Actually, this article is not about living in a tent but living in a structure that uses fabric for roofing. Although in the past, skins have been used in structures like tepees and yurts, now modern fabrics are being used in even large scale structures like airports and stadiums.
Since we know that modern versions of yurts use modern fabrics, then why is it not possible to build a tiny house utilizing the current materials available?
From the outset, the sophisticated materials contained in a modern fabric, large scale construction is not necessary to consider. Generally, they require special glues or radio frequency applications to seal seams. They also can require high tension. If you are interested in a discussion of the various sorts of architectural fabrics, check out the link to FabricArchitect.
We will discuss the material accepted for the making of yurts as the possible material for a tiny structure. In most cases, fabric covering yurts consists of a tightly woven, heavy canvas or cotton duck material with a coating of some sort such as acrylic polyurethane. Then will come an insulation layer of, say, felt and then a lining material usually of a polyester fabric. The main outside layer almost always consist of a canvas material whether cotton or a blend of cotton, nylon, polyester, etc…
Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some videos that will give you some ideas.
To give an idea of how the concept of the use of tent roofing in constructing a small inexpensive dwelling. Take a look at the design of this A-frame. Instead of more expensive materials and a longer construction time of building roofing in a traditional way, canvas tent material is stretched over the frame. Insulation and lining, such as included in a yurt can be utilized here.
One can readily see that such a structure would not only be relatively easily built but with much less expense as well.
By looking at the design above, the imagination could turn the A-frame into a cylindrical structure or even a more gabled pattern. As long as the shape could take a stretched fabric, almost anything is possible.
Although not meant to detail every modernist floor system, this article will examine a few that I have personal experience with.
One of the most admirable features of modernist interiors, in my opinion, is the flooring pervasive during the period of the mid-century.
Although one would suppose by many of the current ideas about mid-century styling that the period was dominated by bright whites and pastel or bright colors, stained wood became an important part of the mid-century interior. Tongue and groove ceilings, wood wall paneling, and wood floors were very important in many interiors. Today, the rustic or variable tones of wood would not have been of influence back then. Instead, mid-century architects and interior designers preferred a more even, consistent look. Of course, one must also realize that even back then there was a difference in style between what is called “organic”, International design and other trends. As far as the bulk of American residential styles, those of large-scale developers such as Eichler and Haver, the surfaces tended to conform to a consistent standard that favored the use of manufactured or engineered surfaces not much different from the International style but in terms of wood flooring laminates and composite materials had not yet held sway.
One must remember that materials today considered on the higher end of price were more readily available on a mass scale. For instance, cabinets made of composite materials today might have been made then with joined woods or a fine grade of plywood maybe even covered with a veneer of high quality.
Some of the types of wood favored during the mid-century include teak in various colors, rosewood, mahogany, walnut, beech, and oak. Naturally, teak was mainly used for furniture but could be emulated for paneling or other wood details. Rosewood also was mainly used for furniture even though it could be found in cabinets and other specialty applications.
In an attempt to maintain the integrity of a modernist home, some trends of today would not be suitable such as bamboo. However, this does not mean engineered surfaces such as laminates might not be too out of place, especially if one considers the current price of materials.
This is a question I get all the time which is really a conundrum. In maintaining a building from a particular period, how far does one go in staying with original materials when something cannot be restored or repaired? The problem with the modernists is their philosophy, creativity, and love of the new would certainly suggest that they not only would accept contemporary materials but also advocate for them. What I think they would object to is the current inclination for conformity and uniformity, especially in residential interiors. The overuse of neutrals such as white and blacks and various shades of grey would have been entirely too restrictive.
It goes without saying that these rustic grayish stained laminates would not work very well. In fact, if one wishes to play it safe, keeping with a range of color from medium to light is better. Another thing to remember, for small spaces, dark colors tend to shrink the look of the size of the room, light colors can open things up because they reflect more light in a broader spectrum.
One of my favorites and the one I grew up with is stained and polished concrete. Growing up in the southwestern US, most houses had foundations of a concrete slab with no need for basements or elevations above the ground. So the use of the concrete as the floor certainly made cost savings and a beautiful modern surface. Generally, the concrete was stained in a rusty red or a yellowish brown, at least in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, as time passed and tastes changed, many of the floors were covered up with carpeting, or linoleum.
