Hi There!

Well, I figured I better write a little something today….  I was quoted in an article at ozy.com.  Kind-of quoted, really.  A writer from the on-line magazine had called me several months ago because they were doing a piece on ‘tiny houses.’  I let them know that although the tiny house movement seemed very similar to living in a trailer and actually liking it, the two are not the same.

Tiny home people tend to have money and time to invest in their endeavor.  They are making the choice to live there in order to simplify, leave a smaller carbon footprint, or just see if they can do it – one of those things that just sounded like a good idea at the time.

People who find themselves living in a trailer suddenly, in their 30’s or 40’s, because of their job situation, a bankruptcy, a divorce, or a lousy decision, but who still consider themselves contributing members of society, and maybe even a bit stylish, are the ones who choose to make the most of a crappy situation.

That’s where my friends and I fit in….  It’s been 5 years since my life took a turn for the worst, and although moving into a run-down trailer was pretty much my only option at the time, it has truly been an awesome decision.  I love my tiny little trailer!  Sure it has some quirks about it that you don’t find in a stick-built home – tiny or otherwise.  For instance, a few months ago when the pipe going into the back of my toilet decided to break free from the constraints of toilet-tank life and shoot water all over my home, only the flooring in half of my place was ruined (because the pink trailer is not even slightly level).  But I love my tiny home.

Bedroom

In fact I love it so much, that when I got married (yes, married) 9 months ago, he moved from upstate New York into the pink trailer.  So now instead of 450 square feet all to myself, I am sharing it.  But so far so good, I dare say he even likes it a little bit (he has never ever lived in a trailer before).

wedding5

So a lot has happened in the year I’ve been missing from my blog – I got engaged, married, went to Canada, Fiji, San Francisco, upstate New York, and Denver, and even had some house guests along the way.  Things are good, and the trailer is still as quirky as ever.  🙂

wedding7

Fiji

Rebecca Knabe Conti

Four Years

 

Four years is a relatively long time.  It’s enough time to graduate from college, or give birth to two separate elephants (although I would only recommend this if you were an actual elephant).  It is also the length of time I’ve lived in the pink trailer.  And that is the longest I have lived in any home, other than the one in which I grew up.

There have been ups and downs in my little portable palace, but overall, it’s been a good time.  And it has been a great life lesson.  Here is what I’ve learned:

Less is more.  Living in a tiny space forces you to keep only essentials.  This means I have fewer clothes, shoes, keepsakes, mementos, and furniture.  But it also means that the things I do have, I love!  It is very satisfying to love all the things you see in your home.  And when you fall out of love with a certain item, or curtain, or whatever it may be, then you can replace it with a new love.

Don’t always feel like you deserve better.  I’m not taking about sociological or psychological behavior – of course nobody deserves to be abused or anything like that.  What I’m talking about is the way advertisers love to tell you, “You deserve the best!”  “You’re worth it!”  “Get the ____________ that you deserve.”  These slogans are out there, not to remind you that as a human you should hold your head up high and realize you are special, but to sell you crap you don’t need.  To make you believe your life will be better if you have newer things, a faster car, a bigger house.  But all these things often just lead to a larger debt.  So if piles of bills is your thing, then by all means, you deserve to go and max out your credit cards.  But if a happy life is your thing, realize that the size or grandiosity of your home is no reflection of what is in your heart.

Contentment is key.  I have an uncle who is an atheist, and we were at lunch together a few years ago when the host prayed before the meal.  One of the things he prayed for was to be content with what he had.  Although he is non-religious, my uncle was very impressed with that thought, and decided to remind himself of that idea regularly.  To be content.  The desire to keep up materially and economically with those around you will literally drive you crazy.  Learn to accept what you have, as well as your situation.  Reuse your things, fix stuff that breaks, and feel the beauty that comes with feeling satisfied with what you have.

Keep your eye simple.  This means don’t complicate your life with acquisitions.  Yes, sometimes it would be really fun to own a boat and a quad and a dirt bike and a snowmobile and a….  But all those things need maintenance and time, and honestly, how much would I use them?  It’s the same with a home – a guest bedroom would be great, and an extra room for a ping pong table, and a space for a big dining room table for large formal dinner parties, and a separate living room and family room which would be great for entertaining….  But, honestly, would the number of times a year I would have an out-of-town guest or a formal dinner party really be worth all the extra money I would have to pay for a place big enough to support those moments?  For some people it would be worth it, but not for me.

Swallowing your pride isn’t as bad as you’d think.  My neighbor, Natasha, and I were roommates long ago – back in the 20th century – and we often laugh about how our 20something selves would be horrified that our 30-40something selves are living in a trailer park.  We were too proud.  And we were too worried about what others may think.  Now?  We realize that choosing to live the way we do has nothing to do with being “trailer trash,” but how we want to spend our time and money.  And it has a lot to do with our own creativity.  It’s much easier (and takes way less time, money, and effort) to renovate and re-renovate a trailer than it would a stick-built home.

