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Building Smalltopia: A Look Inside our Loft

{Every Tuesday, I post a short essay about the little house we’re building. Enjoy!}

Every time I see a small sleeping loft, I think about the first time I met Dee Williams. A few years ago, we attended a little house construction workshop put on by Portland Alternative Dwellings. Prior to the workshop, I had corresponded with Dee about the best places to stay in PDX. We were the only workshop attendees that were visiting from outside Portland. So Dee suggested that we stay in her little house and try the small space “on for size”.

After a long day of building stuff in the sun, Logan and I were exhausted. But the excitement of meeting Dee and being in her famous little house kept us awake talking about our dreams and how happy we were that we made the long drive from Sacramento to Portland.

When I initially climbed into the sleeping loft, I thought it would feel small and cramped. To my surprise, the loft wasn’t cramped and the space felt very big. I think that’s because of the full size skylight and window above the bed. It gave the loft an openness that you wouldn’t necessarily expect inside this diminutive dwelling.

When we received the most recent photo of the tiny house Logan turned to me and said, “It’s hard for me to believe we have a bedroom loft of our very own, just like the one in Dee’s house, and it looks so big!”

The picture to the right is a recent photo from Katy. (For those of you who are new readers, Katy is a finish carpenter who is building our tiny home.) The pitch of our tiny roof is at a 50 degree angle, whereas Dee’s roof is at a 45 degree angle. Dee encouraged us to go with this option because it will give us more room in the sleeping area.

I can’t wait to sleep in this space, to gaze at the evening stars, and watch the rain drip down the window pane.


I’ve received a few emails this week asking for tiny house resources. For those of you who are interested in exploring the wonderful world of tiny homes, here are a few of my favorite websites:

– This Tiny House

– Tiny House Blog

– 2cycle2gether

– Tiny House Design

And if that isn’t enough inspiration, watch the preview to Tiny. The film is scheduled to be released in Spring of 2012.

Tomorrow’s letter is about why I’m keeping an illustrated journal. Consider subscribing.


Update: I’ve been getting a lot of similar inquiries about the little house. I’m happy to answer queries, but to avoid duplication please read this Q & A before asking a question. Thanks!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Holli September 13, 2011, 8:11 pm

    I look forward to reading these tiny house essays!
    With a family of four, we are not in a position to live in a tiny house, but I do love the concept.
    Thank you for sharing your journey. It is inspiring:)

    P.s.I am looking forward to the Tiny film, thanks for sharing the links.

  • Abra September 13, 2011, 11:15 pm

    While I have been silently lurking here since I was still in High School (!!!) I just get so happy seeing your tiny house updates that I had to post. I’ve been saving throughout college and planning my future home on wheels for when I soon graduate. Thank you for all the tidbits and talking about your fears – they have really alleviated mine 🙂 I can’t wait to hear more.

    Keep on being awesome!

    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 4:26 pm

      @Abra – Ohhh my!!!! Thank you so much for chiming in and for reading. I can’t believe you’ve been lurking since high school. 🙂 Keep saving and pursing your dreams.

      We all have fears. Remember, you aren’t alone!

      Keep me posted on how things go!

  • Dad September 14, 2011, 2:33 am

    Hey TES,,

    Love the T & G Pine inside the little house,,,,,,,,,,starting to look good for a finish….by Xmas??

    How is the book coming,,,,,you have ben scarce!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 12:34 pm

      Hey Dad – Tentatively construction will be done by the beginning of November. The book is going well. I’ve been hiding and working hard. Let’s chat soon. Love you!

  • Karen hornsten September 14, 2011, 3:36 am

    Thank you for the tour of your tiny house. I got a newsletter from Tiny House that featured your home. I am from Davis, Ca and wanted to say ‘hi’ and let you know I am excited for your adventure. Have fun looking at the stars, watching the sun rise, smelling the morning air, and working hard together. Your lives are precious. Teamwork is amazing. Keep us posted as far as your progress goes. I cannot afford the $5 a month to read your letters. Hope to go back and join your Tiny House blog? Karen

    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 12:32 pm

      Hey Karen — Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I’m a little confused by your question. My blog is free. Feel free to visit anytime. 🙂

      • Karen hornsten September 14, 2011, 2:03 pm

        I joined the blog when I looked below the comment section AFTER I made my comments. I was referring to the page wherenyou talk about $5 charge for letters you write. Misunderstanding, and sorry for that. Now I will be enjoying your adventure with you. Thank you to YOU! Karen

        • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 4:27 pm

          @Karen – No worries. Sorry for the confusion. I do offer the subscription service, but the blog is free. I’m so happy you subscribed! Have a lovely night. 🙂

  • traci sabia September 14, 2011, 4:17 am

    If i am excited and want to jump online to get your tiny home updates i cant imagine what you and logan are feeling. Such an exciting adventure for you both.