Obviously, concrete flooring has many advantages, in particular with the resins and epoxies that can be applied at this time. The actual staining of concrete today produces some incredible effects and is remarkably inexpensive, relatively speaking. It is also something a DIYer can do with a little education in the matter.
Concrete floors can be stained with remarkable patterns and intense colors such as deep blues and reds.
One of my true favorites is Linoleum. Not only does it come in an unending amount of patterns but it can be applied in such a way as to create amazing designs. Indeed, from residential to commercial applications Linoleum was laid down with contrasting borders and elaborately carved graphics.
I have in my own house an elaborate Linoleum pattern from tiles installed in my living room.
Laying down Linoleum tiles in a pattern is remarkably easy and surprisingly inexpensive. Perfect for the DIYer, the tiles do not require arcane tools or any sort of fancy equipment to install. Also, once you get the idea of how to apply inlays, even that sort of application seems rather easy.
The last floor that I will mention and which is probably my favorite of them all is terrazzo.
Terrazzo is an ancient flooring going back to the Egyptians. It consists of a cement or binder with chips of material thrown in for the pattern. Due to the frequency of cracking in large sheets, the practice of separating sections by brass or metal strips came about and if anyone has been in an old bank building with terrazzo on the floor, he or she probably remembers the shiny brass lines separating areas of a pattern or sections of the floor.
As one can see from above, terrazzo floors stretch one’s energy and time to create such beautiful surfaces. However, forsaking the traditional methods epoxy can make the job a lot easier, simpler, and much less expensive.
These are a few of the types of floors prevalent in the mid-century with terrazzo and Linoleum some of the most common materials used in commercial buildings. Linoleum probably dominated all the others and even, to the shock of people restoring buildings, came to cover up all sorts of floors including hardwood surfaces.
These video and pictures include the final footprint of my tiny new space that will undergo construction in November 2018. The furniture and cabinetry are from IKEA but I may do all the design and construction myself which I will post as a separate article. I am so busy that I may not have time to do too many things. I would like to do the bed, the dining set, the side chairs, and the desk if possible. The only change I am contemplating is exposed beams for the ceiling rather than drywall and a solid door from the outside. The other entrance and the bathroom may be frosted glass. The countertops will either be Formica or tile. I am not fond of the current trend of stone, although Corian is not bad. Essentially, anything from the mid-century is fine with me.
Looking Right Toward the Kitchen.
View from the Front Door.
View from the Closet.
Looking from the Kitchen.
Toward the Desk and Pantry.
The Computer/Desk Area.
Shower, Toilet, and Storage.
Door to the Bathroom.
This video is a little slow and includes my music. This is partly because a friend of mine, who I mean to see it, had a stroke and suffered from some visual distortions. As for the music, I am very much a classical music fan and writing my music means I do not have to worry about copyright infringement.
Upcoming in the next three months, I have a wonderful project to build a tiny space. As part of a larger building, one might consider this as a self-contained suite or apartment. Nevertheless, the suite will have a footprint of 453 square feet.
When the building begins, I will document the various stages until the final result and post the ongoing developments. Although, not in the current plans, another patio may be considered on the bathroom side.
Obviously, since this is attached to a larger structure, the footprint is such that it could be made entirely free standing.
The following shows first the main space and then the patio and at the last the bathroom area.
On the same side as the entry door, a bank of cabinets provides an incredible amount of storage as well as a good size work surface and entertainment platform. It is possible that instead of one of the base cabinets an empty space below the surface will work as a desk.
In the above illustration, we see not only the kitchenette but also the small dining area and to the very right the armoire that supplies closet space to the sleeping area. The kitchenette will have a convection oven, induction stove top, and microwave. The chairs are of my design and can be found on diymodernfurniture.com.
It should be noted that this suite derives a large influence from mid-century modern design. Also, notice the use of the primary colors as a decorating scheme.
The above view shows a good deal of the space, on the left, the armoire, to the right, the bank of storage, and straight ahead the bed and relaxation areas.
Even though a large amount of storage is packed into a small place, the room looks spacious and comfortable.
The bed is a full-size bed. This space has room for a bedside table. Large windows provide plenty of natural light.
A private sitting area for reading makes for a pleasant ambiance. The French doors lead to the semi-circular patio.
As one will see, the bathroom has plenty of space for storage.
To the left, barely visible is the door to the outside where another patio may take shape.