Success in life has nothing to do with stuff.  I work at an estate planning law firm, and regularly meet with clients who have more stuff than they can list or remember.  They are busy trying to decide who will get the stuff they’ve forgotten they have when they die.  Sometimes they like to micro-manage their assets from the grave.  Often they have a larger retirement account than they do a measure of happiness.  And that is sad.  Focus on your quality of life, rather than your quantity of stuff, and when you die those around you will be so sorry to see you go, rather than kinda excited at the prospect of inheriting your junk.

So that’s some of the stuff I’ve learned.  A lot of it I knew, but putting it in action is much more monumental.  And most of those points are generally related.  Basically, be happy with what you have, don’t long for what you don’t.  Live small.

Puffins are happy just hanging out.  I should be too.

Puffins are happy just hanging out. I should be too.

Rebecca Knabe

The Top 5 Things That Don’t Fit in My Trailer

1.  Secretariat.  Sure that Triple Crown Racehorse was only 5’6″, but he weighed nearly 1,200 lbs.  Sometimes during exceptionally vigorous P90X workouts, I worry that I will break through my floorboards.  And, thankfully, I weigh vastly less than that giant fella.  And horses smell bad.  And have freakishly large heads.  Terrifying.

Secretariat

2.  Shaquille O’Neal.  At 7’1″ he won’t fit.  An inch too tall for trailer living.  But it’s ok, because I don’t really know the rules of basketball, and I’m sure he doesn’t really know the rules of trailers, so it’s unlikely we have much in common.

(He's the tall guy in the back)

(He’s the tall guy in the back)

3.  Thailand’s Largest Reclining Buddha, Phra Buddhasaiyas, at Wat Pho.  Not only would it be impossible to get the 150 foot long, 45 foot high statue inside my home, I think the multiple plane tickets needed to get that thing a flight from Bangkok to Reno would be pretty cost prohibitive….

(He's the long guy in the back....)

(He’s the long guy in the back….)

Pretty hard to get a decent photo of this gigantor.

Pretty hard to get a decent photo of this gigantor.

4.  The Duggar Family – Jim Bob and Michelle, and their 19 reality-TV-darling offspring.  Technically, they could probably fit.  I’ve had parties with more than 21 in attendance.  But why would anyone want 19 children in a single-wide trailer.  That would just be stupid.

19-kids-and-counting

5.  The Z Gallerie Conversation Pit.  9 1/2 feet wide, and 6 1/4 feet long.  Granted, my trailer is 10 feet wide.  But that is the outside measurement.  So if you factor in a few inches of non-existent insulation, baseboards, and the weird thingies that jut out from my windows, there’s no way you could squeeze in that couch.  It also costs nearly as much as I paid for my house, so there’s that.  However, it’s one of the most comfortable things I’ve ever set my tush on, so perhaps I should just sell my place and live on the Conversation Pit.

Couch

Rebecca Knabe

5 Small Space Reminders

Yesterday morning’s Daily Shot With Ali Wentworth on Yahoo was an interview with Maxwell Ryan, the Apartment Therapy blog guy.  He gave 5 quick tips for thriving in a small space, and he reminded us, “It’s not the square footage that makes it feel small, but a sense of smallness, or the way your eye moves about the room.”

1.  Have breathing room.  If your book shelf holds 30 books, only put 25 on it.  Don’t fill it up.  Declutter.

2.  Lighting.  There needs to be 3 points of light in every room.  Your eye removes shadowed areas, so to see the entire room, it needs to be lit.

3.  Add some color to white paint to bring a soft hue into your room.  Light colors expand and dark colors contract, so using an “off-white” paint brings in light and color.

4.  Take doors off whenever possible.

5.  Add vertical elements to accentuate height.  Use floor to ceiling elements, like curtains or bookshelves to draw the eye up.

See the whole interview here.

Dornob Solo Shelter

Rebecca Knabe

 

Living Large in a Small Space, According to the Pros

The March 2007 issue of Metropolitan Home magazine featured several articles on small space living.  Included were tips from designers, architects, and authors on how to make the most of your tiny space.  Enjoy their clever ideas….

James Gauer – Try to let the eye see as much of the floors, walls and ceilings in order to increase the visual space of a room.  Keeping colors the same on these planes, especially from one room to another will help.

Abbey Francis – Make as many furnishings as possible do double duty, like changing tables worked into bookshelves, and beds with built-in storage drawers.

Dan Shipley – Think of the space as an asset that does not necessarily need filling.  Natural light is the least expensive and best furnishing any room can have.

