The plans, they are a-changin': tweaks and tradeoffs

7.25.2012


I've been reminded by a few friends that having a blog comes with the responsibility of, well, updating it every so often, so here's a long-overdue post on recent activity, current status, and next steps.

Last month, I proudly announced that the Matchbox floor plans had been finalizedthat the design phase had been concluded and that construction was right around the corner. I lied.

Truthfully, designing a tiny home has proven far more difficult than I had initially imagined. Sure, dropping a few couches and countertops onto an empty plane of digital space is easy enough, but then there's that pesky third dimension to worry about: how tall everything will be, where windows will actually end up, what the right space ratio is between the sitting loft and the bathroom(s) below, and how the trailer foundation fits into all of these considerations. And beyond that, more logistics: how much weight a flat roof can actually support, the realization that water can't defy gravity and gutters must be designed accordingly, and, you know, stuff like that.

That being said, much of July has been spent fine-tuning: trying and tweaking and changing and choosing, growing the Matchbox from a two-dimensional vision to a three-dimensional model that stands up to the laws of physics. In the process, there were, I'm afraid, a few casualties.

For one, I became a sellout. After doing some trailer measurements and thinking hard about what life might be like pacing up and down a 30" corridor, I opted to take the entire home out another 6", upsizing from a 6.5'-wide interior to a 7'-wide one. I didn't stop there: realizing that the porch didn't necessarily need to rest fully on the trailer, but could cantilever a few inches off the front of it, I kicked the length out another foot-and-a-half, splitting that extra 18" gained between the couch and the dual restrooms, and thus making lying on the sofa or stretching out in the shower both significantly more comfortable endeavors. In sum, these alterations earned the Matchbox another 20 square feet of living space (from 117 to 136.5), a 17% increase over the home's previous design. I know, I know, this makes the house a bit less tiny, but in return, I'm expecting a lot more peace of mind and a lot less claustrophobia.

The final floor plan: 7' x 20.5' interior, with an updated roof.

The other key casualty of the design deliberations was the green roof. If you recall, the initial plan was for a grass-covered living space, cluttered with skylights and garden beds and solar panels, flat and flanked by gutters on all sides. Alas, slapping a moisture-loving swath of greenery on my roof isn't something I feel technically adept enough to manage at the moment, so instead, I'm starting with a more basic alternative. The roof will still be flat(ish)I threw in a one-degree pitch to facilitate water drainageand will still have a wonderful above-loft skylight (I settled on a sizable 2' x 4' option), but the grass and greenery will be absent to start. After all, Boneyard Studios already has a terrific community garden area that I'll very soon be planting in, so for the time being, I shouldn't need the additional green space. I will, however, be building the roof strong enough to support the weight of a garden, in anticipation of a truly green roof at some point in the future.

The gutter system got a bit of a design overhaul, as well: while the initial plan called for a moat of gutters to drain into an undetermined spot, there's now a super-cool method for moving water from sky to roof to water tank. It goes like this:

  1. Rain falls onto roof.
  2. Rain slides down roof toward front of house, facilitated by slight roof pitch.
  3. Rain accumulates in gutter on front side of house.
  4. Rain is funneled from gutter into hollow awning above porch, capable of holding many gallons in the event of a storm.
  5. Rain makes its way from hollow awning to porch support beams, cascading beneath trailer.
  6. Pump beneath trailer circulates rainwater to water tank, contained in microshed at back of house (shares wall with shower).
  7. Rainwater sits in water tank, and when shower is turned on, gravity-fed water emerges from showerhead.
  8. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This process may be a bit hard to visualize (rudimentary diagram below for assistance), but in essence, the entire rain catchment system should be invisible from the exterior (and interior) of the house, also safeguarding the structure from potential leakage.

Side view with poorly-drawn rain flow. Click to enlarge.


So yes: bigger space, minimized roof, cooler system for rain collectiona few key design changes worth noting. Other than that, the Matchbox has stayed true to form, and is now (finally) ready to be built!

Construction is slated to begin this Saturday(!), at which point Tony and I will (a) level the trailer, (b) build the decking/flooring,and (c) have a welder secure the steel trailer to the wooden floor/frame. Barring any unforeseen struggles, expect a very ecstatic, photo-ridden update quite soon.

As for more general Boneyard news: Lee's semi-built tiny home shell has arrived from South Carolina, we have a fully-built (albeit unfurnished) Fencl tiny home temporarily staying on the lot, and it looks like we might be receiving a tiny-guest-home-of-sorts in the coming months. Moreover, the garden beds have been assembled, electricity has been set up, and our water cistern has just arrived. August will certainly be a busy month for the Boneyard crew: Matchbox construction will be fully underway, Tony and Lee will be starting renovations and refinements on Lee's shell, Brian's walls will be up before the next moon, and the garden will transform from static boxes of dirt to thriving worlds of vegetation.

