UPDATE: Tiny house communities are about dwelling in harmony, not dwelling on drama. We’re no longer at our old lot, but fear not: Boneyard Studios is still hosting tours, concerts, and other awesome events at a new location.

We’re thrilled to share our story of supporting small, sustainable urban infill, but don’t really have an interest in continuing to talk about why we left the old lot. We appreciate you respecting our privacy, and welcome any questions you may have about other things at support@boneyardstudios.org.

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Join the conversation! 58 Comments

  1. Unbelievable. What a total violation. You know La and I have your backs and support every move you make.

    On to better things. And good for you for putting this out there. People need to know who Brian really is.

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    • Thanks, Suzannah. We’ve always known we’ve had your support and feel so grateful for it! You and La are/were such an inspiration to us.

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  2. I came to one of your tours. LOVED everything about the space, the community, the houses. I have plans to create my own similar community, just need to find the space. Can’t believe it turned out like this, but will definitely keep all of this in mind when forming mine. Best wishes to you all, and I hope you can find a perfect new location.

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  3. A sad, sad story, Jay & Lee, but we have to remember that it’s not reflective on the TH community… just one individual going wonky and you’ll find at least one in every neighborhood. I’m glad you’re letting us share it with you because, as you said, there are lessons to be learned and I’m looking forward to living in a TH community myself some day. We’ll all benefit from your future posts. Thank you for your resiliency and your commitment to your fans!

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    • Thanks for your support, Teri, and I completely agree that this isn’t reflective of the tiny house community at large. It’s partly why we didn’t want to talk publicly about what happened as we didn’t want folks to think this failed because it’s not possible – it just failed because we didn’t set it up properly in the beginning. I know there will be many successful tiny house communities in the future.

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  4. You have handled this so gracefully and feel so upset that Jay and Lee have been treated this badly (although no surprised because I have met Brian and had my own opinions). Please know that you have all our support here and hope your future Journeys are happy. I appreciate all your efforts and cant wait to hear of your adventures. If you decide to begin another blog (hope you do) please post it up because I would follow. Thank you for your honesty!! Wishing you well!!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this information. Hopefully it will serve as a lesson to those hoping to start communities that intentions and realities often don’t work out to be the same when one individual owns rather than it being owned in common. I wish y’all well. It’s a shame you are not down here in Texas I would love to have you as part of the community I am trying to build. Keep rocking on and I am confident it will work out.

    Cheers,
    Chris

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  6. I’m so glad you’ve decided to tell the story and share some of the realities of having an impermanent home! I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with any of this.

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    • Thanks, Macy! The plus side of tiny houses is that they do have wheels and we can move them! There is an inherent risk yet also some stability that comes with that. I appreciate all you do to foster the larger tiny house community.

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  7. The r(E)volution stands behind y’all. I have been with your project since day one and so I fondly remember all that you have invested into tiny houses at large. I fondly remember the way you treated the Kolbeck family when they visited and the responses you sent me and your appearance on our podcast. I am sorry that emotional instability disrupted what stood out as a shining example in a movement constantly in flux (or at least seemingly so). Thank you for sharing the story and may the adventure from here out be safe, yet daring, and so richly rewarding!

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    • Thanks, Drew! We learned so much through this experience and in the end I feel grateful for the lessons (many hard ones, but they have made me a better person) and for all the wonderful folks we have met along the way like you! Hope your travels are treating you and the family well!

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  8. Are you all looking for a new lot? There is one I know of in Brookland on Perry St, owned by a neighbor. he’s spoken of wanting to devote it to a garden or some creative use and it might be a good fit for a new community.

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  9. My husband and I, too, attended one of the Boneyard Studios tours, and what we saw that day was so encouraging that it confirmed for us our intention to build a tiny house of our own. My husband went on to attend the conference you put on last spring. Now we’re well on way— preparing to finish the interior of our wee house this spring. Thanks for all you’ve given the tiny house community over the years. Here’s wishing the two of you smoother sailing in the future! (And when you figure out where DC will let us put tiny houses legally, make sure to share that news!)

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    • Jody, I’m sure I know your husband then if he took our workshop. Please send along any photos or a link to a blog if you have one of your build. I’d love to see your progress!

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  10. This is unjust enrichment on his part, you guys need to hire legal counsel.

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  11. I was able to tour your studios back in October 2013, when I attended a conference hosted by Jay Shafer at Gallaudet. You were so kind and so patient and answered all of our questions, even if you had heard them a million times before. You let us invade your personal space, check everything out. I am so sorry this has happened to you. Please know you inspired so many of us that day, as you have so many others. When one door closes, another definitely opens, and it has to be better. I wish you and Lee a lot of luck.

