Celina’s Tiny Abode

Sixteen-year-old Celina Dill (“Celina Dill Pickle” on her blog) of Whidbey Island is not only building her own tiny house from her own plans, but she’s cutting her teeth on architecture and building with Ross Chapin. Celina is an intern for the Pacific Northwest architect who is famous for his small homes and “pocket neighborhoods“.

Celina decided she wanted to build her own tiny house after living in 15 homes with her parents. Since she is close to moving out on her own, she figured a tiny house on wheels would be the perfect solution to having a place of her own at a cost and size that she could handle.

“I think tiny houses are in the future,” Celina said. “Living with less.”

She designed her 10 foot by 18 foot house with Google Sketchup after reading a book recommended by Chapin: “A Pattern Language” by Christopher Alexander.

“Before reading the book, I had a few ideas for the layout,” she said. “But as I read, the design unfolded in wonderful ways. As I spent days and weeks thinking about it, everything seemed to find its place in my small space.”

The house will be 14 feet tall with a gambrel roof and will be built with Celina’s version of SIP panels (outer plywood wall, small studs, ridged insulation, inner plywood and paper machรฉ). It will include a sleeping/working loft, large windows, a bathroom and an outdoor shower that Celina wants to build out of an old British phone booth. Her wish list (besides help with electrical) includes a crystal chandelier, a pedestal sink, a SMEG fridge and a comfortable leather chair. She acquired her chassis foundation for $250, a 1950s Dixie RV stove for $20, a pot-belly wood stove for $75 and a farm-style kitchen sink for $175. She got her water heater free from a demolition project and salvaged some wooden beams and logs to be used in the construction. Celina wants the bottom part of the house to look like a French Country kitchen. She plans on building a small bistro table, and will build some rolling chopping blocks.

She decided to build the house on wheels since her family does not own property. Her goal is to purchase some property, park her house and also have a little farm. Most of her money is going toward the truck that will tow the house.

Celina, a 4.0 grade-point average student, decided after three semesters of high school that she wanted to learn on her own and is currently “unschooling” herself. She’s using the welding skills she learned in her metal shop class, and is adding skills from her carpenter father. She earns her money by teaching dancing at her family’s dance studio: “Everyone Can Dance”.

Photos courtesy of Celina Dill/My Tiny Abode


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]


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Amanda - March 19, 2012 Reply

Celina! You are an inspiration! It is amazing what you have already accomplished. And I have to admit that I am jealous you get to intern with RossChapin. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Your photos are amazing and all the experience you are getting is awesome. Great job! Can’t wait to see the finished project! Blessings to you!

http://kevinsmicrohomestead.wordpress.com/ - March 19, 2012 Reply

This is exactly how children should be raised.Teach them the skills of self reliance and independence.She is learning how to design her life and future by earning and building and creating her own opportunities.Well done!Great example and model for others to follow.

Mark Hundhammer - March 19, 2012 Reply

Awesome design, wonderful to be a talented visionary as a teenager. Your project will inspire others to take charge of their dreams.

What’s Wrong With Kids Today? | More Than Architects Blog - March 19, 2012 Reply

[…] more about her on the Tiny House blog. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

Beverly Williams - March 19, 2012 Reply

As Kevin says, I’m impressed! Would love to have my grandkids be more independent and do something like this. I wish you the very best in completing your dream home.

Selena - March 19, 2012 Reply

Celina: You’re building my mini dream house! Stove, sink, gambrel roof…
Let me guess, french doors? So any plans on developing a set of plans? LOL. Keep up the good work.

– Selena (from the Kitsap Peninsula)

    Niall - March 19, 2012 Reply

    Selena – humble-homes.com sells small house plans with a gambrel roof!

Gayle - March 19, 2012 Reply

She is way ahead of her age for even doing this. And using a gambrel roof!!! Smart girl! I never understand when I see these tiny houses with lofts why they have regular pitched roofs — a gambrel roof makes the loft so much more useful and does not increase the height of the overall structure. My hat is off to this young woman.

