Tag Archives: Tiny Tuesday

Small Homes

Remember when we had a friend over to take pictures of our house for possible inclusion in Lloyd Kahn’s new book, Small Homes?

We were included, and two copies of the book arrived in the mail today. Eep!

This is a cool book. We’re on pages 142-145.

It was fun to look at the pictures, which showed how the house looked in December 2015, before I redecorated four rooms, swapped out a bunch of furniture and discovered the magic of cheap IKEA shoe bins. Sometimes I forget how far we’ve come in here, and seeing old photos — accompanied by a narrative showing my thoughts at the time — gives me a nice sense of accomplishment to counterbalance all the times I walk in here, see what needs to be done and get frustrated with myself because I haven’t done it yet. (Yeah, kitchen floor, I’m lookin’ at you.)

The photos were taken near Christmas, obviously.
I’m amazed we got four whole pages. Not bad for a house we didn’t even build.

Even before all my projects last year, our house looked fairly spacious, and I’m proud to have it featured in the book, where hopefully it will inspire somebody else to experiment with minimalism and downsizing. It isn’t carved out of the side of a hill, sculpted by hand from cob, rescued from the brink of demolition or located in a picturesque forest or desert, but Kahn’s justification for its inclusion delighted me, because it sums up my reasons for sending him photos and information in the first place:

“As you may know, our building books are generally heavy on graphics and light on details. However, this meticulous rendering by Emily and Ron of their ideas for living in a small space, and the cost-conscious ways they’ve carried out their goals is rare and useful, practical information.” — LK

I hope people do find it useful and practical, and if anybody found out about this blog by way of the book, I strongly encourage you to search my Eco-Saturday and Tiny Tuesday tags to see more examples of our efforts to save space and live lightly on the planet. And, of course, if you found out about the book by way of this blog, I encourage you to support Kahn’s work by buying a copy or clicking over to The Shelter Blog to see what else he’s got up his sleeve. He’s done some great work over the last few years, and we always keep a copy of his Tiny Homes book handy to fuel our daydreams.

Oh, and mad props to our friend Laura Simon, photographer extraordinaire, who shot a bunch of the photos that ended up in the book. (We’ll be giving her the second copy of the book, of course.)


Tiny Tuesday: Storage headboard

My break ended up being longer than I’d planned, but I needed it. I’m still trying to get a handle on the stress-related health issues I mentioned earlier, but taking a week and a half to catch my breath and open up my schedule helped a lot. I expect the New Mexico trip we’re planning this spring will make a big difference, too.

Anyway … here’s my latest project. I got to looking at those IKEA shoe bins I bought a while back and realized they were just about the right width to line up side by side and make a headboard for our bed, which didn’t have one. We took a trip up to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago, and I picked up two sets of the bins (the style is called TRONES, in case you’re interested) and hung them in a double row above the bed to store socks, underwear, and broomstick skirts. The little indentations on the tops provide a perfect spot to hold an alarm clock and glasses.

I need to move the dreamcatcher, which looks sort of awkward now, but I like this setup.
I need to move the dreamcatcher, which looks sort of awkward now, but I like this setup.

The bins freed up some space in my storage cubes, which I moved into the closet (as it turns out, they’re just the right size to set on top of the built-in shelf that conceals the basement-landing clearance), and that, in turn, opened up more floor space in the bedroom. Floor space is good. I like floor space.

Ron has promised to inventory his clothes and let me put some of the excess in space bags, and once that’s done, I’m probably going to treat myself to some more shelving and storage options in there.

Baby steps, but all in the right direction.


Tiny Tuesday: Digitize your photos

Last year, as part of my ongoing effort to minimize the amount of stuff I have to store, I started sorting through my collection of 35mm prints and scanning as many as possible.

Digitizing your collection is a worthwhile undertaking for several reasons.

First, it saves space. You can fit thousands of high-res images on a thumb drive; 4×6 prints of those same images could take up an entire closet. Second, it allows you to keep an off-site backup of your memories so you won’t lose your cherished family photos in the event of a flood, fire, or other disaster. Third, and maybe most importantly, it gives you an excuse to sift through your personal history.

