Help us create a more diverse tiny house movement!

Over the past six years of being active in the tiny house movement I have seen the diversity of people interested in building and living tiny, so it was always a surprise to me when I would attend and speak at the nation’s largest tiny house event – the Tiny House Jamboree – how overwhelmingly homogeneous the event was (almost all white). When the Jamboree moved this year from Colorado Springs to Dallas, I hoped the event and speaker lineup would be more representative of not only the city where it’s being held but also of the movement as a whole.

However, when a colleague and I expressed concern to the organizers for the third year in a row about the all-white, and almost all-male speaker lineup, we received a tremendous amount of pushback.  The contract I had signed to lead a workshop at the event was rescinded, and Jewel Pearson, co-founder of Tiny House Trailblazers, received a racist, threatening message from a tiny house event organizer. For the full story about our efforts and the response we received, please read the article I posted last month to the tiny house community (below).

Everyone's Welcome

Article I wrote last month on Medium about our experiences trying to make tiny house events more inclusive and representative

Rather than going where we’re not welcome, we’re instead working with others who value diversity, who understand the tiny house movement is not just comprised of TV hosts and lifestyle bloggers with large Instagram followings, and who understand what it takes to build true community.  As such we’re planning a series of talks over the next three months, “Art, Culture, Creativity and Tiny Houses” to help bring diverse voices and diversity awareness to the larger community.

We are fundraising to pay for the travel costs in October for the founders of Tiny House Trailblazers , Jewel Pearson and Dominique Moody, to host a talk in DC and attend the Mid Atlantic Tiny House Expo, whose proceeds are being donated to Civic Works. Some of the smaller tiny house events, like the Mid Atlantic Expo, do not have budget to pay travel or speaker costs, but still want to show the diversity of the tiny house movement and by bringing the founders of Tiny House Trailblazers to this event they will be able to do that.

Will you join us and support bringing diverse representation to tiny house events?  There are numerous ways to support our efforts:

  1. Please donate to the Tiny House Trailblazers fundraising campaign that will pay travel costs for the Tiny House Trailblazers and will fund a video about diversity to be shared freely with event organizers and online.

  2. Attend the talk in DC on Friday, October 27 to hear the stories of Tiny House Trailblazers.  Please RSVP on EventBrite.

  3. Attend the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo on October 28 and 29 and come by the Tiny House Trailblazers booth to say Hi!

 

 

 

Update on tiny houses in DC

Happy Winter!

Wait…what Winter?

It’s hard to believe the photo below was my tiny house just a year ago here in Washington, DC.  We are getting ready for some changes that we will announce soon on the site, but in the meantime I wanted to give you all a few resources for staying engaged with the tiny house community in the DC/VA/MD area since I’ve noticed many new subscribers to our site in the New Year. Welcome!

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Before shoveling. Tiny House in DC winter storm. 2016

Now that we have been living in our houses for a couple years, there isn’t as much to blog about regularly, but we continue to stay active in the tiny house movement.  Jay blogs about his travels and minimalist lifestyle in addition to hosting open houses in the warmer months.  I, Lee, am busy working with the Tiny House Collaborative, a nationwide organization that empowers individuals and organizations to transform their communities and cities through innovative housing and lifestyle choices and provides the resources to design, build, and dwell efficiently.

It seems 2017 may just skip Winter altogether and move right into Spring, which is fine by me.  In the tiny house world Spring is our favorite season since it’s the beginning of build season! So, if you’ve been thinking about building a tiny house or just want to know if the lifestyle is a good fit for you, consider some Spring tiny house events.  Join the Tiny House Collaborative for our Tiny House 101 workshop in mid-March in Washington DC.  Or if you would like to see a dozen owner-built tiny houses all in one location come down to Dallas in April for the nation’s largest Earth Day event.  Not only is there a tiny house community that gets set up for tours over the weekend, you can also take a workshop on how to set up tiny house communities.

