Right-sizing the “tiny” in “tiny house”

I have a confession to make: I don’t actually live in a tiny house. Oh, sure, my house is small—very small by relative standards. But is it tiny? Hardly.

We Americans tend to do everything in excess, including the words we use to describe our very lack of excess. Way back in 2008, when the big house movement was bursting (or, depending on your metaphor, collapsing under its own gargantuan weight), the New York Times ran a little article about a then-little thing: it was called the small house movement. Not tiny, just, well, small.

Or not. The piece also featured the word tiny eight times, including one of the first recorded uses of “tiny house” in novelty-new quotations. Its sidebar offered to enlarge images of unlarge homes floating over captions like “the Lilliputian life.” Four years later, when Boneyard Studios had its own press debut, the Washington Post ran with the headline “Home, Squeezed Home.” “The people aren’t really tiny,” the article began, “but their homes are.”

I’m not here to chastise those who use the word tiny. It’s a cute word and a human-interest-story-friendly word and probably not too harmful a word overall, but it is a silly one, a word that I hope—excuse the kinda-sorta pun—we will all soon outgrow. To call something tiny is to call it “extremely small,” “unusually small,” “diminutive.” It suggests that living in something that offers a great big one- or two- or three-hundred square feet of space is “extreme.” Over-the-top words like Lilliputian and squeezed make matters even worse.

Here’s the thing: I’ve lived in my house—my small house—for nearly three years, and I’ve never really felt “squeezed.” I’ve never felt like big oafy Gulliver stumbling around the court of Lilliput, nor have I felt that a queen-sized bed (large enough for royalty, apparently) and ten feet of counter space underneath five-foot windows was an “extreme” lifestyle. Yes, I’ve made space sacrifices, but I’d be lying if I said my house was diminutive. It’s just smaller than most.

I got back from India a week ago, where for over a month I walked by flimsy fortifications of tarp and twig. These were tiny. They housed families of five or ten in half the space my own home afforded, and I imagined the residents of these little hamlets building thin roofs of old magazines and newspapers printed with stories of Americans “giving it all up” to “live tiny.” I imagined what they would think.

But this is hardly the point. Sure, tiny is a privileged word for a privileged people (myself among them), but more dangerously, tiny actually accepts the American housing norms and agrees to live within them. It doesn’t present itself as a spark to the system, a disruptive force here to stay, but rather a fringe outside the walls of the mainstream: something for the extremists, the misfits, the freaks. It’s a word that begs to vault itself over the swollen bell curve and just keep going, to soak itself up in novelty until it’s simply too saturated to be taken seriously.

To call a 150-square-foot house tiny is to accept that 3.000 square feet of home is normal, and frankly, it’s not normal. It’s unnecessarily and unsustainably large. Calling a few hundred square feet small, on the other hand, suggests a whole different degree of deviation from the norm. A slighter deviation. It imagines something a little more compact than what should be. It is the right-sizing to tiny’s down-sizing—one a proud reality, the other a subtle apology to the status quo.

Does this mean we’re going to re-label Boneyard Studios a “small house community”? Probably not. Does it mean we’re going to stop using the word tiny? Doubtful—it has already escaped my lips so many times I’m sure I’ll never fully flush it from my system. Does it mean you should do the same? Not at all—you do you, and if it means calling your less-than-large house “tiny,” so be it, and congratulations to you for having a less-than-large house to begin with.

But it does mean I’m going to be more conscious about what tiny really signifies, and more appreciative of the great abundance of space and storage my small house offers. It means I’m going to do my small part to remind folks that one-hundred-and-fifty square feet isn’t “extremely” anything—it’s just, you know, a perfectly right-sized space for my right-sized needs.

My house isn’t tiny. And it’s definitely not “micro” or “Lilliputian” or some other silly, hyperbolic, PR-packaged superlative. My house is just plain ol’ boringly circa-1910 or circa-2015-in-most-other-places-around-the-world “small,” and that’s something I’m more-than-a-tiny-bit grateful for.

Big enough for love is big enough for me.

Big enough for love is big enough for me.

