Kleine Häuser in Portland

Tiny House Hotel Caravan

Wie ich bereits bei meinem letzten Eintrag erwähnt habe, war ich Ende des letzten Jahres im pazifischen Nordwesten von Amerika. Eines meiner Ziele war Portland, Oregon, das bekannt ist für seine große Tiny House Gemeinschaft. Aber als ich gehört habe, dass es sich bei “groß” um ca 6000 Tiny Houses handelt, war ich trotzdem überrascht, wie groß die Anzahl ist. Bevor ich nach Portland gekommen bin, war mir nich bewusst, wie umfangreich dieses Tiny House Movement tatsächlich ist in Nordamerika. Es gibt zwei oder drei unterschiedliche tägliche bzw. wöchentliche Sendungen im Fernsehen, die dieses Thema behandeln. Hauptsächlich geht es darum, für einzelne Personen, Pärchen oder eine Familie das passende Tiny House entweder zu finden oder speziell angepasst zu bauen.

Während ich in die Szene eingetaucht bin, habe ich auch gelernt, dass die Bezeichnung “Tiny House” sehr unterschiedlich verstanden wird. Für manche Menschen sind es nicht einfach nur kleine Häuser, sondern nur speziell Häuser auf Rädern, bzw. teilweise sogar nur Häuser auf Rädern, die nach einem speziellen Stil errichtet wurden. Für andere wiederum sind es alle kleinen Häuser (unter ca 20 m2) und sogar entsprechend kleine Wohnungen. Bei der Tiny House Bewegung geht es den meisten aber nicht nur darum, die Größe seines Zuhause zu reduzieren, sondern auch um eine soziale Stellungnahme. Es geht darum, die aktuell “normale” Hausgröße zu hinterfragen, und alles was damit zusammenhängt. Es geht darum, das Leben zu vereinfachen, aus der (oder nicht in die) Schuldenfalle zu geraten, die Möglichkeit, sein Zuhause überallhin mitzunehmen, und wahrscheinlich noch viele andere Gründe. Aber obwohl jeder unterschiedliche Gründe hat, sich der Tiny House Gemeinschaft anzuschließen, gibt es doch den gemeinsamen Aspekt des reduzierten Wohnens, der diese globale Gemeinschaft verbindet. Das hat mich dazu inspiriert, mir auch die Tiny House Gemeinschaften in Europa genauer anzusehen. Darüber aber mehr in einem eigenen Eintrag :-).

Während meiner Reise hatte ich die Möglichkeit, das Tiny House Hotel “Caravan ” in Portland zu besuchen. Im Grunde ist es ein alter Parkplatz auf dem aktuell 6 Tiny Houses im Kreis aufgestellt sind, und sich eine kleine Gemeinschaftsfläche mit Feuerstelle in der Mitte daraus ergibt. Obwohl es nicht besonders günstig ist, eine Nacht in einem dieser Häuser zu verbringen, ist es in Relation eine günstige Möglichkeit, das Wohnen auf kleinem Raum auszutesten, und vielleicht sogar schon ein paar Ideen dafür zu bekommen, was man unbedingt oder auf keinen Fall in seinem eigenen Tiny House haben möchte.


Bei der Führung durch das Tiny House Hotel habe ich außerdem eine in Portland lebende Tiny House Besitzerin kennen gelernt, die mich großzügigerweise in ihr wunderbar geniales (gar nicht so klein wirkendes) kleines Reich – das den Namen Lilypad trägt – eingeladen hat. Es ist relativ untypisch, wenn man es mit den meisten Tiny Houses vergleicht, die man so findet, weil es 2 Lofts hat, die beide mit Stiegen (nicht mit einer Leiter) erreichbar sind. Sie hat es tatsächlich geschafft, ein Haus mit 5 unterschiedlichen “Räumen” zu schaffen, und es trotzdem (oder genau deshalb) sehr groß wirken zu lassen. Was wahrscheinlich den größten Unterschied macht, ist das Dach, das zur Maximalhöhe von fast 4 Metern auf der einen Seite geht, und auf der anderen auch nur leicht abgerundet ist. Der sonst oft verwendete Giebel in der Mitte nimmt im Vergleich meist viel mehr Raum weg.

Es wird viel darüber geredet, warum es toll ist, zu reduzieren und auf kleinem Raum zu leben, es werden aber auch Stimmen laut, die die Nachteile hervorheben. Für mich kommt es immer auf das persönliche Ziel an. Was bist du bereit aufzugeben? Was erhoffst du zu gewinnen? Diese Fragen sind ein sehr wesentlicher Teil des Prozesses der Wohnraum-Reduzierung, die man sich so früh wie möglich stellen sollte. Im Grunde geht es aus meiner Sicht um eine gute Balance zwischen diesen zwei Aspekten. Und was meint ihr?