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    • Thanks Terri! I share your philosophy. Now it’s just seeing where the next door leads us. Thanks for your support and good luck on your tiny house journey!

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  12. I also attended a tour and was impressed with your homes and your enthusiasm for tiny houses. Thank you for opening your homes and educating and inspiring so many of us. So sorry to hear of Boneyard’s travails. Best of luck to you both in your new chapter!

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  13. I’m so sorry you were betrayed. I hope you have a good lawyer for the breach of contract. You have lots of support and we all want you to continue your work.

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  14. I hope you are able to continue with your commitment and beliefs. A selfish person reaps what they sow….and Karma may just step in……..
    I appreciate your integrity and positive attitude hang in there.

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  15. Oh! My big heart goes out to the two of you all the way from the west coast . Cooperatives are seriously the best when they work and the absolute gut wrenching worst when they don’t. What an awful feeling when trust is so incredibly compromised. Yuck!!! Really having a hard time holding back from trolling that dudes website, but I of course know better than to pour more foul smelling sauce into this sour stew. Here’s to a sweeter future for you both.

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    • Thanks, Jenn! Yeah, cooperatives are difficult in many ways, but not impossible, and we didn’t want folks to get the message that this experiment failed because it’s not possible – we just didn’t set it up correctly. We are just focused on putting our energy into the future and feel grateful for your kind words!

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  16. So very sad. Maybe Brian regrets his actions now that he is alone. Regardless, your experiences both good and bad will help those that want to replicate the positive lessons from Boneyard Studios. The lesson I took away from all of this is to memorialize all details in a legal contract. May the future be brighter for you both.

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    • Thanks, Angela! We started this project so quickly and with such enthusiasm that it was hard to think we wouldn’t be able to respectfully come to coexist with some differences when we were all so enthusiastic and supportive of one another, but you’re right better to plan in advance for any outcome as once things have begun to sour it’s usually too late to put those structures in place. We are looking forward to the future.

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  17. I know there’s two sides to every story, but having met the guy at one of your open houses- I believe it. What a dick.

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    • Thanks, Justin! I agree – I think there are many angles to every story. We are glad to be on the other side of this story and looking forward to the future!

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  18. It’s great to hear that there is just an ugly person behaving like a pig and lots of people ready to get your back and help you out! This is community.

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  19. What a horrible thing to do. It seems Scrooge has taken over the one person.

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  20. This breaks my heart. I thought it was a joke the entire time I was reading. Please keep us posted on where you are considering on landing. We’re in Baltimore and have dreamed of starting a similar project there. Peace and healing for all involved.

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    • Kat, thanks. We learned a lot of hard lessons, but honestly it’s made me into a better person and even more determined to set up the structure properly next time in the beginning. We’d love to hear more about your plans in Baltimore. I have friends there and have considered moving there if we can’t find space in DC (which, fortunately, it looks like we will). Still, I’d love to be of support to any endeavor in Baltimore that gets off the ground. Please keep us posted!

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  21. Sad to hear things turned out like this, but glad to hear you have a good sense of how to make a new community work – good luck!

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  22. Lee,
    I am inspired by your grace and positivity in the face of such disappointment. I so regret not having visited your lovely space in its heyday. Wishing you all the best in your future adventures. Please keep us informed.

    Shine on,
    Mary Lotto Ross

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  23. My heart goes out to you guys. Good for you to speak out: not only to allow others to learn from your experience but also to allow yourselves to be showered with support and love which you both deserve

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    • Thanks, Gabriella. The outpouring of support over the past months has just been phenomenal. While the situation was difficult, it made me into a better person and for that I am very grateful.

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  24. I am sorry to read about your troubles but I am glad you are sharing; it will help clear your heart & head. Know that you have a hugely supportive community online who admire you and wish you the best. You are trailblazers! I wish I could help.

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    • BA, your support and (online) friendship has been help enough! I know you’ve been through your own trials lately on your journey. While difficult, I’m actually very grateful for having been able to learn from this situation and the ways it has shaped me into a better person. Look forward to meeting you in person sometime soon!

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  25. That is so sad to hear. Seems you need some legal advice.

    Sadly this is a story that repeats itself over and over gain when ‘communities’ with a particular ideal are established at the outset rather than evolving naturally. There always seems to be a common denominator, and that is one person or a small group of people within the community who take advantage of others trust and demand and take more than their share of the community wealth and more than their share of the power. The same thing happens repeatedly in small business and partnerships. And I had wondered whether the same thing would happen with Tiny House communities. Lets hope this is a one off and we all learn something from your distressing experience.

    All that doesnt help of course in your current situation. I very much appreciate you telling the story and you have done so in as respectul a manner as possible. The whole thing makes me wonder about Brians mental health and of course you could do the what-ifs til the cows come home but it wont change the past or improve your current circumstances.

