A project of Just Fine Design/Build

A project of Just Fine Design/Build. If interested in a tiny house commission: matt@justfinedesignbuild.com

Saturday, December 24, 2011

So, I'm designing and building a tiny house. Last year one of my students showed me a picture of the tumbleweedhouses and said she wanted to build one and wanted me to help out. I laughed and thought it was funny and intriguing, but inside i was like 'are you serious, you're gonna move into one of those?' Okay, so fast forward six months, and the New Yorker article came out and i was reading it in bed. It was a rare moment of epiphany, aided by some lovely company: It was the ideal next step for me.

There were a few considerations: 1) i loved my housemates to death but don't love my basement room, particularly in the winter, 2) I'd been building chicken coops for the past year, something i'm a little tired of, so it was like a giant chicken coop with new challenges 3) I had been trying to buy a house with friends in oakland for over a year and am convinced this is my only way towards home ownership in the bay area, and 4) After finishing the manuscript and seeing my sweetheart leave the country for a long while i had the compulsion to throw myself into a giant project. Some people do drugs, some people drink, i do really ambitious projects i suppose: an attribute and sometime flaw.

So, I designed it in August and started building on August 30th. I am using our advance from the book to finance construction, but being as thrifty as possible. I bought the trailer used, most of the lumber is salvaged, along with all of the doors and windows, and the siding is all reclaimed redwood fencing I am re-milling that were only $1 a piece!
the final design will have a full kitchen, composting toilet, outdoor shower, sleeping loft, living room, fireplace and eventually a porch swing.

The next phase is doing the interior finish work and custom furniture, that part i've been looking forward to most.


  1. love your design ideas. especially the idea of a stairs that also has storage. I am not good with ladders, so stairs would be easier. I keep thinking about these tiny houses - almost reminds me of my 1st apartment was 112 sqft room where I lived for 3yrs. almost 20yrs later I miss that tiny space - my current home seems too big (1560sqft)- especially when its time to clean.

  2. yeah, I like stairs way more than ladders, i think mine will be a bit of a hybrid, but my main constraint is being able to go down while facing the front, rather than having to go down backwards like on a ladder.

  3. Matt,

    New to your blog, but not new to heavy research into design ideas for tiny spaces. That said, your stair idea is the first I've seen. My first thought was that it was rubish--due to space concerns. But on further thought, ladders are a pain and I have always resisted ladders in my planning--and unfortunately no, I have not built yet.

    My brain went quickly to a hybrid idea as well for the stair-ladder approach. I agree with you the main component is go down face-forward. A design that incorporated a "hand ladder" to mimic each rung on the "foot ladder" would enable a face forward descent. So for each step/rung (however designed/constructed) also implement a handhold somewhere (hung from the ceiling . . . screwed to a stud inconspicuously). The steps may look crazy and dangerous until you see the person that knows how to descend unlock the hidden (until you see them) hand holds that make it effortless.

    That's my two cents for the morning!

  4. Hi, could you please share the dimensions, weight limit, and place to get a similar trailer? In also in oakland! ;)