Building Humble Homes, Simple Shacks & Cozy Cottages: An Interview with Deek Diedricksen

by Tammy Strobel on December 13, 2010

Over the last few months, I’ve been interviewing amazing writers about simple living, location independence, financial freedom, and more. Today the feature interview is with Deek Diedricksen. We talked about designing little abodes, Deek’s new book, and more.

Deek is not only a talented tiny house designer and builder, but a musician, various reader and one funny dude!

Enjoy the interview peeps! :)

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Tammy: What inspired you to start designing and building tiny homes? And why do you think they’re so popular?

Deek: As a kid I was always, and I mean ALWAYS building forts. As I got older, I worked into the real-deal and built larger shed-forts which were furnished. I guess my hyperactive love for tiny houses arose from fort building and continued out of that. Also I grew up in a small home, in a rather wealthy, and beautiful, town (Madison, CT), and never could understand why other schoolmate’s families NEEDED to live in gigantic homes when our own smallish abode of 1200 or so square feet (which fit four people, a dog, three cats, and nameless other pets) felt more than adequate. I even shared a bedroom with my brother, and had no problems with it. I know that small-room sharing is no comparative “biggie” for some, but in my old town, that’s on par with martyrdom! Kidding…. :)

Anyway, it’s for those reasons that small housing (beyond its lighter impact on the environment) made so much sense to me. I think that the more recent popularity in small housing is due in part to the rough economy, and in retaliation to the banking and mortgage systems that have left so many families broke.

More and more people are sick of being “house poor” and no longer want to spend a sizable chunk of their lives paying for a home, when they could build their own. Or at least acquire some control by keeping the budget and size more modest.

Tammy: What are some of your all time favorite tiny house designs?

Deek: The book that hooked me was “Tiny, Tiny Houses” by Lester Walker, which I was gifted from my parents, twenty-three years ago, for my 10th birthday. :)

It’s loaded with some great designs. I love Walker’s 182 square-foot “Summer House” and his 132 square-footer, “The Architect’s Studio.”

Tammy: Tell us about your book, Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts (And Whatever The Heck Else We Could Squeeze In Here).

Deek: Humble Homes, Simple Shacks… is a cumulation of a year and a half of dime-store pen sketches, HEAVY on the ink, all dealing with tiny homes, cabins, forts, houseboats, and general shelter ideas and designs, with the hopes of inspiring others to go out and build them.

I grew up on a steady diet of punk rock and hardcore underground zines, Mad Magazine, Rube Goldberg books, and comic books, and I certainly think the influence of those shines through. As for its handmade layout, I’m a little bit of a caveman with computers, so early on I decided to go the almost fully-organic route with the book, by setting out and drawing almost everything by hand.

I’m glad I did, as the response has been better than I ever would have hoped, from magazine coverage, to NPR interviews, and so on. In fact just yesterday WBZ News from Boston came to my house to shoot an upcoming segment on small houses and the impetus behind the movement – all because someone over there had stumbled upon my little independent, basement pressed, book and my blog. Its weird, I failed miserably trying to get a children’s book I wrote published in ’07-’08- “Williker Wumbly” (which I sell on my site now). But after not even trying ONCE to get a deal on “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks…”, I had three different offers come my way from out of the blue. Its flattering, but all just too funny and bizarre for me.

In 2011, I will create a new and VERY(!) expanded version of the book, with many new features, chapters, designs, and even a color insert photo section. And it will showcase the work of almost forty cabin and small home builders.

Tammy: Who is your tiny house hero?

Deek: Yeeesh, that’s a tough one. Lester Walker’s book introduced me to the fact that it wasn’t uncool for adults to still dabble and daydream on what more or less amounts to “forts” for “big kids”, or micro-homes and vacations cabins, but Lloyd Kahn’s work and books have been consistently good and more inspiring overall.

