Chris Rodiger is a senior at Colby College in Maine and an accomplished artist. As if his gorgeous “En Plein Air” paintings weren’t enough, he built himself a truck bed tiny house with minimal woodworking experience — and the result is stunning!
He calls it the “Beehive” and he spent the summer of 2021 living and working out of the truck, selling his paintings. His college was awesome and actually funded his tiny home creation as part of a class project — does it get better than that?
Now he’s back on campus (gets a little too chilly in Maine for his un-insulated tiny!), but he can always head out in his home and paint wherever calls him! We got to do a Q&A with him, which you can read after the video about Chris below.
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This Truck Bed Tiny Can Be Disassembled by Two People!
Chris’ painting of his tiny house.
His first sketch of the tiny house.
More initial plans.
The whole frame comes out of the truck.
Coming along nicely!
Time to get paneling.
Sanding her down.
Time for shellac!
I love the design!
The ceiling is awesome!
Everything is better with lights!
The inside of the tiny house.
He can go anywhere in this rig!
His paintings are gorgeous.
What inspired you to live tiny?
I was inspired by the California artist Jay Nelson’s geometric camper shells. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to live in a small space. Something that I could say I built and I could use to travel anywhere I wanted.
How long have you lived tiny?
I lived and worked out of the Beehive for the summer of 2021.
What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?
I’m finishing my senior year at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. My dream is to be a self-sufficient fine art painter and teacher of art. This past summer I worked out of the beehive selling paintings and commissions.
What are you hoping to get out of living tiny/small?
I wanted to not only simplify my living situation and expenses, but place myself into the environments and landscapes I love so much. Total freedom to paint all day.
Describe your art and philosophy of art.
I maintain a daily creative practice. I think it is so important as an artist to be able to access that childlike state of wonder that makes self expression so powerful and exciting. The beehive is a safe haven for self-expression and an art piece in itself.
What inspired you to choose a truck bed home (rather than say a tiny house or bus or van)?
I chose to build onto a truck bed because I wanted to still be able to drive on narrow roads and have access to remote spots while holding onto a very small footprint and weight.
Did you build your home? If so, how long did it take? Did you have prior experience?
I was able to build this project as an independent study class at Colby College. I submitted a proposal and received funding from the college for the materials and spent my spring semester of 2021 constructing it. It took me about half a year and roughly 500 hours of work. I had some experience in sculpture classes, but for the most part I learned along the way.
What are bills/utilities like compared to before going tiny?
Far less than the cost to live in a dorm.
Before going tiny, what was life like?
I think I had grown quite tired of living in a dorm and painting in a studio. I felt trapped and separate from what I was painting.
Is there anything from your old life that you miss?
Nope, I still have a dorm on campus with my friends but the outdoors keeps calling me back!
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
I think my favorite part is that I would wake up every day in a totally unfamiliar place and feel so excited and grateful to be able to explore my environment. I think the benefit from creating your own home or way of life is that there are no rules. You get to be whatever you want to be. I get to paint what I love and I think that is beautiful.
What about some challenges?
I think not having a bathroom or shower can be challenging for some but I don’t mind it. No amount of leaks or repairs could turn me off. I think that is what makes it exciting and challenging. Never a dull moment.
Have you dealt with any push-back from friends and family about your choice to live tiny? How do you respond?
My family is very supportive of what I am doing. There are always going to be people who don’t understand what you are doing or think that your time could be better spent. I think the hardest thing to do with these projects is start. I think people get so caught up in their image. Life is about living. I don’t really care about making what people think is great art. I hope to find my own truest form of expression of nature so that I can show you the people and places I find beautiful and meaningful.
What makes your tiny home special?
It is designed in three main sections which are removable by bolts so that it can be stored away when not in use. The entire structure is made from Maine cedar from a local lumber mill. Cedar is quite lightweight so the whole camper weighs somewhere around 500 pounds and can be disassembled by only two people.
What is your favorite part of your tiny home?
When lying down, it feels like you are in a boat. The skylight windows all open up like porthole windows and offer ample sunlight and ventilation.