Well, this project is in the planning stage. After the searing heat in this part of the country abates somewhat and new solar panels go up on the roof, then the tearing down and rebuilding begins.
As you can see, a complete living environment can be made without consuming a lot of space. One of the main strategies to achieve this is by providing an open flow, placing furniture and builtins to the sides of the spaces and not breaking up spaces into uncomfortable severity. Once done, I think this tiny suite will furnish a complete and satisfying habitat.
Since the outdoors is a fundamental part of living for not only tiny house owners but people in general, I have included these instructions for an easy to make patio lounger made of just 2 x 4 material that is excellent for a patio or covered area. In the spirit of DIY, which can be of interest to tiny house people, the step by step instructions below will allow you to make your own unique piece of patio furniture.
There is nothing like lounging around the pool or on a sunny deck. Lounge chairs are a part of relaxing and resting. This patio lounger is not only stylish but also easy to put together.
In fact, this relaxing chair only uses one wood material, standard 2 x 4 (1-1/2″ x 3-1/2″) lumber.
We begin by constructing the sides of the lounger first.
The sides of the lounger are pieced together with exterior glue and pocket hole joints. Place the pocket hole joints facing the inside of the chair and, remember, that there are plugs made that will fill and hide the holes once puttied and sanded.
The 30″ back connectors are also attached with glue and pocket hole joints. However, the inside piece is joined as in the illustration with one pocket hole joint on the inside center and one on the bottom. The reason for this is that there are already pocket holes in the side pieces which would interfere with the connector’s joints.
The other cross connector is applied with joints facing front to the very back of the sides. (The other connector has been removed for clear viewing.)
The back side is attached to the seat side with pocket hole joints as shown in the above illustration. The top joints will secure the top cross back piece.
The 30″ top and front of the back and seat are connected as in the illustration.
If you wish, the gaps in the seat slats can be all the same width. The difference between back and seat as illustrated is purely aesthetic.
The back and seat slats may be placed either before attaching the seat frame to the outside frame or after.
The seat frame is attached to the front of the outer frame by use of a pocket hole joint on the bottom edge at the front as shown. The back is connected to the outer frame by using a couple of 2-1/2″ construction or wood screws through the back side frame and into the sides with the back leaning on the inner back cross beam support. It is important to secure the back while the chair is upright in the proper position. You want the point at which the seat sides and the legs touch the ground evenly and simultaneously so there is no rocking or legs off the ground.
Pocket hole joint kit with screws for 1-1/2″ material.
Many cabinets are simple boxes. Some have added drawers and movable shelves. They can also be quite expensive when purchased pre-made at cabinet shops and even home supply stores. However, making your own cabinets can save money, especially when you need custom sizes or shapes. Here we will examine some basic cabinet forms and shapes.
The dimensions of cabinets vary but some are rather standard to account for height and surface area.
As one can see from these diagrams, the distance from the wall to the edge of the countertop will be somewhere between 24 to 26 inches. The space on the wall from the countertop to the bottom of hanging cabinets is around 16 inches, whereas the wall cabinets will be around 12 inches from front to back. All these dimensions are flexible depending on the needs or applications of surfaces and storage areas.
Base cabinets do not need a toe kick but would benefit with one if the unit goes from surface to floor in one piece. The usual size of the toe kick is 3-1/2 inches deep and up to 4 inches tall. Cabinetry can also rely upon legs or platforms to remove them from direct contact with the floor.
Once you have a box and put legs, a platform, or a toe kick on it, the face of the cabinet will determine what kind of doors, drawers, and hardware will be used. A box can have just shelves or just doors with pivot hinges. Pivot hinges allow a door to swing on pegs fixed on the top and bottom of the door allowing it to sit flush with the edges or they are scissor sort of looking things that attach to the top and bottom of the cabinet and the door.
Obviously, anything can be a DIY project and pivot hinges are no exception. I have taken a simple mending plate, placed a wood screw through an end hole that is inserted into a washer then screwed into a cabinet door. Once the mending plates for the top and bottom of the door are affixed to the carcass of the cabinet box at the top and bottom, the door can swing on the screws. To prevent the screw head from digging into the cabinet where it pivots, a small piece of embedded metal such as a penny, dime, or any other sort of wear resistant material will prevent the screw head chewing up softer woods. Even a nail with a large enough head will work in this situation as long as it is short enough not to go through the thickness of the cabinet.