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Tiny House Expo at Earth Day Texas 2016. Photo Credit: Tiny House Expedition 

Finally, if you’d like to keep informed of local tiny house-related events and connect with other tiny house enthusiasts there are numerous ways to do so:

I hope your 2017 is off to a great start, and we will be in touch soon with news about our next ventures and adventures!

 

 

A few December tiny house events

Before the cold weather really sets in and we bundle up in our houses (big or small), a few tiny house events happening in DC next week:

Thursday, December 8 @ 7:30PM
Tiny house talk + Q&A at Patagonia DC
Free admission, free snacks, and free beer! Jay will be talking about building and living in the Matchbox, and the big adventures living simply can provide. Doors open at 7PM.

Sunday, December 11 @ 11AM
Tiny house tour of the Matchbox
Take a tour of the 150-square-foot, off-grid house, currently situated right in the middle of a bustling and festive holiday tree farm, courtesy of Old City Farm & Guild.

Hope you can make it!

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The Matchbox at Old City Farm & Guild

 

Tour the Matchbox: September 15th, 2016

Between summer travel and summer heat, it’s been a quiet season for Boneyard Studios. But with cooling weather and lovely evenings ahead, we’re excited to announce another tiny house tour Thursday, September 15 at 6PM! After dozens and dozens of Sunday morning open houses, we’re curious to try out a weekday evening tour, aimed at those who may not be able to make it downtown on a weekend. The Matchbox (and only the Matchbox) will be open for viewing and a Q&A at 925 Rhode Island Avenue NW—home of Old City Farm & Guild, with a Metro stop, CaBi station, multiple bus stops, and plenty of bike parking (and car parking) nearby.

Like always, we’ll start promptly with a general introduction, so please arrive on time. Afterwards you’ll be free to ask questions, take photographs, check out the space and its many small and off-grid features, and take a walk around the lovely urban farm right in the Matchbox’s backyard. Catch a few more details on Facebook here, or head on over and register here. Hope to see you on the 15th!

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The Matchbox @ 925 Rhode Island Avenue NW

Tiny house tours are back again! Come tour the Matchbox April 10th

After a winter in hibernation, Boneyard Studios is back with more spring, summer, and fall tiny house events! Full calendar coming soon, but in the meantime—the first 2016 tour of the Matchbox will be on Sunday, April 10 from 11AM to 1PM. Come by to ask questions about simple living and tiny house design, walk through DC’s only fully off-grid and self-sustaining tiny home, and check out the awesome urban farm and garden center managed by our great friends at Old City Farm & Guild.

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As usual, we’ll do a big Q&A right at 11—so please arrive on time for that!—followed by a leisurely procession through the Matchbox (alas, the small house can’t exactly fit our enormous crowds all at once). Photography welcome, kids welcome, dogs welcome, everyone welcome (though please let us know if we can help arrange any special accommodations). We’re at 925 Rhode Island Ave NW, just a few minutes’ walk from the Shaw Metro (yellow/green) and tons of bus stops and CaBi stations. There’s ample room for bikes, and if you have to drive, street parking is available in the area.

Oh, one last thing: Boneyard Studios is a little non-profit that organizes big events abot tiny houses throughout the District. These tours cost a bit to put on (liability insurance, rental space, incidental repairs, etc.), so we’re asking for a small admittance donation if you can swing it (though you’ll always be welcome if you can’t). Either way, grab a spot here (or down below), and share with your Facebook buddies here. See you in April!

More information about the Matchbox here, and Boneyard Studios all over here. The Matchbox has been featured in the Washington PostCBS NewsDwellthe AtlanticTreehugger, the Washington City PaperNPRArchitectural Record, the National JournalUrban TurfCountry LivingThe DailyUK Mail Online, the New York Daily NewsABC7FOX5FOX NewsWAMUReasonInhabitat, and more.

Introducing the Tiny House Collaborative and DC Workshop!

The last six months since I posted about the Tiny House Jamboree have been busy, and I’m excited to announce a new resource for those of you wanting to learn about tiny houses. The Tiny House Collaborative officially launched a month ago, and our first workshop will be held in DC at the end of March.  Come and learn from tiny house designers, builders, and advocates from across the country.  More information is available here.

