Interior mega-update: Part One

Oh, friends, I am OVERDUE for an update! Quick recap: I recently got back from a two-week long job interview in Utah (verdict: we shall see) (also, hi Ashley!) and got home to discover that my mom and Jeff had been super-industrious while I was away. So first, let me show you all of the things they did, and then in the next post, I will show you the tweaks I have made since.  Because there’s a lot going on, let’s just jump right in, shall we?


My bamboo floors, which I got for cheap and have been so excited about, are all installed. Look how pretty, even under a thick layer of construction dust!


The color of the living room floor up close, which I looooove [Oh, PS, here’s another thing that got done: all of the molding is in! No complaints there: I love it, though I dread having to paint it]

The batches I got appeared to be from pretty different dye lots, and the living room bamboo is darker than the kitchen bamboo. Had I been here, I probably would have just mixed it up and had alternating light-dark pieces all the way across the floor. Left to his own devices, Jeff decided to make the living room all dark and the kitchen lighter (Jeff: “Well, I wasn’t about to make it tiger striped!“. Fair enough!) I actually don’t mind the two different colors: I just decided to think of it as ombre and that was that.

I would like to find an alternative for that gold-colored metal threshold Jeff put in between the living room and kitchen floors: I understand the efficacy, but do not love the gold stripe down the middle of the floor, so if any of you brilliant DIYers have an idea about that, please do share!


The fan is up. Er, ish.  Jeff was having some trouble finding the right bolts for the blades: I got the fan from Gerson’s, and it apparently came sans bolts (spoiler: I called the company and found the right bolts and it’s now all A-OK.)


I need to start hunting for a better light fixture shade: that one is unobjectionable, but I would love to find a cooler shade (since I am still a touch averse to the fan-light combo).

The stove

The eagle-eyed among you will look at the picture below and note that the stove in the picture is not the awesome little boat stove I got for free from my boss and talked about on my very first day of the build. While I was in Utah, my mom called me and said, basically verbatim, “The boat stove isn’t going to work because it is the wrong size at least I think it is the wrong size, Jeff explained it to me and it made sense then but it was very confusing, but anyway, it is not going to work and it is probably going to explode anyway, so I think I am just going to get a regular stove and I need you to just agree because I am way too busy and I just need to be able to make a decision, OK?” So I, in the middle of working on a presentation for my job interview, and exhausted from all the Utah-ing, just said, “Mom, do whatever you think is best”. And that is how I ended up with the stove before.



I actually kind of love it, honestly.  A sweet, Energy Star gas stove (which can be hooked up to either propane or natural gas, depending on what I have access to) with four burners that is narrow but will fit an actual sheet tray and comes with a broiler and a warming drawer? Yes please.

Also it probably is not going to explode.

I was a little leery about the stove being right under the loft–the initial plan was to have it be on the end of the counters, clear of the loft–but Jeff pointed out that since you REALLY don’t want a stove under the electrical panel, the only alternative would be to have it sitting in the middle of the living room, which, no. He is very certain it’s not going to be an issue, and in any case, I can run the vent fan on the micro, so I have decided to feel OK about it.  My biggest worry now is that I have to explain to my boss why the boat stove that he drove all the way home for me from his boat in Mexico is not in the house.

The kitchen light

Before I left, I bought a small, low-key kitchen light (which will ultimately contain a Happy Light). While I was gone, Jeff decided the light I bought was way too small and that I would go blind with such a tiny light and told Mom she had to go pick out a bigger fixture from Lowes. Mom looked at everything Lowes had, ruled out 98% of the lights there for being hideous, and decided that the following was the best one there.



I may still have to tweak this, because it is…..kind of hideous? I believe my mom that it was the best one there, but it is still godawful.  Also, it is so big that the cabinet door hits the shade when you open it.

The bathroom!

Supertoilet is in, and the way-better-than-you’d-think fiberfloor is now adhered to the subfloor.

Shower is all done. Look! A shower rod (which will soon contain a cute Ikea shower curtain) and a showerhead! Also some tung-oiled walls that look great, if I may say so.

And look! My extra handheld showerhead that I installed at dog-washing height!

And my pretty little sink, which is technically not a new thing, but which I continue to love.

