A tiny list of frequently-asked-questions below:

  • What’s Boneyard Studios? Back in 2012, a few folks got together to build the country’s first tiny house community on an old alley lot in the middle of the District of Columbia. That small project ended up connecting a huge community of architects, builders, tiny house enthusiasts, dreamers, and doers, and Boneyard Studios became a gathering place—physically and topically—to promote sustainable, simple, space-efficient living, demonstrate creative urban infill, and start a conversation about a different way of doing things. Over the years, we’ve hosted dozens of events—tours, book readings, film screenings, concerts—and done our best to share what we know and what we’ve learned. Those houses aren’t next door to each other on that old alley lot anymore, and that community has grown to include hundreds of tiny house advocates in the mid-Atlantic and beyond. We’re all involved in different projects now and don’t actively organize events under the name Boneyard Studios anymore, but we’ll keep this site online for as long as folks keep coming for the information buried in our archives. For more current tiny house content, head here.
  • What are tiny houses?  Tiny (or small) houses are an affordable, attractive, environmentally-friendly housing option. They’re part of a beautiful, growing, varied movement—some tiny houses are as small as a square meter and others as large as 300, 400, or 700 feet. The key isn’t really size itself, but careful and deliberate attention to space efficiency and simplicity. Some tiny houses are foundation-built while others, like those at Boneyard Studios, are on wheels (this is often done because housing codes are too prohibitive to build a tiny, off-grid home).
  • Why build small? Today in America, 1 in 4 homeowners owe more money than what their home is worth, with over 5 million homes being foreclosed upon in 2010 and 2011 alone. At an average of $244,000 for a used home, McMansion living simply isn’t affordable—it’s bankrupting our neighbors financially and taxing them emotionally and mentally. The environment also feels the burden: the average new home constructed consumes three-quarters an acre of forest, produces 7 tons of construction waste, and emits 18 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Small homes are more affordable, more sustainable, (sometimes) more mobile, and always more simple to clean, care for, an enjoy.
  • Why build on wheels? Due to their small size, most tiny houses are inherently not up to the minimum size requirements of building code. Building tiny houses on trailers reclassifies them as travel trailers, doing away with such requirements and offering the added advantage of mobility. Of course, tiny homes should be (and typically are) built to code as much as possible. Much more on the legality of tiny houses here.
  • How do the systems work—water, electric, septic? The tiny house movement has experimented with a broad range of systems solutions, and most homes provide electric, water, and commonly-expected amenities. At Boneyard Studios, we’ve attempted to rethink and improve upon these solutions, including composting toilets, greywater management, rain catchment, air conditioning, insulation, and overall air quality, along with a more deliberate approach to space and design.
  • Are tiny houses really that affordable? A tiny house can be built for between $5,000 and $50,000 in materials, with labor adding another $10,000 or more to the project. So compared to a new SUV, about $40,000 for a new home seems tremendously inexpensive. That said, tiny homes don’t come with the same liberal financing options SUVs do, meaning that most tiny home builders must pay for construction entirely out of pocket.
  • Wouldn’t it be more space-efficient to build a multifamily structure? Certainly, microapartments and microcondos make more sense (from a purely space perspective), in most situations. However, tiny homes offer a balance of space efficiency with proximity to the outdoors, and those windows do wonders in making a tight space feel a lot more open. In our case, we were previously sited on an alley lot that couldn’t be developed anyway, so putting the plot of land to use as a place for a few tiny houses and a community garden is great use of the space.

Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. I’ve been trying to find ways around law to live in the city I’m going to research the lot and laws in my area but my question is are you violating laws by living in tiny home as soul residence ? And why did you chose incinerating toilet is that to comply with codes? Or convenience ?could you not have composted it?

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  2. This is perhaps a silly question, but how do I get to older posts on your blog? I’m a little late to the game, and would like to read your blog from the beginning (or at least get Part 1 of the getting rid of stuff posts), but there’s no button to go back in time. Help! :-)

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  3. Great concept! Self-financing (someday maybe cloud funding assisted?), full (or accelerated) equity ownership, transportability (local conditions can change adversely over time), extremely efficient use of resources (when did mindless wastefulness become normalized in the US), real innovation in affordable architecture (not green McMansions), the beginning of the end wage slavery, reduced impact on the environment thru smaller human lifestyle footprint, and a great antidote to a predatory lending system that is beyond accountability. What’s not to like? Hey, how about tiny home rallies (like motorcycle rallies), farm/tiny home co-op villages, maker workshop/tiny home R&D parks, outdoor recreation/tiny home vacation parks, restoration ecology/tiny home ventures (where tiny home dwellers get to stay for free in return for planting trees, cleaning up creeks & riverbanks, restoring wildlife habitats, and clearing forest fire hazards)? When smart, creative people with green values have a lower cost of living, more free time, and extreme mobility, then all sorts of great things could happen. God, The System is probably going to hate all this!

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  4. This is a fascinating subject to me. I have been in the real estate industry in finance and rental housing for over 30 years. The affordability issue is answered by renting but that just drives up costs also. So your vision would satisfy the need. The only problem that I see with tiny houses is market acceptance. We still continue to build very large homes to satisfy consumer demand. I would love the opportunity to discuss your vision further.
    Thanks
    Jim

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  5. I have been interested in the Tiny House movement for about two months now. Someone sent me a post on Facebook about a Tumbleweed home and I was forever hooked. I received a blog on the Minim House in one of the Tiny House Talk newsletter a few days ago and that was the one! I am super interested in the cost of that house and could one be built for me down the road? I may have to scrimp and save, but I LOVE this house! No loft and open space! One of the things I loved (besides the space) was the versatility of the furniture! That totally did it for me! Let me know if you’re going to go public with builds or plans of this house. Thanks! :D

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  6. Love this – I live on a boat – another version of a tiny house. Our family of 4 lives in probably about 400 sf. I love that so many of the efficiencies that appear in tiny homes come originally from boats :)

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  7. Hey my name is robert. I love the tiny hose movement. I am also lookin to build my own. I work for a construction company and always have to rent a place near the job. Each job normally last 2-3 years and its off to the next project. And by the way its road construction I work at. One of these would be perfect. I would love to talk to jay about the matchbox. My biggest concern is connecting the house to the trailer. Is there anyway I cold talk to one of you guys. Im willing to pay or donate to your community efforts.
    Thanks robert

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  8. My sister is interested in having a tiny house built and installed in Washington, Oregon or California. Are you able to do this?

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  9. Are there plans to build a community within the DC area that people like me could build or purchase tiny homes near YOUR tiny homes? I think a community like this would be very successful and my fiance and I would love to be a part of it!

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    • That all depends on the space we end up in. We don’t know how big that spot will be, but if it’s large enough to accommodate a few more, we’d certainly be interested in having some company!

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      • Great! We would love to be kept up-to-date with the progress on the space and if there is anything we can do to help find something let us know!

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  10. I will be building my house soon! I had a few questions about sips panels and rain catchment..

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  11. We are going to be in DC on March 17th and 18th 2016 and would love to come look at your Boneyard houses. I can’t find any information on the website about open houses this year, or if we can just drop by. Please let me know as soon as possible.

    Thanks!
    Lonna

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  12. Do you have one already built I could rent?

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