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I love designing furniture and have created many pieces in my house. I have a bar table that is a little worse for wear and devoid of storage possibilities.
Instead, I have taken the challenge to create, using simple materials and techniques, a sophisticated sideboard in mid-century modern style. In doing so, sharing the project in a step by step manner which will allow the reader to reproduce this piece of furniture with the ability to utilize the design as cabinetry in different forms. This concept will become clear as this article progresses.
Here is the sideboard:
First of all you will need this list of materials:
Two 2″ x 2″ x 8′ lumber preferably in a hardwood for the legs.
Two sheets of 4′ x 8′ furniture grade plywood or four sheets of 4′ x 4′ plywood or 8 sheets of 2′ x 4′ sheets of plywood. An excellent grade of pine is fine, but birch or better grades of plywood are even better. If you intend to paint instead of stain the surface, then a less expensive piece of wood is OK as long as the finish is durable and the substrate is strong. Of course, if you know how to plane and join hardwoods or can find boards in the proper size, then using solid wood such as hickory or maple will produce furniture that will last a very long time and provide an exquisite surface. Another note, many hardware stores or lumber yards carry plywood already cut to the above dimensions. I purposefully designed this piece so those without a lot of tools could buy supplies pre-cut. Unfortunately, this only goes for the top and bottom.
A good quality wood glue.
Pivot hinges. Not entirely necessary, other sorts of hinges are possible, but you will have to account for changes in width or other accommodations for the shape of the hinges.
Sandpaper from coarse to very fine. An orbital sander would be ideal for obtaining a very smooth surface.
These are the only materials one will need. The only other important note is the tools. This project utilizes a pocket joint. To accomplish a pocket joint, a special jig is a necessity. A pocket joint jig allows an angled hole where a self-tapping screw establishes a butt joint between surfaces. A Wikipedia article on the pocket joint. One other thing, the simple jigs are not very expensive at all, starting at 19 dollars and up.
In order to cut the sides, middle, shelves and doors, a metal-cutting guide will help considerably. A circular or jig saw will work as long as you use the appropriate blade for cutting fine wood.
Here, too, one does not need an expensive guide system. A straight piece of wood and a couple of clamps to secure the material will suffice as a guide. Since you will be making just a few straight cuts, a fancy or complicated system is entirely unnecessary.
To install the doors and to drill the pocket joint holes, it will be vital to have a drill. Nothing fancy. A simple inexpensive electric drill will do.
The top, bottom and back of the sideboard are 2′ x 4′ so you need three pieces and as mentioned above, lumber yards and hardware stores sell plywood in this size.
The sides and middle are 23 1/4″ x 24″ so cut three of these. It should be noted that 2′ x 2′ pieces are sold in many places.
The two shelves are 20 7/8″ x 22 1/2″. The width of 20 7/8″ makes this shelf flush with the supporting pieces. If want the shelves to move or you will be using adjustable shelving pegs, you will need to cut the width narrower accordingly.
The two doors are 23 7/8″ in height and 20 3/4″ in width. The doors fit inset to the carcass of the cabinet and, therefore, should have enough reduction in the width and height so that the door easily closes and opens on pivot hinges. Depending on the thickness of the pivot hinge attachment plate, the door height can be cut to 23 3/4″ allowing for more room to swing.
Cut 4 legs at 27 1/2″. if you wish to have the side table taller simply increase the length allowing for more space between the bottom and the floor. Since the tops of the legs are flush with the top of the table, no other changes are created by giving more height.
Begin by attaching two of the legs to the back. Pre-drill the pocket joint holes to permit easier assembly. You probably do not need as many pocket joint holes as seen in the following images of the back. Five or six on each side attaching the back to the legs is probably enough. Also, be careful with pocket joint jigs. A tendency to move the material when attaching can leave the surfaces uneven. Use clamps to stabilize the two pieces that you are joining before screwing tight.
Note: Glue only where the legs are secured to the top and bottom. You may glue elsewhere, but due to the expansion and contraction of wood, without glue wood can adjust to the humidity and temperature. However, plywood has layers of wood with the grain in different directions and the contraction and expansion may not be that great. If you are using a less expensive plywood that could use the extra strength, use glue liberally. However, if you have decided to take on this project with hardwood, use glue where the grain follows in the same direction and sparingly in spots.
The back will be 3/4″ from the top of the legs. This is to account for the 3/4″ reserved for the table top.
You can next affix the top and bottom to the back and front legs and to the back panel. (Before installing the top and bottom, these two pieces will receive the sides and middle supports. It is a good idea to mark where these supports will go on the top and bottom before doing anything else to make them easier to insert later on. Look further down for placement.)
Only the bottom can have two pocket holes on each corner. The table top can have two in the front, but only one in the back since 3/4″ of the 1 1/2″ leg is taken up by the back panel. Before attaching the legs, make sure to drill any holes beforehand.
Next install the sides and the middle piece. (If you want to use a peg system for adjustable shelves, mark for the holes now. See the section below about the shelves.)