  • Sunday September 14, 2011, 4:18 am

    it is so gorgeous! i’m living vicariously through you two but not forever. someday i plan to have a tiny home, too. in the meantime, keep those updates coming as they keep me going 🙂

  • Diane September 14, 2011, 5:45 am

    The tiny house movement absolutely fascinates me; it makes so much sense. I live in what is generally considered a small house — 720 square feet — after years of living in more than twice that space. Junk still accumulates here and some days I barely use two of the five rooms. Grandchildren stop me from going smaller at this point in my life. With their energy they need this space. I wonder if you have ever known a retired person, or couple, who have a tiny house.

    • Susan September 14, 2011, 12:18 pm

      Hi Diane
      I am a retired Grandma (in name only!) who had a small space thrust upon me after a marriage dissolution and now sings the praises of life in this most beautiful and efficient way. I recently transformed my 512 s.f.
      by having 3 wall units put in and buying 4 new pieces of furniture. Everything around me is lovely to look at and with a vibrant city and ocean steps away, I have all that I need at this time in my life. When my 3 year old grandson visits he can choose to sleep in the (downed) wall bed or the fold out sofa bed. He has been given a whole big drawer for his toys and in general is fascinated by the way this space can be manipulated. The balcony allows for more play area, but most often we walk to a park, pool, rink or beach. I am loving my living space transformation; anything more would seem redundant.

      • Diane September 14, 2011, 3:51 pm

        Susan: Glad to see your comments. Thanks for responding.
        My house is old (1925) with 5 small rooms and old furniture. One 3-year-old lives nearby, and I have an ocean of his toys. Otherwise, the house would not be cluttered. I would love to remodel it, but it’s also OK the way it is (essentially the same as it has been for 86 years). It has huge multi-paned windows, 10-foot ceilings, and floors that are nowhere level. I don’t have the access to park, pool and beach that you do, either, but there is a big yard. To me, it is much better than trying to keep up a 4-bedroom, 3-bath house.
        I showed my daughter some of Tammy’s information today. She loves to build things, and we’re talking about how rewarding it would be to build a tiny house. Maybe.

    • Judy September 14, 2011, 2:27 pm

      I’m a 64-yr young grandma. My tiny house sets on at the rear of my son’s driveway. Although not finished [interior trim and cupboard drawer fronts and doors] I’ve been living in it since Dec 3, 2010.

      Six men helped me build Cricket Cottage on an 18-ft utility trailer, and it is my design. I participated in as much of the framing as I could; the weight of the materials being the limitation. I’ve done all the outside trim/soffits as well as painting. Being tall my downstairs ceiling is at 7 feet, which makes the loft height short. I only sleep there, so it’s fine and I like the height downstairs. I have an RV, 3-burner stove with oven, a stainless steel sink with drainboard, seven drawers in the kitchen, and an under-the-counter frig.

      It is well-known at the main house, if a grandchild is MIA, check at grandma’s cottage!

      • Diane September 14, 2011, 3:57 pm

        Judy: Wonderful!
        I discovered just today that when a 67-year-old sits in a hammock that breaks and falls, climbing into a loft will be impossible for a day or two 🙂 Otherwise, I think this is an absolutely splendid idea, and that you are a wise, wise woman. I’d love to see pictures.

      • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 4:28 pm

        @Judy and Susan – I LOVED reading your comments. Thank you so much for sharing!

        Do you have photos of your little home? I’d love to see pictures. Super cool!

  • Lisa @ Just here. Just now. September 14, 2011, 6:08 am

    It’s beautiful! How exciting! The film looks wonderful too. My husband and I downsized to half the square footage last year (it’s not “tiny”, but it’s definitely smaller!) and it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Like the guy in the video said- it’s about freedom! And we’re thinking about going smaller again. : ) Good luck with the building, and thanks for sharing!

  • Lori September 14, 2011, 6:35 am

    looks so great! 😀

  • Sheila September 14, 2011, 7:09 am

    It’s just wonderful!! What dreams will be born, under the stars gentle gazing, in the tiny house loft of Tammy & Logan? 🙂

    Thanks for mentioning our site — we’re honored!

  • Beverly September 14, 2011, 7:26 am

    Love this! I am in the planning stages of building a tiny house. I have one issue that maybe you have seen addressed before.. at age 55 I don’t see my self climbing up into a loft! I want another option…any ideals? I have come up with one idea..in the making…but I am afraid it will take up more room than I’d like… any ideals? thanks!

