Official living room!

So, first things first: the houselet and I are moving at the end of the month! I got a (very awesome) job ~500 miles away, and so the Tiny House is about to show off the biggest benefit of Tiny House-ing: it is portable, and can come with me when I go places. So now I have shifted from ‘make everything perfect’ mode to ‘get things workable’ mode, since time is getting limited.  My new priorities are 1) make sure I have enough places to put things (namely bookshelves and closet space) and 2) make sure that things are workable for the pets.  If that means I have to take off with the trim still half-painted, well, so be it (though I REALLY REALLY need to finish that.) Anyway, here’s the current state of things!

The thing that is kind of amazing is that everything is mostly done, so the stuff I am doing now is basically about convenience, aesthetics, or both. I know! Doesn’t it seem like we were just trying to build a roof yesterday? Anyway, my major project of the week has been building in stuff that is supposed to store other stuff. The first thing was to get those bookshelves I made last week up and working. First thing I did was paint them all the same white as the walls, using a spare sample can of flat paint that I had around (because even though I knew I needed to paint them with a semi-gloss, I just could not bring myself to buy more paint). I painted them, started putting them up and lo and behold, they immediately started looking smudgy and dingy and terrible. So now that they’re (mostly) up, I am beginning to slowly repaint them in place with a semi-gloss. Live and learn: I was feeling a little desperate when I painted them initially. But just FYI, in the pictures, the paint looks weird: it’s getting better.

Remember, these are designed to be half catwalk, half bookshelves. Over here is the most cat-friendly section (hence the cat bed I was trying out when I took the picture). After I got the bookshelves in,  I put an extendable Stolmen post from Ikea behind the shelves and wrapped it in sisal rope. That way, the cats will be able to both scratch it and use it to climb up and access the bookshelves. The bookshelves run all around the room everywhere else, but they look a little less jangly and more streamlined: in this corner, they’re designed partially as cat stairs.


With the post up:

I also glued a little bit of carpet runner to the top of the shelves: you can’t see it from below, but it’ll give the catzors something to grip onto so they don’t plummet.

I’m going to build a small thin open shelf between these two box shelves, just for symmetry’s sake.

Next: bedroom closet. The closet was facilitated by the fact that I bought a ridiculously huge amount of wire shelving from a dude on craigslist this weekend. It is significantly more than I need or can use in the house, but the whole lot was about as much as it would have cost me to buy two small shelves, so I figured I’d just get the whole shebang and then just cut whatever I needed to size and give the rest to my mom. Protip: if you ever get wire shelving (of the Closetmaid/Rubbermaid variety, it’s super easy to cut to size with bolt cutters, which you can usually rent from the hardware store for cheap).

My initial idea for the layout of loft was this (note: WILDLY not to scale)
bedroom 1

That would have been very neat and pretty, except way too late, I got a measuring tape up there and realized that oops! If I laid it out this way, the bed would actually be covering the opening for the stairs, as it was quite a lot longer than I’d been thinking. So then I started thinking about this:
bedroom 2

This seemed OK as well, though I don’t love having beds up against a wall and this eliminated the possibility of nightstands. But then, again, I measured, and because see above (wildly not to scale), I realized that if I did it this way, the closet would have been like 22 inches long. I am not particularly a clotheshorse, but I had to admit that that seemed really small for a solo clothes storage space. So then I started thinking about this:
bedroom 3

The perk of this was that it allowed me 8 feet of closet space (short closet space, but still!). The downside, of course, was that since I was not going to be able to build in any kind of wall or door, my bed was just going to be kind of floating there in the middle of the room without a headboard or anything to keep all the pillows from disappearing in the middle of the night. I kind of bounced this around in my head for a few days and tried to come up with some DIY solutions, and then I finally just decided that I was tired of thinking about it: my new plan is just float the bed and deal with it until I get really rich and can afford a Case Study bed. Problem solved! (I mean, in the future. When I am really rich.)

In the meantime, I built myself a closet! It does not look like much right now, but look at this and then I will tell you my Grand Plan.


It’s utilitarian, and please ignore the part where I started to spray paint everything aluminum and then ran out of spray paint, and the other part where I had to awkwardly join two shelves together at the end (a new support is going there tomorrow.) Upper shelf: camping gear, spare sheets, boxes for out of season clothes. Short shelves on far left: shoes. On the short wall perpendicular to the short shelves: hanging shoe bag that I’m going to use for scarves and stuff (forthcoming). On the short wall perpendicular to the right side: pegboard for jewelry and the like. Bar below long shelf: all hanging clothes. Between that and the little dresser my mom made me, I think I’m all set.

Now: the Grand Plan. I had a pretty clear idea for how I wanted stuff downstairs to look, but I was a lot less clear about the design for the loft, mostly because it was hard to really visualize it without furniture, and the short ceiling throws me a bit. But when I was walking around Lowe’s trying to think through a way to cover up the not-that-pretty closet, I happened by some canvas dropcloths, and then it hit me:

The Ace Hotel.

Back when I was living in Los Angeles, I took a couple of short vacations to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. The Ace is this great hotel that was converted from an old 50s Howard Johnsons: it is just a fantastic example of midcentury hotel design (very The Future!-looking), and the conversion is about half modernist, half minimalst and a little rustic. Record players and National Geographics from the 40s in the bedrooms, lots of canvas and kilim rugs and raw-edge wood, vintage photos held to the wall with binder clips, big beehive fireplace and knockoff Bertoia chairs on the patios. It is definitely not a look that appeals to everyone, but I really love it. Here’s an example:

So I was in Lowe’s, looking at these drop cloths, and then the following things occurred to me in quick succession:
1) Run a nice ceiling mounted curtain rod all the way across the room in front of the closet: hem the edge of a canvas dropcloth and attach it to the curtain rod so it covers the closet.
2) Put thin white slats around the edge of the far left wall (if you’re looking at the back of the loft)
3) Possibly extend slats out perpendicularly from the wall right in front of the left side of the closet: make this into a headboard
4) Get a cool kilim rug on ebay
5) Possibly make a huge stuffed headboard out of, say, foam and old fire tarp like they had at Ace. Mount it [somehow!]
6) Put up these lights
that I made for the guest room at my old apartment. Man, I loved that apartment.
7) Attach hairpin legs to the old filing drawers I found at the Habitat store, make them into nightstands.
8) Something with burlap, something probably with the old mounted ram’s horn I have, some kind of cool old clock.