If you wish to give the cabinetry extra strength by providing pocket holes on the back of the three upright pieces in order to attach to the back panel, that is entirely alright.
Now that we have the legs, back, top, bottom, sides and middle pieces connected, the only thing left is the shelves and doors.
The shelves may be attached by various methods. Yet to make them adjustable, drill two rows of holes on the middle and side supports that will accept pegs. Hardware stores have brass pegs for shelves that just require insertion into a hole. Obviously, marking for these holes before installing the pieces will be much more convenient. Here is a video about adjustable shelves:
In this case the doors are installed with pivot hinges. The direction for installing pivot hinges is given above in a video. Nevertheless, pivot hinges come in a few different forms and instructions may be included when buying them or on the manufacturer’s or company’s website. At any rate, plenty of information is readily available.
The graphics being used display a circular wood handle made by cutting a circle in half, offsetting the application of the half circles so that they meet on the edge of the central support and act as a stop. The featured image shows a steel handle. Using a handle from a store means you will also have to think about a stop to prevent the door from going too far into the body of the cabinet. The simplest and easiest to install is a magnetic stop. This can be as simple as a small L shaped bracket as the stop and a magnetic strip on the door. Whatever you might purchase will most likely come with instructions. Of course, if you decide to go with something like the round wood door handle (very mid-century modern), you might not need a trip to the hardware store for a stop. One other thing concerning the doors, the shelves dimensions will only allow the door to shut flush anyway. Why all the information about stops, then? You don’t want the doors constantly banging against the edge of the shelves and you want the doors to stay closed.
This is it, except for the painting or staining. Whichever you use, I suggest a glossy finish. The mid-century modern look to the cabinet certainly suggests such a finish.
Here are some further suggestions on color and finishes:
Now, the reason for inclusion on moderntinyhouse.org, this simple and inexpensive cabinet design can work very well as cabinetry and storage for small spaces:
The sink and cooktop installation involves simple cutouts with a sabre saw and access through the back. The unit with shelves is created by extending the back 27 1/2″ legs an additional 36″, hanging some IKEA shelf supports and adding 12″ shelving. A convection oven in the bottom and one has a small kitchen system.
If you decide to tackle this project, good luck. Since I am making one myself, I will append the images to this article as soon as they are available.
In a post on midcenturymoderngroovy.com, I described the Aluminaire House, a prefabricated metal house that could be taken apart, packed up and moved to a different location. I am including the article here on Modern Tiny House because of the Aluminaire House when the garage and deck footage are excluded, is a relatively small house of just a few hundred square feet. Besides the Aluminaire House, I have included information on another modernist prefabricated house by Serge Binotto, an assistant of the famous French mid century modern architect, Jean Prouve. This is a circular house put together using pre-made insulated panels.
The main reason for including such information on Modern Tiny House is the form and nature of these two houses lead to all sorts of interesting ideas in terms of designs for tiny houses. As a further bonus, I have generated a 3D model of a dwelling based upon the concepts embodied in these two houses and will post the article as soon as possible.
Early on in my post secondary education I studied architecture. The notion that one can, in artistic fulfillment, create a work that not only others see, but also encapsulates them usefully for work, endeavors or domestic desires, brings a different sort of satisfaction over the embellishments that painting or other two-dimensional productions provide. In my nascent understanding of architecture the lofty goal of the modernists to design an inexpensive and quickly built dwelling that satisfies economic and social needs of the ordinary person, grabbed me as it has many an architect such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller and for differing reasons.
The concept of a prefabricated house built of mass-produced and industrial materials that can be packed up and reassembled like a factory made doll house without a lot of consumed time or resources certainly garners fascination and experimentation.
Asked by Walter Street of the Allied Arts and Industries and the Architectural League of NY exhibition in 1930, A. Lawrence Kocher, who was the managing editor of Architectural Record, enlisted Albert Frey, a 28-year-old Swedish architect that had migrated to the US to help in developing a modern design for a house using off the shelf materials. Albert Frey was imbued with the Internationalist Style due to his experience with Le Corbusier’s office. The influence of American manufacture in the ready availability of materials that went into Aluminaire House also strongly pointed Kocher and Frey in the direction of metal and prefabrication.
After this experimental house was displayed at the shows the house sold to architect Wallace K. Harrison for $1000 and was moved to his property on Long Island, NY. There it remained until 1987 when the New York Institute of Technology accepted it to prevent its demolition and for its reassembly next to the School of Architecture by students. Although, annual lectures and events surrounded the Aluminaire House, plans to move the house to a location in New York City were not approved and the house, through the auspices of the Aluminaire House Foundation, was set to be moved to Palm Springs across from the Art Museum in 2017.
The Aluminaire House incorporated mostly aluminum and steel for the skin and framing of the building. Wood in certain places allowed for the attachment of insulation board and the floors were linoleum. At the time, the designers thought that aluminum would become ever cheaper and abundant and quite useful for building construction.
One of the most appealing qualities of the Aluminaire House comes from an overall design that seems in place at a more advanced stage of modernism. In fact, with little modification, this house could be built today and stand critical scrutiny. Of course, the use of steel instead of aluminum and a few other small changes would also result in a dwelling not all that expensive to produce.