Anne - March 19, 2012 Reply

Very impressed….Cannot wait to see the finished project…

Keith Barton - March 19, 2012 Reply

Great work Celina. Your independence, resourcefulness and drive are a testament to yourself and those with whom you work. Maria Montessori would be so pleased to see you in action. Thank you for being an early adopter of intelligent resource use.

Celina - March 19, 2012 Reply

Wow. Thank you all for your enthusiasm and support! I am having an absolute blast with this project and can’t wait to see the finished product either!

Mark Frost - March 19, 2012 Reply

Celina, Bravo! You are well on your way to a great future. I like the comment in your story about “unschooling” yourself.

The most intelligent people I’ve met in life are not “Rhodes Scholars” but “Road Scholars” if you know what I mean. People who have been out and experienced the world first hand.

Our son is about your age and he is out there doing just that; he wants a life a “experiences” not a life of “things” . I guess I’m envious of younger people who have the game figured out at an early stage in their life.
We wish you all the best.
Mark Frost.

Tagati - March 19, 2012 Reply

My hat is off to you! Great inspiration and leads to much hope from your generation.

My father didn’t have sons, so he taught his two daughters how to use shop tools and do minor auto repairs. He wanted us to be able to do things ourselves and not rely on others (or be bamboozled by male “experts”).

My son went to a fab Jesuit high school, but he also was taught life skills from my father. Since my father grew up in poverty (hollers of TN) and was self-taught (also a Seabee), he was of the school that made things rather than buy them.

Looking forward to vicariously joining your journey via your blog. And kudos to your father who is encouraging your journey.


Tanya - March 19, 2012 Reply

Great work – very inspiring! I am going to show your website to my 8th grade students – I want them to see what’s possible and what people are doing to have a smaller carbon footprint. Thank you!

Gene Wallen - March 19, 2012 Reply

Congratulations on your ambition and courage,not a lot of people have either.I hope it goes easy and well. Before you start I hope you use some of that welding skill to strengthen that old trailer it`s going to have to haul two or three times the weight it was designed for. Good luck!

Engineer Guy - March 19, 2012 Reply

Very inspiring! Your ‘support’ Network will be fantastic, I’m sure. I designed and built our own Solar House, but there’s several ‘multipliers’ that have to be placed on your age to equal this ‘Roads Scholar’. -)

As a Recycler, I really like your Stove and Heater acquisitions. They are heavy, as are conventional materials. If you’ve not done so, please confirm the [single] Axle capacity on that nice Trailer find. I’m concerned, on your behalf, on the cumulative weight of the finished Abode. Guess that’s the ‘Engineer’ in me. Even a 6 Gallon WH can equal ~60 lbs. when filled. And so on…

As a Trailer Guy, I know how the weight adds up in the finished Project.

Best Wishes!

    Texican - March 24, 2012 Reply

    I’d also go with double axles. I’ve hauled some heavy loads in single axle trailers, just fine… until I hit a hole in the road, and the tire blows out. Double axles and good tires are a must.

    My large trailer is 8’6″ wide, and I barely have enough room, on the road, to meet oncoming traffic. If you plan on moving your home just once or twice, it’d not be an issue… move often?, a worry, unless you have a pilot vehicle… 10′ here would require an oversize permit, and who wants to bother with paperwork?

molly - March 19, 2012 Reply

This is the type of education I wish I had gotten! This is incredible! You are doing an amazing thing that you will always treasure, I am sure.

I can’t wait for the updates! You’re giving inspiration to someone twice your age ๐Ÿ™‚

sandra crane - March 19, 2012 Reply

this girl is amazing. Think what this world would be like if all our 16 year olds had this kind of smarts and ambition!
Kudos to Celina!

Abel Zimmerman Zyl - March 20, 2012 Reply

Wow, i have a teeny potbelly stove just like that (havent found the right project for it yet).

Your own house… Go for it, i say! I am going to tell my kids what you are doing. So cool!

And if you need electrical help, email me and i’ll give you a hand or help with a design, nc. (i build tiny houses, but am also an electrician)

Abel Zyl in Olympia

jay mic - March 20, 2012 Reply

Sorry to pop your bubble but, Why are you building on a trailer when you are NOT street legal? You are oversized in width and height. You will need road permits everytime you move.