For now, I have a canvas drop cloth, no way to mount it, and some wire shelves. I think I have an actual feel for the space now, though, so we’ll see!

More stuff (quickly):
Dear fridge: You are in! Marry me! [please ignore all the stuff on the counter; I was painting]

This is what I did with the stair cubbies. For now, at least

This is the upper cabinet on the right of the microwave (the one on the left is Bar Cabinet). The left side of this cabinet (with no door) is going to have cookbooks in it: the right side (with the door) is going to have glasses in it. The door is partially there to protect glasses from cats: however, in a fit of Crafty!, I realized that with a little chalkboard paint, the front of the door could be a chalkboard for writing notes, etc.

…and on the inside, it could be a corkboard! (cork tiles from Target, cut to size.)

I actually got super into the chalkboard idea and ended up painting the inside of the doors on the lower cabinets with chalkboard paint too (these are the cabinet doors that my mom is painting the dandelions on.) My thought is that I can write a list of what pots/pans are in which cabinet on the chalkboards, so if I’m hunting for, say, my wok, I can just check and see which cabinet it’s in rather than digging around and displacing all the other pots and pans. And I can write myself a note reminding myself of when trash day is on the trash cabinet. Brilliant! No pictures of these yet, but I’ll get some when they’re actually done.

Grouted the backsplash tiles. Grouting, fyi, is terrifying, and you’re sure you’ve destroyed all the cool tiles you put in, and then you wipe it all off and it’s magically done!

Contemplated buying a kit to make a tip out drawer under the sink (formerly a fake, looks-like-a-drawer-but-isn’t, attached panel). Decided not to spend the forty bucks for the kit, DIYed my own. I just detached the fake-drawer panel, put a hinge along the bottom of it, put a little magnet clasp in the center and attached some small lengths of chain to each side to stop it from opening up completely. I’m going to get a couple of cheap plastic suction cup sponge holders and screw them into the back of the fake-drawer panel on the left and right sides to hold sponges and scrubbies and stuff. Total cost: about eight bucks.



In the full upright and locked position

Cleaned the egg chair within an inch of its life, using soapy water and Murphy’s oil, and then went over the whole thing with some Howard’s Feed & Wax. Shiny!

Then I got some of the Dwell Studios fabric I got for six bucks at Goodwill and handsewed a little envelope-back pillow case for a $1 floor pillow that happened to fit Eggy really well. I am the worst sewer in the known universe, but even I can sew a square. I am really pleased with how it turned out!

I made a cushion for the fauxlarium bench out of three-inch foam and am going to make a cover for it out of the same fabric (though I may need an assist from my mom, who can use an actual sewing machine.) And then, maybe a table runner? Some placemats? Napkins? All I know is that I want to use every damn bit of that fabric for something, because I loooooove it.

And while I was handsewing, I also cut up an old shower curtain (a buck, thrifted, and waterproof!) and used it to cover another floor pillow (another buck, thrifted) to make a nicer dog bed then the ones I’ve currently got. Since the shower curtain had grommets in it, I think I’m going to get some actual closures and have the grommets be makeshift button holes; that’s why it’s flapping open like that. I’m currently hunting for more cheapy floor pillows so each of the dogs can have their own New! Bed!, since I have lots o’ shower curtain left over.

Anyway, here’s the current incarnation of the living room, which I am PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT.

It needs a nice plant, and books on the bookshelves, and some art on the walls, and for the fireplace to go in (wall next to the couch) and I need to paint the damn baseboards, and I just threw those throw pillows on the fauxlarium bench to put something there (my actual seat cushion isn’t done being covered yet), but still, pretty good, right?

From loft, with Lucyfeet. I got those folding chairs from the music department at Dalhousie (they were getting rid of them.) The metal backs are stamped with the words MUSIC DEPT, and I love them. I wish I could figure out how to pop the bases off so I could recover them (they are currently off-white dingy vinyl.)  That ottoman came from the awesome thrift store, is covered in something that looks suspiciously like crocodile, and has a tag on it dating it to 1923. Awesome!

With three sleepy dogs who would like me to bring their beds down to the house please:

The fauxlarium is an excellent place for the dogs to stand and yell at invisible dragons.



I have spent the last two days Cabineting over at the houselet, and progress has been made!

1) Those upper cabinets

OK, these have been an absolute PITA to deal with, but the good news is that they seem to be turning out as I’d hoped! So that thing where I said that one should probably use a deglosser and sand melamine cabinets before painting them? Holy crap, yes, learn from my mistakes, you guys. This is what they looked like after a coat of primer and two coats of my super hard-core enamel paint:



The worst! See how the paint is pulling away from the melamine? Melamine does not want to be painted! This next picture is after FIVE coats of paint. Five! And they still need touching up, especially on the bottom! But I am feeling much better about the way they’re looking. I do think they’re retreating into the wall a little bit and I think the beams pop nicely next to them (or maybe I just have Stockholm Syndrome)


And then, just because I was feeling impatient, I decided to hang some stuff to help turn the leftmost upper cabinet into a bar (which is part of my ten step plan to actually like the upper cabs).
First: a wine rack that’ll hold four bottles of wine on the side of the cabinet (just to announce myself if I move to Utah: you’ll walk in the door, look to the right, and Thar Be Wine!)
And here’s everything from the side:

Second, a little rack to hang my wine glasses under the cabinet: the glasses will go in by their stems and hang upside down.

