recycling a tiny house

My cousin, Noah, built himself a tiny house.

It’s adorable and perfect for him. Let me tell you what happened to it.

But first, look at this: In a nearby botanical garden you can visit Paul Green’s tiny house, where he supposedly wrote many of his plays.

I love tiny houses! Maybe it’s an introspective writer-type thing. There’s a great book, A Little House of My Own: 47 Designs for 47 Tiny Houses that has pictures and plans for houses like Jefferson’s Cottage, Henry Thoreau’s Cabin and George Bernard Shaw’s Writing Hut, as well as many others. I need a writing hut! Don’t you think I need a writing hut?

Hey, I’m not the only one who loves tiny houses. This is a very cool site with lots and lots of pictures of tiny houses. And here is a blog about tiny houses. There are even several companies, for example, Tumbleweed Houses, who build and sell gorgeously cute, tiny houses. You don’t have to be introspective or a writer to like these—they are just so cool, all built-in-everything, and efficient, like boats.

What is the romance of tiny houses? It’s hard to put a finger on it. But surrounded, as we are, by a profusion of McMansions going in so fast that our rural road doesn’t look anything like itself, even from a couple years ago, tiny houses seem so lovely in their attention to detail and their focus on quality over quantity. It doesn’t take a ton of space to feel happy and satisfied with one’s home. It only takes the right amount of beautiful space to do the trick.

Okay, back to Noah’s lovely, hand-built house. It’s about 200 square feet, plus a loft you can stand in, made with lots of recycled components purchased from a used building supply store. Yes, that’s 200, not 2000. Those ‘not so big’ people crack me up sometimes—they go on and on about downsizing from the McMansion syndrome, which is great, but then the ‘small’ house will still be 2500 square feet! I don’t know, maybe there are seven people in that house. Seven people who don’t like each other.

Here is a shot of the inside of Noah’s place. Isn’t it cute? There is something just right about a person building their own tiny home, in a way that suits that person exactly, like tailored clothes made for your own body’s idiosyncrasies.

But then terrible news! Just as Noah was settling in, the forces of evil and zoning cracked down on him and announced that no one was allowed to live in this house. In fact, it couldn’t be a house at all. It could only be a storage shed. And not only that, it was too tall and would have to be cut down.

Sometimes you just want to go kick someone. I mean, really kick someone.

But Noah decided, instead of kicking, to do something else.

Rather than cut down his house, he decided to give it to us.

No kidding! How many people get to give away a house? How many people get given a house? My cousin is a very cool guy.

It’s funny—well, I mean, it’s not, but maybe this part is—because when he first built it, we had gone to see it and had immediately grokked it’s beauty and utility and decided we would build one for ourselves. We even called it ‘the Noah House’ as in, “when we get the Noah House built we’ll do blah blah blah,” or, “That window would be good for the Noah House.” And this was the year we were going to build it—or rather, Paul was going to build it. We had even sited it, with orange string and stakes. I would look out the window and imagine it there, our own Noah House.

We had no idea it would be Noah’s house that would be going there! Maybe our manifesting was too powerful! Or too… specific?

Anyway, our first thought was to have the Noah House moved here to yurt land. But because of the height, 16 feet, every power-line between here and there was going to have to get lifted, and that was a lot of fees. Seven thousand dollars worth of fees, to be exact. Um, no thank you. Not to mention the trees we would have to take out, both where the house is now, and here at the yurt.

So we decided to hire a carpentry crew to take the house apart, cart the pieces over here, and then put it back together. All the house at half the cost. In essence, recycling an entire house.

It all starts today! Tune in over the next few days for updates….

Click here for day one.

19 thoughts on “recycling a tiny house

  1. T. Kosmatka

    That is the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time. I love it! I would like to live in a place where people built there own houses. Think of how much simpler life would be… no debt, no keeping up with the Jones’s.

  2. Kelly Barnhnhill

    I hate, hate, hate zoning officials. My husband and I tried to do a project using hay-bale construction. It was going to be green, cheap and gorgeous – and it would be a monument to an academic exercise he did in architecture school. Nothing would stop us – except for the city. Despite ream upon ream of evidence from engineers and architects and people who actually live in hay bale houses, the inspector just said, “houses aren’t made of hay. Ever heard of the three little pigs?” There was no appeal process. Everything about the whole experience sucked hard.

  3. maya Post author

    I’ve heard so many stories like this. I’m sorry you had such a hard time. Seems like the system is problematic for folks trying to do something a bit different.

