Meeting of the Tiny Minds

The internet is a great way to get connected to other people. I personally like to think of the Web as a microscope on the world, you can find almost anything through your microscope’s monitor. You can remain anonymous or reveal your true identity.

A few of us northern California tiny house nuts decided a little while back that we should make time to meet in person. It began with Steve, Jay and me, then added Kent and Bill, and finally Stephen. We had no agenda, we just wanted to finally meet each other.

We all crammed into Jay’s 89 square foot tiny house and spent two hours sharing ideas and stories. For the most part we were all familiar with one another but it was nice to actually meet and get to know the person behind the emails. I personally found it really inspiring to sit and chat with three very active and experienced tiny house builders, Jay, Bill, and Stephen.

From left to right…

Jay Shafer

Jay needs little introduction. He’s the co-founder of the Small House Society and original founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. He offers books, plans, and seminars on tiny house design and construction. You might be wondering about the crutches, he recently had a run-in with an SUV while riding his little Vespa scooter. It seems this particular SUV driver thought there was something OK with pushing people on scooters off the road. Jay seems to be recovering quickly and even makes climbing up into his loft look easy, broken leg and all.

Kent Griswold

Kent runs Kent has been making more and more contact with tiny house designers & builders and really should be credited with getting this meeting together, although I think he’d like to say it was a group effort. In January Kent expects to be blogging full-time on tiny houses.

Michael Janzen

Yep… that’s me… by day I’m a web designer, by night a tiny house designer & blogger. I’m also trying to build my own tiny house out of shipping pallets and other free stuff, when I can find time.

Steve Weissmann

Steve works with Jay and is a true entrepreneur. In addition to his own business ventures he helps Jay run the business side of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. This partnership gives Jay the time to focus on the things he likes to do which is design tiny houses and teach workshops.

Bill Kastrinos

Like Jay, Bill has been in the news a lot lately. He owns Tortoiseshell Shell Home in nearby Rohnert Park, California. Bill has years of experience in construction and manufacturing. This combination of skills helped him develop a very cost effective way of building tiny houses that combines manufacturing techniques with traditional construction methods. He shared some of the details of how his system works with the group and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some future collaborations.

Stephen Marshall

Stephen has been in the construction and cabinet building business for several decades. He’s a licensed contractor and owns Little House on the Trailer located in Petaluma, California. While Jay and Bill are currently focused on building 8 foot wide tiny houses, Stephen is building with a 12 foot wide footprint to the Park Model RV standard. These are not as easily moved but provide a more familiar room size. Stephen is also focusing more on the business to business market.

I think the most important things that will come out of this little informal gathering were the connections and synergies that we found. On the surface it might appear that some of us are competitors, for example Kent and I run similar blogs. But each of us has found our niche and I think we’re finding that we’re stronger together as active members of a growing community than isolated competitors.

I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning of more face-to-face tiny house gatherings. Kent suggested a Tiny House Expo to me a while back, which sounds like a wonderful idea. Imagine an annual gathering of tiny houses, homeowners, builders, designers, and enthusiasts sharing ideas, solutions, and dreams.

Thanks again for taking the photo Rebecca.

20 thoughts on “Meeting of the Tiny Minds

  1. Seth says:

    That’s awesome!!!!! I think meetings like this are the only way people will start to understand our “philosophy,” with regards to living in a tiny home.

    I hope through your efforts we start to see the construction of tiny homes become more of a norm throughout the country.

    Congrats guys. I would have love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting.

    • Christine Gates says:

      I can’t get Tiny House living off my mind. There is a market to be tapped. I want to be a part of tapping it. It is more than tiny house building it is tiny community developing. Have you guys done much work with developing tiny home communities? I am just at the beginning stages of investigating these kinds of communities for Kentucky.

      • Michael Janzen says:

        I think tiny house communities are in high demand – since working out the legalities individually is tough. If someone were to figure out a way to offer space in a community at a reasonable price that jived with the core philosophies of the movement – they might find themselves full up.

  2. Kim says:

    Clearly tiny house fans need to move to Cali!

    I wouldn’t worry about competition – I bet most of us follow each of your efforts closely! My tiny house plans might be in the long term, but thank you all for blazing the trail!!

  3. Bethany says:

    As an “enthusiast”, I was thrilled to see you all together! The cooperative spirit makes me all the more enthusiastic. We are looking forward to a tiny house in our future, though we need to get the kids out the door first. I am excited about how the movement might grow between now and then. Thanks for all of your efforts!

  4. Olivia says:

    I’ve been dreaming of a tiny house since I was just a small child. I’m still dreaming of a tiny house while I struggle to figure out how to pay the mortgage on my 1500sq ft home. While others in my neighborhood are planning how to bump up their roof or extend out the back; I’m dreaming of downsizing. In reality my one year old son and I need less then half of the square footage we have currently. If you plan an expo I will come.

  5. EJ says:

    I hope lots of good things come from this meeting. You must have had a great time. Tiny House Expo sounds great. I hope it will happen and have lots of web coverage so that those of us who live in the boonies can “attend”.

    Six people in that tiny house is impressive!

  6. Mary says:

    Sounds like a great meeting, and as others have said, nice to see faces to go with the names.

    And thanks for explaining why Jay is on crutches—I was like “what on earth?” when I saw the photo. He does seem in good spirits, however.

  7. Lynne says:

    If I had to choose one dream, it would be to grow old in my tiny house. It would be especially nice if it was on land with other tiny houses in a community that was neither commune, nor a conscious community. Just folks. In our tiny houses. Being legally allowed to build and live as we see fit.

    I am 41 in a month and have struck out at finding that corner of land to perch on. But I won’t stop dreaming of it or looking for it. This bunch here, you raise my spirits! many thanks, as well as to fellow commenters.

  8. J.R. vanLienden says:

    I would love to hear if a convention of sorts gets off the ground as we are just about to build our first ECO friendly tiny house using much commercially available recycled materials. I got hooked a couple of years ago with the tiny houses and have been waiting for the right timing to start building them and now is the time. Thanks for keeping a positive movement of tiny minds!

  9. Ed Swope says:

    Hello, as a person interested in tiny homes, I was wondering if anyone had put together any kind of list as to where tiny homes where known to be legal. I called the permit office in my county here in SD and they didn’t even seem to know what a tiny home was.

  10. Michael Janzen says:

    Hi Ed,

    The short answer is that every community is different so there is no one right answer to getting any size house approved by a planning department.

    A few folks in the community wrote about this recently:

    But my short version of the answer is:

    1. Most communities have minimum size restrictions that are much larger than tiny houses. In these cases building on wheels makes it more like an RV so planning departments are not a concern. Parking the trailer somewhere will fall under local ordinances enforced by law enforcement.

    2. Some communities just don’t care what you build but these tend to be the exception.

    3. Property that is zoned multi-family often doesn’t have the same minimum unit size restrictions that single-family have so it you have a lot zoned multi-family you might be able to build 2+ tiny houses and fall into the local rules just fine.

    4. The paths of least resistance are: build mobile and find a legal safe place to park and live in the house -and/or- find a community without minimum size restrictions.

    Also… no matter which way you go be sure to research insurance (and financing if you plan to go this route) because some agents understand and support alternative housing and full-time RV living and others do not.

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