2) Hanging weird Ikea raily-things

So I bought one of these dealies with the intent to hang my dish drainer on it over the sink. It turned out to be a little long for the space, so I just decided to hang it over the stove instead.

I still needed a rail for the dish drainer, so I decided to do my favorite thing ever and build one out of plumbing parts (I know this look is not for everyone, but I looooove the kind of industrial nature of using plumbing parts. I built a bed out of plumbing pipe in my old place, and it was one of my favorite things ever.)

With dish drainer, which will drain right into the sink!

And the awesome part about the dish drainer is it folds up to get out of the way. God bless Ikea.

(see also the cutting board that fits snugly on top of the bowl of the sink, giving me an extra chopping surface).

Then I built a toilet paper roll holder out of pipe fittings too, just because

3) Lower cabinets

So I spent a long time staring at various incarnations of gray and green paint swatches on the cabinets

….and decided that staining them gray was the way to go. I took all the doors off and haven’t stained the drawer fronts yet, because I think I am going to steal this idea whole cloth and dandelion up the front of the cabs and drawers. I have to track down a stencil before I do that, though, so they remain unstained for the moment.

(this is the first coat of stain, so forgive the blotchy bits)

There’s a slight blue undertone in the gray (which is a pretty dark charcoal color otherwise), and I am liking that with the blue-gray bathroom ceiling and the blue door (and eventually, the dark blue couch). It’s a little more pronounced here because of the light: 90% of the time it doesn’t look like that.

4) Stair cubbies!

Jeff built them and put them in! Total surprise! I love them. They open from the sink side, and as soon as I can cut some holes in the stair risers, they’ll open from the stair side as well.

5) Faux-larium bench

For the dark tung oil fans: this will probably have a cushion on it, and I am probably going to build out the front a bit for another shelf and extend the top, but for now, I figured it would look pretty oiled. This is with two coats: I’m slowly building it up so it’ll eventually be as dark as the beams.


6) Folding table
This is the Norbo folding table, another Ikea special: you’ll see it in a lot of tiny houses, and I initially flirted with trying out something else for that reason, but after going to Ikea and poking around, I decided that it’s probably a classic for a reason and picked it up. I’m glad I did: it juts out just the right amount, which means you can fit a small crowd around it (OK, three!) but it also doesn’t feel like it takes up all the floor space in the living room. And when it folds down, it’s only a couple of inches out of the wall and so it feels like it pretty much disappears. Good job, table!

And finally: three dogs in a houselet! Lucy is much happier to be down hanging out at the build site now that there are, you know, walls.

Build: Day 19

I have to admit that a lot of the actual building today was done by Jeff: I came down late in the day and pounded some nails into some pre-cut wallboards, but I spent most of the day out playing hunter-gatherer.

Biggest news: Interior wallboard is all up! It looks unfinished, since there is no molding on the floor, filler between the sheets of ply or quarter round at the seams, but it is U-P-up! I can now officially say that the house has walls, which is always the first question I am asked by jovial senior citizens. Here’s proof!


Here’s the view from the loft.

Also, the shower is all the way up now. I may just have to accept that the layout of the bathroom means I will never get a good picture of the shower. Just use your imagination, though: it is a shower enclosure, and an especially boring one at that. Right now it is being used as extra insulation/sink storage.

The fauxlarium is looking good now that it’s insulated and has walls! Now that that’s happened, I need to figure out precisely what I’m going to do with it. Drawers? Bookshelf? Cute window seat? Some combination of those things? Here’s Nellie standing in it, to give you a sense of the dimensions (though if I do bookshelves or something it’ll obviously be built out a bit.

Here’s the exterior of the house + the super-blue sky today. The chile ristra is a present from my mom: it’s too early to be in the ‘decorate the exterior of the house’ stage, but I loved it so much I wanted it to be in its place of honor (though I will be replacing the random offset nail I hammered in with an Actual Hook at some point soon.)

So that’s what happened while I was gone. When I got to the site today, I swept up a ton of sawdust (learning in the process that I need a different set of tools for sweeping the loft, since the big broom is too tall), pounded in some wallboard, and played around in the house with the dogs.

The dogs are pro-houselet.

Gratuitous Widget picture.

For those of you who know my dogs and are wondering where Lucy is, I will tell you: she’s been down a few times, but the build site is located next to a major highway, and big loud trucks give her the vapors. She’s an anxious kiddo, and the build site is just too much for her right now (she also hates the generator), so I usually just bring Nellie and/or Widget along with me. She just started Prozac a few weeks ago, though, so I have high hopes she’ll be able to manage it before we actually move the houselet to its new home.

Now, onto the day’s hunter-gathering:
1) I bought me a water heater, my water heater pleased me, I fed my water heater under yonder tree (the water heater says fiddle-eye-fee). It’s going to be mounted under the main sink in the kitchen (we hope)

2) I went back to the floor remnants store and bought the flooring for the loft. They ended up selling the bamboo I was hoping for to the original builder, so I bought the cheap laminate instead. I know the laminate was controversial in the last poll and I don’t disagree: it looks OK, but I feel very dubious about its longterm potential. What really pushed me over the edge with it was that they sold it to me for fifty cents a foot, for a total of $53. That makes the grand total for flooring the entire house $237.66 ($60 for the random lot of bamboo at Gerson’s [4 boxes], $88.66 for two more boxes of the same bamboo from Home Depot that I needed to finish out the main floor [that’s all I bought full price], $36 for the awesome hippie fiberfloor from the remnants place, $53 for the loft laminate). Considering that I’m flooring right around 300 sq ft, that is pretty darn good: if I’d gotten the cheapest stuff that I was looking at at Lumber Liquidators ($2.99/ft.2), it would have cost more than three times that much to do the whole house (let’s not even discuss what it would have been from a full-price, non-Lumber Liquidators source!) I’m getting a little closer than I’d like to the edge of my 18K initial budget (my stretch budget is 20K, and I think we’ll make that comfortably, but still), so I was OK going with the less spendy option.