    Ella - March 20, 2012 Reply

    Celina, your project is awesome. Your trailer is awesome. You’re smart and I’m sure you’ve thought this stuff through. As you go, all the things you’re worried about will resolve one way or another. You will totally make it all work ๐Ÿ™‚

    Celina - March 20, 2012 Reply


    The only reason I am building the house on a chassis, is because I don’t have land. This is allowing me to build and have a home of my own before I have my own land. It is only going to move once every couple of years if that. I am at the limit of width and height for our area, I have done the research. Yes it is a bit of a compromise but to me it is worth it.


Vickie - March 20, 2012 Reply

You are a very smart young lady!!!!

One suggestion, be mindful of the height of your house on wheels. From my understanding the maximum is about 13 feet for road clearance. Please check before you go further.

    Celina - March 21, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the concern Vickie,

    But the legal limit for moving down the road is 14′. This may limit me when towing, but I am willing to sacrifice towing convenience for head room.

    Celina : )

jay mic - March 20, 2012 Reply

One additional comment, a $250 single axle trailer. You are going to build your dream home on this? Why are you pouring all your energy, effort and love on to such a weak foundation?

    MJ - March 20, 2012 Reply

    You know jay mic, you could learn a lot from people here. Constructive criticism is a fine thing, if it is worded constructively and not destructively. Now, go to your room and write I Will Be Nice When Offering Suggestions 100 times.

      molly - March 20, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for a good laugh!

      I too am a believer that if you want people to listen to you it’s important what tone and words you use. I tend to ignore negative people, as do many others.

    Celina - March 20, 2012 Reply


    Thanks for the concern, but the trailer is a heavy duty double axel trailer, that was originally for a 60′ mobile home. At the current state it can hold 12,000lbs or more. In the photo there are only one set of wheels, so it appears to have only one axel. Also the price really has nothing to do with durability or strength. It is only based on the sellers value of the object.


      donna - March 25, 2012 Reply

      RIGHT ON girlfriend…do not let anyone, or anything, get in YOUR WAY!! You’ve obviously done your homework & are wayyy, way ahead of the norm…I think you are remarkable in every way. All the BEST to you-cannot wait to see how your tiny home develops. WHAT a life achievement, and you’re soooo young!! Big hugs to you!

Annie Blair - March 20, 2012 Reply


My daughter was “Unschooled” She too graduated with a 4.0 when she finished high school and first two years of college.

I do agree that you may to reconsider the trailer issue. There is a lot of good info out there to help you re-plan that stage more accurately.


Annie Blair - March 20, 2012 Reply

Also, PLEASE be careful about the old stoves. Not only is proper ventilation and installation an issue, but fires are a possibility.

There is also some good reading on Ethan Waldeman’s site about proper fire egress.


Annie Blair - March 20, 2012 Reply

Hey Celina-

In light of this article, I just posted a piece on my own blog about fire safety which could help you out: http://www.tinyhousewisdom.com.

alice h - March 20, 2012 Reply

Another inspiration for my granddaughter, yay! I keep picturing a “women tiny house builders” calendar for some reason. Proceeds to help the builders of course, and maybe start some kind of grant for future tiny house builders or maybe fund a tool and info lending library. If the house is bigger than regular road legal sizing it shouldn’t be a problem if the house is only moved occasionally. Others have done it with a fairly simple permit. If you move it once a year or less it shouldn’t be that big a deal.

Sondra Rose - March 20, 2012 Reply

I am thrilled about your project!

Have great memories of taking dance classes from you and your sister (oh, yeah–and your DAD!) in Port Townsend.

Have fun!

Abel Zimmerman Zyl - March 20, 2012 Reply

Whoa guys, lets give Celina some credit for her design choices. Remember, a million ways to skin a cat? I built my first tiny home on an old rv frame with one third the steel (and capacity) of hers. It is doing fine! And a 20’er too!

Kera - Dreadnaught Darling - March 20, 2012 Reply

Go Abel! I agree! Give the girl some props!

