Jan. 17th, 2011

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I, along with many of my friends and colleagues have a fascination with the concept of tiny homes. Whether it is one of Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Tiny Houses or a homemade, timber-frame house (built in an old firehouse then moved) or any of the myriad other tiny structures that are the focus of what seems to have become an underground movement. The concept of a small, simple house, pared down to the simple minimums for living, working, relaxing, or pursuing hobbies is a strong draw.

The main problem a lot of people have, is what do I do with my stuff?

George (may he rest in peace) had it right. What do you do with your stuff?

My solution to the issue is somewhat of a modification of the tactics suggested by Rob Roy in his great book, Mortgage Free!, Second Edition: Innovative Strategies for Debt-Free Home Ownership I highly recommend it to those looking for outside-the-box thinking on home ownership.

In a nutshell, he advocates buying land, quickly building a Tiny House that you can live in as soon as possible so that you can avoid having to pay for housing, then as time and money permits, building the larger house that you will be comfortable in.

His reasonings are:
- unimproved land is cheap compared to land with a house
- if you build a small house to live on the land, you save the money typically used for housing yourself elsewhere
- you live in the small house while you build the larger house
- as this first house is planned to be temporary, you should not make it too comfortable or too large, or else you will not want to move

My modifications to this plan are somewhat minor.

I agree with the concept of buying the land and building. After all, I AM an architect, I can design what we want and then build it! I can also see his point in getting on the land quickly in a small cottage, then working on the big house.

The problem I see with this concept though is what do you do with all of your stuff? It obviously won't fit into this small house, so where does it go?

Well, my concept is that you build a storage building on the property first, before you build the cottage, large enough to store your stuff and function as a small workshop. This can be accomplished fairly inexpensively, especially compared to what the monthly rental fees on a storage unit will cost you.

Once you have the storage building built, you can move your stuff over a little at a time while you are building your small cottage. This will also give you an opportunity to see what stuff you can truly do without in your house, and what stuff you actually need and use, without actually getting rid of anything.

Once you have your small cottage built, then you move onto the land. At this point I feel you should concentrate on getting rid of all debt before you even begin building the larger house you want. You have a small place to call home, and all of your stuff is available, so now is the time to get debt free.

Once you have your debts paid off, then it will be much easier to fund the building of your larger house. Just remember that you do not need to build a guest room in your larger house, (unless you really want it) since you will have the cottage you are living in available for guest quarters, as well as the storage building available for storing the stuff you don't really need but can't bear to part with. ;-)

An alternative concept would be to not have a traditional house design at all.

When you think about it, a house has public and private spaces. The private spaces are typically the bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets, while the public spaces are everything else.

Now, consider for a moment this concept.

It is akin to a wilderness lodge with cottages parti. Each person requiring a room has their own cottage for privacy. Yet the common functions such as meals and socializing would be in the "lodge" part of the residence.

In the "Big house" you place the living room, dining room, large kitchen, library, porches, decks etc. The spaces that you typically use for entertaining when you have guests over.

Instead of also having the private spaces as a part of that, why not give each sleeping/bathing space it's own cottage, separate from the public space, yet connected via a breezeway that can be enclosed for comfort in winter. These cottages could be arrayed around a small courtyard garden, and since you would not be required to build everything at once due to the modularity, the ability to self finance the construction would be enhanced.

Plus, if your family (or extended family) gets a little bigger, then add another cottage on to accommodate the new arrival.

Now this concept can be adapted to urban living too, however the additional rules and regulations associated with city life (such as building and zoning codes) plus the higher cost of land, make it a bit harder to accomplish.

Mull on the concept a bit, and let me know what you think!


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tnrkitect - Musings of an Unconventional Mind

June 2011


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