This is the Tiny House Corner in my sainted mother’s garage. You can see all three floors in it: the fiberfloor is the roll, the bamboo is the first six boxes in the stack, and the top four are laminate. Behind all that is my craigslist convection microwave, my free mini-fridge that I’m going to turn into a tiny freezer and a bunch of my Ikea stuff.

The pile of scrapwood to the left is the beginning of a potentially crazy project. I’ve been thinking about porches lately: after considering it a bit, I think the fold-up porch idea is not going to fly, since we’re skirting pretty close to the max road legal width (8’6″). I really dig how Chris and Malissa of the Tiny Tack House (one of my favorite Internet Tiny Houses) did their porch: it’s substantial, but you can still bring it in when you need to, and it reminds me a bit of pallets (and I loooooove pallet furniture, though I think actual pallets wouldn’t work for a porch).

Anyway, we have all this scrap wood kicking around and I got the idea that I could stain different pieces different colors and put them all together parquet-style, kind of like a patchwork quilt made of wood. After I got the main deck together, I could edge it with 1x2a, put some little legs on it, then I could duplicate the Tiny Tack House porch’s stairsteppy design. It might not work, but I got some construction adhesive and some stain tonight, so if worse comes to worse, I’m just out eight bucks.

A couple more cool scores, thrift and otherwise:
3) I got three bits of this cool natural stone/glass tile at Gerson’s the other day with the intent of turning it into a small backsplash in the kitchen.

Here’s what I was thinking, using my mom’s sink as an example.

4) Today I went into the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store with an eye out for exterior lights/floor underlay. They didn’t have either of those things, but they did have these for $3 apiece.

They are little library card/index card holders, so the drawers are really deep, good for storage of stuff like utensils. They’ll need some love, primarily in the form of paint, but I can do that (oil rubbed bronze? pewter?) I’m thinking about mounting them under the counter in the kitchen, just to have some nice, waist-high drawers to grab things from. I’m also thinking about buying some hairpin legs, putting them on the bottom of two of the card holders and using them as nightstands. In any case, they are awesome and I was pleased.

5) Besides the ristra from my mom, I got two great little houselet-adjacent presents this week. My mom’s friend Jen (my friend too!) sent me this fabulous little mini grater/microplaner, which is adorable and totally houselet scale.

Also, my Aunt Karen, who’s an incredibly talented and well-known quilter, sent me two tiny quilted squares, complete with tiny easels to display them [PS: the color looks washed out because I had to use a flash, but in person, they’re really beautiful.) I am toying with the idea of making a little mantel for my fireplace out of a little mesquite burl with a live edge, and now that I have some tiny art to display on it, I am even more excited about the idea. I am so happy to have a piece of my aunt’s work to put in the house: stuff like that makes it feel really special and uniquely my own.

Now, onto the most boring possible subject: white paint! As I promised, I did some test patches of different whites on a scrap piece of the wall ply, and exactly as I feared, it is basically impossible to tell one from the other in pictures. See?

In the interest of Science!, I decided to try to gauge what my skin tone looked like next to the different whites, because why not, right? My weird Sicilian/Cherokee skin is olive with, no kidding, a purple-y undertone, which means that a. I can wear jewel tones and b. I always look a little bit sickly, so I decided to try just photographing my thumb next to each white to see which made me look the least Zombie Apocalypse. I also tried it out with clear poly, just for kicks. It’s still kind of hard to say, but I ended up deciding that the Benjamin Moore Atrium White was the way to go, probably not least because I am charmed that the White House is the same color. I also really like the Benjamin Moore White Dove (Atrium’s a little pinker, Dove is a little grayer), so I guess my plan is to show up at the paint store and just buy whatever I feel the best about that morning.
white paints

PS: if you are bored by the idea of all white, you might check out the ProtoHaus, which is maybe my most favorite preexisting tiny house (Tack House: close second). They go all white, but because they have nice colorful possessions, the house doesn’t seem boring or sterile at all. The white actually kind of reigns in any visual chaos, and I think it really makes the space open up: that’s why all white is the way I’m doing it.

Painting is happening….really soon, though I don’t know HOW soon, since I am slated to work for the next five days straight. Possibly tomorrow afternoon? We shall see.

Build: Days Ten & Eleven

Here’s the tiny house update for Wednesday and Friday (Thursday was rainy and cold, so we just did projects in our various garages).
1) Mistakes Were Made: Door Edition
So you guys remember the door I was so excited about?  DISASTER. Here is the process of that, in brief:
a. Buy door that turns out to be an awesome solid(*ish) wood, former schoolhouse door from Gerson’s, the architectural surplus store. For eighty bucks! Yay!
b. Start stripping paint from door, realize that there are at least three layers of old paint on each side. Yay?
c. Spend three evenings standing out in the cold garage hand-stripping paint. Begin feeling a little less yay. Go out and buy really pretty finish restore stuff to make self feel better, imagining how pretty the lovely raw wood door will look.
d. At the very end of the paint stripping process, uncover an enormous pockmarked section that had been filled in with wood fill. Wood fill is pretty solid, but that jettisons plans for beautiful refinished natural wood door. Exxhange finish restore stuff for paint and primer.
e. Sand sand sand sand sand. Attempt to get all old paint off the door; fail. Decide that if I just prime it, it’ll fill in the irregularities, and anyway, will otherwise look rustic.
f. Prime it. Primer does not do any of the things I’d hoped. Say, ‘rustic, rustic, rustic!’ over and over again, talismanically.
g. Paint it. It does not look rustic. It looks like a bad paint job.
h. Paint it again. Still doesn’t look awesome.
i. Jeff comes over while I am at work, looks at door drying on sawhorses, declares it totally unusable, due to some mysterious structural thing that was never fully explained.
j. Stuff door in back of Scion xa, drive it back to Gerson’s, sweet talk the nice people there into letting me return it for store credit.
k. Return door jamb kit to Home Depot, also get store credit.
l. Jeff goes to Lowe’s and buys a meh-looking plastic-y steel door for three hundred bucks. I have a sad. Oh well, I am going to at least paint it something cool.

