Austin: Food, Music, Murals and oh yeah…Tiny Homes

I am so lucky to have a sister and brother-in-law who live in the wonderful city of Austin, TX. Not only do I have a great place to visit but also a wonderful awesome family who indulges my search for Tiny Homes. As soon as I land and by soon I mean by the airport exit, my sister happily says, “I have to take you to The Noble Pig“. Whaaat??? Pork belly and fried egg, yup! Let me just say that my sis feeds me something awesome and fabulous as soon as I get off the plane.

chicken tenders (Franks Hot Dogs)

chicken tenders (Franks Hot Dogs)

image

image

Incredible Dog @ Franks

Incredible Dog @ Franks

image

Ah Delicious

Ah Delicious

image imageI have digressed because Austin food is amazing. Not only are they known for food trucks but they have amazing music festivals(Austin City Limits). And, if you need a really good walk (or if you are like my sister and need to reach 25,000 steps on your fitbit), well you can walk miles and miles and miles searching the many murals of Austin. Make sure to bring some ice water (for those wonderful HOT days) or grab a snow cone along the way.

So, back to my visit to Austin – other than food, music and murals, Austin has an amazing tiny thing going on. My sister and brother-in-law, though their home is far from tiny, indulge me and support me in my tiny home enthusiasm. So, when I share with them that we must go seek out a local tiny house builder – Bo Bezdek, my sister drives me to go find Bo. At first, we thought; we must absolutely be in the wrong place as we were on a dirt road that google maps happily put us on. But, as we drive past a big gate, I scream “STOP, I see it” –  two tiny houses in the back of what appeared to be a home. There is a number in the front and I call and leave a message. My sister, brother-in-law and I go grab a bite (of course we do) and Bo calls me back and even though it is late, he kindly invites us over to view the tiny homes he’s working on.

Bo and his lovely wife greet us at the gate along with their dogs and cats and gladly give us a tour. He explained that he was working on several projects. His office, he built from mostly recycled materials was his first building on the property to be built in a sustainable fashion. He explained that prior to building tiny homes, he was in the business of building big homes. He had another vision. A vision for a more sustainable and simpler life. Bo and his wife are currently building a tiny home on this same property for their family of five.

He then took us further into his property where he was working on two tiny homes, one was about a 14 foot home that someone started but realized they could not finish. It was TINY! Then he showed us one that a young couple asked him to build, with plans that they purchased from another company. Bo tweaked the plans to meet the couples needs and their own design ideas. I can tell you that Bo is building that house for about half of what it would have cost to have another company build it. He explained electrical and plumbing things to me. He also shared that a side entrance gives you much more floor space. He shared the practicality of using certain materials as opposed to others. He told me to research local kitchen, window and door companies, who will sometimes sell materials for a lesser cost because they could not use it on a particular job and now were stuck with it. Some great tips and things to consider!  Stay tuned to HGTV where in July, Bo and this tiny house will be featured. He is an incredible talent. If you are in the vicinity of Austin and are planning to build a tiny home or are just thinking about it, please check him out at Austin Tiny Homes.

I can tell you one thing that I have found about this movement; people are gracious and always willing to talk to you about the process of going tiny. I have found most people to be so generous with their time and knowledge.

A special thanks to my sis and brother for not only supporting me and driving me around, but for being especially inquisitive along with me. A special thank you to my sister who, may think I am slightly crazy because her closet is about the size of my dream home, but, her husband secretly would love to live in a tiny house 🙂

Stay tuned for my next post; Austin Tiny Home Community that Rocks!

Advertisements

How and Where to even Start? That is the Question

So now that I’ve gone to to a conference and I am literally all fired up and ready to go, uh where to – not sure yet. I go to work each day and it’s almost too much, as I have way to much planning, reading, researching and purging to do. My job is a necessary not so horrible evil, as it does still provide me with a much needed income, but honestly all I can do is focus on my tiny house project. I mean I know its not really a tangible project as of yet, but in my heart and head it is as tangible as anything I have ever done.

So. in order to fully feel as if I am being productive in making my project a ” real project” in progress, without actually being involved in the actual building process, I do a lot of reading, researching, finding tiny homes to visit, finding tiny house builders to talk to, proposal writing, and blogging. All these things, though not actually hands on building, are in some way paving the way to my future building as I am taking note of all things relevant to actually building a tiny home. It’s inquisition on steroids. I figured, all this passionate inquiring can only insure a more well orchestrated building project when I do finally get there.

Some helpful things to do prior to doing any building:

*Go to a building Conference – Learn about the actual building process; learn about what it means to live in a tiny house from those who are actually doing it. Check out Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, they have many workshops going on at different times and in different states around the US. Also check out Tiny House Blog, they also have listings of workshops in various areas.

*Read, read, read – Nothing will give you more inspiration than reading the stories of those who have forged the way already. You will gain passion, perspective, insight and tons of do’s and don’ts from your fellow tiny housers. It is also a great way to see designs and start thinking of what you like and don’t like.