Celina, I am so proud of you for having the desire and drive to do this. What an awesome way to get started in the world! I’m ecstatic for you and it certainly sounds like you have done your research!

I am excited to see your progress and I wish you all the best luck! Your design is lovely! Keep us posted!


Mike - March 21, 2012 Reply

You GO Celina! You are going to be so happy in that wonderful little house.

Keep us informed on how you’re coming along.

Celina - March 21, 2012 Reply

Thanks to everyone who is giving support or concerns, it means a lot to me. : D

But I can assure you I have done my research, and am working with skilled people in this realm. It is extremely important to me that my house is safe and legal, so I will do my best to make it this way.

I would love to respond to all of you, but I have just barely started building! So I am off to paint the chassis!

Many thanks Celina

    Annie Blair - March 22, 2012 Reply

    Dear Celina-

    I am very sorry if I did not express that correctly. I am a mom type who adopts everyone near my dtr’s age, (just ask my co-workers, LOL). I thought I WAS giving you props! I am very proud of you for doing this and am glad you are in our “tiny” community. I just got to thinking about how I would feel if it was my own daughter who was building and what would concern me. I apologize if I got carried away!

    Again, PROPS to you, dear!

    Annie Blair

Liz - March 24, 2012 Reply

Celina, you’re under no obligation to answer to any of these people. If you were a boy, they’d just assume you knew what you were doing. As you get older, you realize (and maybe you already have!) that wasting time on that sort of thing is unnecessary.

Aldene - March 24, 2012 Reply

Great stuff! But get that diploma, kiddo, one way or another. My father didn’t get his, and it followed him all his life.

SHEILA - March 24, 2012 Reply

I so admire youth! I am 66 years young; ready to retire. I have been looking at these Tiny Houses for 2 years; wishing I could have one to retire too; however, I don’t see any on the East Coast to visit. Keep living your journey.

Marvin - March 24, 2012 Reply

Congratulations on your project, it looks like an excellent design from the drawing. One of the wonderful things about owner design / build projects is how they can be made to fit the owners wants, needs and desires. All the little details make a difference in helping define a space that is truly yours. The term, made to measure really does seem to fit such a home. Here’s wishing you are the best and much success as you complete it.

deborah - March 24, 2012 Reply

Love the design and like the “width”. To me, 8′ is just too tiny to be comfortable full time. The roof was a wise decision. Plenty of room this way. I love your dream of a farm some day. As a farmer, myself, I can understand this goal you have set. It’s a very satisfying lifestyle. Hard work never felt so good!

I unschooled our son who was considered “highly gifted” but not enough challenge at his P.S. Best move I ever made for him. He did receive a H.S. diploma through his umbrella parochial school which is necessary in this world today. At stb 26, he owns his own business and is happy and fullfilled. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kudo’s to you, darlin’…will be following your progress with much excitement for you! deborah/AL

Anne Hodge - March 24, 2012 Reply

Dang, I wish my kids were like you! Where did I go wrong? Good Luck and happy tiny house living! You Go Girl!

Chelle - March 24, 2012 Reply

Great plans and great initiative! I’m so excited for you! I’ll be checking your site to see how it turns out. Thank you for re-using and recycling your building materials!!!! I adore that cast-iron stove.

God bless!


Ben - March 24, 2012 Reply

I love it. That is the dream. Own your house. Farm your land. Keep it simple. Keep it pure. Good luck!

Joe - March 24, 2012 Reply

Used to be a high school education was considered an accomplishment. Now it seems a bachelor’s degree is becoming the minimum for entry level. We have created an educational system that is a silo with only one path and one outcome.
When virtually everyone gets a bachelors we will still need carpenters, mechanics, electrians, plumbers and even custodians and grave diggers.
Hopefully Celina will inspire others to take control of their education and not be pigeonholed. While Celina is obviously gifted, children do not have to be to follow her model. We need to feed young peoples’ strengths/passions. Other nations do so in their educational systems and they improve their weaknesses and outscore our children on standardized tests because we do not insist they can only advance if they improve their weaknesses first.
To turn a phrase we suck the learning out of life. When the fun and curiosity is lost so is the artistry and creativity.
As she goes through life I hope Celina continues to understand her inspiration and promotes that model for learning and inspires others to follow a path of independence from a system that wants our dependence for it own benefit.
Celina, I applaud you for showing others a way to be a contributor rather than a serf.