Unpainted sadness door.

The upside of these door shenanigans is that I now have a house key! To my own house! Which feels kinda momentous, I must say.

2) Paint: The Cold Feet-ening.

Went down to visit the house on Thursday while it was storming, because Science! And I’m glad I did, because without exception, all of the little sample blues looked awful when the sun wasn’t out and the weather was crummy. They all sucked up the available light and nearly all of them read black from any kind of distance (the only one that didn’t was the one that was called, coincidentally enough, Rainstorm). So I thought about it for the evening, and then the next morning, I bought a couple of samples of warm dark gray, my other option in the paint-off. I tried them out on the side of the house (it was still gloomy, though not raining anymore) and the grays seemed to work a TON better in a variety of light conditions. I am not sure I like them as much as the blues, but a combination of seeing them in the gloom and my mom and Jeff both yelling things at me about dark blues and solar gain (“when it’s blazing hot in the middle of the summer and you’re not living in a sweatbox, you are going to be glad you listened to your mother!”) made me reevaluate a bit. So yesterday, I started priming the house and also bought a gallon of this Benjamin Moore color called ‘Pewter’. But only a gallon, because I reserve the right to hate it and paint over it with a blue.

3) Construction! In the last few days, we have made tons of progress: first, on Thursday, I painted roof trim while Jeff was framing out the loft (yay!)

Roof trim, drying

Loft frame: the little hatch is where the stairs will go


Then we put the roof trim up (did I mention in the last entry that we’d put on the ply roof panels? If not, we did, and here they are! That’s a later shot: as you will note, it includes Sadness Door)

Then yesterday, we put the subfloor panels down in the loft, which means you can walk on the loft now, and Jeff BUILT STAIRS! The stairs, btw, are going to be drawers, so those uprights are temporary.


Beautiful stairs

Of course, the primary reason for doing stairs instead of a ladder is because I wanted the pets to be able to get up and down: here is Widget, proving that it can be done!

In the loft!

Late afternoon view from the loft
(if I can get some stained glass in this house, I’m going to put the panels to the left and right of this picture, on those two dark spots at the top.)

Sitting in the loft with a photobombing puppy

The loft is great, incidentally. When I’d visited tiny houses prior to this project, my knock on them was that the lofts felt really claustrophobic, mostly because they were under a sharply pitched roof. With the flat(ish) roof and the windows, my loft avoids that. You can’t stand in it (not possible if you want a functional kitchen), but if you’re sitting on the floor and you’re my height, you have to reach your arms all the way up to touch the ceiling. I think I am going to love hanging out in it.

Then I started priming the house. No pictures of that, but it looks like you’d think: I had limited time before the build site closed, so I didn’t do any edging work and just tried to get as much primer up as I could: it is fuzzy and Rothkoesque now, but I’m going down today to finish and hopefully get some of the actual paint up so I can see it. And while I do that, Jeff is going to be roofing! More probably tonight.

Build: Day Eight

Ugh, the last couple of days have been a zoo. Yesterday Jeff worked on the house while I did a thousand other things, and he got tons done, including the rest of the siding and the windows in the loft.  I also got a ton done, including some Floor Science and Paint Science, and another fruitful trip to the awesome architectural surplus store.  Here’s a rundown on the last 48 hours in Tiny Housening, and then I am calling it quits for the night.

Here are some pictures of what Jeff did yesterday, along with some random pictures of Nellie and Widget exploring the new house today, because why not?Boy, I hate that siding. But it will look pretty soon enough.


Nellie Cowger is a saint among dogs. Widget spends like 80% of the day biting Nell’s neck.



Nellie in the fauxlarium

Lots of Widgetyness was taking place

ONE OF US got tethered to a tree after we decided to lick paint off the can lid and had to be held under the faucet of the weird hillbilly sink so we didn’t die of paint poisoning and then got blue noseprints all over everything. GUESS WHO? (hint: it the one of us that is tiny and pointy and bad).

I’ve pretty much decided on dark blue as opposed to dark gray for the outside of the house, so yesterday I drove up to several paint stores to track down a bunch of different dark blue paint samples. I had the vague notion that I might get a couple of gallons paint for cheap in a Black Friday sale, though that didn’t end up happening. Today, I went down and tried out the samples I got on the different walls (I tried it on every wall so I can see how the paints look in different light conditions, etc.) Here’s what I was deciding between:
(not that this is interesting to anyone but me, but if you are a scholar of blue paint, from left to right that’s Benjamin Moore Hale Navy, Behr Nocturnal Sea, Sherwin Williams Naval Blue (a lot like Hale Navy but warmer and brighter), SW Loyal Blue and SW Rainstorm.)Loyal Blue was my lead contender when I was looking at it on the computer, but in person I nixed it immediately: way too bright and peacocky. I nixed the Behr for the same reasons. Unsurprisingly, I definitely prefer the colder colors with more gray in them: I was not expecting to like the Benjamin Moore as much as I did, but I kind of love it, even though it is certainly the grimmest of any of the colors (it also covers the weird bumps in the T1-11 better than any of the others: not inconsequential). I also kind of like the Sherwin Williams Rainstorm, which is a very cold, dark teal, and the SW Naval Blue is OK, too, though I think I like the colder navy better. My inner Anton Webern is totally coming out in this paint color selection: just cold freaking modernism all the way. The guy at Sherwin Williams last night was totally freaked out by how dark I was going and basically was like, “None of these colors are appropriate for a house!”, but I think he was just concerned that I wasn’t going  SouthwestPinky-Greige like every other house around here.