*Keep a recording Log – Since I decided that I was going to build a tiny home someday, I started to keep a log of dates and ideas, whether its reading, watching videos, talking to builders, talking to other tiny house enthusiast. Any and all of it, I keep notes. I use my iphone to take notes as well as something as simple as a marble notebook. I also keep a file with loose papers, such as photos and articles from magazines. All this gives me a point of reference for when I am ready to build.

*Start a Pinterest Tiny home Board – Pinterest has a search engine where you just type in tiny homes and OH MY GOD….you will find thousands of design ideas, photos, links, and just probably all wonderful cool things to look at. Be warned, it can be highly addictive. One minute you are cooking dinner and just browsing through casually – the next minute your smoke alarm is going off because you forgot about dinner and an hour has gone by or you start to look for just one thing and you look up and two hours have passed.

*Visit or stay in a Tiny House – I have found it helpful to visit tiny homes – thanks to google and friends who know about my obsession, I have been able to go in a few. Being in one is quite the experience and may actually help you to really see if this is for you. I walked into an 27 foot tiny house and my first reaction was “wow this is huge” and then I also went into a 14 foot home and so “oh boy too tiny” – thing is you really need to know what you can live with. Like Goldilocks, you have to try it on for size.

*Look around your current “bigger” home – Go from room to room and start thinking “what can I live without?” So far, without even moving or getting rid of anything major yet, I already have cleaned out house in my head. I also started to make a list of what needs to go and what I will allow myself to keep. Happy to say that the to go list is longer than the must keep 🙂

*Start a possible building team – Listen, one can easily have a tiny house built by one of the many builders out there. There are many reliable, awesome companies out there: Tumbleweed, Four Lights Tiny House Company, Tiny Home Builders and a few others who will build you a beautiful tiny home but the price may not be so tiny. These are fantastic companies but if you are like me, and finance is an issue, building your home with a good set of plans and the help of friends and family, you can build your tiny home for under $20,000 or as I’m hoping much less. Building your own home, also allows you to build over time without having to borrow and incur debt which is probably one of the reasons you are doing this in the first place AND you can build a little at a time. Sure it may take you longer but there are some perks – such as pride in doing it yourself, community working together, time to get a feel for your own style, and it is financially feasible.

*Think about where you are going to build – Okay, if you are like me and don’t really have property or a backyard to build on, this could be a problem. I live in Queens, New York, in an apartment with no backyard and on a very narrow street. I had originally written a proposal (and I might add that it was a very compelling one), which I sent to a local sculpture park. The administrator found it commendable and intriguing but because it is a state park, personal building is not possible, so he recommended I apply for a fellowship with a theme of Art Installation. Well, I am going to give it my best shot. I have also noted various warehouses in the area that I am planning to petition to (I will keep you posted to how this is received and my progress). A friend had kindly offered her driveway in the suburbs of Long Island but there may be issues with permits, neighbors who may not be keen on the idea and also its not demographically desirable because of the distance (about an hour travel for me). I need to build near me so that I can build every second I have available. One tiny house builder, told me that she was trying to build in a friends backyard in New England and the friends neighbors went bananas. So, having an ensured place to build is one of the first things you should figure out.

These are just a few things that come to mind and things I have done in my own process. I honestly feel that it is so important to do these things prior to building, as the more you know the more prepared and knowledgeable you will be. I find that every day, I learn and read something new. Gosh, Composting toilets can take weeks of research. I never ever thought that toilets could be so captivating, but they are!

Making a Decision and Taking the first Plunge

“Well all I need is the air that I breathe and a place to rest my head” ~ One Republic

I have been tired for a long time. Not the kind of tired where you just can’t do anything or find it hard to get your day going. I have the kind of tired that forces me to move, to change, to want, to create. There are many reasons for my desire to live simply. I want more of less, if that makes any sense. Wanting more of less is going to free me to have a bigger life. For over a year I’ve watched, read and followed all things about tiny houses to the point where it was no longer an idea or a curiosity, but more of a need. It resonates with my soul.

I decided to take the first plunge into real research by signing up for a Tumbleweed Tiny House Conference in January of 2015. The conference was in Orlando, Florida – making it even more appealing. as the unrelenting cold and ice in New York City was slowly killing my spirit this winter.

First, let me just say that even if you are not planning to use them as your building company, but are thinking or planning to build a tiny home, I encourage you to go to one of their conferences. When I first signed up. I called the company to just ask what I could expect by going to this conference. They are so lovely and always willing to answer questions. I had no idea what to expect, or even how I was planning to do this. I have no money and live in the city for God’s sake. But I can tell you what I have, gumption, fearlessness and intense desire and curiosity. That curiosity has helped me have develope some wonderful connections with other Tiny Housers.

Upon arriving at the conference, I was so taken back by how many people were there. For some reason I thought there would be maybe 30 people. but to my surprise, there had to be at least 100 like minded people. There were people of various ages, backgrounds, and cities. Some were young couples, students, contractors, people nearing retirement, attorneys, engineers etc…And the overall consensus of why we were all there was “freedom”. We all want financial freedom, more time for living, more time for people and less stuff to be attached to.

