The Benefits of Hands on Learning

As evident by the success and popularity of multiple tiny house festivals around the country, countless social media accounts and the dedicated readership of the numerous online publications, the tiny house movement is at the forefront of the design revolution. Not only has to the tiny house movement helped forge a clear path towards sustainable living, it has also created a warm, welcoming community. It is a community that embraces experimentation, celebrates success, and troubleshoots failure. We turn to each other for advice, bouncing ideas off one another, relying on other tiny houses both near and far for support when our grand plans fall short, and share joy with one another when our dreams are materialized. Designing, building and living in small spaces presents a particular set of challenges. The tiny house community has been overwhelming forthcoming with information, always ready to share our solutions for greywater, storage or solar, which have been discover by trial and error.

In many ways, the tiny house community is unique in the sense that so many of us have opened up our lives to others. We are willing to share the grittiest of details. We talk about the ins and outs of daily life in a small space and rarely shy away from the details of our composting toilets or other somewhat unpleasant realities. There were countless times throughout my own tiny house building experience that I found myself feverishly typing into Google “how do I do ___ in my tiny house”. These searches frequently led me down the rabbit hole of information. I spent hours looking at photos, blogs, and articles that inspired my tiny house. There were multiple online communities that I frequently turned to for reliable information. My appreciation of these resources was a main driver behind creating my own blog to document my tiny house experiences.

There is beauty to online communities as the barrier to entry is quite low. You can participate as much or as little as you’d like. It doesn’t take much more effort than a few words in a search engine to find thousands of resources. The downside of online resources is the lack of face to face contact with peers and experts. Despite my efforts to connect with local tiny house dwellers, the first true tiny house I was in was my own. I’m an advocate for meeting other tiny house dwellers, builders, or enthusiasts in person to help execute their dream home. However, actually finding a real live tiny community within your normal sized community can be quite challenging.

During the planning process of my tiny build, I visited Yestermorrow Design/Build in Waitsfield, Vermont for a presentation from Lina Menard from Niche Consulting about tiny house design. This was one of the few times I had an in-person (rather than virtual) interaction about tiny houses prior to starting construction; it was extremely influential in the designing and building process of my abode.

While I was on campus for the lecture, there was also a group of students learning Tiny House Design/Build from a group of design/build experts. I spent the next few years admiring Yestermorrow from a distance, hoping that the timing would someday be right and I could enroll in a Yestermorrow course. After several years of staring from the outside with puppy dog eyes, I saw an ad for the Student Service Coordinator position at the school. I applied immediately and was hired inn the spring of this year. Just a few months in, I’m still pinching myself that I have the privilege of working at this unique place.

Not long after I started, students arrived for the same Tiny House class I had admired years ago. In this class, students spend two weeks designing their dream tiny house while also building a tiny house shell for a client. This dual learning experience demonstrates a key point in the Yestermorrow philosophy that every designer should know how to build and every builder show know how to design. This design build philosophy is critical when planning your small space. Design knowledge will help you determine how to lay out your space; while building knowledge will help you determine if your design is executable.

The first few days, I fancied myself a tiny house expert. I expected that students could learn from my experiences, which I’m hoping I was at least a little bit helpful, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would learn from them. After just a few days the students demonstrated that their knowledge far exceeded mine. The instructors are professionals in the field, bringing years of knowledge related to framing, tiny house trailers, and roofing. All the participants in this course seemed to have a diverse and endless supply of knowledge. By taking part in a class, you are exposed to 15 other novice tiny house design/builders and professional instructors. You work together, eat together, and play together for 2 weeks. You’re likely to rub off on each other just a little bit. And on top of all this exposure to your peers you also have access to some of the greatest minds in the tiny house biz like Lina Menard and Dee Williams.

I feel so fortunate to be part of the Yestermorrow community. The campus is gorgeous; the education is life changing;  the food is fantastic. Most of all, the people here are amazing. I’d like to invite you to check out the 2017 Yestermorrow Course Catalog online. There are a few specific courses in particular that tiny house enthusiasts will love AND I would encourage you to explore the breadth of courses the school offers – there’s something for everyone!

Less is More: Designing the Small or Tiny House

January 8th-13th, 2017 with Lina Menard and David Cain

Join us as we explore different ways of living small! Less is More offers ideas and design strategies that will help you to envision and design an enriching small “home,” whether it be a yurt, trailer, shipping container, cottage, tiny house, or beyond. We’ll tour noteworthy local houses, and investigate examples from across the globe of different cultural and vernacular small spaces, sparking a dialogue and imaginative process. In the design studio, we’ll concentrate on actual or conceptual projects for micro-dwellings. Students leaving this course will take home floor plans, elevations, and models, as well as the skills necessary to continue work on their own small homes. Bring your curiosity, enthusiasm, and projects!

Tiny House Design/Build

March 27th-April 7th, 2017 with Lina Menard, Lizabeth Moniz, Jacob Mushlin and Keith Lewis

Or July 16th-28th, 2017 with Lizabeth Moniz, Jacob Mushlin, Dee Williams, and Paul Hanke

Tiny houses (homes typically between 64 and 300 square feet) are springing up all over the country -- from Vermont to Oregon to post-Katrina New Orleans -- as well as all over the media landscape. They can be affordable and energy efficient, reduce materials consumption, and cut your carbon footprint. A tiny house is perfect for an office, art or writing studio, children's playhouse, meditation/yoga space, guest house, or even a fully equipped dwelling. In this intensive tiny house workshop, students will spend mornings and afternoons learning basic carpentry skills while framing and sheathing a tiny house. Evenings will be spent in the design studio, where students will learn design fundamentals and contemplate how to efficiently utilize space as they create drawings, plans and models for their own tiny houses. They can be built on wheels, on the ground, in many different styles and from many different materials. Field trips and slide shows will introduce students to a wide range of design ideas.