Here are a few of the memories I found while I was going through my collection of prints from trips I’ve taken on Route 66:

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My rules of thumb for sorting old photos:

1. Keep all your negatives. They don’t take up that much space, and you never know who might want to see them in the future. Even the shots you aren’t especially proud of could prove useful to a historian two or three decades from now.

2. Scan as much as you can. Even the mediocre stuff. Digital files are much easier to search than boxes of negatives if, for instance, somebody needs to know the color of the neon at Jobe’s Drive-In or the type of shingles on the roof of the Bagdad Cafe in 2001.

3. Keep one print of the shots you’re really proud of. Sometimes it’s nice to look at actual prints.

4. Share pictures that might be meaningful to somebody else. While I was sorting photos last spring, I put together several little packets of prints to send to friends. One packet featured images of a friend and his late wife working on a couple of projects they’d spearheaded years ago. Our friend later told me he’d really appreciated seeing those photos and remembering happy times we’d all spent together.

5. Organize as you go. This means using memorable filenames and saving things in folders that make sense instead of just letting your scanner call them “scan001” and save them to some random default folder you may or may not be able to find later.


P.S.: The top image is of El Rancho on Route 66 in Gallup, New Mexico. I think I shot that in 2002.

Tiny Tuesday: Storage cubes

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our bedroom isn’t quite big enough to accommodate a queen-sized bed and a standard dresser or chest of drawers without feeling extremely cramped. For a while, I settled for plastic storage drawers, which are stackable, take up relatively little floor space, and came in handy when we moved, but they’re awfully ugly, and it didn’t take long for me to get tired of looking at them.

I found an inexpensive, attractive solution in the form of cheap storage cubes.

When I repainted the bedroom last year, I bought a six-cube unit and a set of faux-seagrass baskets to go in it and started using it as a dresser. It worked so well, I outfitted a nine-cube unit with little doors and cheap fabric bins for Ron a few months later.

My storage-cube dresser. Excuse the wonkiness. I had to shoot this from an odd angle, and the bedroom is small.
My storage-cube dresser. Excuse the wonkiness. I had to shoot this from an odd angle, and the bedroom is small.

Each cube holds less than a standard dresser drawer would, of course, but we store our bulkiest clothes in the closet (slacks and jeans on hangers and sweatshirts on hanging shelves), so we don’t need huge drawers. The cubes provide adequate storage for T-shirts, socks, underwear, and a few broomstick skirts, and their smaller footprints make them easy to tuck into spaces that would be too small for a dresser.

Ron's storage-cube dresser.
Ron’s storage-cube dresser.

I’ve seen storage cubes used in all sorts of configurations in tiny houses, where their low profile allows them to function as an inexpensive alternative to custom built-ins. A quick Pinterest search will turn up all sorts of bed frames, benches and desks fashioned from the ubiquitous shelves, and I personally have used them as nightstands, a faux-mid-century credenza, and even a stylish dog bed (which Lillian promptly snubbed in favor of curling up on our bed instead — and yes, that’s her fun-fur blankie in the top picture).


Tiny Tuesday: Merry minimalism

When I bought my Christmas tree, I wasn’t dreaming of living in a tiny house. I didn’t even know tiny houses existed. I just wanted a cool retro tree that would fit in my apartment.

Seventeen years and four moves later, I appreciate my shiny, easy-to-assemble aluminum Christmas tree as much for its space-saving design as for its great atomic-era look.

I’m not suggesting everybody who’s considering a tiny house should rush out and buy an aluminum tree and color wheel, but as I was taking mine down, it occurred to me that of all the things I’ll have to shrink when we finally build that tiny house in northeastern New Mexico, my Christmas tree isn’t one of them.

I have a few other decorations, but they usually stay in storage; the ones I get out just about every year are the tree (with matching green and red glass balls hanging from its branches and a color wheel underneath to illuminate it) and the little plastic creche my mom bought for me at Ben Franklin when I was 3 or 4 years old:

Next year, I might put the end table in the garage and spring for a full-size aluminum tree with the branches that have the big flared ends. I'm betting it will still pack down to a reasonable size.
Next year, I might put the end table in the garage and spring for a full-size aluminum tree with the branches that have the big flared ends. I’m betting it will still pack down to a reasonable size.

In the featured image and the one below, you can see what the tree looks like when it’s packed into its box:

Gratuitous picture of the box, just because the graphic design is great.
Gratuitous picture of the box, just because the graphic design is great.