I am one of those people who went back to school so that I could support my then young son as a single mother. Laden with student loan debt even after being at my job for over 14 years, I feel like a prisoner. My job has been a blessing in my life, It has afforded me to support my son and has given me a life time of wonderful memories. both from my students and the wonderful people I have worked with. My son is now grown and I am nearing an age where I can choose to retire and live a different kind of life. I have made a conscious decision to retire in two years. No longer wishing to be a prisoner to a future or pension that may never come. I am choosing to live for today. Building a tiny home will ensure that I have a roof over my head and a home that I have built on my own with the freedom to build over a time frame that will keep me mortgage and debt free.

Our presenter, at the two day conference, was Art Cromier. Art built his own tiny home and is a presenter for Tumbleweed. It was a gift to have a presenter who could walk you through the building process from his own experience. Art generously gave tips, shared mistakes, lessons and answered many questions. For instance, he shared that he has a ladder to ascend to his sleeping loft but has changed his perspective and feels that stairs are better and less slippery especially as we get older even though stairs take away from precious floor space. Space is the key to design as going tiny is not an easy thing and it takes quite a bit of purging to do it. But, in Art’s words. “all we need as humans, love, warmth and shelter can be had in a 175 foot space. You can watch many of Art building and installation Videos on YouTube.

IMG_2771 IMG_2727 - Copy IMG_2729 - Copy

Also present at the conference, Jenna and Guillaume. This young couple built their tiny home with their Tumbleweed plans and are traveling the United States with their tiny home. Graciously, they opened up their home at the conference and gave us a tour and answered so many questions and provided such helpful tips to us. Their home is sweet and Jenna has made it her own work of art, adding vintage crate boxes for stairs and uses burlap as a utensil holder. Their home is a creative and lovely example of living small. If you want a real treat, follow their journey. Their blog is a plethora a beautiful writing by Jenna and scenic gorgeous photos by Guillaume.

Be forewarned though, if you plan on attending one of the these conferences, make sure that if you want to see a tiny house that you inquire prior to booking it, if there will be a tiny house to view. Jenna and Guillaume said that not all conferences have a tiny home for viewing and may be a disappointment to some. So if you are planning to attend, it’s a good idea to call Tumbleweed and just ask if there will be a home at the conference. It would be disappointing not to see one especially, if like me, you flew to another state thinking there would be one and then one was not available. Other than that be prepared to be inspired and like me, be full of anticipation and excitement!

Born in a Tiny House

In thinking of the beginning, I thought that my love for tiny houses grew to be a thing a couple of years ago when I haphazardly bumped into the Tiny House Movement while googling for God knows what. While processing my desire to someday build my own tiny home, I was drawn to memories of  my early childhood.

I was born in rural Central Puerto Rico, in a small town called Morovis; or as some call it “la isla menos Morovis” – all the island except Morovis; in reference to the Cholera out break of 1853 that ravaged the island minus this small municipality. Many think that this phrase used to identify it could be seen as negative but in reality it is quite the opposite – it’s like a miracle spared this small town.

My mother bore me into this world, on a hot summer day in the tiny house with a tin roof – in the same bed where my maternal grandmother left this world. My Taino Indian grandmother lived and died in this same house. ln this house she raised four sons and four daughters. The house was meager to say the least (probably less than 500 feet). It had two bedrooms, small common area and a small kitchen. There were no glass windows, only wood shutters that were open most of the time and closed only when the rains came. It stood on cement blocks to provide shelter underneath during storms and hurricanes. It was also, one of my favorite hiding places, where the dark earth cooled my sun drenched skin. Upon my grandmothers death, she asked all of my mothers siblings to allow my mother to keep the home, as she was the only one of the siblings who did not have her own home. Thus it came to be, that this was the wonderful place where I got to run wild and free for the first five years of my life. My memories are few, but I do remember feeling happy and free. I was most often barefoot and chasing the chicks whose mother hen would jump wildly to peck at me in order to make me stop. It was the place where my paternal grandfather would catch the tiny lizards that came into the house and would clip them to his ears like dangling earrings to amuse me and make me scream with laughter. It was the home where the chickens came in the house and walked around as if they were part of the household or the children who lived in it. It was the place where the sun shone bright and the night stars were even brighter. It was a tiny home with the biggest sky above it.

When my parents decided to leave Puerto Rico to migrate to New Jersey where both my parents went to work in factories, the tiny house with the tin roof was left behind and so was the carefree life style that I’d known or at least I believed it to be. No longer could I run barefoot with the chickens, and the sound of rain on the tin roof became a distant memory. My parents gave up a certain kind of freedom for the “American Dream” ~ and even thenthey never owned another home nor a tiny one for that matter. I am not sure that it was a trade up. Perhaps it was not as wonderful for them as it was in the memories of a child, but I do know that it was by far a simpler less restricted life.

That may have been my beginning and it may have been a lifetime ago, but I know what I lived and how it felt to live it. It is those memories that will me – that drive me, to seek and live a simpler, tinier and freer tomorrow….somehow 🙂