It is fitting that the Aluminaire House will exist happily in Palm Springs, California where Albert Frey created notable work.
A future article will include further information on Albert Frey and his unique designs.
For more detailed information about the Aluminaire House visit these websites:
The L-Up Chair comes from a series of designs by me to see how many outdoor furniture works I could come up with that can be made with simple tools and materials and without complicated angles and joinery, all the cut angles being straight or 90 degrees. To my amazement, just with casual and dining chairs, the number continues to grow. Working on my second volume of Outdoor Furniture You Can Make Using Simple Tools and Materials, the collection has risen to 30 dining chairs alone.
As with any size house, modernist impulse leads to an intimate relationship between indoors and outdoors in designing space. Especially important for the tiny house, outdoors areas increase the living spaces through decks and patios. The chair becomes one of the most significant furniture additions to any outdoor venue.
The chair, which I will tell you how to construct, has a floating look due to the difference between the front and back supports and emphasis based upon the way in which color is applied to the chair. As with all the designs in the series in which this comes from, this chair requires few materials. In this case, five standard size 2 x 4 studs. Every cut is made at 90 degrees and can be done with a miter box, although an electric miter saw is recommended.
In terms of joinery, the following instructions do not include any particular method. Some of the pieces such as the seat and back slats could even be set into place with nails. However, in the above mentioned book, the suggestion to use pocket joinery makes for a strong connection. Plus, a good and generous use of exterior wood glue helps keep water from deteriorating the ends of the wood pieces. Being very much a modernist, I quite enjoy when mechanisms or differing materials are left exposed. So when joining the slats for this chair, for instance, a large washer and lag bolt proudly showing on the side of the chair would make for a strong and attractive attachment. At any rate, wood screws of 2 1/2″, lag bolts or construction screws of the same length or 2 1/2″ pocket hole screws with a pocket hole jig will provide excellent fasteners.
The first Kreg Jig Kit comes to $39 and the Mini Kreg Jig Kit only $19. Extremely easy to use, these jigs will give a strong joint that will last a very long time. However, rather than always use the jig, a place where a construction screw will go straight through the material and into the end of a piece, with glue, gives a very strong joint and cuts out the added time of drilling the pocket holes. For this chair, in formation of the side structure, pocket hole joints will work great. The rest is up to you which joinery you would like to utilize. Just remember, my second choice for joints is construction screws that are weather resistant and tough to break a grip.
You will need 5 standard length studs (92.675″). If you have or obtain 96″ or 8′ studs, then the cut list can remain the same. You will have a little more waste. If you are a viewer from a metric country and stud sizes are different, possibly the instructions will be clear enough to allow you to still construct this chair. The illustration below shows how the studs will be cut. Remember to cut each length separately. If you draw lines on the board and cut along the lines, then the pieces will be inaccurate. The blade of the saw will take out material on both sides of the incision. Instead, to ensure that a 17″ length is 17″ in the final cut, you must cut one at a time with the saw cutting up to the line, but not over it in any way.
This chair contains two Ls on the sides, one up and one upside down. The chair floats on a back piece that juts out 2 inches on either side. Let’s make the side frames.
Once you have these pieces assembled, add the top, upright piece. The top/side pieces should be attached to the cross top piece first and then you may attach to the bottom seat frame.
The slats on the back, attached flush to the front, are approximately 1/2″ apart. However, you may wish to adjust the spacing slightly because you do not want to go past the end of the 14 1/2″ lengths. The bottom seat slats will need to go underneath the lowest back slat. To set the slats consistently, make a spacer to place between the pieces.
The lowest front slat should line up with the back strengthening support cross-piece, so both should be placed starting at 9″ from the ground. If necessary, adjust the slat spacing.
To begin adding slats to the seat, start from the front of the chair and work your way back leaving 1/2″ spaces between them.
The back legs are rather straightforward. The strengthening cross support is flush to the front because the seat support that crosses the middle of the bottom of the seat slats is secured to the center of this support. Remember to attach the cross support’s bottom edge 9″ from the bottom end of the side leg. (If you wish to use the full width of the top length to secure to the seat/back piece to the back legs, refrain from attaching the cross support until after attachment to the seat/back.)
Secure the completed seat and back construction flush to the length of the back leg assembly leaving 2″ on each side.
The only thing left in terms of building this chair is the middle support that connects the back legs to the seat/back L shape.
The central attachment at 16 1/2″ attaches to the lowest front slat and the back cross piece attached to the legs.
As previously mentioned, the lowest front slat and the back cross-piece should align by being 9″ from the ground.
With all the pieces connected, the chair is ready for paint or stain. I strongly suggest creating a difference in color between the seat/back and back leg pieces. The design purposely emphasizes the difference so the chair seems to float. Even so, sand and prime the chair and use a good exterior paint such as Arbor Paint by Benjamin Moore. Get creative and bold with paint and you can take an inexpensive DIY chair such as this and have something very useful and attractive that will last a long time.