Pepper Clark - March 24, 2012 Reply

Bravo Celina, completely inspiring! Props to you Joe for that insight, I’ve spoken similar words many times. It’s a real pathology in our culture that only college educated white collar professionals are generally considered ‘successful’. For my two cents, I ‘unschooled’ myself and took a one hour equivalency exam that allowed me to enter college (to take classes on topics that were meaningful and relevant to ME) and I have never once had the question come up as an issue. I’ve worked in the corporate world (not the place for me), run businesses, tried different things. Now I feel like I’m in a stage of my life where everything I’ve studied and read has all come together perfectly. I have a business building tiny houses, I’m teaching my first ever workshop for Tumbleweed this weekend, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I guarantee you no one at the workshop would tell you I come across as ‘uneducated’. Ultimately you’ll be judged by yourself and others based on the outcome of your efforts not the lack of alphabet soup after your name.

Harry Symonds - March 25, 2012 Reply

I have 3 very independent daughters and a grand daughter. lots of girls in the family. I commend you for following your dream. Believe me what you are doing now will serve you in ways you could not imagine for the future. Independence, creativity, seeing beyond the “rust” to see what is really valuable and making something out of it. I see a very bright future for you. Please keep us “old folks” posted on your progress and take care. With your permission, I would like to use your story for a future blog on my website. Hopefully you will look at the links I have for straw bale homes and the water filters for your future tiny home as well. Again congratulations- HS

    Celina - March 25, 2012 Reply

    Permission is granted! I will check out the links, many thanks.

    : D

Harry Symonds - March 25, 2012 Reply

Hi Celina,

You said you were “unlearning” your self after 3 semesters of High School. Back in the dark ages ๐Ÿ˜‰ when I was in school, metal, wood and auto shop were real options for those of us who were not sure about college. Today, those options are rarely available to high school students and that is a shame because those skills are now in demand. My generation, those who chose the hands on alternatives are all now baby boomers looking at retirement.

Question, do you plan to go back to school at a future date? You are obviously a very bright young lady. However IMHO, not completing High School and college in this economy will definitely hurt in the long run.

Best Regards


Annie Blair - March 26, 2012 Reply

Unschooling is not eschewing a diploma!

Unschooling is legit way to EARN one. Unschooling focuses on projects and interests to guide all of the disciplines and to keep the student inspired. It is passion as opposed to drudgery. Two of Harvard’s brightest entrants were brothers raised CA building and working UNSCHOOLING on their parents farm.

Blessings and good luck on your project.


Glen Wither - March 26, 2012 Reply

Great project and a wonderful learning experience! I used Alexander’s book to help others conceive their homes, and help guide my wife and I as well. You are breaking the mould by going with the greater width, to good advantage. Whereas, most folks look for ease of moving the cabin; yours will be more spacious, and you can easily find the right truck to haul it when you do decide to relocate. Good thinking! I’d like to see your progress pics, too. Enjoy the journey!


KARI - April 9, 2012 Reply

What an inspiration you are…..you will go very far in life and be so happy in all you do. You are a truly exceptional young lady….


Craig - April 10, 2012 Reply

You go girl, I am impressed, you made my day. Your parents must be very proud.

From the home front: Celina Dill’s tiny home project; off-grid Land Buddy; Small Cool Contest; zoning petition | WorldFlashNews.com - April 10, 2012 Reply

[…] out Tiny House Blog’s story, or the South Whidbey Record’s story, or visit Dill’s site (she calls herself Celina […]

psiberzerker - April 18, 2012 Reply

I like the design, very structurally efficient (For Volume/Materials ratio.) This should make it fairly light, and strong for the materials used. Might want to look into some lighter appliances, though, of those are on the same (Kitchen) side, you might have balance issues going down the road. Excellent work!

fairywhiz - May 2, 2012 Reply

Oh my goodness I couldn’t stop laughing as I was reading this because I’m trying to do the same thing! I felt like I had a twilight zone moment even.