New Year, New Locations for the Tiny Homes

As our search for new tiny house community space continues into 2015, we’ve spent a good bit of the past six months meeting with city officials, developers, and private landowners about some promising potential properties and partnerships. But after thinking hard about our vision and reflecting on what we’ve learned from the experiences of our last location, we prefer to purchase land that we can create and cultivate in a more permanent way.

In the meantime, though, we’ve needed temporary spaces for our tiny house community-in-exile, so we’re very excited and appreciative that our houses found temporary spots in a pair of yards in a Northeast DC neighborhood. Unfortunately organized tours will be on hiatus until we’re permanently settled, but in the meantime, here are some shots of the Pera House and Matchbox moves—many thanks to our friend Robin of Build Tiny for her expert tiny house moving skills.

Pera House move

Matchbox move

Game of thrones: a head-to-head comparison of toilets for a tiny house

Let’s talk about toilets.

It’s a taboo subject, I know. We’re not supposed to talk about it at dinner, or on first dates, or even with close friends or lifelong partners or twin siblings. But everyone does it, as they say, and every house needs one, or just about, so let’s just set the queasiness aside for a moment and jump right into it (the topic, not the toilet)—a personal journey through, and head-to-head comparison of, types of toilets for tiny houses.

Incinerator

One thing you can do with waste is burn it. Incinerating toilets offer a neat, nearly-instant solution: do your business, push a button, and boil your bowel movements away, leaving nothing more than a sterile pile of ash in its chambers. And having used two of these Back to the Future-looking steel appliances in the early days of Boneyard Studios, I can confirm that, yeah, they get the job done. Basically, you open the lid, drop a paper liner atop a pair of closed metal jaws, and fill that liner with liquid or solid waste. When you’re done, you push a foot pedal, and those jaws open wide, and the paper package plummets to the bottom of the incinerator, which heats to 1,200 degrees for ninety minutes and incinerates whatever it can.

Cool, but shortcomings abound. For one, those jaws can sometimes get stuck, and loosening the hinges requires carefully reaching your hand into a container of, well, now-burning crap. Also, heating a small pan to 1,200 degrees for an hour and a half takes a lot of electricity—about 1.5kW per “flush,” to be exact. And that pan is small, meaning it must be heated after every use, liquid or solid, and then left alone for the better part of an hour. Incinerators work well for an individual, but during a Boneyard Studios party, it wasn’t uncommon for that pan to be filled more quickly than it could empty, leaving the floor of the bathroom covered with spilled, steaming piss. Gross.

They’re noisy, too: a grinding hum that fills small spaces quickly. And the exhaust, of course, must be vented out. I’ll admit, the smell of burning human waste isn’t as bad as you might think, but there definitely is a smell, and it’s one that’ll fill your house and then waft into the open windows of neighbors without their welcome—not the best for respecting boundaries in an urban neighborhood.

Finally, Incinolets create an intensely hot fire in your home everyday. They seem safe, and are pretty well put together in sealed-up steel, but there is an unavoidable fire risk, and in small spaces, fire is a big no-no.

So when you have to go-go, incinerators are probably not the best bet. Despite all their shortcomings, incinerators cost about $2,000 new (a shortcoming in itself), and thus aren’t really recommended for the small house dweller on a budget (or anyone, for that matter).

  • Effectiveness (how well it gets rid of waste): 5/5
  • Odorlessness (how good it smells): 3/5
  • Quietness (how quiet it is): 2/5
  • Cleanliness (how much it stays, or feels, clean): 4/5
  • Affordability (how reasonably priced it is): 1/5
  • Ease (how easy it is to use, maintain, and provide to guests): 4/5
  • Total: 19/30

Honeybucket

After a few unpleasant months trying out the Incinolets of Brian and Lee (Lee has since upgraded to a Separett, discussed later), I punted my decision-making down the road by picking up a five-gallon bucket from the hardware store, building what many affectionately refer to as the “honeybucket.” It works like this: there’s a bucket. You open the lid and do your thing. When you’re done doing your thing, you cover everything with sawdust and close the lid.