When we started Boneyard Studios we did so because we didn’t want to build our tiny houses alone in isolation but rather within a community.  Even though 3 of the original 4 of us have all left the property where we began we have still continued on with community efforts.  Elaine Walker has been instrumental in getting the American Tiny House Association off the ground, Jay Austin and I have continued to host events around tiny houses here in DC in collaboration with Old City Farm and Guild where the Matchbox house is located, and I have been busy working with a great group of folks on a resource-sharing site for tiny house enthusiasts, builders, and cities.  This past fall Vina Lustado of Sol Haus Design brought me out to Ojai, CA to lead a workshop with Lina Menard on tiny house communities for city planners and community members, and this winter I met up with fellow collaborators in Orlando, FL where my colleague James Taylor has helped to grow a tiny house community of 12 houses and counting!

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Tiny House Community Workshop participants in Ojai, CA. 

You can learn more about the Tiny House Collaborative on our website, but a little about us here: We are designers, builders, and advocates, most of us living in our tiny houses full-time and we represent all regions of the U.S.  We met at the 2015 Tiny House Jamboree and instantly came to the same conclusion. There was so much excitement and possibility in the tiny house movement — so much need for education and outreach. We knew we didn’t need yet another tiny house business just trying to make a buck on the growth of tiny house popularity. Instead, we wanted to offer a place for more resource sharing and more connectedness! The word “synergy” described our vision perfectly: the interaction of elements that when combined is greater than the sum of its parts.

We’ve seen countless friends and colleagues try to offer tiny house products and services alone. But we had a different idea. Collectively, no collaboratively, we can contribute much more. Clearly, our combined knowledge and skills vastly outweighs that of any of us individually.  Come learn with us at our DC workshop or just check out the site where we will continue to post resources like our map of tiny house builders!

 

 

TINY HOUSE EVENTS: tours and concerts this autumn

Many thanks to the 700+ people who came out on a (slightly soggy) afternoon to tour the Matchbox earlier this month. It’s clear that tiny house fever is still raging strong, so we’re thrilled to announce the first set of our 2015 fall events. All events (unless otherwise noted) will take place at the Matchbox’s new spot at Old City Farm & Guild, in a super-accessible location over at 925 Rhode Island Avenue NWSIgn up here!

Tuesday, October 6, 6:30PM: TINY HOUSE CONCERT
Featuring AndrewN and Talya TavorBYOB.

Sunday, October 18, 11AM: TINY HOUSE OPEN HOUSE
Tour the Matchbox and learn more about the tiny house movement.

Tuesday, October 20, 6:30PM: TINY HOUSE CONCERT
Featuring The Darkest Timeline. BYOB.

Friday, October 30, 6:30PM: TINY HOUSE CONCERT
Featuring Drive TFCBYOB.

Sunday, November 22, 11AM: TINY HOUSE OPEN HOUSE
Tour the Matchbox and learn more about the tiny house movement.

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Note: Just the Matchbox is at Old City Farm & Guild for now, so only one house is available for touring. But there’s loads of other cool stuff at the farm to look at (it is, after all, a farm). We’ll be posting more photos and information about the Matchbox’s new surroundings (very) soon, but if you just can’t wait, head on over to Old City for bulbs, pumpkins, seeds, flowers, planters, and a whole lot more in one of DC’s greatest examples of creative reuse of space. We’re all right in the heart of Shaw at 925 Rhode Island Ave NW.

Tiny houses and more: some exciting (and less-exciting) zoning changes in DC’s near future

Zoning isn’t sexy. It’s complex, mundane, and (for the most part) inaccessible to the average citizen. But it affects us all, good and bad, by shaping the urban environment we live in each and every day. And here in DC, we’re in the midst of perhaps the most exciting time for zoning this century (at least, as exciting as it gets). Bear with us, because creating a more progressive District requires your help:

The District of Columbia has been rewriting its very-outdated zoning regulations (last updated when Eisenhower was president) over the past few years, and we at Boneyard Studios have been ardent supporters of the project since our founding. In tours and testimony, to press and patrons, we’ve spoken of the need for our cities to do more to support affordable, reasonable residences. And for the most part, it’s been working.