On the same super-fast  trip, I also went by Lumber Liquidators for more floor samples, and when I got home, I got a second wind for projects, so I decided to try to do a semi-quantitative test of Flooring Vs. Pet Hair.

…which involved taking a little hair sample from all of the pets (mostly achieved by sneaking up on them with scissors and taking a little core sample). Emmett is NOT PLEASED by this violation of his shiny pelt.
DSC00131Once I had my little hair samples, I stuck them on scotch tape, then decided to up the ante a bit by also taking samples of random Arizona sanddirt and my hair (I had to take one for the team, since all the pets did.) I also got a wet sponge so I could see how much residual ghosting happened when you smudged a wet fingerprint on the wood. I then scored everything (1=best, 5=worst) and when I was done, I added up the numbers to see which sample had the lowest (and thus best) score. SCIENCE!

Here are all my samples with their accompanying score. Dark wood, as I suspected based on y’all’s anecdata, didn’t do very well; surprisingly, neither did light wood. The medium tone worked best; the variegation of the tigerwood and the cork also did well.
Floor test hair!

Cork, however, has officially been ruled out (though I may still use a little in the loft), because of Test Two: The Widget Test.

I am lucky(?) to have a puppy who will happily put anydamn thing in her mouth if asked, and is totally on board with nomming random things to test their durability. These floor samples were pretty hard and I didn’t want her to hurt her teeth, so I only gave her a few seconds with each (and I only gave her a couple of the samples, not all six). But that was enough to get a pretty definite sense of how the different woods looked when they’d been abused. I know that my dogs are never going to be chomping on my floor (at least, I hope not), but pointy Widget fangs were a pretty good stand-in to help me gauge how the floors would do with nails. The cork, for example, was thrashed in about two seconds.



Here all the results, which I arranged in a little collage highlighting areas of damage. Everything got pretty beat up–even the strand bamboo showed some big marks, Janka Hardness Scale 3000 be damned. The tiger and the medium-toned bamboo had some obvious marks, but they were the least obvious of any of them.
floor test- Widget test!

So I scored those, added them to the hair test results, and what I came up with was that the medium-toned bamboo (kind of reddish, neither light nor dark) was the clear winner. And then today, I was back at Gerson’s (the architectural salvage store) and when I walked in, the guys told me they still had some of that bamboo I was looking at last week. They didn’t have as much as before, just four boxes, and I STILL don’t know how durable it is, but a) it was that medium tone that I decided on last night and b) it was FIFTEEN DOLLARS A BOX, making this a $60 floor, so I just bit the bullet and bought everything they had left (bolstered by your advice in the poll last week.) I think I will only need one or two more boxes to finish the downstairs floor, and if it gets thrashed by the dogs, well, it will still be a sub-$100 floor, and that is not nothing. YAY FLOOR!

So this morning, when I was settling up with Jeff, he informed me that my new Priority #1 had to be finding a front door, mostly so we could start locking stuff up in the house down at the build site (he’s been schlepping everything back and forth). And oy, I don’t know if you guys have shopped for exterior doors lately, but those guys are EXPENSIVE. I was looking at Home Depot last night when I was getting paint samples, and most of the ones I saw started at around $280 (and those were shitty cheap-looking fiberglass, and only a very few swung to the left, which is what I need). If you wanted something that didn’t look just awful, that started getting closer to $500, and those still weren’t actually wood doors, just weird composites. So when I got home, I poked around online to see what it would cost to have a wooden door built: the cheapest I found in the area was this nice Mennonite guy who did beautiful work that started at about $1000. So that was that, though someday I will be rich and then I’m coming for you, Mr. Mennonite!Thus, today I ended up back at Gerson’s to try to find a nice salvaged door. And find one I did! It was $79, it is solid wood, it is the perfect size, it swings to the left, it is pretty without being all weird and gaudy, and I loved it instantly. Two problems: first, it was not pre-hung (Jeff’s ONLY stipulation was that the door be pre-hung), and two, it was covered in an unspecified amount of old paint. So as they were loading it into my car, I was breezily thinking 1) eh, how hard could it be to hang a door?/I’ll just do it myself (bear in mind that as I was thinking this, I had zero idea what ‘hanging a door’ actually meant; I just assumed I could probably do it) and 2) I’ve stripped a little paint in my day, surely it would not be that big of a deal!

Oh my god, dudes. Here’s my new door, hanging out on sawhorses in bad garage light. It is gonna be a PROJECT.


So, first: to hang a door actually is kind of a big deal, as I learned from the dude at the hardware store tonight. You actually have to build out a door jamb, and then a frame to go around the rest of the door (I’d never really thought about it before, but duh, of course doors aren’t being bolted right into the doorway.) Seriously, go look at whatever door is near you: see how it has a little frame? I had never really noticed. Anyway, instead of being hardcore and just building it out of lumber, I ended up buying a prefinished door jamb kit and a door header, which I’ll nail together then bolt to the door when I get the door itself refinished. But that’s a little bit of a thing (luckily on youtube, there is a video with a comforting Canadian woodworker who explains the whole process, and that made me feel better.)

Second: It turns out there is a LOT of paint on this guy, and it’s pretty well set. I bought some hippie stripper (her name is Quinoa, and she works nights down at the Positive Vibes Lounge) so I could work on the door in the garage. I put a layer on and gave it an hour and a half or so to sit (after trying futily to sand it a bit).

When I got my little paint stripper tool and started working on it, I found another layer of greenish paint under the white paint: the white came off pretty easily, but the greenish wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided to reapply the stripper and leave it overnight.