My sister and brother, who live out on an intentional community in Missouri, use these everywhere. They call them Fillmores, ’cause President Fillmore was the last president to have a non-plumbed toilet in the White House, and I was always impressed by how odorless they were in their outhouses. The innards of honeybuckets are typically composted as well—a great benefit over using electricity to burn away rich future soil. They’re cheap to build (about $6 for a bucket, and $7 for a top-of-the-line airtight lid), obviously totally noiseless, and they don’t take up much space. The dimensions and contours of a five-gallon bucket (with aforementioned airtight lid) provide a pretty decent seat. All in all, not a bad functioning toilet for $13.

But not great, either. For one, you need to find something to do with the bucket when it’s full. That’s easy if you live on a farm, but a little more tricky if you’re tethered to a city. They require sawdust (or a substitute) to absorb moisture and neutralize odors. When building a house, sawdust is plentiful; afterwards, rummaging through Home Depot’s dustpails becomes a necessity. And undoubtedly, that sawdust will get everywhere, leaving the bathroom with an inescapably “unclean” feeling. The toilet itself never really feels clean: it is, after all, a bucket full of soggy waste, and we humans have evolved to feel a natural squeamishness around such piles. In the warmer months, a few gnats might hang around the lid, or start a whole colony in your bathroom if the lid isn’t airtight. I didn’t find it too difficult to use the honeybucket on my own, but I always felt a little self-conscious having friends over: a tutorial is needed, and they’re looking at your last bowel movement, and you’re later looking at theirs, and it’s just, well, not ideal. Ultimately, in the words of one Matchbox YouTube commenter: “I love this innovative space but can’t help but think of when he brings home a partner and tells them they have to shit in a bucket.”

  • Effectiveness (how well it gets rid of waste): 3/5
  • Odorlessness (how good it smells): 3/5
  • Quietness (how quiet it is): 5/5
  • Cleanliness (how much it stays, or feels, clean): 1/5
  • Affordability (how reasonably priced it is): 5/5
  • Ease (how easy it is to use, maintain, and provide to guests): 3/5
  • Total: 20/30

Honeybucket 2.0

After months of using a standard honeybucket, I opted for a few upgrades. Like many do, I had a little chest built around the bucket, and screwed a seat to that chest, so it looked a bit more like a latrine than a bright orange pail. I started lining the bucket with a black garbage bag, making it much easier to empty the bucket when it was full. And most importantly, I turned a wide-mouthed funnel into a urine diverter, separating liquids and solids.

If there were a documentary of Boneyard Studios, this would undoubtedly be the scene of comic relief after a tense build setback or dramatic plot twist: me and Tony, my builder, crammed in the darkness of the Matchbox bathroom, holding a funnel centered over a bucket, and then slowly moving it closer to the front, and then back again, eyeing each other, asking “does that look right?”, trying to figure out, crudely, approximately where women pee from when seated on a toilet. Thankfully, we placed the funnel correctly, and the next day the Matchbox was sporting a totally functional and totally unisex honeybucket 2.0. By separating solids and diverting liquids into the ground, smells were improved, the toilet had to be emptied far less frequently (most waste, of course, is liquid), and sawdust wasn’t needed after every pee. Plus, it just looked better.

Nonetheless, swapping out an airtight seal for a standard lid welcomed gnats in the summer months, and the urine diverter had to be plumbed through the floor, adding time and cost to an otherwise $13 toilet. The chest took work and wood, and it almost became more difficult to instruct people on how to use the thing. It went from “just dump sawdust on top of everything” to “if you’re a guy, aim into the funnel; if you’re a girl, act natural; but either way, make sure no sawdust gets in the funnel,” and undoubtedly, sawdust got in the funnel. Sawdust got in the funnel, and clogged the pipes, and after spending three hours after a Boneyard Studios party snaking through clogs of urine-drenched sawdust, I decided the upgraded honeybucket wasn’t much of an upgrade at all.