What will the rewrite do? The Coalition for Smarter Growth has a great write-up here. For one, it’ll loosen up unnecessary and expensive and space-inefficient parking minimums around new developments. It’ll also relax the ban on corner stores, allowing for more walkable, community-minded neighborhoods throughout the District. And most closely to our hearts, it’ll take one (small) step forward in permitting more affordable and space-conscious dwellings like accessory dwelling units, carriage houses, and habitable basements.

What will it do for even tinier houses? Little, if anything. Tiny houses aren’t illegal in the District of Columbia, and though those choosing to reside in them aren’t given the same rights as those living in larger-footprint homes (like tax benefits or a certificate of occupancy), neither DC’s current code nor the rewrite would criminalize where one chooses to spend their days or evenings with permission of the landowner. It would establish and protect, as a matter or right, “camping” of an alley lot owner in a structure on her own land, yet prohibit open fires or camping for more than one month per year—odd, as these are already protected as a matter of right for any landowner in the District (pursuant to the fire code, of course). It would also grant, as a matter of right, the construction of code-compliant foundation-built small houses in alleyways (ignoring tiny houses on wheels, as they’re considered travel trailers under zoning regulations).

But it’s not all perfect. Deeper in, Subtitle U/601.1(a) vaguely criminalizes homelessness by prohibiting sleeping or loitering on vacant property (yet still allows camping as a matter of right when the property owner is in the loop). And /601.1(c) sets some oddly specific parameters around truly residential use in alley lots—not a problem for Boneyard Studios’ more mobile tiny houses on wheels (both of which are currently on private non-alley property with the owners’ permission), but still a tad restrictive for our liking. Certainly the changes are better than the initial rewrite revisions, but for others looking to cultivate creative urban infill in our great city, they may be a bit too cumbersome. In other words: this doesn’t directly impact Boneyard Studios, but it may directly impact you.

And truth be told, it’ll indirectly impact us all. DC’s alleyways are its hidden gem, its flowing capillaries, and we at Boneyard Studios want to see more of them put to good use. We’re for safe, sustainable development, and we’re happy to see some really great changes to DC’s zoning taking place. If you’re a DC resident, we don’t want to tell you what to think, but we do want to urge you what to think about. Take a look for yourself at Subtitle U and whatever other bits of the regulations review is dearest to your heart, and drop a comment in the sidebar wherever you agree or disagree. But do it soon, because the comment period ends September 25th!

Want to see a tiny house for yourself? Come on out to the DC State Fair this Saturday (September 12th), where we’ll be giving tours of the Matchbox every hour on the hour from 1PM to 6PM. That’s a lot of tours for a little house.

Keeping alley lots open for creative use means keeping laws smart and simple

Keeping alley lots open for creative use means keeping laws smart and simple

Tiny house tours are back: Another move for the Matchbox

It’s been a long year—three lovely locations, two messy moves, one little house just looking for home. And last week, the Matchbox moved yet again, available for tours and visits and concerts and much, much more very soon.

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Boneyard Studios has always been about local architecture, local arts, and local agriculture, and so we’re thrilled to be teaming up with the awesome folks at Old City Farm & Guild, the coolest urban garden center in the District. It’s a place where plants and people come together right in the center of the city (Shaw, to be exact), and this fall the Matchbox will be in the center of it all, adding some great tiny house events to Old City’s already wonderful set of community gatherings. It’s going to be a great autumn, and you’re welcome to join us in kicking things off right at the DC State Fair, hosted by Old City on Saturday, September 12 from 12PM to 8PM (more information here).