I use pivot hinges a lot because I like the modern look of inset doors. Of course, there are many types of hinges. An excellent description of the four basic types can be found at this LINK.
A video on hinges:
The fronts of cabinets are essentially of two types. One is without any front face and the other is made with a frame or piece attached to the cabinet carcass. Without a face frame, the cabinet is basically a box with doors or drawers designed to close flush with the cabinet or to hinge or shut against the cabinet body directly. With a face frame, usually, doors or drawers sit on the surface of the face frame when closed.
For a good explanation of the different types of hinges and the different types of doors, Rockler has an in-depth examination of all the basic types. The type of front and the type of door hinge will determine the door’s dimensions to a large degree.
The following instructions will explain how you can make the above cabinet, which is simply to illustrate the basic construction. The same method may be used for cabinets in other dimensions such as width or height.
To begin construction of the cabinet, you will attach the bottom shelf to the sides even with the top edge of the toe kick.
In this case, the toe kick is 4″ tall and 3-1/2″ in depth. The side dimensions are 35″ tall by 23-1/4″ in depth.
To connect the shelf to the sides pocket hole joints are used with a quality interior/exterior glue.
Next, we attach the two back supports, which are 1 x 4 (3/4″ x 3-1/2″) lumber cut to 22-1/2″ lengths.
The top support piece should account for the placement of pocket joint holes that will come through the cleats used to affix a countertop. So bring the pocket holes down a bit. (Refer to the graphic further down in the article.)
The 24″ toe kick is connected at the front with pocket joint screws. Now, this toe kick is really only for reference since you may want to connect more than one cabinet together. When connecting several cabinets together a long toe kick will span all or some of the sections and will be attached with finishing nails, for instance. Seen in this graphic, the 24″ piece would leave a gap when slid up against another cabinet. So only take the above graphic as an example of a stand-alone item.
The back panel, 24″ x 31″, can be of any suitable material which should account for the function of the cabinet. If the cabinet might receive moisture, a water-resistant plywood could be used, for example. The thickness of the material should be between 1/8″ to 1/4″ depending on the material and use of the cabinet.
The face frame is made of 1 x 2 (3/4″ x 1-1/2″) material, with the uprights at 31″ and the horizontal pieces at 21-1/2″. The frame can be made of more expensive, denser materials since it will receive more wear and requires little. The frame should be glued and connected with pocket joints. However, as a tip, to keep the lengths even when inserting the pocket joint screws, clamp a piece across both connecting pieces to ensure that they do not move and become uneven.
In order that the cabinets appear even with each other, we give a 1/4″ overlap of the frame to make it easier to lay cabinets side by side. Otherwise, if there were unevenness, then gaps would be nearly impossible to hide.
The above graphic illustrates the use of pocket joints to connect the front frame. In this way, when cabinets are placed side by side the joints are not seen and not visible from the inside as well. However, the joints, depending on the view, may be placed on the inside, too. Remember that pocket joint holes can be covered with wooden plugs made for hiding them.
Next, we install the top cleats.
The top cleats are cut from the same 1 x 4 material used for the back supports and are also 22-1/2″. They are connected as seen in the graphic with pocket joints and glue.
The shelf may fit loose on a peg system or be permanently attached with pocket joints. A peg system uses pegs readily available at hardware stores that can be inserted along two lines of holes placed toward the front and back of each side of the interior of the cabinet. The allows the pegs to be moved and, of course, the shelf to be adjusted.
As was mentioned above, different configurations exist when it comes to putting a door on this cabinet. A future article will show various easy DIY doors that will work on the cabinet as well as putting in drawers using different methods. This is basically a reference work to show how one can easily build a cabinet in all sorts of sizes. Wall cabinets are essentially the same except they lack a toe kick and the top cleats are replaced with a solid piece. Also, they generally have only around a 12″ depth.
The Pyramid House design was based upon a longstanding pleasure of basic geometric forms, the square and the isosceles triangle. The house is a perfect square at 20′ x 20′ and, therefore, near 400 square feet after deducting the thickness of the walls. The corners sport triangular windows that give the feeling that the roof is balanced in the middle like a teeter-totter. The angles of the non-glass triangles harken back to the angle of the pyramids at Giza in Egypt.