For a bathroom the size of a coffin, it is about as awesome as it can possibly be. I mean, in Phase Two I want to figure out a way to tile the shower, but no big deal otherwise.

The cabinets

Cabinets happened! This is a place where the budget, which is getting very narrow, came into play: I wanted Jeff to make me cabinets, because his cabinetry work is incredibly beautiful. While I was gone, we decided that we could not afford to have him do that, which was a bummer. This meant stock cabinets, which meant Lowes, because Mom and Jeff were doing the picking and were not going to go out and look in all the crazy stores like I would have done.  I sent Mom in with instructions to find the absolute plainest, least decorative ones they had (I am kind of into cabinets that look like this: not necessarily the color, but the geometric/unadorned-ness)

Here’s what I ended up with:


(sink side)

They are not the pretty handmade cabinets I was imagining, but they are fine, and they are what they are.  There is a lot of storage, and they are big enough that I can put in drawers and lazy susans and get them really optimized for what I need. And I love that cute little triangle shelf Jeff built in under the stairs.  I am not crazy about the upper cabs, and if I had been here I would have opted not to get those and build open shelves in instead.  However, because they were there and un-returnable (because they’d been installed), I decided to take the doors off, paint them the same white as the walls and use them as quasi-open shelving anyway. In Phase Two, they will probably go, but for now, I am going to Tim Gunn them and make them as cool as I can.  And the lower cabs are getting stained gray, and I think I am going to do a cool-looking thing on the doors, which I will tell you about as soon as I figure out if it’s going to work.

In the next installment:

1) Countertops
So remember how I was all excited to get those Paperstone counters, and how I was going to get those cheap remnants? I was trying to arrange them while I was in Utah, and got them all in my online shopping cart, and then when I went to check out, found out that the shipping cost was more than twice the cost of the actual material, resulting in a cost of about $600. As budget’s a consideration right now, I just couldn’t justify it, though it was very sad because I love that stuff. So I started thinking about Richlite (another recycled paper composite) and started trying to track down local non-remnant Paperstone, and then I started thinking about stainless steel (like a restaurant) and started looking into restaurant supply stores, and then on Sunday, Jeff told me that he had to go in for surgery on Tuesday, so if I wanted him to miter out the corners for the sink, he needed that countertop on Monday morning”. So I stopped thinking about all of the products that I loved that needed a week for shipping, and then I started thinking about what was immediately available, and then I got in my car and drove back to Horrible Phoenix, went to Ikea and got an enormous piece of solid wood butcher block. Butcher block was actually my first countertop idea, so even though I don’t like it as much as Paperstone, I still felt pretty good about it. I got it to Jeff, he cut it and mitered the sink hole, and tomorrow I get to learn how to install it.

I had initially thought I was going to go with gray countertops and wood cabinets, but now that I am going to have wood countertops, I am thinking of maybe gray cabinets. Or green. Or blue. Who knows. I am going to tung oil the butcher block, so tomorrow’s decision is a) dark tung oil (like the beams) or b) light tung oil, like the bathroom walls. Feel free to weigh in!

2) Bedroom closets. If I can find some stock closet/dresser/bookshelves that are the right height, I’m going to try to do what Young House Love did here. You like?

Phase Two is, of course, this.

3) Floating bookshelves, which I have only just begun to think about.

[Thank you for reading that mega-post! Comment away if you have suggestions]


Build: Day One and Two


Monday was the first day of the build, and build we did! Or rather, build Jeff did: I’m working M/Th/Sat this week. But he and my mom supervised the delivery of New! Trailer! at the build site, which went in without a hitch. At least, getting it there went without a hitch: when Mom went in to make sure she was directing the trailer delivery guy to the right place, the feed store guy told her that oh, by the way, he’d changed the space he’d initially told us we were going to get and was putting us way in the back. He made it sound like a great thing, since there was a separate fence we could shut and lock at night, more room, blah blah blah, and that was all well and good until he mentioned the one tiny little detail that THERE WAS NO POWER. Yep! No electrical hookups, and we are BUILDING A HOUSE (in a non-Amish way). And when Mom mentioned the usefulness of electricity in BUILDING A HOUSE and tried to get him to put us in the space he’d initially set up, he totally dug in his heels and refused, because all of the sudden, hey, maybe his insurance doesn’t cover it and he doesn’t want to be responsible and blee bling bloo (nearly all of the guys who work at the site are fabulous and I love them: this one guy who was on that day is the exception). Anyway, after some frantic calls back and forth between my mom and Jeff and me at work, the trailer ended up going to the power-free back lot (which is where they store their hay).

