Tiny House Design/Build - a student's perspective

by Maggie McBride, Summer Intern

Students check out the trailer for Katie's tiny house.

There is something special about gathering people together to build a house for a friend. For two weeks I was immersed in a world that I had spent years dreaming, drooling and desiring existed. Better yet, the course gathered a group of young women and men who had been frequenting the same websites, owned the same books and who were taking steps to empower themselves to build their own. What a group of people!
I loved watching the group evolve on the jobsite. The first day we were all timidly making practice cuts, touching up wavy first time cuts and inching forward. But by day three, when we realized how cool Lizabeth and Patti were, we all stepped up, taking on the tasks and challenges we found the most compelling. Katie Tomai (a good friend and the class client) and I shared our first tandem-circular-saw-plunge-cut. It was hilarious, practical and glorious! I am so happy that I got to know and build alongside the wonderful woman who is making this tiny structure her home.
If not on the jobsite, our friendships were solidified over the late nights in the studio. I love the moments when somebody came along and made me laugh about my obvious oversights; for example a step-van doesn’t need to be insulated to R-40 because it is efficient to heat small spaces or that I was essentially designing an oven for myself if I didn’t think about shading or venting my skylight. Everyone was designing buildings, trucks and dream houses that were so different! In design people were acknowledging, prioritizing and evaluating their values and needs for highly specialized spaces. It takes beautiful people to design beautiful buildings.
Client (and student) Katie at work.
The course instructors made sure it was a meaningful experience for everyone. Patti was reading the plans and making the changes that needed to be made long before we got to the jobsite, correcting our mistakes, making long job priority lists, answering so many questions and helping with the next steps when the course was over. Lizabeth provided us with onsite instruction about tools, skills and safety, she patiently empowered us to answer our own questions and she helped us understand the practical logistics of our designs in the studio. Lina built alongside us on the jobsite, she helped us understand the legislation, logistics and options of systems for tiny dwellings, sharing her experiences of building her own tiny home and the connections she has with the larger tiny world. Paul helped us make meaningful design choices, equipped us with drafting skills and helped us better read and understand architectural plans, sections and details. Each one of them had such high personal integrity it was hard not to adopt one or many of them as mentors throughout the week. They obviously cared a lot about us, and were invested in the success of the course and our success as individuals.
Jobsite at Yestermorrow.
The class also toured local tiny and tinier homes, introduced us (by skype) to Dee Williams, and brought us together as a community. I hope that over the years I will help with the construction of some iteration of the 13 other designs that I saw grow and flourish over our short time together. Thank you!