Our fall calendar is still in the works, so if you can’t make it to the fair, no worries—there will be many more opportunities to see the Matchbox coming up. Until then, here’s a little footage of the little house out on the big road:

Tiny House Community: Reflections on the Tiny House Jamboree

I often start off my introductions by stating that I never wanted to build a tiny house.  People chuckle and, a bit incredulously, ask “What do you mean you didn’t want to build one?  I can hear the confusion in their voice, and I understand.  After all I spent the last three years of my life building a tiny house and a tiny house community. 

Yet I wasn’t like many of the tiny house DIY builders that I know.  Sure, I got excited about the design, but I wasn’t all that interested in learning how to build: I had never even held or operated a drill and driver before starting this project, and I certainly didn’t know what a rainscreen was or what PEX meant.  What excited me more than building the house was doing something creative in an urban area to challenge us to think more intentionally about the way we live our lives and about what we can do with unused and vacant spaces.

So no, I didn’t really want to build my own house, but I ended up having to because when I started this project there were no fully-built tiny houses to buy and there were very few plans available.  Fast forward three years and more than three network TV shows, and it seems everyone has caught tiny house fever.  I no longer have to explain to people what a tiny house on wheels is, I can’t keep up with all the different builders, groups, blogs, and shows out there, and what was once seen as a fringe (and tiny) movement has grown into an (almost) mainstream industry.

Given the numbers at the Tiny House Jamboree last weekend you could argue that tiny houses are already a mainstream industry.  40,000 people came pouring into the grounds outside of Colorado Springs to tour more than 25 houses, to learn about different technologies for off-grid living, and to listen to many of us who have already taken this tiny house journey speak about our experiences.

I must admit I was a bit suspicious at first. I think anyone who has been part of a small community or movement feels a bit excited but also protective when it enters the mainstream. I wondered about the integrity of people who are now tiny house TV celebrities. I didn’t fully trust the motivations of businesses who were springing up nationwide to build tiny houses.  Were these folks really passionate about the reasons we build tiny houses? Challenging people to address overconsumption, take control of their finances, live intentionally, learn to communicate and be present without distraction?  Were they committed to changing an industry that builds bigger because it’s cheaper?  Or were they just jumping into this movement because it would increase their ratings and profits?

After a weekend spent with builders, both DIY and professional, I am humbled.  I didn’t meet anyone who was purely in this for the money or the popularity of it.  I shared a panel with Zac Griffen of Tiny House Nation and he started off asking the audience to please not ask him questions about the TV show and then proceeded to give some of the most eloquent answers on sustainability, intentional living, and responsible design of the whole event.  Darin Zaruba of EcoCabins, whose company hosted the event, was passionate about making sure DIY builders knew about code and zoning and the challenges they posed.  And, upon meeting other tiny house builders who I had only before corresponded with online, any lingering fears I still had about small living and never quite being understood by others quickly vanished.  I hadn’t realized how much energy I expend explaining my choice to build a tiny house to people until I didn’t have to explain it anymore.  They just got it – they too had all built their own houses before tiny houses gained popularity. They too had to justify to their friends, family and colleagues why this lifestyle was important to them.  Not having to explain myself and my decisions after three years of so much explaining was perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the whole weekend.

Saturday night panel: Zac Griffen of Tiny House Nation, Lina Menard of Niche Design and Consulting, Andrew Morrison of Tiny House Build, Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios and Darin Zaruba of EcoCabins

Drinking beer on the Saturday night panel: Zac Griffen of Tiny House Nation, Lina Menard of Niche Design and Consulting, Andrew Morrison of Tiny House Build, Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios and Darin Zaruba of EcoCabins.  Photo credit: Gabriella Morrison of TinyHouseBuild

What I most enjoyed after the new connections with other tiny house builders was getting to talk to others about building tiny house communities and creative urban infill – my real passion.   Lina Menard and I presented a very-well received talk on tiny house communities that included 5 models for setting them up and 5 pieces of advice.  After our presentation I talked with a city councilmember, a county planner, developers, and members of community groups who are starting tiny house communities.  I was impressed by the amount of work going on around the country regarding tiny houses and tiny house communities in cities.  Stay tuned for more information regarding those initiatives soon. In the meantime, check out some of the photos from the Jamboree.