DSC09958The trailer in its new habitat
DSC09949So, there’s no power, but there is water! And by water, I mean a random utility sink propped up on concrete blocks and hooked directly into the main waterline. Stay classy!
DSC09977The sink contained many confused lizards that I had to rescue before I tried out the tap.

I, in the meantime, did one of those things you never think you’re going to do until you’re in the middle of doing it: I rented a portable generator.

Why yes, that is a large generator in the back of a Scion xa. The Scion xa can also fit four (4) taiko drums, a queen-sized mattress set, three dogs/two cats, and all the things one might need for a year in Canada (not at the same time). BEST CAR!

I knew nothing about generators before up and renting one for the month, and I still know very little. They are loud, they run on gas, they start up like a lawnmower, the one I got is apparently the good kind, and in southern AZ, they apparently cost $228/month plus tax to rent. The more you know! Jeff primarily needs it for his skillsaw: the rest of his stuff is generally cordless, and that’s going to solve our power needs (plus, Jeff is going to try to do as many of the cuts for the day as possible at his own house and just bring them down). Since it was only $36 bucks a month to rent the spot at the feed store, since I didn’t have a backup plan and since it would have cost money to hire somebody to move the trailer again, it seemed like the whole generator business was worth it. But that dude’s on my shit list, I’ll tell you what.

Anyway, then I went back to work, got home, went over to Jeff’s to see how things had gone (he lives next door) and found out that in the four hours I spent at work that afternoon, Jeff had BUILT AND INSULATED THE ENTIRE FLOOR. He’d just cut all the wood with a handsaw, no big deal. BEST CONTRACTOR.

DSC09963So just for the construction-minded among you, here’s how it was put together: first, he put flashing [PS: don’t do a google image search for ‘floor flashing’–you’ll get gross pictures of Courtney Stodden] and a vapor barrier over the wood deck of the trailer, then he did a grid of 2x4s and 1x2s all across the bed of the trailer (which sounds complicated, but if you’ve ever seen a slatted Ikea bed, it basically looks like that: big center support, slats going out on both sides). That’s the bottom layer of the little stack you see in this picture (sorry I don’t have in-progress shots)
DSC09962Jeff bolted the wood frame into the base of the trailer, using the brackets that came welded onto the trailer itself: we’re also going to weld some long vertical supports to the trailer frame and when we do the walls, we’ll build those vertical supports right in (which means the trailer really is integral to the construction of the house: the house isn’t just sitting on top of it). There are crazy heavy welded wire tie-downs built into the bottom of the trailer, and if I connect those to a concrete pad when I park the house, that house is not going anywhere in inclimate weather: it’s much sturdier than a mobile home, which basically just sits on the ground, and in some cases, it’s going to be sturdier than the kind of normal stick-built house that just rests on its foundation. In this case, there’s no real structural separation between the foundation and the house.Anyway, then he insulated the floor with foam that had been lined on both sides with a reflective barrier (which is going to help both with moisture and with insulation.) It looks like this (this is just a scrap that was laying around):

The insulation thing has really been a thorn in my side: I am trying to go as low VOC as possible with this thing, and I was prepared to make insulation kind of my hill to die on. You see, I really wanted to do denim insulation: the R-value is good, it is recycled and not full of horrifying chemicals, and you can just roll it on like fiberglass without worrying about the shards getting in your skin and lungs (it’s just jeans). Jeff really wanted to use rigid foam board: he pointed out that it was narrower (space saving!), had a comparable R-value (true), was cheaper (definitely true), and that he knew how to install it (fair): he also sort of subtly implied that he thought the denim was hippie nonsense (which, yes, but it is also totally great by lots of different practical metrics.) I countered with the fact that I had already bought some denim insulation on Craigslist (I did: not enough, but it’s a sizeable amount), and by god we were gonna use it. And then he just up and insulated the floor using the stuff he wanted to use in the first place. WORST CONTRACTOR! (just kidding, he really is the best). I am still holding out for denim in the walls, but I am grudgingly beginning to admit that there may be a place for this foam business in the floor and ceiling. AND we are using this crazy composite roll-out material on the roof instead of the nice, friendly, sounds-good-in-the-rain tin I wanted because of the way the roof is sloping. ALREADY I AM SELLING OUT!