Below is the whole setup, packed and ready to be stashed in a plastic storage tub in the garage:

Tree on the left, color wheel on the right, and a 24-pack of glass ornaments on the bottom. I've no idea where the box for the creche went. It vanished several years ago.
Tree on the left, color wheel on the right, and a 24-pack of glass ornaments on the bottom. I’ve no idea where the box for the creche went. It vanished several years ago.

If your holiday decorations are taking over your attic or spilling out of the closets, I can wholeheartedly recommend a throwback Christmas tree, ca. 1958, for ease of assembly, disassembly, and storage.


Tiny Tuesday: Bed risers

When we lived in Tulsa, our house was 950 square feet, divided into a smallish kitchen, large living room, and three bedrooms, none really big enough to accommodate a bed and separate dresser.

Our solution to this problem was to buy a waterbed frame with built-in storage drawers and get rid of our dresser. This was kind of a shame (the dresser was a great blonde mid-century piece with matching chest of drawers), but we just didn’t have room for it.

Sadly, the bed was of dubious quality, so instead of hauling it cross-country, we gave it away before we moved, which left me with a mountain of clothes and nowhere to put them. Plastic storage drawers aren’t the most visually appealing solution to that problem, so at my earliest convenience, I bought myself a set of bed risers and a couple of underbed storage tubs.

Risers come in varying heights, and some of the newer ones even have built-in cellphone chargers and electrical outlets. Besides being cheaper than a bed with built-in storage, risers are much lighter, which is something to consider if you’re planning to put your tiny house on wheels. (We’re not, but a lot of people do.)

The down side of bed risers — and the reason I don’t have any pictures of ours to share — is the “rise” part. I didn’t mind the elevation, but Ron found it uncomfortable.

I’d already reduced my clothing inventory to something resemblng a capsule wardrobe, but he still had a lot more clothes than he needed, so I made him a deal: The bed would come off the risers as soon as he freed up enough room in the closet to accommodate everything we were storing under it.

Two Goodwill runs later, the bed came down.

If you don’t mind the height, however, I can wholeheartedly recommend risers as an effective way to maximize storage space.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I’ll show you how we store clothes in a bedroom that’s not quite big enough for a full-sized dresser.


Tiny Tuesday: Done with mirrors

Need a quick way to expand a small room without knocking out walls or building an addition to your home?

Hang a mirror.

Or two.

Or more.

By reflecting both the room and its contents — including any available light — a large mirror can make a small room look brighter and feel bigger than it really is.

My living room is decorated with mid-century modern furniture and accents. I adore it. And what I really wanted to do was install a set of large, mid-century-style mirrors in there, but I couldn’t find anything with the right proportions, so I finally gave up and decided I’d just have to settle for something from a different era.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Target and picked up a large mirror in a nondescript frame and hung it above the (also-nondescript-and-not-mid-century) piano.

It looked pretty good, but I knew I could one-up it.

As a small child, I watched a movie about Thomas Edison and became fascinated with a scene in which a young Edison used a candle and several carefully positioned mirrors to light an entire room. Thirty-five years later, the image of all those mirrors reflecting the light from that tiny flame remains lodged in my memory.

I don’t have the space to arrange my mirrors as strategically as Edison’s, but I figured several reflective surfaces on the wall opposite a window would yield more light than just one, so I spent Saturday evening shopping for the most eclectic assortment of mirrors I could come up with.

My first stop was Family Dollar, where I found a cute pair of highly geometric, quasi-mid-centuryish mirrors for $10. Score.

My next stop was Annie Laurie’s Antiques, where I’d hoped to find a vintage mirror or two. I came home with seven and managed to hang six without breaking them, which is pretty impressive for me.

I may or may not have hummed Leon Russell's "Magic Mirror" while I was hanging these.
I may or may not have hummed Leon Russell’s “Magic Mirror” while I was hanging these.

I’d like to acquire a few more as time and my budget allow, but the assortment I have now is pretty cool, and while it doesn’t exactly match the rest of the living room, it certainly reflects it nicely and extends the visual space.

You can bet when I build that tiny house in New Mexico, big mirrors are going to be part of the decor.


