Mark Heffernan contacted me a while back to share his tiny house project. I’m going to turn it over to Mark to explain his plan.
A few years back, a friend of mine turned me on to Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, designed by Jay Shafer, and I fell in love with the idea of living small. I have always been drawn to the idea of low-impact living, having a lighter ecological footprint. I also think there is a fundamental appeal to a small, cozy living space, sort of a human nesting impulse that we lost from a childhood when we were happy to camp out all day in a cardboard box under the kitchen table.
For the past couple years, I have been turning design ideas over in my mind, and over time a design has emerged that I would like to build; I just needed the opportunity to build it.
I recently returned to the realm of higher education to finish my bachelor’s degree after a dozen years of enrollment in the school of life. My education at SUNY Empire State College, it turns out, has become a platform on which I can build my tiny house. My curriculum, an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts in the area of Sustainable Residential Design, is built around lessons derived from and contributing to the design and building of a tiny, energy efficient house. I build my house, and get a degree! Sounds good to me.
I have tried to keep certain principles in mind while designing. I’ve always admired Japanese architecture, and the idea of convertible space: a single room can function as dining room, living room, bedroom, etc. I have attempted to design a space with multiple overlapping functions. For example, the dining room table folds away or turns into a lounge/sleeping area, and the loft overhead is removable.
Another design goal is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” Everything in its place is easy; the tough part is making a place for everything. I think that this is a key principle to have a clean, uncluttered interior.
I am also considering the sustainability of the project as I go along. Wherever possible, I am considering reclaimed materials, and trying to make choices for maximum energy-efficiency and energy independence. My design will certainly not be the end-all-be-all of sustainable design, but more like a design laboratory with experiments that occasionally blow up in my face or create a bad smell in the room…
Design is hard: everything is a decision, and every decision impacts every other decision. Certain decisions, once I’ve made them, have become commitments. I am trying to retain flexibility in the design process wherever I can; I’m sure that once I am standing in the physical space of my house, I will have ideas that I didn’t have before, and scrap some of my past decisions.
I am looking forward to the process of building my design, and all the lessons that I will learn from it. I’m sure that there will be some head-slapping moments: “Why didn’t I think of THAT before???” But as my ideas become physically manifest, every experience will be a learning experience. And at the end of it, I’ll have myself a little home!
Follow Mark’s build at his blog CubitConstruction.