Oh, right, back to the floor. After the insulation, he did the top layer, which in my case is a nice, marine-grade plywood (also good for keeping water out). It’s all nailed together, kind of like a very sturdy wooden sandwich. We’ve just put the floor in over the deck: we’re also going to extend it up and over the fenders of the trailer (it’ll be a little wood box, which on one side of the house will be part of the stairs and on the other side will be….architectural interest) and then over the hitch (to make a little three foot bump-out/library/bay window). That’s part of Thursday’s project. Anyway, it is quite a floor.


Today I painted it! Once we have walls, I’m going to put in bamboo flooring over the plywood subfloor, so you will never see this paint job, but I did it both to help seal/protect the subfloor and to, yet again, help keep moisture out.

Please be in awe of my fancy painting table
DSC09968I decided to live large and buy myself an extendable handle that screwed onto my paint roller. Dear friends: if you ever have to paint a floor, do yourself a favor and acquire one of these. It ruled.
DSC09970Paintin’ a floor
DSC09971Mistakes were made. I did not think to bring a) an edger or b) painter’s tape, because I was under the mistaken impression that the floor would be up and over the fenders already and I wouldn’t have any detail work to do. Which meant when I got to my beautiful diamond-plate fenders, this happened:


Diamond-plate metal fenders are not something I ever thought I would have an opinion about, but when I saw paint going on MY fenders of MY trailer, even though I knew that they were going to be covered eventually, well, I just could not have that. Had I brought a rag or a drop cloth? I HAD NOT. Luckily, I had a little piece of fleece from making dog tugs in my car, and I roped it into service, first as a rag and then as a fender cover.

Learning curve!

Much better

About that point, my mom came over to help, and boy, my mom does not mess around when it comes to painting. I had only painted about a third of the floor when she got there, but after she showed up, we had that baby knocked out in about 45 minutes.

Do not mess with my mom, or she will paint you.

BOOM. Done!

…ish. Ignore that part in the front, which requires an edger.


Tomorrow, I shall go back and do it all over again once this first coat cures.

Jeff’s got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, so he’s not going to be back building until Thursday, but on Thursday, I will be able to help, and that is when we are going to be framing out the back of the house! And then the front of the house the next time he’s there! It is going to be like a barn raising!

Here’s what the back of the house looks like right now (and also, there’s Jeff, who attempted to escape into his house when he saw me get out the camera).


I got home and immediately jumped into working on my stove (sanded and put special high-heat enamel on the rusty cast-iron burners, polished up all the chrome with Turtle Wax: now it just needs some de-rusting on the inside, and of course to be looked at by someone who is a specialist in making alcohol stoves Not A Deathtrap). It was only when I finished that that I realized that the pool had closed, which is a problem given my mom’s eccentric notion that one does not need to have hot water in one’s house if there’s a perfectly good shower at the pool down the street. So now I am going to go, disgusting and covered in paint, to bed. Yet another of the many perils of fine homebuilding.

Pregame show: Buying the trailer!

Guys! I got my title for the utility trailer, and officially paid for the thing, which means that I am now a trailer owner! My name is on the title, I am five thousand dollars poorer*, and it is being delivered to my build site  this Monday morning at 9 AM. Jeff is going to be there at 10 AM, and we are STARTING THE BUILD! 48 hours! Halle-freaking-lujah!