Lloyd was actually THE FIRST person to randomly email me asking how he could order my book, when I first released it. Naturally, I wouldn’t let him pay for the thing. He wrote me a rather nice review on the book too, and apparently, some of my sketch work and designs MIGHT be featured in his next book, which he’s been slaving away on. The man’s a workhorse. There’s rumors that Lloyd’s even a cyborg, hellbent on downsizing and simplifying Earth’s ways! :)

Tammy: Reading is an amazing way to discover life changing ideas. What books have made a significant impact on your life and career? And do you have any specific book recommendations relating to tiny homes?

Deek: I’m a total bookworm and any time I’m knee deep in about six or seven books. My favorite book EVER is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – I’ve read it MANY times and its just so vivid and ahead of its time, edgy, and perhaps eerily prophetical. Don’t ever rent the Dutch movie adaptation though – its just awful and will ruin the imagery you once held in your head.

Adventure-wise, Robin Lee Graham’s “Dove” (which tiny housers will easily relate to and eat up) about the youngest person to solo-sail around the globe, is another book I’ve read about four times now.

As for more recently, I really dug Colin Beavan’s “No Impact Man“, have bought copies of “In The Heart of The Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick for friends (its THAT good, and the true-life inspiration behind Melville’s “Moby Dick”). I am now reading and enjoying Peter Jenkins’ “A Walk Across America” books. I also love anything from Bill Bryson and Edward Abbey- especially Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire“.

In terms of tiny housing books, I can’t wait to see Mimi Zeiger’s new small home book “Micro-Green” (My Vermont cabin will be featured in it). And I love all of the Stiles’ books (Cabins, Rustic Retreats, etc). Dan Price’s “Radical Simplicity” is a real great offbeat, off-grid living read that I highly recommend. It’s loaded with fun and quirky art too!

Lastly I’d have to plug the Michael Tougias book “There’s A Porcupine In My Outhouse“. Its comical, all about a “city-slicker” cuttin’ his teeth in cabin building up in the woods, and in some ways parallels a lot of the experiences I had in Vermont with my own tiny cabin that my brother, Dustin, and I built. I better stop before I yack about too many other books….

Tammy: Everyone has unique skills; skills that I call superpowers. What is your superpower?

Deek: I’m usually the guy who doesn’t like to unmodestly talk about these things, or even know how to answer that, but a lot of people have told me that I’m a “bad-ass drummer”. Whether or not that’s true, I guess I am pretty involved with it. I play in a few bands, I’ve written music with guitarist Bill Bracken and my other band “Age Against The Machine” for TV, the WWE, ECW, Video Games, Columbia Records, CBS Radio, Movies and more. I recently co-wrote a tune with Bracken that caught the eye of Gary Cherone, singer of “Extreme”.

Gary also fronted the last Van Halen album too. He came into the studio with us and sang lyrics I wrote – which was a trip, I mean Extreme had THE number one album on the PLANET in the 1990s. He’s a genuinely nice, and humble guy – he’s still got it too – and that song MAY end up the rally tune for a very well known professional sports team in 2011, if all goes well. We’ll see. Its under the band name “Anklelock”. I call it a “big, battle-cry/arena-rock tune- very simple”.

You can check it out here.

Tammy: What’s on the horizon for you?

Deek: In 2011, aside from continually working on another already-in-the-works micro-architecture/small living book, I’d like to write and illustrate another kids book, and I want to host a few backyard workshops on carpentry and salvage construction.

I’ve had so many people ask if I’d ever consider hosting something like this, that I feel there’s no way I shouldn’t do it. My brother Dustin “Dr. Demolition” Diedricksen (6′ 4″, 250 lbs – hence the name) will be involved (also a small housing geek – who lives in one too). And perhaps Paul “Disgruntled Neighbor” LaCivita (from my “Tiny Yellow House” videos #1 and #2) who I may be teaming up with to build a very wild, damn unique, adultified, tree home – with heating, insulation, you name it. I’m sure we’ll film it too.

Tammy, thanks so much for your time and questions, you’re site’s great and very positive/constructive- we need more like it!

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