  • Natalie September 14, 2011, 7:52 am

    Wow it looks great. The loft does look bigger than I would imagine. The skylight and window really open it up. Your description of watching the rain/stars through the skylight makes me think of camping. That sounds fantastic! The wood grain also is beautiful. I would only worry about waking up and bumping my head, but I am very clumsy 🙂

  • Andrew September 14, 2011, 8:41 am

    I love our loft! Especially with the new matress. Two thumbs up for Rock Soft Futon!

  • tonita September 14, 2011, 10:05 am

    Your tiny home looks fantastic so far. Nice amount of space & great light in the loft area. I look forward to seeing more pictures.

    You must be thrilled to be able to have your own little space. It is exciting to see the tiny house movement grow. I have been interested in tiny homes for well over 25 years. Back many years ago they were VERY rare. I am finally having a tiny home built also. The builder has just started on it and hopefully it should be finished in a few weeks. I live near Seattle and my tiny home is being custom built in Arkansas for under 13 K. That is an incredible deal in the world of tiny homes – but since I am so far from the builder I can only hope it comes out as nice as yours. I started a blog, (i dont have the hang of blogging yet) to inspire others who are interested in small spaces, be it a guest house, home, office, hobby room or what ever.

    Good Luck — I am excited for you both,
    shabbychictinyretreat (dot) blogspot (dot) com

    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 4:31 pm

      @Tonita – WOW 13k!!! That’s an amazing deal. I’m sure your little house will be beautiful. I’m excited for you too.

      I’ll take a peek at your site later tonight. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Tez Hill September 14, 2011, 11:02 am

    Love it! Lots of room up there with the roof pitched high, gorgeous skylight, window- awesome!

    Hoping you saw the Tiny House challenge on HGTV’s Design Star and if not, it’s fun to watch on Hulu for ideas.

    Thanks for sharing this exciting adventure!

    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 4:31 pm

      @Tex Hill – Yes, I did see the HGTV episode. It was fun! Thanks for reading.

  • Orange September 14, 2011, 11:31 am

    Oh my goodness! I’m envious!! My husband and I have daydreamed about owning our own tiny place. We might go for Tumbleweed but who cares so long as it’s small, right? 🙂 Minimalism has created clarity, flexibility and fluidity in my life. There are just too many things that I/we can now do after getting rid of stuff! I’m happy for you and your partner for reaching this goal.

    Do you know where you’ll “park” your house yet? I stumbled upon landwatch.com and I was surprised to find lots being sold in Portland. I was relieved because I don’t want to live outside of the city.

    • Tammy Strobel September 14, 2011, 12:36 pm

      @Orange – Tentatively, we will be parking in a friends backyard. We’re still working through the details. As soon as I know more, I’ll blog about it.

  • Jackie September 14, 2011, 11:55 am

    Beautiful!! You may have mentioned this before, but what are you doing for a toilet? A composting toilet? I believe you said you would shower at the gym but I was wondering about this. Thanks!

  • Alllison September 14, 2011, 3:45 pm

    Envy, envy, envy …

    Trying to type coherently, but I’m a little green. I blame a childhood vacation in a cabin with a “secret” room aka a loft with a door that was rather small for grownups. But I LOVE lofts like this. Who wouldn’t want to fall asleep watching the stars through your skylight?

  • Alicia September 14, 2011, 4:02 pm

    The loft looks so much bigger than I thought it would be. Awesome!!! Still dreaming about my small dwelling.

  • John Hayden September 14, 2011, 9:37 pm

    Your house is going to be so beautiful!

  • Lisa September 15, 2011, 11:00 am

    It’s beautiful! The addition of the skylight really makes a huge difference as does the pitch of the roof. How much longer before you get to move in?

    • Tammy Strobel September 15, 2011, 1:11 pm

      @Lisa – If all goes well, early November.

  • Victoria September 15, 2011, 11:13 am

    I love your loft! You must be so excited to be getting so close to having your tiny house ready!

    I have loved tiny places for a long time, and have been collecting photos of cabins and cottages forever. Hubby and I are currently shopping for farmland. I’d love to incorporate a tiny home into the farm somehow. We’re thinking about buying a small camper to live in for a few years on bare land as we figure this out.

    I do have one question (and I have read the FAQ section) – as a writer, don’t you have a lot of writing materials (journals, etc.) that will need a place in your new home? Not to mention, paperwork for your business side? (Do you have much computer gear? Printer, etc.?) Has that all been accounted for in the storage spaces of your new home? This is the area I struggle with the most – paper clutter! I’d love to hear how you will be managing the paper trail in your new space!

    Can’t wait for next week’s update!

  • Luinae September 18, 2011, 8:15 pm

    I’ve always thought it would be absolutely impossible for me to live on my own as an adult, because it would be so expensive, but seeing these tiny house posts make me realize how many doors are actually open for me.