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Monday, June 15, 2015

YOUR TINY HOUSE- why not STILL keep it simple?


Photos from (Porcupine Mountains in Michigan)
With tiny house tv shows spreading like wildfire, the media covering the subject more and more, and what with the newer 5067.8 tiny house blogs out there (forget the 430 twelve-page e-books), I've been noticing a trend in tiny housing in that the homes are getting bigger, fancier, more gadget-laden, and WAY more expensive. Television, a whole world of "you gotta wow-'em at every turn" is part of this newish direction in that networks spread, or create, a skewed vision of what is "the norm". But I feel its also due to the fact that when an idea starts going mainstream, you're going to find newly introduced folks who love tiny houses for their "cute factor", but who still yearn to squeeze the pool table and triple stack washer onto a quintuple-axle travel trailer. I call that approach "Ten gallons of shit, in a five gallon hat". It usually doesn't work so well, especially once you try it on.

I'm not knocking these houses- not fully, and not all of 'em- but I'm starting to feel that some people are losing sight of what a decent chunk of this scene's impetus is about- keeping things simple, affordable, and realistic. Or maybe I feel that some are just overlooking the fact that a simple home could work just as well for them as an over-the-top Rube-Goldberg-esque one.

I myself don't live in a "tiny" house, but a damn small one, with a family of four and one big-ass dog. I also grew up in a small home, vacationed in small cabins, camped with the boy scouts in small camp structures, and have built and designed a TON of tiny houses, art studios, backyard offices, and tree house cabins for clients, so I like to feel that I know at least a little bit about what I yammer upon. This is just opinion though- and everyone's got one.

Anyway, more and more recently, I'm internet-inundated with images of completely over-the-top tiny houses that seem more hell bent on creating something so incredibly high-end, or weird, that the viral-video or Huffington Post headline seems more so the goal, and not the livability, or cash-factor, of being in such a space. Eclecticism, IS good, mind you- I've never had a problem with it, or inventiveness, but I just feel that the media is starting to portray this movement that is often rooted in living for less, with $89k homes- hence this mini, meant-to-be fun, rant....

I was reminded of my personal love for simplicity when I stumbled across this photo (further above) from the blog This gorgeous little cabin (and I wish I had more interiors- yeah, yeah, I can foresee the complaints already) is so damn simple in its look, build, roofline, and presentation, that to me, its just friggin' great. Why try to reinvent the wheel thirteen times over when a good many who came before you probably had their crap together more than you or I? I'm not saying don't build in a secret passage from a grandfather clock up to your lofted master bedroom (that actually would be completely awesome(!), for the record), but make sure that what you employ into your design, suits you, and makes sense- that's all I ask, and really, all I'm getting at. That stobe-lit, glass unicorn prow on the front of your house might land you a few kick-ass blog stories, no doubt, but remember that you later have to live with that stupid things once its "old hat". (In all fairness, I DO build and design some bizarre things, but all of them are affordable, and serve a function (or are based on the clients request)).

Check out that lead photo though- the cabin you see doesn't have nineteen wind-dragging and leak-prone gables, its devoid of a pair of fold-down decks, and you're not going to find $35,000 of solar panels cantilevering from its roof at odd angles, nor a ergonomic hammock woven from hipster mustache trimmings, but what you do see is a cabin that will keep your ass dry, warm, and that could be built for very little money......and THAT, I'm reminded, is why I, personally, am in love with tiny structures. I'm not everybody, and better than no one (well, maybe except the cast from "Honey Boo-Boo ;) ), but that's where I'm coming from- nothing more.

That cabin- its vernacular design. No bells, whistles, or Inspector-Gadget like transforming, quadruple-use $5600 kitchen appliances (that you probably won't use anyway).

So, while some of the fancy houses (I'll freely admit) sure are cool as hell to look at, and do offer some awesome new takes on architecture, I'm simply reminding you to at least consider to KEEP SHIT SIMPLE. Its not a contest, and competing with the micro-Joneses is the last thing this scene should be about, so perhaps just relax a bit with those visions of Ewok-bridges to your fourth wine loft. Yeah, these out-there ad-ons are fun, but paying for them, and later never really utilizing 'em isn't.

Again, my lil' opinion- meant to be just fun- and of course "to each their own"

'Hope you're all well!