Tiny Houses in Portland

Tiny House Hotel Caravan

As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the Pacific Northwest at the end of last year. One of the stops was to Portland, Oregon, which is widely known for its big Tiny House community. But when I heard that there are about 6000 Tiny Houses in that area, I was really surprised about the number. Before I had come to Portland, I wasn’t aware, of how big that Tiny House Movement in the U.S. really is. There are two or three different regular shows on TV covering that topic, from following a person or family in their journey to get their very custom-fit amazing Tiny House, to realtors specialized in “Tiny”, looking for tiny and small houses to buy.

While I dove into the scene, I learned that some definitions are more strict than others. A “Tiny House” to a lot of people is not just a very small house, but specifically a small house on wheels. Others just use it for all kinds of very small houses, even tiny appartements. The Tiny House Movement is not just about choosing the size of your home, it’s also (at least most of the time) a social statement. It’s about questioning the current house sizes and all that it entails, simplifying your life, getting out of (or as a precaution not to get in) debt, being able to move without having to give up your house, and probably many more other reasons. But even though everyone has a different reason for joining the Tiny House Community, it still feels like a bonding aspect that really forms a global (sub)community. This inspired me to look a little closer at the Tiny House Communities in Europe, which merits a separate blog post 🙂

During my trip I was able to visit the Portland Tiny House Hotel “Caravan “, which is actually just an old parking lot with currently 6 Tiny Houses arranged in a circle and a small communal area with a fireplace in the middle. Even though it’s not especially cheap to spend a night in one of the houses, it is a great (and relatively cheap) opportunity to try out living in one of them, and maybe even finding out some details of what you really need or don’t need in your own Tiny House.


At the Tiny House Hotel tour I met a Portland resident living in a Tiny House named Lilypad . She was very gracious and showed me her tiny magical amazing universe. It is relatively unusual compared to most of the other Tiny Houses I know, because it has two lofts, both accessible by stairs (not with a ladder). She really created a space with 5 different areas that feel like rooms, making it feel a lot more spacious. The thing that made all the difference was the roof, that was high on one side and a little curved on the other. Having that instead of a gable gives you about twice the headroom (to the sides) in the lofts.

A lot is said about why going Tiny is great, some voices are already countering it. For me, it always depends on your goal. What are you willing to give up? What are you longing to gain? It’s a very vital part of going tiny that should be asked in the beginning. But I believe if those balance each other out, you’re good to go. How about you? What do you think is the most important question to ask when going Tiny?

Tiny House update – kitchen – bathroom – I’m finished!!

My tiny house project was hibernating for a while. But when I decided to put a deadline on finishing it, the motivation came back and rebooted everything! The big parts that were missing were the kitchen and the bathroom.

The kitchen

For the kitchen I wanted to have at least a small area where I could cut or otherwise temporarily place ingredients, etc. I had a few different ideas of accomplishing it, most of them needing a lot of building material and time and energy, because I would build most of the rack myself. While thinking about how to get the wood for building it and how this could actually be created, I had an idea that was so much easier. I didn’t have to build anything, just put an existing cupboard, an IKEA rack and some small trays together, and voilà. That’s how it looks now:


My electric stove + oven I put on a rolling cupboard, so that normally when I only use one burner, I can use it as is, and if I need the second burner or the oven, I can slide out the cupboard and use the full range of the appliance.

For my sink-system I’m still looking for a nice glass container with a tap to put the water in, but sadly it’s not that easy to come by in Austria. Also I want to have a curtain or something to hide the mess below the sink. But since that’s all just in the category of “pretty”, it wasn’t that important to me for now.

The bathroom

The last part that was missing for my understanding of the house being finished was the bathroom. The composting toilet was already finished a long time ago, but since I don’t have curtains I always felt a little exposed when using it. Also I wanted to try out having a shower as well (even though this wasn’t a must). So first I built a wall on the side that the shower should be:

bathroom without wall bathroom wall

I wanted an additional wall and not a curtain, because then I would have more vertical space to maybe hang something (pictures, mirror, etc.). Sadly I don’t have a final picture of the shower, but the way I implemented it was with a storage box (60×80 cm) – because I couldn’t find a shower tray that size – and another solar shower bag that was on a lifting block so that I can let it down when I have to add water to the bag and lift it up to get the slope for the water to poor down. All of that is securely wrapped with a shower curtain. So if I take a shower, I only have as much water as is in the solar shower bag and it all has to fit in the makeshift showertray that I have to empty at the end of the shower. Luckily the tray at least has tiny wheels on the bottom ;-). To give you an idea of where I put the shower, here is a picture of the first step:

makeshift shower tray

To finish the bathroom, I put up a curtain for the “door”, and I already have a small mirror! Voilà:

bathroom curtain-door

That’s it! Finished!! I haven’t gotten around taking a good picture of the whole finished interior, but that will come soon 😉