  • Effectiveness (how well it gets rid of waste): 4/5
  • Odorlessness (how good it smells): 3/5
  • Quietness (how quiet it is): 5/5
  • Cleanliness (how much it stays, or feels, clean): 1/5
  • Affordability (how reasonably priced it is): 4/5
  • Ease (how easy it is to use, maintain, and provide to guests): 2/5
  • Total: 19/30

Composter

With the honeybucket part of my life over, I considered what was next. A composting toilet seemed a worthy solution—it’s still just a plastic container, more or less, but it looks like a toilet, and diverts urine in a much more streamlined way, and with a little fan and a little turning rod, it actually begins composting waste while it’s in use.

The key word, here, is begin. Their price (around $1,000) would be justifiable if they really got the job done, but they don’t: they just start it. What that means is that they just don’t have enough room to really keep waste for a full composting cycle (about two years left alone, or at least three months if assisted), so even with the substantial room they do take up (typically the entire footprint of a tiny bathroom), they must be emptied every month or so. Sometimes there’s a shovel involved, and still that problem of disposal. And unfortunately, one-month-composted crap is just about as gross as zero-month-composted crap; at the end of the day, you’re shoveling shit.

I should note, though, that I never actually owned a composting toilet—just used a few and read more reviews than I’d ever imagined I would—so consider these (already subjective) ratings with a grain of sawdust:

  • Effectiveness (how well it gets rid of waste): 2/5
  • Odorlessness (how good it smells): 4/5
  • Quietness (how quiet it is): 4/5
  • Cleanliness (how much it stays, or feels, clean): 4/5
  • Affordability (how reasonably priced it is): 2/5
  • Ease (how easy it is to use, maintain, and provide to guests): 1/5
  • Total: 19/30

Composting toilet, meet honeybucket

I was in the throes of despair about what to do with my waste when Lee arrived on the lot one day with a big white box. It contained a Separett 9200 (I wasn’t asked or paid to plug the Separett; I just think it’s the most magical thing in the whole world), a toilet that’s something of a hybrid between a composter and a honeybucket. On the outside, it looks like a composting toilet: uninspired white plastic, a proper urine diverter toward the front and a hole for solids toward the back. There was a fan, and it required venting outside, and a tiny bit of electricity to make the fan go. Yet on the inside, it was nothing more than a honeybucket: a wide, shallow tub lined with a composting bag. But where the Separett really shone was in the barrier between the two, a simple blue spring-loaded plastic plate that sealed off the bucket when not in use and opened when weight (like, a butt) was put on the seat. That simple little barrier ensured the contents of the bucket were hidden from sight or smell, opening just for the moments of use and snapping shut before the Separett’s user even returned to her feet. Odors and pests are nonexistent thanks to the fan, sawdust isn’t even needed, and wrapping up one’s business almost feels too easy, as though one’s forgetting to flush, or put back a lid, or heap some neutralizer over their waste.

Is it perfect? Of course not. It requires a tiny bit of electricity, and it makes a tiny noise (though not enough to be heard outside the bathroom through a 3/8″ plywood door), and it takes up more room than a honeybucket, and that fan does have to run 24/7 or the odors emerge. Its use is fairly self-explanatory, but those who stand up before discarding their toilet paper will get a bit confused with what to do with it. And meanwhile, those who pee standing up will have to aim well or the surrounding area will get a little splatter. The plastic, though well-made, does feel a bit cheap, and the toilet, so well-made, definitely isn’t. At about $1,400, the Separett is a pricey investment, but after three-plus months of use, I’m certain it’ll be the last toilet the Matchbox ever needs.

  • Effectiveness (how well it gets rid of waste): 4/5
  • Odorlessness (how good it smells): 5/5
  • Quietness (how quiet it is): 4/5
  • Cleanliness (how much it stays, or feels, clean): 4/5
  • Affordability (how reasonably priced it is): 3/5
  • Ease (how easy it is to use, maintain, and provide to guests): 4/5
  • Total: 24/30

Rethinking the default: the flush toilet

I suppose this game of thrones wouldn’t really be complete without the reigning king of the toilet world: the iconic porcelain commode first popularized by Thomas Crapper. An unavoidable staple of industrialized nations (and now, sadly, industrializing ones as well), the standard flush toilet would undoubtedly score the highest in effectiveness, odorlessness, and ease, and do pretty well in the realms of quietness and affordability and cleanliness as well. Which leaves one to ask: why not just do what we’ve been doing, and outfit a small house with a regular flusher?

