Sunday, September 17, 2017

Simple Things -- Tiny House Time ?

We call one of the outbuildings at our place 'The Studio". I bought it from Weather King just before we moved here from California so that Ms. Ché to use as a writing retreat. It's not as if there is no space in the house; there's plenty, and surprisingly (or not) the room she uses now is about the same size as "The Studio" -- 8 X 11 (room) vs 8 X 12 (studio).

Of course "The Studio" has never been used as such. My intent was to finish the interior over a year or so, but that never happened for one reason or another, and the building quickly filled up with items we had no room for or need for in the house. Extra chairs, the many, many stuffed animals Ms. Ché has collected over the years, a couple of French Art Deco tables we'd used as for desks in California, picture frames and paintings, etc., some of her mother's things. Lots of stuff -- some of which still is useful, a good deal of which probably needs to find a new home.

I've been thinking about finishing the structure lately, though -- now that I'm able to get around better and do things once again -- finishing it as more of a Tiny House than strictly as a studio/retreat. Thus, multi-use rather than singular.

I've been intrigued by tiny houses for a long time, but I didn't really think of an 8 X 12 structure as large enough. We had a travel trailer that was 8 X 21, and it seemed cramped as heck. A building that was barely more than half that length surely couldn't serve as a "house" could it?

Some friends from the Navajo Nation came to visit one day. One had been to Standing Rock where any number of tiny houses had been built to house the demonstrators. She saw "The Studio" and said, "Oh look, a tiny house!"

And I thought, "Why not?"

Why not indeed?

I've looked into some of the 8X12 tiny house designs at Tiny House Talk, and most of them are unsatisfactory for one reason or another. If they have a bathroom, too much space is dedicated to it, sometimes almost half the floor space. Ridiculous. Kitchens tend to be either inadequate or overproduced and too large. Lounge areas tend to be poorly thought out. Sleeping is almost always in a loft, and a lot of people don't like lofts, they can't climb ladders, they're claustrophobic, and they dread the heat trap so many tiny house lofts become.

But here's one 8x12 tiny house without a loft, with a bathroom and kitchen, that has inspired more than a little interest and controversy:

"The Studio" is quite different. It has two 4X8 lofts with 4' ceilings that could accommodate mattresses though I'm not convinced that would be the best solution to the question of where to sleep.

The Studio

No, properly designed, there's plenty of room on the ground floor of The Studio for a sofa type seating area that can double as a single bed, one of the French Deco tables can be used as a desk, there's room for a chair -- even two -- and  a bookcase (for example the one I've had since I was a child would fit at the end of the sofa-bed.) The other Deco table could serve in a kitchenette as a countertop on which a few appliances -- coffee maker, toaster oven, maybe even a tiny refrigerator -- perch. A tiny bathroom can be put in a corner. A ladder and bridge can make the lofts accessible and usable for something if only for storage.

Cost was a major issue with the Nugget 8x12 tiny house referenced above. As delivered, the Nugget was priced at $36,000 which seems absurd, but it was what the client was willing to pay for a transportable off-grid capable tiny house. So long as people are willing to pay so much -- and some will eagerly pay even more -- for their tiny house, so long will such places be built and sold.

As I said, I've been intrigued with the concept of tiny housing for years, and when the movement started up in earnest more than a decade ago, the idea seemed to be finding ways to provide alternative affordable temporary and/or permanent housing for those who can or want to "downsize" from the ever-larger suburban house that has become standard in the US.

Prices for custom built tiny houses have increased exponentially as buyers desire and will pay for ever more costly features and architects become ever more skilled at designing extraordinarily clever contemporary "small spaces."

It's not uncommon to see custom built tiny houses priced at $70,000 to well over $100,000. Somewhere along the line, the point of the movement was apparently lost in pursuit of profit.

Class issues enter into it as well. The more you pay for your tiny house, the higher your status, no? The more it resembles a high concept contemporary suburban house or a Victorian cottage, the better, yes? There's more than a little element of showing off among some of the adherents of the tiny house movement. "Look what I've got -- and you don't!!" Oh well, if that's what's important to you, go for it. Please.

I paid a little over $2,000 for The Studio in 2012. That included delivery and set up on our property. Of course it's not on a trailer. In fact, it's placed on pressure treated 8X8s placed directly on the ground and shimmed to level. To get it from the delivery truck to its current location, a set of temporary wheels was placed on one end and a motorized mover on the other and it was easily transported to its set up location. It didn't even take half an hour to get it from the truck to set up, leveled and ready at the opposite end of the property.

The Studio isn't insulated -- it's just a shell -- nor are there any windows in the lofts or anywhere other than the front. There are ventilators in the lofts, but they're so small they don't really ventilate all that well. When the windows are open, though, the lower part of The Studio remains comfortable except in the hottest weather. We haven't checked it out when the weather is cold, however.

There's much to think about, much to do.

[to be continued]

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