Tiny Tuesday: Hang a basket on the wall

This functional basket replaced a cute but useless plaque next to the shower.
This functional basket replaced a cute but useless plaque next to the shower.

Baskets seem to be a theme lately — and for good reason: In a small space, a well-placed basket can mean the difference between a cluttered mess and an attractive living area.

Our bathroom didn’t look terribly cluttered, but some of my storage strategies weren’t as convenient as they could have been. Case in point: washcloths. I had the washcloths stacked in the cabinet above the toilet — neat and out of sight, but nowhere near the shower, which seems silly. Meanwhile, I noticed some more underutilized space above the towel ring between the medicine cabinet and the shower, so I decided to take down the decorative plaque that was hanging there and replace it with a water-hyacinth basket.

A single-unit storage cube would have fit in that space, too, but the one I had on hand was an open-backed model that would have been a pain to hang up, as I would have needed special mounting hardware. All I needed was a place to store a stack of washcloths and maybe an extra bar of soap or two within easy reach of the shower. As you can see, the basket serves that purpose nicely, and being made of natural materials (or maybe crumpled paper designed to look like natural materials), it will coordinate well with the rest of the bathroom when I finish painting my faux-stone mural in there.

When we build our tiny house, I’m planning a permanent structure, but a lot of tiny-house enthusiasts like to build theirs on trailers to avoid some building-code hassles and allow themselves freedom to travel without leaving the comforts of home. If that’s the direction you’re considering, you’ll want to swap shelves and cabinets for baskets wherever possible to keep your home’s weight down. (And yes, I’ll explain the building-code workaround I’m planning in a future post.)


Tiny Tuesday: Over-the-door basket

Yet another product-review-type post: I was at the hardware store the other day and found a nice assortment of cabinet organizers of various types, including some fairly elaborate slide-out racks and trash bins and drawers that looked promising but way more expensive and elaborate than I felt like messing with just then. (File those under “worthy of further research.”)

I couldn’t spare the time or money to buy any of the fancy organizers, but I found a great little wire basket that hangs over the back of the cabinet door next to the stove, allowing me to reclaim yet another underutilized space. It’s not a huge basket, but it’s big enough to hold a couple of water bottles, my apple corer and slicer, and my small bamboo cutting board, which I use all the time. (It’s not in the picture because I’d just used it, actually.)

Reclaimed a little space with this basket and got those bottles up off the bottom of the cabinet so they'd stop tipping over and falling out every time I opened it.
Reclaimed a little space with this basket and got those bottles up off the bottom of the cabinet so they’d stop tipping over and falling out every time I opened it.

I got my basket at Lowe’s for about $12, but I’ve seen similar products elsewhere and can’t imagine one would really be much different from another.


Disclaimer: As always, I just posted about this product because I found it useful and thought somebody else might, too. Nobody paid me or gave me free products or anything.

Tiny Tuesday: Repurpose a dishrack

I swiped an idea from my mom while I was helping her with the Thanksgiving dishes Thursday.

Mom and Dad redid their kitchen not too long ago, and their old dishrack wouldn’t fit well on the new counter, so they bought a new one.

Rather than throw out the old one, Mom stuck it in the bottom of one of the new cabinets, where it keeps the pan lids organized and easy to find.

Repurpose an old dishrack as a neat storage center for lids.
Repurpose an old dishrack as a neat storage center for lids.

Given the weight of some of those lids, I’m not sure how well this would work with a flimsy plastic dishrack, but the one Mom used is made of heavy wire coated with plastic, and I am fairly certain it’s been around longer than I have, so it’s obviously pretty sturdy.

The rack takes up more room than the lids would if they were just tossed onto the bottom of the cabinet willy-nilly, but for me, part of the appeal with the tiny-house movement is its emphasis on organizing your things instead of just cramming them in wherever they’ll fit and forgetting where you put them. I love the idea of having all my possessions in close proximity to each other so I can access them quickly and easily, but if my cabinets aren’t organized well, I’m going to lose that advantage.

If I were using a dishrack for storage in my own kitchen, I’d probably use that space to the right of the lids to keep my big wok out of sight but within easy reach.

Take a look around your kitchen and see what items you could repurpose to organize your cabinets. I’ve found a streamlined space makes food prep faster, easier, and much more pleasant.