Can You Guess Where My Tiny House Design Names Come From?

Some may be wondering where I get the odd names for my tiny house designs. Well its simple… Mendocino County, California. I don’t live there now, but I’m terribly homesick.

I was born in Ukiah, but grew up in Marin County – two counties south. My family kept property up in Redwood Valley for a very long time. So as a kid I spent many weekends traveling back up there. As an adult I lived in Redwood Valley in a 450 square foot cabin and made pottery in a 160 square foot studio of my own design and construction. Then the internet happened and I got a real design job in San Francisco.

Today I live near Sacramento, California and I take my family to the Mendocino Coast for every vacation. Someday we plan to move back to Mendocino County when it makes sense.

So what’s do special about Mendocino County?

Oddly enough I suspect after vineyards and wine making the next thing Mendocino County is known for is Marijuana. Funny huh? So there is a bit of a cloud that surrounds its reputation, if you catch my drift. Today the Marijuana industry there is virtually legal for growing the herb for medicinal purposes.

But it’s not the pot that attracts me – no really. Ironically I think it’s actually the same thing that attracted the pot growers back in the 1960’s – Mendocino County is hard to get to, has many beautiful remote places to explore, and not a whole lot of people living there. There’s only one freeway, Highway 101, and all other highways are just two lane roads with the occasional passing lane. Travel from place to place involves lots of curvy roads, hairpin turns, steep grades, and patience.

I think its the remoteness of Mendocino County that has allowed the history of the place to be protected. For example, you can still see many 100 year old homes that were built back when the main industry was logging. Many of these homes are small and tiny too.

So when I draw a tiny house I imagine the town, the style of the place, and have fun with it. I tend to name the small houses after the smallest towns, but not always. I tend to draw the gambrel and shed roofed homes after the inland valleys where you’ll still find gambrel roofed barnes, but not always. I often model the gable roofed houses after the older cottages you find on the coast, but not always. Like I said I have fun with it.

The last thing that I’ll say about the spirit of Mendocino County is that it’s filled with folks that are do-it-yourselfers. So many people up that way seem perfectly content to make their own way in life and fix stuff that’s broke themselves. When you live off the beaten track, you have to make do with what you have and be clever about it. When you choose the tiny house direction, its probably partly because you like taking matters into your own hands. So the spirit of that place seems to fit in perfectly with the spirit of the tiny house movement.

Read more about Mendocino County on Wikipedia. See my latest tiny house designs.

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Above: The town of Mendocino.

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Above: MacKerricher beach – the beach I proposed to my wife Julia 20 years ago.

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Above: The Skunk Train

3 thoughts on “Can You Guess Where My Tiny House Design Names Come From?

  1. Keri Gailloux says:

    I also grew up in Marin and have been living between the PNW & SF. I would like to retire to Mendocino. Do you know if the zoning is pro tiny houses? Thx

    • Michael Janzen says:

      I suspect not so much. But there are allowances for mobile homes so there is hope I think. I’ve not heard of any success stories yet. But I bet there are some in the woods that have just kept it on the down low… like folks are so used to doing up there.

  2. Marsha Cowan says:

    This was a really interesting and refreshing article, and well written. Your writing style flows and paints a lovely picture. Thanks for sharing these memoriors with us and for the nostalgic, beautiful names of your tiny house designs which now hold more meaning.

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