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The Arrowhead trailer at the Sou'Wester Lodge

Do you love vintage travel trailers? Then you’ll definitely love the Sou’Wester Lodge because they have over 15 vintage travel trailers you can rent by the night, though they have many other attractions as well.

The Lodge also has rooms in its historic main house, a series of small cabins, a self-serve gift shop stocked with local foods, art, crafts and music, a sauna/steam room, and it hosts concerts and art events. All that, and a great location within walking distance of the beach in Seaview, Washington, a few hours from both Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

I’ve visited the Sou’Wester twice now, staying in three different travel trailers, and I wanted to make sure the tiny house community knew about this unique resource. For fans of small spaces, it’s a fantastic way to get design ideas and to see how a trailer feels and functions. The trailers have been lovingly and stylishly restored with special touches like locally made soap, champagne flutes or mason jars in the kitchens, and some even have record players and come stocked with records. Their biggest trailer, the African Queen, has two floors, four separate beds, and a full bathtub!

Each one is amazing in its own way. They are all truly vintage, and each trailer I’ve stayed in had its own set of quirks – but that’s a genuine, vintage trailer for you! It’s a great way to see what works and what doesn’t for your particular needs, especially if you’re considering buying or living in one.

Tiny Vintage Travel Trailer Hotel

Vintage travel trailers at the Sou'Wester Lodge.

Images © Billy Ulmer

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Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Inside

What does “living simply” really mean? That was one of the questions on Aldo Lavaggi’s mind when he set out to design and build his own tiny house on wheels. He purposefully chose a very simple design with no running water and no shower, curious about how it would feel to carry in his own water, and how difficult it would be to shower at friends’ houses instead.

But a simple design doesn’t necessarily mean a spartan one. He also designed a space for a collapsible hammock chair to provide “squishy comfort”, which can be rare in tiny houses with lots of built-in wood seating. He installed solar panels as his primary energy source, and used several large and interesting windows so the house could be heated by the sun as much as possible, a technique called “passive solar” heating, even in the cold winters of New York State. He also rigged a retractable stepladder to his sleeping loft, and added an external storage area over his trailer hitch as a small shed for tools.

Young Man Explains Simple Living in a Tiny House on Wheels

Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Exterior

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Mother Goose sailboat exterior

The design of tiny homes owes a lot to the design of boats, and while I’ve spent a lot of time in tiny houses on wheels, I’ve had practically no experience with life on the water. So I decided that staying in a docked, 25-foot sailboat would be a fun counterpoint to my time in tiny homes.

I spent two nights on the “Mother Goose”, which is available on Airbnb as a nightly rental in Port Angeles, Washington. My two nights on the water were a fun experiment in small spaces, and a great opportunity for me to briefly try on boat living.

The Mother Goose

The Mother Goose is probably best for one person or a couple. It has a full bed that narrows considerably at the foot, an eating nook that can convert into a single bed if needed, and a minimal kitchen with an icebox, electric kettle, and sink that drains directly into the water. There are several little storage areas, and no real bathroom, but there were nice centralized facilities a brief walk from the dock.

Mother Goose sailboat exterior

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Macy Miller tiny house family

People often wonder if tiny houses are practical for families. They might work for an individual or a couple, but what happens when a baby comes into the picture?

Macy Miller had her first child while living in the beautiful, modern tiny house on wheels she designed and built herself. She knew the house made sense for the way she used space, and was excited to have a home of her own without taking out a mortgage. She wasn’t actively planning to have children when she designed the home, but she made sure her design could accommodate an additional room, just in case. When I visited her last spring, she was happy with the house as it was, but was also open to making changes in the future based on what her family needed:

Macy: I did consider all the options, even having a kid. My life could have gone any number of directions, so I designed it to be very flexible. I designed the porch so it could be enclosed, so if I wanted more privacy, I could have a separate bedroom, or it could be a little nursery. I thought about doing it, but I love my porch, and I don’t need it: kids want to be around their parents… There may be a point that it makes sense for her to have a separate space, and I enclose that patio and it becomes her room.

Macy Miller Adds a Child’s Room to her Tiny House

Macy Miller tiny house with child

Images © Billy Ulmer

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Tiny Tack House photo by Billy Ulmer

When Chris and Malissa Tack built their 140-square foot tiny home on wheels three years ago, blogs and resources on the subject were few and far between. At the time, they only knew of one couple building a tiny house – most were single individuals. Some people aren’t sure they could share a small space with another person, but Chris and Malissa have made it work, and even enjoyed the way it’s shaped their relationship.