    I do hope that the unpleasantness you have exprienced (and it seems considerable) will pass and you find a safer more stable community in the next phase of your TH life. I am of course now intrigued and would also be interested to hear more when you have had to think it through and maybe analyse what happened a bit more.

    Good luck in your future endeavours and hopefully now better things will follow.

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  26. hello, my name is robin and I am also displaced, from an old family property. over the last year, I have been involved in a study about community living and during this time I have came across a few people that I would trust to be partners with.

    and we all have common goals. to live in a way on the land that we make the best of what we have by putting into the soil and building in a way that gives the harvest to us for as long as possible with underground greenhouses, aquaponics, earth grown vegetables watered with our fish ponds. sustainable living type things. land cover, ponds with the trees all fruit baring. on and on,
    even a biosphere experience,,,, our visions includes opportunity’s. smile.

    tiny houses are part of the interest. one of my friends in now building one, she is preparing to come to the southwestern area where I live. we have a friend that has built a community in Pigeon City, Fort Hancock Tx. that is being designed for travelers in small homes, and also permanent home lots, for the people who what to live there full time. BL Robertson in facebook is a good contact for this cite.

    if your in facebook, my mothers cite is Nancy Wylene Frost Peterson Homestead Collection. or robin Peterson in taylor az is my personal address.

    I am looking now for land in the region of route 66, usa, the mother highway. I have a collection of 1900-1940. horse drawn and early ranching and farming implements. I want to set it up in a road side attraction sort of setting on The Mother Road, of the USA. I am from AZ, and grew up on Route 66, and this collection will be dedicated to the people who made the United States of America. it will be designed to accommodate animals, with pens for their safety. small and large like a mare motel with bunk houses, or tiny houses if you like.

    along with this I can contribute tractor, backhoe, building materials. we have been working towards this for a while and bring with us the pratical things like water holding tanks, generators, and garage and shope .

    in the next few weeks we will be in a mobile situation also, but will continue to look for the right community to bond with.

    thanks for you posting about how this is working for you. please fill free to email me at robinpadair@hotmail.com if you would like to have a more personal conversation.

    with all communities, they come together with their own strength’s, forming what is to come. I can see something good and fun coming, for me it will be like a highway attraction, that people see and think , oh look, tiny houses, a rest area and pens for my cat to relax in…

    random conversations…oh, I can get a sandwich there. how cool is that… this is so nice, I would like to stay the night, what time is dinner? oh, what are you doing here? how does that work? could I play to? I would like to camp here, but I don’t have anything with me. oh, I can rent a sleeping bag ? I can stay in a tiny house? really? I’ve always wanted one…

    I am sending you the best of throughts.. with the stars like that are right now, put your dreams out there… and they will come…

    robin

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  27. I’m glad you told your story. It sounds like he took advantage of a group of people who were interested in a communal property and he knew you would help and pay for repairs. You don’t want the think there are people out there like that, but there are. Or maybe he thought it was a good idea in the beginning, then was overwhelmed by it and went off the deep end. Either way, you will come out ahead and your next place will be better than ever!

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  28. I loved the Boneyard studios and adored everyone in it and watching it progress. That said, it makes me uncomfortable to read this pointed post about someone on the internet. Most people just don’t deserve to be publicly shamed, and the repercussions of this post will live on long after you’ve moved on. Lots of people go through traumatizing divorces, mean-spirited rooming situations, and disrespectful work drama without resorting to public humiliation. There must have been valuable contributions from Brian and good times before things deteriorated. I am sure you have valuable lessons to share, but can do so in a way more focused on the lessons and less on a specific individual. I am truly sorry to see this much pain around what was a beautiful place, with truly inspirational people, and hope all parties involved can heal.

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    • Thanks for your honest feedback, Diana, and I agree: the last thing we wanted to do is post this. Despite some really traumatizing encounters, we did our best to be positive in previous posts, never really mentioning Brian in a negative way. Unfortunately he has been spreading a lot of nasty mistruths on his site and around DC, and our requests for him to take that information down have gone unanswered. We’ve gotten a lot of emails from folks asking what happened, telling us that the only information they could find about the drama was on Brian’s website, and after months of holding off, we finally agreed to get our story out there. Going forward we’re definitely going to be focusing on the individual lessons we’ve learned (and we’ve learned many), but it’d be difficult to explain them without providing some context around the main hurdle: an individual. I hope that makes sense, and I hope you can trust that none of this was intended to humiliate (indeed, more personal details were omitted), just to illuminate.

      Again, Diana, thanks for your comment. We want this to be a conversation, and it’s always great to hear different viewpoints in any discussion.

