gloves) we got down to business building our tinier tiny house. This house was to have only 8ft ceilings so we could fit under trees if needed, because Texas summers can be brutal. We also wanted to have a 20% smaller footprint. Well ladies and gentlemen I am happy to say that after 6 weeks of sun up to sun down off days we did it!

more details

Our tiny house 2.0 as we call it is complete and we have moved into it. The house consists of a kitchen space with similar plumbing to the last house (water crock fed sink) an “office” which consists of a standing desk with storage beneath it, a sleeping area and living room. We decided to place the bed on the floor in this house because last summer we found out exactly how hot air rises and decided that if we put our bed down low and our a/c unit up high we will get a much cooler sleep.

loft

Inside the sleeping area we have placed shelves inside the joists of the lofted living space where we store underwear and other items used either before sleeping or just after waking. The living room consists of a couch with storage underneath for media and across from it an entertainment center neither of which were in the last house (our movie collection felt neglected). The sleeping area has a height of 3 feet inbetween joists so we can both sit up and read before bed and the living room has a height of 5 feet so it is too short to stand in but in a space that is only 5 feet wide there is not much ground to cover to get to your seat.

view from the loft

We did not put any drawers or doors on any of the storage instead using curtains giving the space an airier feel (or maybe we were lazy who knows). We live on an organic farm with other people living in small structures and tiny homes and have a community bathroom that has a plumbed toilet and washer and dryer along with an outdoor shower. When the weather is too cold for outdoor showers we use the city rec center which only costs us $80 a year which turns out to be cheaper than a water bill.

ground level

Most of our cooking is done on the grill outside and we also have a small toaster oven. I believe that about covers most of it (not that there is really much to cover in a tiny house) Oh wait the house is about 80 square feet and yes both Kelsey and I live in it full time. If there are any other questions be it about building a tiny house yourself, about our tiny house, or what ever they might be you can email us at tinyhouseask@yahoo.com

Thank you and good night.

storage

looking to the entry

the front