  4. Linda Lanier

    Absolutely love this little house! Was wondering
    if you could share more photos of the inside?
    This would be perfect for my art studio.

    1. maya Post author

      I’ll put up some more interiors as soon as Paul gets the shelves and trim done. I’ll link to it here if I can remember…

  5. Greg

    Why, specifically, wasn’t your cousin able to live in his house? No plumbing? No electricity? Built without a permit? Your write-up doesn’t explain. I can’t fathom how zoning would be a problem out in the sticks of North Carolina for a traditional (stick built house (even if small. How was a big tent(yurt) not a problem under the same zoning? Hmmm.

    1. maya Post author

      I replied to this, but I think the reply got lost in my hacker-related reverting to old backups of my blog. Sorry! In case you’re still interested, there were restrictive covenants on the piece of land, and a dispute about how those were to be interpreted. Also, our yurt is in a different county, so different rules, and different rule enforcers.

  6. Lisa

    the county where I live in CA doesn’t allow yurts as a full time residence, but they do allow strawbale buildings, as long as all the plans are done up by an architect. I am buying ten acres, very remote and heavily treed and have decided to put up a yurt dispite the lack of available permits. As long as my decking platform is less than three feet off the ground and I’m able to “take down” my yurt in a day to show that it is not permanant, I think I’ll be okay. Besides, there are people in the surrounding area that are lving full time in un-permitted cabins and camp trailers who are much more visible and closer to the main road. I figure if my county (which has very limited resources) starts checking on building code violations, they will have enough distractions to keep them far away from my remote little heaven for years! I personally believe that if someone wants to live green and in a way that is more respectful of the earth, and is doing it on their own land- the county government should mind their own business!

    1. maya Post author

      Hi Jeff, thanks so much for stopping by. I’m assuming you mean the Noah House, since your comment is on that post? (We have a lot of buildings around here.) The house is 12×12 with a shed roof that is 16ft at it’s height (because Noah wanted to be able to stand in the loft) and about 8 or 9 feet on the low end. The loft is three feet wide I think, and is in an L shape, along the front (the tall, window side) and the left (if you are standing, facing the front). The little side portion is 6×6 and is on the right, flush with the back wall. Does that help?

  7. Jeff

    THANKS so Much.. That gives me some great ideas.. I have been sharing your blog with my wife. We really enjoy all the information we have found. Thanks again for sharing your journey!

  8. Craig Moorhouse

    This design would make a perfect passive solar design ( cousin Noah sounds like a pretty sharp guy and he must of thought of this as well). Large window space for southern exposure and low north facing wall to shed cold winter northerly winds. I would add a 3ft deep canvas awning over the first floor windows to keep the low angled summer sun from heating this space up. You could also add 4ft. to the north to south length to increase the solar gain which would give you more floor plan options for a full time residence ( but that might sacrifice a bit of the homes “cuteness”).
    I’ve had a half conceived idea for a home like this – the top floor walls could be disassembled and the roof would sit flat over the first floor to get by the height restrictions so you could tow it down the road.
    If cousin Noah had any working plans for this home I would certainly be happy to purchase them. This cozy cottage would be great for me and my daughter when she comes to visit me.
    Thank you for this.

    1. maya Post author

      Hi Craig, nice to meet you. Yes, I’m sure he was thinking solar, as his dad, my uncle, used to build solar houses as a business. He would have made awnings if he had gotten to keep the place, although where it is now sited, in the trees, it stays cool enough in the summer. Adding to the length would be great–keeping it under 12 x 12 keeps the inspectors away. There are no plans, but it’s simple enough, I don’t think they’re needed. Good luck!

  9. Nancy Peacock

    I am a tiny house fan living in North Carolina – close to a botanical garden and the Paul Green Theatre – and I think this little house might have been in my home town. I wish I’d seen it before it got torn down. I wish you the very best with its reassembling.

    1. maya Post author

      Hello Nancy. Noah’s house was initially near Chapel Hill, so yes. It is reassembled now, has been for a year or two, and I am sitting in it as I type this reply. Thanks for stopping by the blog today, and for the well wishes!

  10. Beck

    Hi Maya. I’m curious, what did Noah do after his first house didn’t work out? Did he build another one that was up to code? I live in NC and would like to follow in his footsteps when it comes to building a small house.

    1. maya Post author

      Hi Beck,
      He traveled some, lived with friends for a while, rented. He wants to buy some land but hasn’t found the right spot yet. Good luck with your small house! There is so much inspiration on the net nowadays for tiny houses! So many cuties to look at, and so many DIY people out there to find. I love the internet for niche interests like this.


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