I am friends with the talented, Ofeliasings who also happens to live in a tiny house.
She has also been my BFFL since we were 11 - no big deal. She currently lives with her boyfriend Pat in a tiny house in Topanga Canyon. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny! I was introduced to the ‘Tiny House Movement‘ when my friend first mentioned wanting to move…
“My boyfriend Pat and I somehow became very interested in hand-built houses once we moved to LA (go figure?). We took a cob building workshop (which is an earthen building material) and started reading lots of books on the subject of hand-built homes. We loved the ideas the authors spoke about: building a home that fits into nature and doesn’t drastically contrast it; building a home made with eco-friendly products instead of toxic ones; building a home for just what you need and simplifying many aspects of your life; and designing a home with spaces conducive to your lifestyle.
Our minds really opened up to the definition of a home and we started thinking outside the box. We became pretty much obsessed with making our tiny house dream a reality, and decided that the option that would work best for us at this point in our lives was a home on wheels. A home on wheels is more acceptable to permit inspectors and it’s mobile if you need to relocate. We also knew that because we were living in the city and had no place to build a house ourselves, it would be best to hire someone to build our design for us.
Lots and lots of tiny-house research online led us to a man named Wolf Brooks with a small business out of Pagosa Springs, Colorado called Jalopy Cabins. On his website, it appeared that he mostly builds log cabins, but we also saw a picture of a small house on wheels that he had built. Pat and I loved how rustic and funky his building style is, so we contacted him and he was totally on board. The price he quoted us was less than any other company we found, too.
Jalopy Cabins uses as many reclaimed materials as possible, which was part of their appeal for us. Our home is a stick frame house made of beetle-killed wood. In Colorado, trees killed by a certain kind of beetle become a fire hazard if left free-standing, so they are cut down anyway. It is stained with an all-natural vinegar and steel wool mix and the doors and windows are all second-hand.
As for the interior, Pat and I chose all of the appliances, sinks, fixtures, etc. It was pretty much a blank canvas when we received it and we built all of the shelving, cabinets, and the built-in sofa.
We designed the floor plan for our needs with many other tiny-house floor plans in mind that we had seen photos of. There are a few companies who specialize in building homes like this so we definitely pulled from some of their ideas. The maximum size to tow a house like this without needing a special permit is 8×20 ft., so we ended up making ours 7×20 ft. to fit within those perimeters. It was quite a challenge to fit everything we wanted in 140 sq. ft. and we re-drafted our plan many times.
Also, once we started living in the house we had to make changes that we didn’t foresee on paper. For instance, we decided to build a small outdoor bathroom behind our house for our compost toilet instead of having it in the bathroom inside. It has a fan that runs 24-7 and we couldn’t imagine hearing that buzz all the time in the small house. We also underestimated the size of a fridge we would need and the small college-sized fridge we initially went for just wasn’t cutting it! Because of the size of the space, one change requires you to take away something else and re-work everything. We ended up taking out our stove/oven, replacing it with a toaster oven/hot plate and moving things around in the kitchen to fit a larger fridge.”
A little friend to friend Q & A about this adorable home:
Were you worried about being too cramped?
Surprisingly, we didn’t think about that much! We had a large apartment in Echo Park with barely any outdoor space. Living in Southern California, we thought it would be nicer to have more outdoor than indoor space. (I think that was a wise choice – look at their view everyday!)
Was it hard to let go of so many possessions, or was it liberating?
Liberating, for sure! Everything is on loan, really. When we moved to LA, Pat and I went vintage furniture shopping and bought the most gorgeous pieces….a beautiful 1920′s iron bed with shabby chic dressers and nightstands, an antique sofa with retro coffee table, a 1950′s yellow diner table and chairs. We enjoyed them all for a year, but we knew they wouldn’t fit in our new place. We sold them and now new people are enjoying those pieces which is nice to think about.
I have to be very conscious about buying things now to make sure there is a place for it, and usually there isn’t. Except for clothes. There is always space for clothes
The kitty palace (so awesome), was that part of the original plan all along?
Yes! The kitty palace was definitely part of the plan all along. We have two indoor cats and we definitely didn’t want them cooped up in such a small space. So, Pat built an outdoor living space (that is larger than the house itself) with cat ramps, perches, and comfy cat-lounging furniture. It is attached to the side of the house and accessible through a door. When we aren’t home, they have a little cat door they use. The palace is very secure and safe from the wild animals here…coyotes, raccoons, owls, hawks. It also has a roof over it, so we’re able to hang out in all types of weather. The cats love it more than any other place we’ve lived. Lots of bird and lizard watching going on…
How did you choose a location of where you wanted to place it?
Topanga Canyon, California is our favorite place on Earth. It’s located in LA County, between Santa Monica and Malibu. “Topanga” is the Chumash Indian word for “above the clouds”….or heaven as we like to call it. It’s a whole other world out here of beautiful mountains, hiking trails, wildlife, and the ocean a few minutes away. But it’s also close enough for me to get in and out of the city for work and meetings (35 minutes from Burbank, 45 from Hollywood and Silverlake). We found ourselves coming here constantly when we lived in Echo Park, but we couldn’t really afford to live in Topanga. That is until we came up with our tiny house idea! Now we rent the most gorgeous piece of land with electric and power included and have our funky little set-up for less than we have ever payed for an apartment. It’s quite ideal and we’re very grateful!
If anybody would like any more info or have any questions, feel free to e-mail me: ofeliasings[at]gmail.com
Thanks for letting me crash your beautiful tiny house! Check out my musically gifted friend here!