Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Live From the Tiny House Fair: Think Outside the Box

(and building for a whole heck of a lot less while you're at it)

What a way to start the day!

"the cub", a.k.a. smurfmobile

Strolling across the sunny lawn to breakfast this morning, I was excited to see the arrival of "The Cub," a 4'x7' house on wheels that brothers Deek and Dustin Diedricksen of Relaxshacks are cozily calling home for the weekend.

The two started off today's activities with their talk "How to Build Your Own Home for a Heck of a Lot Less - Thinking Outside the Box." Anyone who's morning coffee hadn't quite kicked in yet, was quickly awoken by Deek's charisma and wit as he and Dustin related their experiences with building small-sized treehouses, trailer houses, and "ground-bound dwellings," using largely found, salvaged, and alternatively-purposed materials. In addition to testing the limits of what constitutes a dwelling space, making "cheap" art, and creatively building, the two are dedicated to re-directing the waste stream, getting functional materials out of the landfill and into use.

With over 20 years of "freeform building" under their belts, and Dustin's work as an environmental toxicologist, the two had a wealth of knowledge, experience, tips, and tricks to share. What I was most struck by, however, was the strong sense of freedom to experiment, learn, and push boundaries they'd granted themselves by seeking materials outside of the conventional. With stacks of found and free wood and odd windows, why not see if you could build a home in under 40 sq. ft? Why not create asymmetric window and siding patterns? Or use salad bowls and pickle jars as protruding windows and inset terrariums?

Some of Deek and Dustin's Tricks and Tips for Salvagers, Trash-Pickers, and Tiny-Livers:

- Keep a materials salvage Road Kit in your car, including: tarp, straps and bungees, crowbar, hammer, drill, Leatherman/multi-tool
- Let people know that you're interested in collecting building materials - word gets around!
- Develop a relationship with your local mom'n'pop sawyer and lumberyard
- Surf Craigslist (especially in affluent areas)
- Visit the "Take It or Leave It" section at the transfer station
- Ask for mis-mixed "oops" paint at the Loews or Home Depot
- Project Phasing: with some poly- or weather-protecting finish, it's fine to leave plywood sub-floor or sheathing exposed as your flooring or siding; don't worry about "finishing" it until you come by the money or desire!
- Get creative with typical household items - a glass bowl can become a window, a metal pail could be a sink, a teapot is a perfect planter
- Try It Before You Buy It - is full of tiny houses for rent, so next time you travel, thinking about booking a small space instead of a hotel room
- Space-Savers: Murphy beds, fold-down tables, shelving nooks behind stairs or in protruding windows, stair step seating

Do you have any creative ideas for inexpensive, small-scale living? Share your dreams and designs!


  1. Anonymous11:21 AM

    What an inspiring vignette. If this kind of thinking gains further traction, housing solutions will become much more interesting to look at, let alone embrace. But what shall we salvage from shoddily built 7,000 sq. ft. McMansions?

  2. Well written! Thanks Rachel, and it was great to meet you! - Deek

  3. Oh, ps..."The Cub" tiny house/camper is 5' by 8'......

  4. thanks deek!

    and thanks for the dimension correction... i was puzzling over it when writing out the post and figured smaller is probably better!