*I KNOW! It’s a heavy-duty trailer, rated for 15,500 lbs, which will give me tons of room to play with (a light-duty trailer is generally rated for about 10K lbs, and since a loaded down 20×8 sq ft house is usually between 6500-7000 lbs, the extra capability seemed prudent). And it’s brand-spanking-new, which means new brakes, new lights, new tires. It’s got cool little ramps that pull out, ostensibly for loading heavy stuff, but for my purposes, serving as the base for a collapsible porch. It’s got built-in jacks to keep it level on any grade. It’s got a permanent title, which means I will never have to re-register it. It’s got welded-in tie downs, which means that even if I am in tornado country, the house is going to be able to be more permanently affixed to the earth than most stick-built houses and has a better chance of surviving a weather crisis than a lot of places. None of that shit is cheap, unfortunately. Still, $4670.79, total cost, plus titling cost, plus tax, plus delivery fee =$5063. That is 1/4th of my budget for the build. But it’s the foundation, it’s worth it, and it is by far the most expensive single thing in the build: even the cumulative cost of the lumber is not going to add up to that much. So, you know.

New baby is 7’x24′, is made by a company called PJ Trailers that makes relatively inexpensive, very high quality utility trailers, and is a longer version of this guy. We’re going to build it out on the sides to 8’6″ wide, the widest you can have on the road without special permits, and we’re going to build it out three feet lengthwise as well, split between over the hitch (which will turn into a bay window/reading nook off the living room) and off the back, for a total of 8.5 x 27. That’s 229 sq ft on the first floor (not including the loft), though not all of that will be usable space (what with, you know, walls). I won’t know the exact square footage until we actually get the loft up (we may have to make some changes to the dimensions), but it looks like my estimate of just slightly over 300 usable sq ft is going to be about right. That’s large for a tiny house, believe it or not: I’d guess from looking around online that most people are working with 8×18 trailers, leaving them a little shy of 200 sq ft (which seems awfully small for my purposes.)

Here is me, feeling like a superhero, on the New! Trailer! at the lot today. [PS: dude at the lot, besides being a super nice, very helpful guy, also informed me today that he’d sold maybe a dozen trailers to people building tiny houses in the last year or so. See, it’s not just me!]

new! trailer!

Here’s Mom, standing on what will eventually be the stairs to the loft. I think you can see the whole trailer in that picture: imagine it slightly wider and a few feet longer!
mom with new! trailer!

Monday! MONDAY! M O N D A Y!

Also, I have another new friend: this guy is a great, sturdy little boat stove that my boss gave me. He pulled it off his own boat because he used it once and decided he didn’t like the way the mechanism worked (it’s an alcohol stove: every couple of days you have to pump up the alcohol container to keep it pressurized, which is really no big deal, but to my boss, it apparently meant “Deathtrap”. He is a worrier.). Frankly, he is not the kind of guy who is doing a lot of baking on his boat anyway, so he’s just as happy with a little propane grill. He brought it back last week when he got back from his most recent sailing trip–apparently the stove got to ride in the front seat of the car all the way from the Sea of Cortez home, and his two boating buddies and all their stuff had to cram into the back. It was in kind of rough shape when I got it: nothing major, just a lot of greasy gunginess and a corroded hose, but I am taking it up to a marine stove repair guy next week so he can replace the hoses/make sure nothing’s leaking, and today I attacked it with some crazy toxic oven cleaner and a scrubby. It’s not perfect–it needs chrome polish, a coat of enamel paint on some spots and a leeeetle more de-gunging–but cute, no? It can fit a large pyrex and a small cookie sheet, it’s got two burners, and between that and a fancy convection microwave/oven/broiler thingy, I think I’ll be pretty well-equipped to cook. Hopefully. If it is not a deathtrap.

harry's boat stove, topview


Day One is probably going to be just a lot of jacking things up and leveling things and getting things organized, but there is a possibility that the floor will start being framed out that day, depending on what Jeff can do. If that happens, then Day Two will be vapor barrier, flashing, insulation, subfloor. And after that? WALLS!

PS: I am going to need to think of a fancy, Downton Abbey-style name for this house, I think: a friend of mine makes small, modern laser’ed metal signs, and wants me to come up with a name for the house so he can make it a nameplate (which sounds way too cute to resist). I was flirting with the idea of Hummingbird House, but there’s already a Hummingbird Tiny Spaces out of TN that makes prefab tiny houses, so that might be out. Hmmm, thinking.