I wish you the best of luck Celina!

I hope I have as much luck with progress as you are.

Callene - July 2, 2012 Reply

I have been wanting to do another tiny cottage for years.My mom owns land in Alabama,but she is having some issues.So,not sure if I should finish the Itty House on her property or wait to build when I get my own land in a couple years.Opions very welcome.If I made it on her property and used an exisiting shed,it would be cheaper.And I am guessing easier.But could run the risk of losing it.Unless I moved it.But that would be expensive.I have several items saved.This is my list:large wood stove,several black shutters,several salvaged windows,two 3/4 inch plywood,a few 2×4,kitchen sink,regular sized tub,chandiler,air conditioner,small water heater,propane cooktop,an old wooden gun box(for cupboard),bricks,a few ceramic tiles,an old cabinet with metal top,wooden box seat(opens for storage and is very deep),propane tank to trade in and a cabinet that I added cup hooks to and use for dishes.It was a desk with removable shelf top.Should I trade the large wood stove for a smaller one?Advice,please.

Callene - July 2, 2012 Reply

You are very much an inspiration.Can’t wait for the finished product.Please add inside photos.I hope my youngest daughter is as driven as you.Good luck in all you do and God bless.

Cookie Bowman - July 24, 2012 Reply

What a great idea, Its nice to see a young female being so adventurous. I thought you’d like to know that when you plan on moving your new home around on public roads you will need oversize vehicle permits as your home is over width and height. By what I can see in the plans you have a very keen eye for design and I look forward to see more from you.
Keep up the great work.

gene - July 31, 2012 Reply

I assume since you put it on wheels you intend to be able to move it! But the max height on American roadways without an oversize permit and escort is 13’6″ max.

Janne - August 25, 2012 Reply

This idea is rolling around in our heads, and since we are empty nesters and simple, country people, this idea is well, ideal, for us. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the inspiration. Now, to decide where to put our little mini-mansion. ๐Ÿ˜€

Darlene Bruehl - September 9, 2012 Reply

My husband and I are two years away from living in a “micro mansion” that we plan to build ourselves. We are currently living in a custom log home we built 22 years ago.
I am journaling the “downsizing” process and I need to find a way to connect. The newsletter sounds ideal!
I am searching for exterior finishes that are extremely durable and lightweight, as we do intend to move it to project sites, after we retire…but for the first two years will be mostly in one spot.

georgie - November 30, 2012 Reply

you are incredible! you are such an inspiration for me, i want so much to be doing the same as you have done!
keep on living your life your own way like you are!

John - December 22, 2012 Reply

Ever since that I had seen the story on MSN, I had been searching the web for different resources here in Canada. Plenty around.
Your story has really peaked my interest, and, I would like to hear of any follow-ups on your progress.
Keep up the good work!! Enjoy your premises upon completion.

Dave Duff - January 18, 2013 Reply

Please be sure to have good CO, gas and smoke detectors. Critical with all those appliance that involve flames, in a small tightly weatherized space she’ll be sleeping in.

Having said that; You Go Girl!

Wendy - July 9, 2013 Reply

You left us all in the middle of the story. Is it finished? Did you run out of money? Curious minds want to know.

shawn Woolley - July 21, 2013 Reply

congrats girl what your doing is amazing and will give you a life of peace over so many others. It wasn’t until I wasin my 50’s that I decided it was insane and bailed on the outdated dream. Sold a 4200 square foot home and libe in ia 1400 square foot cabin now complete with my art studio and everything I need. Sold a high end sports car and a range rover and drive a small toyota truck and have never been happier.

Live Well

Oleta Swolley - November 16, 2013 Reply

I really love your work ethic! The best part of all this is you are a self-starter, which will serve you well all your life. We were homeschoolers for 20+ years and I have a bunch of smart, independent adults with kids of their own now. Starting your life this way is amazing and honestly, I am all about the girls who know how to “do for themselves”. No “Barbie” approach to life for you..YAY! Excellent ideas, smart planning.. Applause applause!

Michael - March 27, 2016 Reply

Did you ever finish it?

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