a story about living small

A film by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith



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Powering our Tiny House, Off the Grid: The SolMan Portable Solar Generator

Perhaps one my favorite things about our tiny house (other than falling asleep to the sound of rain on a steel roof) is that it is entirely off grid.

Christopher and I are both environmentalists of sorts, having spent chunks of our lives studying, researching, and telling stories about humans’ interactions with our natural resources and waste. Part of this tiny house experiment has always been about learning to lessen our own impact.

And there’s also the practical side of things: 40 miles from a major town, our tiny house doesn’t have access to a “grid” of any kind. No gas lines. No power lines. No water lines or sewage system. We’ve had to figure out our own solutions for each of these utilities.

Park County, Colorado gets an average of 246 sunny days each year, so solar power was an obvious choice for our electric needs.  Throughout the building stage, Christopher looked into rigging up a system of his own design, but when we heard about the SolMan portable solar generator, we decided it was be worth it to purchase a professional, pre-made solar unit than to build our own. Continue reading “Powering our Tiny House, Off the Grid: The SolMan Portable Solar Generator” »

Heating our Tiny House: Wood vs. Propane.

Back in March, when we interviewed Ann Holley and Darren Macca of Protohaus (pictured above), we asked them what advice they would give to someone just beginning to build their tiny house. Ann immediately had an answer, “It’s really important to have all of your utilities before you begin building,” she said, “so that you know the exact dimensions and what you’ll need to do to install them. It really helps to plan that out ahead of time.” Christopher and I looked at each other, the obvious truth of this statement dawning on us. Ohhhh. Yeah. That would have made our own construction process sooo much easier.

In case you’re new to this project, here’s some important background info:

1: Neither Christopher or I have any building experience whatsoever.

2: We did not use any plans in the building of this house. Christopher pretty much figured it out/ made it all up as he went along.

For us, this has been part of the adventure. But it has certainly come with its share of challenges. Such as that fateful summer day when we realized that all of the windows we’d bought were horizontal instead of vertical, and that yes, this matters when constructing a house.

This project has been about learning as we go, and part of that, inevitably, means making mistakes, having a sense of humor, and adjusting accordingly. Picking out a stove for our house has been no exception.

Continue reading “Heating our Tiny House: Wood vs. Propane.” »

TINY Open House in Boulder: Saturday, April 28.

On April 28, to celebrate the completion of our tiny house, we hosted an open house at McGuckin Hardware in downtown Boulder, Colorado. Continue reading “TINY Open House in Boulder: Saturday, April 28.” »

Why Did We Choose to Build a Tiny House, Rather than Buy an RV or Mobile Home?

As our project has gotten a bit more mainstream press over these last few weeks, one question we’ve seen pop up again and again in the comments sections of blogs and news posts has been: why did we choose to build a tiny house from scratch rather than buy an RV or a mobile home?

“Coulda bought a single-wide and saved yourselves 1o months of labor.”

Well, yes. This is definitely true. But for us, building our own house from scratch was kind of the whole point. We wanted to see how we would be changed by committing to a project of this size and scale and seeing it through. Christopher and I wanted to know: how would our idea of ‘home’ change when we set out to build our own, from start to finish, with our own hands? After almost a year of pushing ourselves to stick with it, we’re starting to find out. For us, this was about learning exactly how much time and effort and resources go into the literal roof over our heads.  Continue reading “Why Did We Choose to Build a Tiny House, Rather than Buy an RV or Mobile Home?” »

Meet our Production Team: Kevin Hoth, Photographer & Videographer.

Though Kevin Hoth very rarely appears in front of the camera in our posts, blogs and footage, he’s been the eye behind more than a few recognizable shots of the tiny house.

For example—that photo of Christopher and me working in front of the tiny house, taken from behind the reeds in an irrigation ditch by the building site? Or the shot of Christopher and me nailing a piece of roof trim in the light of an August sunset? Those were both taken by Kevin, a bit off-handedly with his iPhone, while he balanced the Canon 5D that he uses for filming on his other arm.

        

I first met Kevin a few years ago (we shared a temp job packing soap boxes, long story…) and had been following his photography work on facebook and on his tumblr for a few years when Christopher and I began the tiny house project. We were looking for another videographer to supplement our own footage of the building process, and I knew that Kevin’s eye for small details and spacious landscapes would help to convey the personality of this project and the land of Colorado where it’s so strongly rooted.

Since joining the project in August, Kevin has also been behind the camera for some of the most dramatic shots in our trailer—including some of the intro shots that show the land around Hartsel, Colorado, and the jib shot of Christopher installing the roof cap at the end.