Interior Design – first draft

It took me a while, but I finally finished the first draft of the interior design of my container tiny-house. Before I bought the container, I already had some ideas of how to organize everything on the inside, but the placement of the windows and the door limited my options greatly, so I had to re-plan the whole thing. I still haven’t figured out how to manage the windows on the short side, because the loft bed gets in the way of opening them completely. The height of the loft bed is kind of fixed, because with the container also came (among other furniture) two identical robust cupboards that I intend to use as base for the loft bed.

After having some pictures in your head of some idea, you often develop a tunnel vision that gets narrower each time you revisit the whole subject. The realization of that fact alone however does not help in the process of stepping out of the tunnel. And since I’m riding the wave of experimenting instead of planning everything to death, I’ll probably go through with that layout, if no great new ideas are thrown my way. I am however always open for suggestions 🙂

After due consideration I decided to use the tool “Sketch up” (http://www.sketchup.com/) to do the interior design plans. It’s free, pretty easy to use – especially after watching a few of the tutorial videos – and more than enough for the amount of detail I was looking for. Be aware that some of the furniture is probably not going to be exactly like that, because I chose it from a list of pre-designed objects that are available for download in Sketch up. The kitchen counter for example will be a little smaller, and in turn the wardrobe in the right corner will be a little bigger. So… here it is! My first draft:

Innen-Plan 01 Innen-Plan 02

As already mentionned, comments, suggestions and hints are always welcome and greatly appreciated!


Just a short update: I finally have power in my container! During transport some connections were busted, and it took me forever to have it fixed. But now, there is no stopping me! It’s no “green” power yet, but that’s no priority for me at the moment. Soon some more updates will follow on my internal design, so stay tuned 🙂

a long journey

The next adventure was to get the thing to the piece of land that I’m allowed to put it. Since these things are acutally not that light, the crane from the transport company almost couldn’t lift it! During placement on the property, it even temporarily gave in and the whole thing plummeted (slowly but steadily) to the ground! That was eerie, but luckily nothing was damaged.

And now a few impressions… How it looked inside at first (with the stuff from the previous owner):


During transport:


Almost here:


And that’s how it looked when it was finally put in place:


The next steps now are to think of good ways to prettify the inside (so that it doesn’t look so cheap and to finalize the interior arrangement. I thought of using adobe for the walls to maybe get a better indoor climate, but I’m still undecided. Anyone have any tipps or good ideas for me?

my new home

The idea in the beginning was – and still is – to build a wooden tiny house on wheels out of only or mostly natural materials myself. This takes a lot of time and money – especially because I don’t have any idea of what I’m doing… After a lot of dreaming and thinking and planning, but not really getting anywhere, opportunity stared me in the face and I stared back a second and then jumped on it. Opportunity came in the form of an office container. It’s like these standard shipping containers (6 x 2,5 m) that is minimalistically insulated and mostly used as office on construction sites. That’s how it looked when I first laid eyes on my new home:


At first it seemed really far from what I was dreaming of, but now I see it as a perfect first step. I want to live small, but since I have no idea if I’ll still want it a year from now, I need to try it out. So I see this container as a perfect opportunity for me to test it out on a small budget and in an assessable timeframe. With this container I have a sound structure where I will still have to build in a water supply, a wooden stove, a “bathroom”, a kitchen and everything else I need in order to live in it. So it’s still a lot to build myself and learn by doing it, but I won’t need so much money and time to test out if I actually like living that small :-). Also it feels really good, to finally DO something after thinking and planning for more than a year.

The first question was, what kind of foundation I would use. Since I didn’t want to use concrete, the options I found were either to use thick wooden planks, old tires filled with gravel, a thing called foundation screw or – what I opted for – washed-out concrete boards. still concrete, but not integrated in the ground and easily removable. So I dug some holes, put gravel in and on top the washed-out concrete boards. That looked something like that:


Now that I tried it, I wouldn’t recommend using washed-out concrete boards for that endeavor, because they can break and if they do, they’re useless soon. I would guess that the best solution would probably have been the wooden planks. What’s your opinion? Anyone have experience with different forms of non-permanent foundations?