-Derek "Deek" Diedricksen's work has appeared in the NY Times, Boston Globe, China Times, and about twelve zillion other media formats. He, and his brother Dustin, were hosts of the HGTV mini-series "Tiny House Builders", and have built and designed for The DIY Network, The History Channel, and for clients and art galleries ranging from Fargo to Sydney, Australia, and everywhere in between. Deek is the author of "Humble Homes, Simple Shacks", and the upcoming book (Storey Press), "Microshelters".

Deek and Dustin ALSO host Hands-On Tiny House Building Workshops. Their next one: "Tiny House Summer Camp 3" in Orleans VT- THREE DAYS of building, speakers, live music, tiny house tours, collaborative building and design, and live demos. CLICK HERE for more info. 


  1. I am in the process of determining how tiny I can go. It seems, I will be in the "small" >500 sq ft range, as opposed to tiny. Lifestyle needs are important. I understand that one cannot fit everything into a small space and a degree of simplification is required, but one person's plain is another's fancy.

  2. Totally, so totally, down w/ what you just ranted about Deek! I've been researching & interested in tiny house for over 5 years now & the last ep. of 'Tiny House Nation' this season REALLY infuriated me. Why? One word 'Glamping' FREAKING GLAMPING? Really? This movement isn't about rich peeps who can afford to build some 200K vacation cabin on wheels w/ all the $$ bells & whistles, but about folks like me who are NOT rich & want a way to live as well as save for after my work life so I can still survive. Anyhow, rant over. In any case I agree w/ you & am in the process of planning my very own, like 'Demo' Dick Macinko said, KISS tiny home. KISS for life baby. KISS for life keeps Mr Murphy away!

    1. Agree totally, Spike. The mainstream media has taken it that the tiny house movement is a trendy, hipster way to live, and while I believe that to be the case some of the time, I believe there are a large majority of people interested in this movement as a way to live on less money. As it is, I will be working until at least 70, and I'd like to downsize to tiny so I can survive, and maybe even sock some money away while I am working. I always hope the TV shows are going to have an episode of a normal couple, or even a couple having financial issues doing a tiny house to help get out of the financial quicksand. But, no, they have to make it a rich, trendy thing.

    2. Glamping is, or started out to be, about buying cheap ($500-1500) and restoring 1950s-70s era trailers, for weekend camping, usually by single women for meetups at parks and backyards. They are designed to be fun and comfy, but not for full-time living as most don’t have water systems and many don’t even have propane or AC hookups. Those were simpler times. They are often tricked out with knickknacks from secondhand stores, but never are luxurious or expensive. You are thinking of the owners of diesel-pusher RVs who park their buses at state parks and then run their generators 24/7 to avoid nature and stay inside to watch TV. That is NOT glamping.

  3. It seems that the reason for the tiny house movement is a forgotten memory. And I agree, corporate media is destroying this for ratings. Like you said, everything has to get bigger and fancier in their eyes. *face palm*

  4. I live small, my family of 3 plus animals lives in under 1000 sq ft. I want to go tiny, and this will happen some day. But we just don't have the money to be able to invest in making a tiny house and finding land for it right now. We are just squeaking by.

    There is something that does not totally sit right with me in this article though. It is a feeling I have when I sometimes read comments on the houses of others or houses for sale in tiny house listings too. It is a feeling, that sometimes makes me feel at ill ease with the tiny house community. Even though in general I love it.

    I see so many people criticizing for extravagance or cost. Saying this is not what tiny house living is all about. But to me Tiny house living has always been about the idea of freedom, of change, and of appreciating without consumption.

    I don't think there is more inherent value in a house that cost 2,000 to build over a house that costs 50,000. I think the point of it is, that even at the high end tiny houses still cost much less than your average home. This allows you the freedom of extravagance fr some things. It allows you to design things that suit and reflect your personality. I feel like there is some weird hierarchy where we seem to judge each other more on what we can give up, rather than how we are living our lives. How we are using our time.

    I know when I build my tiny house, I want it to be covored in vidtotian gingerbread, and I want stained glass windows. I want it to be beautiful, and I want to spare no expense on the few things I will have, because it will be a thing of love, it will be things I could not have in a large home, it will be my artistic home. My home. Sure it might not be a hovel on wheels and sure it might cost me more to have those things, but THOSE things are the things I want, the things that will make me smile and make my home mine.

    Tiny house living is a practice in balance. I don't see why someone that wants fancy kitchen gadgets is less than someone with a kitchen that consists of a bowls and one burner camp stove. The movement should have room for all kinds of people.