To help you all get to know Kevin and his work a bit more, I sat down with him (via email) for a short interview. Whether Kevin’s thoughts inspire you to see your own surroundings in more creative ways, or to pick up your iPhone camera a little more often, we hope you enjoy it!

Continue reading “Meet our Production Team: Kevin Hoth, Photographer & Videographer.” »

Tiny House Construction Update: Separating the Bathroom from the Kitchen.

Nothing has made the house feel like an actual house more than the addition of our first real “room.”

Many of you may already know that we’re not building this house with any plans. Christopher chose to figure it out as he went along—partly because he felt that designing the house himself was part of his dream to truly create a home of his own. If you know Christopher personally, you’ll agree that the whole “figure it out as we go along” mentality is sort of that way that he lives his life. The house has been conquered by taking each step as it comes, and learning as he goes.

And so, we invite you to stand back and watch the genesis of our bathroom/kitchen wall/closet/built-in bookcase, step by step. In this slideshow, you’ll see the evolution of the bathroom, followed by the narrow closet that opens onto the kitchen, and finally, the built-in bookshelf made out of  our leftover barnwood.

Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: Separating the Bathroom from the Kitchen.” »

Tiny House Construction Update: The Hardwood Floors.

With the installation of the hardwood floors, we’re proud to say that now (almost) every inch of the tiny house interior is covered with some sort of semi-finished surface. No more unsightly plywood or insulation sticks out, and each day it’s looking more and more like a real house. (Except the bathroom—the tile floor will go in later this month.)

We’re finding ourselves asking questions that have seemed far away for so much of this process. Questions like, “How deep should the built-in shelves be?” or, “Should we put a desk or a dining table under the front window?” These are Finish questions, and our minds are drifting to thoughts about curtain materials and light fixtures…

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Ahem. Back to the floors. Continue reading “Tiny House Construction Update: The Hardwood Floors.” »

Tiny House Construction Update: A Year of Photos, Step-by-Step.

Whew! It’s hard to believe that our last official construction update was posted almost six months ago, back when the house was still a plywood box topped with skeletal rafters.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

Since time has gotten the best of us, if you’re interested in following the step-by-step progress on the house, we invite you to check out our Construction Process photo album on facebook. Pictures speak louder than words, and we’ve added captions so you can track our work through the months of May through January and beyond.

If—like Christopher—you’re thinking about building your own tiny house or learning as you go, here are a few of our favorite blogs and sites that offer step-by-step photo albums and more in-depth D.I.Y. tiny house How Tos:

Chris and Malissa’s Tiny Tack House

Steven Wolverton’s tiny house in Texas

Kevin’s MicroHomestead on Youtube

The How-To Section at TinyRevolution

And if you know of other favorite how-to building resources, let us know and we’ll add them to the list!

 

~ Merete Mueller, 1/25/11

 

 

 

The Two Tiny House Books on our Coffeetable.

During the research phase for this project, we dug through countless websites to find other tiny house builders and dwellers that we could use as potential film subjects. We searched Tiny House Blog and Tiny House Design, and Tiny House Talk and good old Google and have been so grateful for the wealth of info available at our fingertips.

But still, there’s nothing quite like a print-and-paper book.

 

TINY HOMES: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn sent us a copy of his “Tiny Homes; Simple Shelter” just after Christmas. At this point, Christopher and I were both feeling a bit exhausted by our Kickstarter campaign, work on the house, and a few back-to-back filming trips. Lloyd’s oversized, picture-heavy book delivered the just the inspirational kick that we needed.

“Woah, cool!” we both found ourselves exclaiming, separately, on different occasions, stationed on the couch under a pile of blankets while it snowed outside. Right. This was why we were making this film to begin with: because there are creative, pro-active, DIY geniuses out there who are redefining the way we live and build and inhabit our homes. Continue reading “The Two Tiny House Books on our Coffeetable.” »

Tiny House Construction Update: A Wall of Barnwood.

Last summer, Christopher found a load of old barn wood advertised on Craigslist. The wood was cheap and being offered up in the mountains only about 30 minutes away, so we jumped into his truck and took an early morning drive to escape the lowland heat and pick up some lumber.

This was back in the early stages of building, when we didn’t exactly know what we would do with the wood. We just thought, “It’s cheap, good quality wood, and we’re building a house. So we’re bound to need it, right?”

After laying under a tarp for most of the summer, autumn and some of the winter, the barn wood was finally pulled out last week. We decided to use it for the tall interior wall on the south side of the house, to accent the lighter blue-stain pine walls that have already gone up.

The result is a pretty elegant looking wall, if we do say so ourselves, with roots right here in the mountains:

 

~ Merete Mueller, 1/9/12