They both need to spend significant time at home – Malissa works from home full-time, and Chris does freelance photography and videography in his spare time. They both know their way around little house design, having created two sets of plans for tiny homes and a wide variety of 3-D renderings of small space layouts. They found they needed to make a few adjustments to their behavior and to their original space design to make it work as a live/work/work space for two people, but now they don’t feel constrained by their home’s size.

Chris and Malissa Tack

Chris and Malissa Tack in the tiny home they share.

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Dee Williams built her tiny house on wheels in 2004, so long ago that she had to track down Jay Shafer in person just to figure out how to build one. It was before the tiny house movement as we now know it – there were no blogs, videos or ebooks back then. Dee has lived full time in that little house in Olympia, Washington for over ten years, although last year she added a second, even tinier house to the mix: an eight-foot-long Don Vardo design with no loft. This second house has become her home-away-from-home in Portland, Oregon when she visits friends or teaches tiny house workshops.

The full story of how Dee came to build her first little house more than ten years ago is a long and rich one. Her memoir, The Big Tiny, came out last year and arrives in bookstores in paperback on April 22nd, 2015, and there’s no better way to hear the story than from Dee herself.

When I visited her simple little house in Olympia last year, most of our conversation focused on how the house has changed her life and perspective. For Dee, one of the biggest changes was that despite building the house to be “self-contained,” it actually taught her to be interdependent with others – to lean on her friends more and let herself be leaned upon.

Dee Williams’ Life in Two Tiny Homes

Dee Williams tiny house at the University of Oregon

Dee’s new tiny house went book touring with her through California and Oregon. Photo by Dee Williams.

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John Wells Off Grid Tiny House Exterior

Are you interested in living off the grid? It can be challenging to provide for your own needs for energy, water and other resources, but for John Wells, it’s preferable to the challenge of working a traditional job so he can buy those resources from someone else.

John has received plenty of press, from Lloyd Kahn’s “Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter” to a 2011 New York Times Profile, for moving from upstate New York to the Texas desert to build an off-grid, 128-square foot home, and then blogging about it daily for years. I visited him personally to understand more about how he made that transition, and what makes an off-grid life work.

John felt the land he bought in Southwest Texas was so cheap that his off-grid experiment didn’t agree with him, he could quit without losing much. Living in a little house works for him partially because most of his life takes place outside. When his bills and mortgage were more than he could handle in New York, he rented his house to summer vacationers and moved into a travel trailer in his backyard. That experience helped him see home as a small place to relax after a day of activity.

John Wells Off Grid Tiny House Exterior

Images © Billy Ulmer

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Tiny homes often face challenges related to codes and zoning, but some are conventionally permitted and totally legal. Alex and Allison built their striking, modern 320-square foot home legally as an “accessory dwelling,” a type of small house that shares a lot with a larger, primary dwelling. But in their unique case, they bought an empty lot, applied for permits to build a primary and accessory home, and then built the accessory first.

They’re in the process of building a larger (but still modest) primary home, but meanwhile, they’ve been happily living full-time in their accessory dwelling in the quirky and cool small town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Both share an interest in sustainable design, and in the ways that small housing can contribute to healthy, livable communities. Their drive to build small came partly so architectural designer Alex could design and build an entire, energy-efficient house. One interior plywood wall separates the public living area from private spaces like the bathroom, and the bedroom that’s lofted above it. Though it’s just “one big room,” the high ceilings make it feel much more spacious than its floor plan would suggest.

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Couple Sharing 320 Sq. Ft. Modern Tiny House

Modern ADU tiny house exterior

Images © Billy Ulmer

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Dee Williams tiny house workshops

A few different companies offer tiny house workshops to teach people how to design and build their own tiny homes and find freedom from debt, freedom from stuff, and freedom to roam. But as the free and online resources for tiny houses get better and better, what’s the “value” in taking a tiny house workshop?

Dee Williams has been teaching tiny house workshops for years, and her company PAD Tiny Houses recently contacted former participants who have gone on to build tiny homes on wheels so they can understand how workshops help people when they’ve really gotten going building. They received a letter from Kate Goodnight, a former workshop participant who’s now partway through building her “Naj Haus” tiny home on wheels in Hood River, Oregon reflecting on her experience:

“Building a tiny house is no small endeavor. Houses don’t just miraculously stand on their own. They need to be framed just so and be protected from the elements. They need to breathe and stay warm. They need to be wired and plumbed safely. Stick them on wheels and you have a whole new set of complications to keep your house from shooting off the trailer, bits flying willy-nilly in a trail of destruction down the road. To be able to pull off building a tiny house, you need a lot of experience to draw on. If, like me, you don’t have it yourself, you need to find it elsewhere…

Photos from recent PAD Tiny House Workshops:

Dee Williams tiny house workshops

Dee Williams showing off a partially constructed tiny house at a PAD Workshop. Photo: Chris Tack

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