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
Just start building! Don’t worry about the exact details. Hard to know what you need until you try! I veered away from my original drawings and intentions and I think it paid off having that flexibility.
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Our big thanks to Chris for sharing!
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Natalie C. McKee
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What can I say? As a fan of small truck campers I really love this design! And the craftsmanship that went in it with the widows and framing, Amazing! Love the ceder look both inside and outside! As far as winter use , maybe add a small electric heater , so you can be warm as long as you are at a place with electricity. Ceder should have some insulating properties.
The craftsmanship is stunning, for sure!
Chris, your story touched my heart, as a cancer survivor myself, as the wife of a wonderful man who fought two types of cancer for eight years and who was also an artist and lover of nature and small spaces, as an artist myself, and a lover of nature and tiny spaces. I identified on so many levels. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I read my Tiny House Newsletter right before I go to bed to give me something to dream on. I’m sure my dreams will be filled with smiles tonight.
Very nice and very beautiful craftmanship but there’s no way someone could live in that full time permanantly. You have to have BASIC utilities like a bathroom/shower and someway to cook even it’s just a micro wave and a hot plat. A week. a month or even a summer is doable but that’s just not sustainable long term and permanant unless its in a SHTF sernario and you can just stop somewhere and set up a full blown camp. Not trying to knock it at all, I just think “tiny house” should be just that, something that is or could be permanant living.
I really enjoyed reading about Chris work, I just know that his mom and dad are so proud of him, this just let you know that all our young people can do anything if they put their mind to it, I got a filling that Chris going to do somth else Big soon.young Man you have my prayers and good luck.
So so true, Ethel!
I built a heavy wooden camper on a 77 F100 in the 80s. 2X4 studs particle board inside and out with Styrofoam insulation. It wasn’t pretty and any pictures of it were destroyed by a hurricane about 4 years ago. Airtight it wasn’t and no insulation for the bed of the truck. My bed was on top of the wheel well. I built it for a winter job in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I cooked and heated with a coleman stove with propane. From the bed up it was comfortable below the bed was a freezer. It was a great winter. You did a great job it looks great. With an intake of fresh air and an open window above the bed the winter is full of opportunities.
Anyone building a tiny house, truck camper or anything like that should factor in insulating it to the hilt. Insulation should be a top priority.
Very true. My brother-in-law just said his van’s insulation is only as strong as the “weakest link,” and he really wished he had spent more time and money on making it well-insulated.
It’s also about how difficult it is given there’s usually very little space to put insulation and difficult to isolate the metal frame from the interior… Add the windows are usually all single pane and the structure is usually not very air tight… While there’s also the concern of taking away too much space from the interior that also limits how much insulation you can add and the amount of labor and cost involved can get pretty high if you’re not careful…
Though, there are a growing number of options to help, like snap on or magnetic insulating panels you can put on the windows at night that fold away when you don’t need them, dual pane windows options are now available for RV’s and conversions, more effective insulation options if you can do a full remodel, better heating and cooling systems, better technology overall is starting to make a difference, etc.
While different types of conversions can be easier than a van or bus, such as a box truck or step van with square walls that don’t need you to follow a curve and more space to insulate or even replace the walls, like you can use SIPs to build out the living space.
It’s just also a question of what’s enough, some people will need better energy efficiency than others depending where they plan on going at what time of year, etc.
How clever to get funding doing something you love! Great build and very pretty. I am sure you will work out all the nuances of small space living as you go along. We all do. Best wishes for your future in art and safe travels.
Its a beautiful piece of Art. One can see you really put your sweat and heart into your dream. You should be very proud it looks strong and secured. You are very talented at Art to, it should keep you on the road as long as you want. Enjoy this time in your life, its a time for exploring and expanding your horizons. Safe Travels
i think this idea was fantastic..and being a camper i know he can have options to bring with him for shower and flushable portable potty..that has chemicals for odor and a removeable bottom to transport closed section that can be emptied into a bathroom toilet when need arises..also many many cooking options..it is actually fun to be go camping and boy have them come up with many things to add the comfort of home at your disposal..so it is definitely doable and much cheaper..they even sell overhead lighter and fans too..so have fun !