I have worked as a carpenter, painter and general contractor for the past ten years, specializing in remodeling and repairs.  I also design and build furniture as a hobby, along with being a musician, bike mechanic and kombucha fermenter.  Having moved around a lot over the years, living in a wide range of houses built in different eras, I have come to favor modern design for its emphasis on minimalism and simplicity over excess and clutter.

Tony teaching about tools at a tiny house design workshop. www.opensourcetinyhouse.com

Tony teaching about tools at a tiny house design workshop. http://www.opensourcetinyhouse.com

In early 2008, I started making plans to move to Los Angeles, CA from Eugene, OR.  Daunted by the task of figuring out where I wanted to land in such a vast, sprawling city, and turned off by exorbitant rent prices, I had a crazy idea: what if I bought a vehicle I could sleep in, allowing me to kick around and scope things out first?  A few weeks and $3000 later, I was the happy owner of an 82 VW Vanagon, Westfalia.

I spent the next year travelling the west coast in Amy, as she was lovingly named, enjoying an adventure in “urban boondocking” in one of the largest metropolitan areas on the planet.  I could live wherever I pleased, from spending time immersed in the various neighborhoods I was curious about, to taking side trips to the mountains or the beach, all for the price of a tank of gas.

In the beginning, downsizing my life and figuring out how to fly below the radar in urban environments was a bit of a challenge.  But with a little practice, these skills, paired with the freedom to roam, became their own rewards, affording my mind the same uncluttered space that my home required me to maintain.  Plus, with the rent money I saved, the van paid for itself and I was able to afford a sabbatical from work.

A friend of mine, who shares my affinity for small, mobile living, coined the word “hobotonin”(hobo + seratonin) to describe the happy brain chemistry one experiences from a life of unfettered wandering.  We have often fantasized about assembling a village of van dwellers and circling the wagons on a piece of communal land.  Imagine my surprise upon being invited to take part in building tiny houses on wheels for a group of people in Washington, DC.

Continuing with the philosophy of less-is-more and seeking an alternative to materialism and all of its burdens, I look forward to taking part in the tiny house movement which promotes living simply with a small footprint.

Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. […] first thing I will mention is that Tony Gilchriest has joined the workshop. He has built two of the four tiny houses out at Boneyard Studios. Tony is […]


  2. […] of their owners’ individual personalities. Jay Austin designed The Matchbox with help from Tony Gilchriest and Urban Density Lab’s Matt Battin. Just 140 square feet and clad in weathered shou sugi ban […]


  3. […] 140-square-foot house (designed by Jay Austin and built with invaluable assistance from Tony Gilchriest). […]


  4. […] the house has also been the slowest to materialize, but thanks to some great work from Robin and Tony, the 2′ x 4′ bathroom now has a custom concrete showerpan, four enclosed walls all […]


  5. […] two years I’ve become sucked in by its gravitational pull.  A term that a tiny house builder, Tony Gilchriest, coined, it refers to the phenomenon of a tiny house project taking over every aspect of your life. […]



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