The simple answer is that flush toilets create blackwater (while urine can be safely diverted into the ground and diluted with nine parts greywater, solid waste cannot), and blackwater must be plumbed, and installing septic systems on unplumbed property is expensive, and when small houses are built on wheels, limiting where those wheels can travel to just specific places with existing pipes is totally unfortunate.

The not-so-simple answer, meanwhile, is that flush toilets are destroying our waters. Over a quarter of all water consumed in the home is used to flush waste down pipes. Older toilets typically average about 3.5 gallons of freshwater per flush; some use 5 or as many as 7 gallons. So when a guy needs to take a leak—the average leak being about 0.15 gallons—at a regular toilet, he’s flushing 23 parts freshwater and one part urine down the drain (why urine needs any help traveling down a drain is another question altogether). Low-flush toilets are better (they use about 1.6 gallons per flush), but still soil about 2,900 gallons of freshwater per person per year. And we’re just talking freshwater.

Remember, all that water has to go somewhere. We can treat it, and we sometimes do, and it’ takes massive resources to do so, and sometimes the chemicals we use to treat wastewater are harmless and sometimes we find out they’re actually pretty harmful after it’s way too late. But either way, we’re just flushing too much. When it rains in DC, and the stormdrains fill with rainwater, and a citydweller flushes the toilet, the overtaxed wastewater treatment plant simply can’t manage the volume, and it gets diverted to Rock Creek. And so, the urine and the bacteria-ridden excrement of an entire city flows into our once-pristine waterways, and the city tells us it is no longer safe to swim in the Creek, or even the greater Potomac River.

Shit flows downstream, as they say, and while we may be fine with ours piling up in our waterways, it isn’t really fair for us to make that decision for others down the river. I once had the privilege of speaking to a young man of Taos, a stunning pueblo village that had existed in what eventually came to be called New Mexico for over 1,300 years. It was the oldest continually-inhabited town in North America, and for over a millennium, its First Nations inhabitants had used the tiny creek running through it for everything: water to drink, to cook, to bathe and swim and play. And ten years ago, they stopped. Americans upstream had started dumping pollutants into it: the chemicals of waste treatment plants, the raw sewage of towns who couldn’t afford to treat their waste. Everything we flush goes somewhere, and affects something, and so in the quest for a safe, sustainable toilet, it’s probably best we don’t flush at all. Water’s a terrible thing to waste—especially when we’re wasting it for our waste.

This piece, like everything at boneyardstudios.org, is free for reuse under a Creative Commons license, so borrow and share and remix to your heart’s content. Thoughts about the options above, or have a sanitation solution that wasn’t mentioned? Drop it in the comments below!

Boneyard Studios gets a new domain!

Update your bookmarks, tiny house folks! In keeping with the non-profit nature of Boneyard Studios, we’re now at boneyardstudios.org. You’ll find all the content since the start of our little tiny house project right here at the new site, plus lots more content coming about tiny house design, tiny house living, and of course, our search for new space.

Thank you for two-and-a-half terrific years of support thus far—and many thanks for coming with us on our next big adventure. :)

Much love,
Lee & Jay
Boneyard Studios

PS: Still want email updates when new posts get published? Just drop your email in that box to the right.

PPS: We’re also on Facebook, if that’s your thing.

How to upload comments to DC Zoning

Thanks for your interest in submitting testimony on this important topic.

DC Zoning will only consider comments on ADU’s (accessory dwelling units), camping in alleys and other topics by submissions uploaded through their official channel. To do this:

a) The online IZIS system. In IZIS click on ‘Set up an account’, and register. Then login, and then click on “Submit Comments in a Case”.  Search for ‘08-06A‘. Click on ‘Select Case’. Type in text from the letter template below.  or

b) A PDF letter. At the IZIS site select “File Documents in an Existing Case” and upload your PDF letter, using text from template below.

cMail a letter to 441 4th Street, NW, Ste. 200-S, Washington, DC 20001.