That's about all for now, but expect another update (and like, a real one with clear, tangible progress this time) very soon!

---

"Man needs but little earth for enjoyment (and still less for his final repose)." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Introducing the Matchbox: what's in a name?

7.03.2012


So people who build tiny houses do this thing where they name their tiny houses. Like a boat. Or a horse. Probably more like a boat. The name makes the house more than a house: it makes it a home. It gives it an identity. In the world of tiny homes, it's kinda-sorta a big-to-mid-size-type of deal.

So naturally, I spent the better portion of my early spring agonizing over this decision: what to call the thing that I'd be investing so much time, money, and energy into over these next few months and years. I spent days rereading favorite novels and poems, hoping to find a key phrase or word that met the impossible expectations of (a) having some deep personal significance, (b) describing or at least relating to the notion of a tiny home, (c) being phonetic and not too much of a mouthful to say, and (d) remaining unique amongst the many tiny homes already named. After some time, I realized I wasn't making worthwhile progress in my brainstorming, and thus took a break from tiny home naming to focus on tiny home brandingthat is, developing a logo or graphic to use in some yet-undetermined way, to give the yet-unbuilt home a visual presence.

Enter Photoshop, a glass of wine, and a rather unimaginative mind.



I began with a box. My house, after all, would be a box: four walls and a flat roof and, oh, a front door, so I added that too.

I examined the figure I had drawn and determined that yes, it portrayed small-and-simple, but no, it was still missing the essence of a tiny house, something that would make it clear that this was not just a white rectangle with a smaller blue rectangle crammed inside, but an accurate depiction of what my home would look like to a visitor approaching it for the first time.

It needed something else. It needed wheels.


So I gave it wheels. Not particularly elegant or realistic wheels, but a pair of donutesque shapes, profiled, and an axle connecting them. And now the box was no longer a box, but an unmistakable tiny home on a trailer.
Progress, indeed, was being made, but this house-on-wheels still didn't look like something one would want to live in. It needed something to communicate its
purpose, its raison d'ĂȘtre, its aim of being a self-sustaining environment, a natural habitat. It needed attention drawn to its roof: a roof that could, once built, support herbs and vegetables and a rain catchment system that will keep them watered and a set of solar panels to power the structure below.


Unsure of how to best express all that, I drew a thin bar atop the home, signifying, I suppose, a solar panel or just a general presence above what would ordinarily be considered a house's ceiling. But this bland bar didn't do enough to emphasize the roof's vitality, so I curiously added a single leaf to the design to see how it would fare. 


I spent a few seconds pushing that leaf back and forth, centering it and dropping it and raising it and otherwise looking for a place where it spatially just fit and then, as it approached the panel's far left corner, I thought: hey, that looks like a match. And, oh wait, it's a match resting above a box.

And that, I'm quite embarrassed to admit, is how the Matchbox came to be named the Matchbox after three months of deliberate soul-searching for that oh-so-perfect name. The Matchbox may not be the most deeply meaningful of names (tiny-home-name-criterion-a), but I suppose it makes up for its simplicity in, well, its simplicity: it certainly describes a tiny home (tiny-home-name-criterion-b), it is an easy-to-spell-easy-to-pronounce alternative to other options I had considered (tiny-home-name-criterion-c), and it is, to my knowledge, a name not yet bestowed upon any other publicized tiny house (tiny-home-name-criterion-d). It will do.


Armed with a freshly-conceptualized name, I plastered that sucker onto the nearly-complete Matchbox logo, but I still felt I was missing the touch of friendliness, of warmth, that I so desired in the home's monochromatic rendering. Something was still absent ...

... the porch light!


Reasons for the porch light adopting a heart shape are unclear, but it seemed like a cute, fun idea at the time, one which would express even more warmth than the already-warm-and-welcoming standard porch light (incidentally, I've grown so accustomed and fond of that little heart that I've decided to construct a heart-shaped porch light for the real, physical, non-graphic version of the Matchbox). And with that final addition, my time home logo was complete!

Having spent the better part of an evening drawing hearts and rounded rectangles and panels-and-leaves-that-become-matches-and-flames, I decided to put this new logo to some use and order a set of contact cards for when I'm chatting with tiny home enthusiasts interested in following my progress, sharing resources, or helping with the build. I ordered the cards from MOO, a really cool company that prints absolutely fabulous-quality business cards, and was really satisfied with the result:


So, name, logo: like it, hate it? What do you think?

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