The nice thing is that in the couple areas where I could get through the green paint, I could tell that there was a pretty nice wood under it (that part was kind of a gamble, though I reasoned that worst case scenario, I could always paint it white again.) The door is VERY heavy, and I am pretty sure the wood is a hardwood (I couldn’t dent it with my fingernail); I don’t claim to be an arborist or anything like that, but from the way the grain is, I am thinking it might possibly be mahogany. If that is the case, then freaking SCORE!

Of course, there’s a whole ‘nother god-knows-how-many layers of paint on the other side of the door, so we’ll see if I ever reach this alleged mahogany.

[Also, it needs hardware. If any of you know a source for not insanely expensive modern door hardware (no weird curlicues), do please tell me, because I sure cannot find one.]

In conclusion, from the comments last week, I think it is awesome that you guys have such strong opinions about Property Brothers 🙂

Build: Day Four

Today featured SO MANY WALLS! Today was also the first day I actually got to assist in the honest-to-god framing: the last few days I’ve sort of shown up and been like, “Oh, huh! Some walls/a floor!”. It was pretty educational! Primary lessons of the day were as follows: 1) building a wall is basically like building a big slatted box. It’s pretty much the same idea as building a raised garden bed, except in some ways, it’s less complex. 2) Framing a wall involves a lot of cutting boards exactly to size and squeezing them together to form the interior box/es: a lot of what’s holding the wall up is the rest of the wall. We nailed everything together, of course, but even without nails, most of our wall framing would have held together just by physics: that’s how squeezed together almost everything was!

I got to the site maybe 45 minutes later than Jeff did, as I had dogs to walk: by the time I got there, the back wall was up!DSC00009Please note the freaking ginormous window on that back wall (it’s 4’x4′): that’s my egress window in case my kitchen blows up or something. It’s going to let so much light in, and it’s going to create a great crossbreeze with the bay window in the front. There is one major problem, which is that that’s going to be the future bathroom (if you are visualizing, the shower is going to be in the left corner there). The plans, as it stand, have the toilet basically directly in front of the egress window, with a tiny sink and the utility stack to the right. I am gently but firmly trying to get Jeff to move that somehow, because a) that’s going to involve a lot of curtain raising and lowering and/or a lot of accidental public nudity and b) if I am trying to get lots of light and crossbreeze, the bathroom door will have to be open, and that means that when you walk in the front door, the house’s focal point will basically be a toilet. Not awesome.

Anyway, next, we framed the third wall (on the right in the picture below), and that’s something I got to help with.


It went amazingly fast! We laid the frame out right there on the bed of the trailer and nailed it together (Jeff has an enormous, hard core air-powered nail gun that has its own compressor, which meant that it took about three minutes to nail it all together). Then we measured out where we wanted the studs to go, squeezed them in, nailed them in. Then we built a box for the window that went between two studs: the sides were 2x4s, just like the studs, and the top and bottom were thicker to support the weight of the window. Squeezed that in, nailed it, then raised the whole thing up and attached it to the lower support that Jeff had already bolted into the fender/the trailer deck. Then we nailed it to the back wall, and boom! a new wall had gone up. INCREDIBLY satisfying, and it took maybe an hour?

Anyway, now we come to the part of the story where Mistakes Were Made, so let’s just have a brief lacuna to look at Construction Pit Bull, who had to be tethered during the wall-building part of the morning (so she didn’t get squashed) but had a great time supervising from Ft. Nellie anyway.


[That Noz2Noz collapsible fabric crate is seriously one of the greatest things I have ever purchased. Totally worth the money even if you don’t win it for $20 on ebay like I did]

So. Go look at the picture above the one of Nellie. Look specifically at the corners where the three walls intersect. See how the back wall and the wall on the right intersect? Now look at the wall on the left (the first one Jeff built) and the back wall. NOT IDENTICAL. I wish I could say that I noticed that the left wall was like eight inches higher than the other walls and had assumed that it was deliberately sloping to let off rain water or something (note: the roof IS going to slope a bit, but in the other direction, so towards the front). The truth is, though, that I was so excited about Framing! My! Wall! that I hadn’t even noticed. Jeff had been freaking out about it for 36 hours, though (quietly. to himself. he is not a talker). It was just a calculation error, and since it was the first wall, he didn’t catch it until the others went up. But it was a problem, because the extra height of the too-big wall made the house too tall to safely travel (there’s a legal max height of 13’6″ from the ground, so you can get through tunnels, etc.), and that meant I couldn’t just work it into the design or build the other wall up or something. And of course taking it down was easier said than done, as it was by this point built into the rest of the house.

Now, this is where I am glad I had Jeff: I know he made the error, but honestly, if it had just been me, I totally would have done something just as stupid. However, if it had been just me, I would have been like, “Welp, everything needs to come down so I can fix it, so let’s do that and then I am going to drink Scotch for three days and feel sorry for myself.” Not Jeff. Jeff looked at the too-big wall, measured how too-big it was, and then decided that he was just going to cut the wall off at the ankles and then nail it back into the frame. This idea sounded crazy to me. But, here’s how it went down in pictures.

See those cuts in the studs at the bottom of the wall? Yep! We were going to cut them off and then just let the wall fall straight down, kind of like when you get a row of blocks in Tetris.

Here’s Jeff cutting them off with his crazy saw that saws through nails. Please note how the studs to the right of Jeff are just stone cold HANGING IN SPACE.

He cut the studs that were over the trailer fender all the way first: he cut the last one, thinking that he would slowly lower the section down, but the whole wall immediately went KERTHUMP and fell straight down (Tetris-style): just like he thought, but a little prematurely. Please note how the top support now looks like a pagoda.

After he re-nailed/re-bolted the studs to their new position, he repeated the same kind of ankle-chopping on the other side of the wall (the side that hit the actual trailer deck). And wouldn’t you know it? That side KERTHUMPED, the pagoda board unbent, and voila, we had three walls that intersected perfectly at the corners. A couple of nails later and you never would have known that the wall had been shrinky-dinked! It was extremely awesome, and took like 45 minutes.