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  29. I am so sorry that this happened to you and to your neighbors. I can’t imagine how awful it must have been to live in such a hostile and chaotic environment.

    Since lots of folks commenting are referencing they’re own community formation aspirations, I want to strongly recommend the book: Creating A Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities by Diana Leafe Christian. The book explores the histories of several thriving and many failed communities, and handles issues like those you describe with pragmatism, clarity, and 20:20 hindsight from folks like you all who have faced these struggles. I really encourage you and everyone interested in growing community to check it out: http://bit.ly/1G6zQ4m

    Wishing you rest now and good things to come!

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  30. Hi guys!!
    As someone who fell in love with tiny houses in 2013, and visited your studio in June 2014, I’m both saddened by what happened, but very excited for your future. I could sense that something happened, and quietly sent lots of love your way as you took space to deal with being your disappointment and being displaced. What I know to be true is that when things this drastic occur, it always reveals itself to be an opportunity to do your thing – your unique thing. Please don’t doubt that what you wanted, and what you’re re-evaluating in order to move forward with more clarity, is.absolutely.needed. There is space for what you want and desire to build. Please don’t lose heart. Just stay focused on the unique characteristics of what you want experience, what you want to offer and what you want your impact to be. I’m convinced that a new and greater opportunity will present itself and doors will open wide. You’re clearly doing the work to learn your lessons, and I know that work will be honored. Please take heart and stay encouraged. It’s not over. It’s just a new start with a new thing – your thing. Looking forward to seeing what opens up for you all and cheering you on along the way. Thank you both for all the work you’ve done to prove what can be, and inspiring us through your example. Keep up the great work! Much love and warmth to you both! With you all the way!

    Sill a Fan!
    T

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    • Hi Tahisha, what a lovely message. Thank you so much for your support and positivity. It is all the folks like you – the visitors, the volunteers, the guests at the tiny house shows and events, that have made us realize how much interest and support there is within the tiny house community. We know there is room for all types of endeavors related to tiny houses, design and art, and we are looking forward to realizing our vision in collaboration with others who are similarly-minded. Thanks again for your encouraging words.

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  31. I read all sides. I get it, this is all very much like room-mates battles. You got the clean freak and the guy who leaves a plate in the kitchen sink. It just doesn’t work out with out careful attention from all sides. It is too bad you couldn’t squat on some “free” land somewhere, but hey everything requires cash these days and from what I read, it appears that one guy pretty much bankrolled everything. That would be OK, but he soon felt taken advantage of. No one should have put up more than the next, that should be rule #1. If you dont come with an equal amount of cash, don’t come. The rules should be clear and measurable. You guys will have a great list of lessons learned…but they wont be any different than ANY community. Perhaps ask the Amish for theirs or one of those cults out west.

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  32. […] In a rather outspoken article recently posted by Jay Austin on March 20, he fingers Brian Levy as the main reason why things went south. Austin paints Levy as a passive-aggressive bully on a selfish mission to further his own interests at the expense of their so-called community. […]

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  33. Wow! I was just starting to plan a road trip with my family to see Boneyard Studios and the Minim House. Sad to say this but as a Baby Boomer who was looking for a counterculture community to join back in the 70’s, this kind of community breakup is more common than not. I came to the conclusion back then that modern North American young adults are not temperamentally suited to living harmoniously in small, tight knit communities. Sooner or later, private interests among community members take precedence over group interests, or key members get into intimate relationships that turn toxic to the whole, or capitalism rears its ugly, exploitive head and moneymaking trumps all other human values. Interestingly, trying to anticipate this process of breakdown/breakup by entering into a clearly stated contractural agreement early during the community building process often has the ironic effect of precipitating the breakup itself. (Perhaps the informal, warm & fuzzy feelings of early community formation, akin to the warm fuzzies of a couple’s courtship, are essential to the tribalization process and, like a discussion of a pre-nuptial agreement, anything put in writing tends to become a cold, wet blanket on a fragile budding relationship.) As my wife & I proceed with our goal to build our own tiny house to support us in our old age, we’ll certainly make sure that our future doesn’t become enmeshed with any group. The necessity for a high degree of self-reliance seems to be the essential lesson of a sober analysis of human history – all our primate social feelings to the contrary.

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  34. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing, I know sometimes it’s hard to come out when you want to be the “positive” one or not sully someone else’s name. It’s important to hear stories like this though as we are starting to move into a phase were we see a lot more focus on Tiny Comuities vs just the Tiny House.

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  35. […] few months back, the Matchbox moved. It left its old, troubled home in Stronghold and rumbled on over to a quiet backyard in a quiet corner of Brookland. It was a […]

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