NOTE: make sure when you submit comments you include the Case Number (08-06A – Alternative Text)

Letter template:

Office of Zoning, Case Number 08-06A-Alternative Text

I am a District resident in Ward __, and would like to sincerely thank OP and the Zoning Commission for your tireless work on the DC zoning rewrite. However, as the rules are finalized, I would ask you to please consider:

a) Eliminating the proposed CIA (Camping in Alleys) zoning rule introduced by the Office of Planning. It appears this rule was made in an untransparent fashion, appears unjustified, unequally restricts private property in the District, and is inconsistent with existing code. More importantly, it eliminates a potential source of affordable micro housing in DC we should be working to develop further.

b) Supporting stronger language that allow the widespread development of ADU’s. Specifically, the latest zoning rules on ADU’s should keep 1602.2, so residents can develop accessory apartments without going through a costly and time intensive special exemption process. I feel that expanding ADU (accessory dwelling units) is essential to increasing DC’s housing supply, expanding affordable housing, and allowing aging in place for DC residents.

Sincerely, 

 

take action: final comments on DC zoning changes

DC’s zoning has not been comprehensively updated since 1958. After 6 years of drafting and public input, the Office of Planning is about to finalize a new set of zoning regulations that could transform the city by allowing accessory dwelling units (ADU’s- carriage houses and microhomes behind an existing house, or basement apartments), as well as development of residential structures on alley lots.  If done correctly, this would be a huge boon for affordable housing in DC, and allow smaller housing units across town.

BUT! While the current draft is ok, it could be even better. There are conservative forces that would love to do away with any new affordable accessory dwelling units in the city, and the current rules are rather restrictive. So DC Residents, we need your help, this week! Once these final comments are in, the Zoning Commission will vote on the final package.  Please help by:

A: Signing the Petition from the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
They have been on the forefront of advocating for progressive change.

B: Submitting written testimony to advocate for specific changes we need. Here is an easy testimony template with specific language changes we need (note these are my (Brian’s) views on ADU’s and alley lots).  Zoning Commission will only accept emailed comments in PDF format, which must include your signature. Email signed PDF to: zcsubmissions@dc.gov .  Subject line of email must include the case number (08-06A) and the subtitle or subtitles that your testimony refers to (Subtitle D).

C: Testify at the Wards 1-8 public meetings around town this coming week. It’s easy, and the Coalition folks can support you.

Thanks- zoning is the DNA of a city, and it’s a rare moment when we can act to positively affect the character of our city for years to come! With thousands of us connected through Boneyard Studios, we can really make a difference.

A workshop designed like a tiny house

We believe tiny house workshops should be like tiny houses: small, intimate, and designed to your individual needs.  That’s why a couple of the professionals involved in building houses at Boneyard Studios put together a tiny house design workshop for the DIYer who wants more technical information and planning materials for their tiny house build. Our first workshop this past fall was a success and a lot of fun to put on, so we are redoing it again this Spring at Howard University.  Find out more details about the workshop and watch a video from our past workshop.  Check out our photos and materials from the past workshop below and see why I, Lee, was motivated to help design a workshop with these professionals after my experience building a tiny house.

Throughout my tiny house project, I have realized how much building requires project planning, understanding major decision points in the process, and a knowledge of building code and materials.  I didn’t fully understand how one decision impacted another or what building decisions and techniques were unique to tiny houses.  I had naively bought into some of the promotional materials in the tiny house world that claim you can build a tiny house with just 14 tools or that make it seem like building a tiny house is simpler and easier just because it’s smaller than a regular house.  Our experience has been the opposite: a tiny house actually requires more planning, and a pretty thorough knowledge of building science, health and safety, and codes (International Building Code, RV code (ANSI/RVIA), and city code and zoning) in order to build a structure that is safe, durable, and is an efficient use of space.  Come learn with us again this spring!