Anyway, after that it all went very smoothly. We added beams to the top edge (extra support) and put a large joist between the left and right walls…

…built a little frame for the top-front (same as the wall: built a box, ran studs between the top and bottom of the box)…

…and nailed it up. Yay!

So if you can visualize this, everything above that big center joist is going to be the sleeping loft; the ceiling for the kitchen and bathroom will be below the center joist (or rather, kind of in the middle of the joist, but that’s the general idea.) This is where I had my first quiet freakout about size (I think if you’re building a tiny house, you’re allowed one or two). The kitchen/bathroom ceilings are going to be LOW (in what is otherwise going to be a high-ceiling’ed and open-feeling space), mostly to accommodate a comfortable loft. When I was designing the thing on paper, I put the kitchen/bath ceiling at 6’6; on paper, that seemed reasonable, but it’s quite a different thing to be standing in the space and thinking, “Holy shit, that’s only a foot above my actual head.” So I freaked out for a second, until I got myself together and realized that actually, it was going to be fine. It was actually a little taller than the galley kitchen on my ex’s family’s boat, and that felt cozy but not impossible, the appliances and the storage cabinets (pantry, etc) were going to be the major thing under the short ceiling (the counter space extends out from under the loft, and also, that I am actually a short little 5’6 person, and I am the one this house is for and if the Jolly Green Giant came in and felt a little claustrophobic getting ice out of the fridge, well, too damn bad. So then I felt better. And having a loft that doesn’t feel like a coffin is going to make it allllll worth it.

So here’s what we have at the end of the day!

The whole back section of the house is framed out successfully, including all the spots for windows (seven windows so far!) That’s the loft (which still needs to be internally framed), the bathroom and the kitchen. The front of the house (the rest of the floor, as currently framed out) is the living area, and then you will take a few steps up (over the support bar in front of the trailer) and walk into the bay window ‘room’, which will extend over the hitch (this is the ‘library’/’solarium’/’other grandiose name’, with its built in bookshelves below the bay window and probably this chair hanging from the ceiling). Can you kind of see it a little bit? It doesn’t quite look like a house yet, but it’s beginning to come together!

The next thing to do is to frame out the front, of course, but I am not sure when that’s going to happen, because GRIM NEWS.

the weather

I live in the desert. Except for briefly during the monsoon season, you never see four day rainstorms! It’s already sprinkling now, and tomorrow’s supposed to be a doozy, involving Actual Thunder and Actual Lightning. Poor exposed tiny house! I am glad I painted the subfloor. So anyway, we’ll see what happens between now and Monday. Watch, I’ll get there and it’ll turn out that Jeff framed out the whole front end by himself in the middle of a lightning storm. And he probably will have insulated the whole thing with foam, the jerk.


Mom, Jeff and I just did our big monetary breakdown today (which we’re going to do once a week), which I thought I would share with you guys:

Trailer, tax, delivery: $5063.79
Permanent title/license fee: $159
Padlock to lock generator to trailer while it’s at the build site: $15.90
Generator rental (for a month, including tax): $241.91

Wood, nails, building stuff: $777.13
Labor (Jeff: $30/hr.): $720

2 gallons of expensive fancy floor paint, metric ton of painting supplies: $86.16

Total: $7063.89.  If you don’t factor in the trailer cost, which I think is one of the most variable aspects of the project*, that’s about two grand for a house that’s a little less than 1/2 framed. See also: two months of rent in my shared apartment in Santa Monica, 1.5 months of rent in my way-too-large-and-expensive house in Richmond.

*I love my trailer and am very very glad to have gotten something new and large and comparatively fancy, but lots of people start a tiny house by ripping down an old camper shell, or by buying a used trailer, or by buying a 16 ft utility trailer for $1000 or so. Admittedly, they usually spend a bunch of money retrofitting their trailer, buying new brakes and tires and lights, reworking the electrical, etc. But it can be an area of cost savings, if you’re thinking about doing this yourself. I got a good deal on my trailer, but the initial outlay was still at the higher end of the spectrum.

We’ve used 77 24-ft. boards so far (give or take: there are a bunch of short scraps left over that will eventually be turned into something else). Not counting the ply (which was too complicated to calculate) and assuming an average-sized Douglas fir (the bulk of the wood we’ve been using), if I did the math right, I think we’ve used about 4/5ths of a tree. Thanks, tree.

Build: Day Three

So my plan today was pretty easy: I was just going to go put a second coat of paint on the floor and call it a day. But Jeff came by early this morning and said that he was going to just drop some stuff off at the site and wanted me to bring the generator down a little later. So as soon as I walked the dogs, I headed down there, and when I arrived, I found Jeff PUTTING UP A WALL. Jeff! Best contractor! I helped him actually get it lifted in the air and mounted, and when I came back later, he’d gotten it bolted up, attached it to the trailer frame and gotten it propped up in preparation for the other two back walls, which are going on tomorrow.

WOO WALL! (PS: Those diagonal side beams are just holding it up: they will go away.)

Future loft windows

I brought Nellie down to help me, and she turned out to be an excellent Construction Pit Bull. There was a lot of space for her to run around and explore, but she took her job as Build Foreman very seriously and mostly just hung out in a pile of hay and watched me work. Here she is, posing majestically on my floor (pre-second coat).

I told her that yellow pit bulls and white paint did not mix, so while I was painting, she basically just hung out and observed.

Painting is SO BORING!

Not a lot to report otherwise: floor looked white when I started and whiter when I finished, but it is visually underwhelming. I was smarter this time and taped everything off, though!

Also brought my edger, which meant I finally got to paint that raw edge on the front! (Also, I just realized that my camera was accidentally set on ‘Auto’ the whole time, which is why these all look washed out–sorry!)


All painted! Nellie apparently thinks she’s the figurehead on a ship. (She is standing in the future home of what my mom hilariously calls the solarium.)