NV

David Droese – Careful planning of every cabinet, closet and storage area can’t be stressed enough.  Get creative and look for any pocket of unused space for additional storage.  And weed out anything nonessential.

Todd Walker – If you have high ceilings, take advantage of the volume of the area; store things up, and consider a small loft.  Sheer curtains offer privacy while maintaining a sense of openness.

Paul Draper – Changing elements seasonally offers the experience of having two different rooms.  This could include decorative elements, as well as furniture structure and hardware.

Marlon Blackwell – Choose design elements that create a sense of order, expressive character, and imagination.  Openings for light and view are essential – they extend the perception of space beyond walls.  Vertical storage makes the best use of a room’s volume.

Rene Gonzalez – Bringing the landscape and the sky inside a space both expands and connects it to its surroundings.  The concept of reflectivity aids this connection.  Mimic colors from outside, bring in natural light, and connect your outdoor and indoor living spaces.

CA

Paul Latham – Consolidate and simplify.  Group objects together while leaving some spaces clear.  Hang a mirror opposite a window wall to visually open the space.

Paul Field – Consider pocket doors to save space, and suspended vanities and credenzas so your eye can move below the space without stopping at their base.

Laurie Smith – When using dark wall paint, contrast it with light furniture.  They become focal points while the corners of the room are blurred with the dark colors.  These focal points enliven and open a space much like a window.

Brian Hughes – Since you don’t need as many furnishings in a small space, buy great quality, comfortable furniture that you love, and that perform multiple functions.

Not all these suggestions are needed, but pick one or two of your favorites and give it a try.  Let me know if something works well for you, or if you have other ideas of your own!  🙂

Rebecca Knabe

Living Comfortably in 400 (or less) Square Feet, According to Bob Vila

Posted by Rebecca

There’s a Bob Vila article buzzing around the internet today that has some great tips and photos to help you either make the leap to smaller-space living, or help you in your current small space home.  My little trailer is about 450 square feet of living space.  Here’s the gist of the article, but be sure to check out the full article for more information and a complete photo gallery.

–  Use a beautiful armoire as a home office.  The best part?  When guests arrive, just close the doors – no messy office to tidy.

–  Fill your tiny home with double-duty furniture, like ottomans or end tables that store clothing or blankets.

Bedroom-storage-solution-purehome[1]

–  If you have higher ceilings, hang shelves up to 18 inches from the ceiling for extra decorative storage or for your books.

highshelf_archithings.com[1]

–  Glass, clear acrylic, or Lucite furniture can open up the space and add a modern touch.

–  Mount a shallow shelf above your kitchen or bathroom sink for pretty towels or bottles of soap and lotion.

–  Lighter colors give the illusion of space, so use them generously.

smallbedlight_styleathome.com[1]

–  Make like Julia Child and hang your pots and pans on the wall or from the ceiling to free up some cupboard space.

–  Use mirrors behind sofas, beds or other large pieces of furniture to expand the visual boundaries of the room.

–  A strategically placed book shelf can serve as a room divider and a major storage unit, all in one.

bookcase-room-divider-customclosetsdirect[1]

–  Allow your tiny home to be flooded with natural light.  Keep windows clear, and if you must cover them, opt for sheer fabrics and shades to let in some beautiful filtered light.

Learning to live in a tiny place is challenging, but worth it.  Think of all the extra time, energy, and money you will save when you no longer have a large home to pay for and upkeep.

Rebecca Knabe

Lighten Up

Posted by Rebecca

I got inspired during a visit to Tanille’s tiny home a few weeks ago.  She had switched her beautiful, but dark living room curtains for light ones; and it opened up, and brightened up the place so much that I had to try it myself.

I found some pretty shower (yes, shower) curtains at World Market that I loved and would do the trick.  They are fully fabric, and the thing I like about shower curtains is they are wider than regular curtains, so fewer panels are needed.  The only caution is they aren’t as long, so they work best behind furniture.

Notice the difference from my old heavy curtains, to my lighter set.  It feels so bright and cheery, and perfect for summer!  And I feel like I have a whole new living room!

TrailerOld

TrailerNew

Another bonus to this type of change is it feels like you’ve redecorated, but with very little expense or work.  My furniture does not rearrange well in my trailer.  My couch is huge and very deep, but I love it and won’t get rid of it.  So the front end of the trailer is the only place it fits (believe me, I tried about 174 other locations).  This change of window covering adjusts the light levels of the room, and makes the huge change that you feel when you’ve moved furniture.

I did the same thing in my bedroom last winter.  I thought I needed to immediately darken the wall color after hanging these new white curtains, but I still haven’t painted, and now that I’m used to the change I love it – with or without darker walls.

Bedroom4

Bedroom2

Bedroom1

Bedroom3

And that’s how you do a cheap and easy, light and bright summer makeover!  😉

Rebecca Knabe