 

Al Jazeera America airs a documentary and specials on Tiny Houses Nov 22-24

Update on dates/times for Al Jazeera specials on tiny houses:

Watch the documentary Tiny: A story about living small on Al Jazeera America station on Sunday, November 24 at 9pm EST  Details here. This is the television premier of the award-winning documentary by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith about their experience building a tiny house in Colorado with no previous building skills!

In addition, you can also check out two Al Jazeera shows on tiny houses where you’ll get to see a tour of the Boneyard Studios lot and our houses and an interview with Christopher (the filmmaker).  The Stream airs on Friday night, November 22 at 7:30pm EST and America Tonight will broadcast their special at 5 pm or 6pm EST on Saturday night, November 22.  If any of our supporters have cable and DVR and want to record these shows for us, we would greatly appreciate it! None of us subscribe to cable and Al Jazeera U.S. doesn’t post their shows online, so make sure to catch them live if you can!

aljazeera

Al Jazeera America crew at Boneyard Studios

Learn how to design & build a tiny house with Boneyard Studios!

We are excited to offer a tiny house design and build workshop in Washington DC this September.  We have designed a workshop that includes everything I wish I would have known before starting my project.  I took a tiny house workshop before starting my project, but I still left wanting more technical and design information.  We want you to leave this workshop with all the technical knowledge and the planning tools to start your project!

We will be giving you the tools to effectively and efficiently get started on your own tiny/small house project, including an online project plan with major key decisions and technical resources and a base set of plans from which to design your own house. In addition, the workshop will allow you to tour and learn about different design and construction options from the builders and architects of four tiny houses on the Boneyard Studios lot, the nation’s first tiny house community.

Big Ideas, Small Spaces: A Tiny House Design Workshop

Sept 14-15
Washington, DC

Workshop location is just two blocks from the convention center metro stop and at Boneyard Studios.  We will help workshop participants to get to Boneyard Studios via public transportation or car share.

*Limited to just 30 participants to allow ample time with architect and builder on your technical and design questions

Detailed Workshop Schedule Here

Register Here

We are emphasizing quality over quantity and limiting participation for that reason. You will not be in a workshop with 80 participants but rather 30 participants maximum. This is to allow ample time for each participant to get their technical and design questions answered by the architect and builder.

Questions?  Please enter them below.

Frager’s Hardware, friend of Boneyard Studios, could use a little help

Boneyard Studios is all about construction and community, and for the past hundred years, Frager’s Hardware of Capitol Hill has been big on both of those things. Thus, we were absolutely devastated to hear about yesterday’s tragic fire, which left most of the store and its surrounding businesses in ruins.

Frager’s isn’t merely a hardware store; it’s a DC institution, a place where even the most novice DIYer can find exactly what they need, aided by the store’s wonderful staff and seemingly limitless inventory, to get the job done. Indeed, we at Boneyard Studios have relied on Frager’s for countless materials in the construction and furnishing of our tiny houses, from herbs and plants to paint and hinges to, well, the literal nuts and bolts keeping them all together.

When I needed help building my first compost bin, Frager’s was there. When I needed advice on which bracing was best for a bit of framing, Frager’s was there. And when I went poking about the store looking for a small swatch of mesh for a particular project, the staff at Frager’s didn’t try to sell me a large chunk of it that I’d never be able to use; they let me into their back room to pick through their abundant scraps and keep whatever I needed at no cost. Frager’s does business the way business should be done, and always with a smile.

Thankfully, Frager’s has vowed to rebuild, to come back bigger and better than ever, but they could definitely use our (and your) help. If you’re a fan of local, ethical, community-focused business that allows people like us to do things like build tiny houses in the heart of Washington DC, please consider donating whatever you can, if only a few dollars, to this terrific and invaluable member of our community by clicking this link, hitting the Donate button on the left, and writing Frager’s in the dedication section.

Thank you, and thanks to Frager’s Hardware for serving the DC community so well for the past 93 years. Here’s to a speedy rebuild and 93 more.

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June 5 Frager's fire