    The movement should be about the idea of making a difference in your life, in living free of commercial consumption and of experincing a life of freedoms. Different people will always want different things. If we each had to pack a trunk today of only 20 things we could take with us on a deserted isle, it would all be different. I think we need to embrace everyone that wants to live small to tiny, rather than constantly looking for who is better, or making it us vs them, or the gadgets vs. rustic.


  5. Wanda Aulenback... I mainly agree with what you're saying- I think you misread parts of my post- I too like the eclecticism, and indulge in it a bit too here and there.....said it outright in the article.... I also stated, more than once, in fairness, that affordability and simplicity is why I personally got into tiny houses in the 80s, and added the disclaimer that everyone is going to have an opinion, or a different attraction to "tiny". My main theme was that I feel people should try to keep it simple in that the gadgetry or whatever added should truly work for him/her, or to at least not skip right over simplicity- give it a chance. Anyway, thanks for chiming in/hope you're well

    PS, for the record, I'd like to add that I NEVER said this....made this point (from a comment above)
    "I see so many people criticizing for extravagance or cost. Saying this is not what tiny house living is all about."

  6. I agree with you. As neat as these tv tiny homes look, I had thought a tiny house was meant to be simple. I mean each person has their own opinion on what they want in their home but I would be very basic. I don't need a TV (I don't watch it anyway) or a huge table (its usually just me and my husband anyway).

    When I build mine I want to keep it under the 200 SF mark, and just have simple stuff in it. Nothing fancy, if people want to go fancy than having a regular house seems like the best plan.

  7. I've thought about this subject and I always circle back to "do what you want since it's your own." The one caveat is that I hope if you go tiny, you do it within your means (hopefully well below) but make it so comfy and so awesome that you know you'll be happy for the long-term and not feel like you've settled. Otherwise you won't be a long-term tiny houser, it'll just have been a temporary housing experiment.

  8. I don't think the point being made (correct me if I'm wrong) is that expensive = bad and inexpensive = good. I think that the point is more that the expensive, hip, ultra cool, Rube Goldberg type house, while not bad in and of itself if designed to meet a real need, has taken center stage and muscled out it's more common and simple brethren as representative of tiny houses. I love watching Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunting and Treehouse Masters on TV. But what I see happening with these shows is what I saw happening with home improvement shows decades ago. Remember when "This Old House" with Bob VIlla was really about old houses that were affordable for a lot of folks and showed repairs and restorations that the handy among us might be able to pull off ourselves or could afford to hire someone else to do?. Today the same show is mostly about very expensive (read million or multi million in many cases) houses with high tech, often ultra modern and very expensive fixes out of the reach of the average viewer. It's not about handy men showing us the way it's done, but about watching someone else lay on high tech bling. Again, these houses are not themselves bad, but coverage of that tiny part of the renovation market has pushed out coverage of the more practical and for most of us, the more useful coverage of what we think of as old house renovation. That is what I see happening. Balanced coverage is in danger of being lost. I am not against beautiful. My pinterest account is full of pins of beautiful tiny houses I freely plan to steal ideas from one of these days. But let's not loose the coverage of good, affordable houses that are build-able by laypeople. Gingerbread, stained glass windows and beauty are found just as easily on simple and affordable as it is on the expensive and complicated. Money should never be confused with taste, That's something you can't buy.

  9. Sicily and I just spent three days in La Petite Maison. LPM is pretty simple, but it is snug, well-built, paid for, and positively reeks of La and I. It's personal, and it works great, even when it doesn't. Maybe we will add some stuff as we go (we have plans for a freestanding deck in the fall), but those changes will be simple, handmade, cost-effective, and practical for what we need.

    This is a great post

  10. I stayed in that very cabin 10+ years ago. You really have to want to get there, because it's a 3-mile hike in. Thanks for an unexpected blast from the past!


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  12. Small is beautiful and as you explain, there are distinct benefits to having a tiny wooden structure, in terms of maintenance issues. As someone who's space and noise sensitive, I'd have to live there on my own because it would be too claustrophobic otherwise! Your tiny home has a warm, earthy feeling and I bet all that wood smells divine.

    Elton Rousseau @ Hancock And Partners

  13. The only tiny house in my life is in my dreams but I can still appreciate (and thoroughly enjoy) your article. I'm so glad I went "down the rabbit hole", via YouTube and stumbled across your work. :-)

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