04 October 2010

tiny house movements @dc!

I recently had a wonderful conversation with two individuals who are in the beginning stages of designing and collecting materials for their tiny houses.

what's a tiny house?

A tiny house is a small home that provides just enough space to shelter you from inclement weather, for sleeping, eating, bathing, clothes washing/drying and for play time with family and friends.

building & designing a tiny house

One of the individuals has the trailer already (above photo), which she purchased from craigslist. The plan is to get all of their materials secondhand in order to make their houses as sustainable as possible, which includes scavenging for local, recycled, reusable and renewable materials.

They are working with a local architect, Longben Guyit, who is designing their houses and helping them to build.

why a tiny house?

Both of them have been motivated toward tiny houses out of a desire to be green, to be self-sufficient and to be mobile. One of the beauties of a tiny house is its mobility—it can be moved from place to place as needed, like a trailer home.

In DC, mobility has been primarily seen as a transportation issue. How should the city get people from their built-into-the ground homes or apartment buildings all over the city, often far from where they work and play, to where they need to go in as efficient and eco-friendly a manner as possible? The two people I spoke with are exposing the limitations of a mobility concept that's focused solely on transportation.

They are also motivated to detach from the grid via a tiny house in order to:

1. not participate in the cycle of indebtedness that is central to conventional
home ownership;
2. simply their lives;
3. blend their mobile businesses with their homes;
3. literally live (in) their values!

I was particularly interested in talking to these tiny house pioneers because they are both mothers, one has three children and the other has two children! And they do see themselves as pioneers because they want to model for other single moms how to be proactive and to take full control of their and their children’s lives.

So what are their names and where are their photos?

They have requested anonymity and desire invisibility because of their concern about how their families and others might respond to what they are doing. It's one thing for tweens and twenty-somethings to be countercultural, but adults, especially mothers with children, are expected to be more conventional. They'd rather focus their energy on building their houses and playing with their children than dealing with the scrutiny of naysayers.

I am excited about following them through this process, sharing their stories and providing space for a dialogue between you and these tiny house builders!


  1. Marya,
    I came across this post b/c I googled Tiny houses and DC. I am seriously looking at building a tiny house within the next year. Originally I thought I'd wait until I moved again back out west where I know of many options for locating it. But, I don't know that I'll be moving anytime soon and I want to look at the possibilities of doing this in DC. Unfortunately, I have found no one else yet who has done it. I would love to learn more about the women who are doing it: do they own land, are they "camping" in backyards, how have they learned about city building codes/regs, are they building in a storage facility or outside?....So, any information you provide through your blog on their process would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  2. love it! i happen to know one of these ladies who is a dynamo! can't wait to see the project reach its fruition... thanks for writing about it.

  3. hi, lee. how serendipitous! we will definitely answer all of your questions in future posts. they are in the process of building and procuring so as they progress through each step, i will blog about it. what i can tell you now is that they are building outside. more soon....

  4. artis, thank you for sharing your excitement about the project" i'm really happy to be able to chronicle this process. and, yes, they are serious dynamos!

  5. Marya, Thanks so much! I really look forward to your posts on their process, and if they are ever willing to chat with someone after they are done about the process, esp. regarding DC code, I would love to learn from their experience! Right now, I'm just beginning my research into the feasibility of still living in DC with a tiny house. I hope I can, but I'm not that convinced yet!

  6. Hi there!
    It's very exciting to hear that others are on their own tiny paths :o) My husband and I (and our 2 dogs) are building our own tiny home in Washington state. We're living in it now and just putting the finishing touches on the inside, and I have to say, the security it provides from the economical and debt cycle swings is fabulous.
    There's nothing like knowing the roof over your head is hand made and paid for, even if it's tiny!
    I wish these two ladies all of the luck in the world, and I know they will be wildly successful! There comes a time in life where we just have to throw our preconceived ideals out the window and focus on nuturing our souls and our families. I think that tiny homes provide the opportunity to do just that.

  7. I just wanted to mention that there are more and more families doing this, and older retired folks too. It isn't just about young people being countercultural. I think if you're living close to your values despite it being unpopular that's something to be respected. I understand your friends wanting anonymity but if they ever feel lonely and want some proof that they aren't alone they can google Tiny House Trio, Tiny House Family, or Bluebirdmama (that's us), just for a start. Good luck to them!!