Unfortunately, further consideration should be made regarding the support of the roof. It might be necessary to engineer a less fragile way to carry the weight of the roof such as vertical mullions as well as the horizontal ones or corner mullions perhaps on the inside of the glass to keep the sleek look of the corners from the outside. The weight of the roof is not that great considering the overall dimensions of the building. However, the roof is not supported on the inside by load bearing walls but spans the entire width and length of the space.
As you proceed through the images in this design article, you will notice the finishes and materials change. This is simply to illustrate the many choices available in the design of this house.
Due to the small size of this house, certain symmetries such as the placement of the back door to one side becomes necessary. If placed in the middle then the bed area on the inside would narrow.
The north side of the house features a built-in cement sink and stove top.
The outdoor chairs are of my design and can be seen on diymodernfuniture.com at E-Chair.
The kitchen is on the immediate left while the bathroom is toward the back on the left. The sleeping area is on the right and out of view is the living area on the right.
We see a small kitchen with island bar with a small dining area in the windowed corner.
The bathroom is separated from the rest of the house by 8′ walls on two sides. The interior walls of this house are 12′. Therefore, the bathroom has no independent ceiling.
This square tiny house design utilizes high ceilings and an open floor plan to create a sense of spaciousness. The basic forms used allows for an almost unlimited combination of colors, textures, finishes, fixtures, and materials.
Why is cabinetry in the home expected to be built-in? When attending architecture school, I designed a rather inventive duplex where most everything was movable. This included the walls, the cabinets, the closets, and even a second story bedroom. Due to regularly placed pluggable drainage and snap on, snap off plumbing, sinks, bathtubs, and toilets could be moved. The walls were a steel mesh that allowed for hanging pictures and objects but a metal cleat system hung wall cabinets while kitchen cabinetry all sat on the floor as ordinary furniture with any backslash attached to the cabinets and not the wall without the need for special carpentry. One could change the entire floor plan. The number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or any room was only limited by the number of square feet of the structure. Since I still have the architectural drawings and plans for this duplex, perhaps I will include that in a future article because of the various space-saving ideas that would work in small or tiny houses.
One of the great ideas involved in the house mentioned above is the use of mechanisms to allow the movability of cabinets and storage. One such mechanism utilizes the French cleat.
The French cleat is a strong, simple wall attachment mainly known by those who run a workshop of some sort. Woodworkers, carpenters, auto shops, and all sorts of workers affix shelves and carpentry to walls making use of the French cleat. Why it is not taken advantage of in the home more often is beyond me but it permits cabinetry movement and flexibility in arranging.
The other great thing about the French cleat is how simple and cheap they are to make for those into DIY. Simply take a 1 x 4 or a long section of plywood and cut in the center at a 45-degree angle and voila! Attaching one piece to the cabinet and another piece to the wall and one has a system.
The top part of the cleat will connect to the cabinet, while the bottom will connect to the wall.
I haven’t bothered trimming the cleat to the width of the cabinet simply because that would be unimportant to the illustration. Also, normally one would only need a cleat at the top of a cabinet with a leveling piece on the bottom. However, if the cabinet will hold a lot and/or heavy objects, two cleats will secure the cabinet even more.
Wooden French cleats are not the only strategy. Metal ones are readily available at hardware stores.
Cabinets are not the only thing to work with French cleats. Shelves or anything meant to mount on a wall can utilize the French Cleat.
Now, as far as free-standing cabinets go, one can find them at IKEA and other modern furniture stores. As long as a cabinet is well-built, one meant to attach to a wall can be slightly modified and find a place on the floor not attached to a wall. Credenzas and sideboards will work as free-standing cabinets.
The following IKEA free-standing cabinets are used just as an example of what is available in many places.
Unless for safety reasons, a cabinet does not need to be attached to a wall and made a permanent fixture. For a small dwelling, the ability to move appliances, as well as cabinetry, gives an invaluable flexibility to account for changing needs and spaces. Sometimes, the best places to look for such things includes restaurant and office supply companies that aren’t wrapped up in conventional notions of what residential cabinetry is all about.
I thought I might write an article on the methods and procedures for building houses from shipping containers. I live in a city where a large project of condominiums utilizing shipper containers was quite successful and inspiring. Nevertheless, I can not compete with some of the information available on the Internet and so have decided to provide some useful links that one might explore how to build them as well as the various configurations and design ideas.
Now, I do not like to use too many links because they tend to disappear over time. However, I will make an exception this time and hope that you, the reader, will be helpful and let me know when they no longer work.
First of all, one of the best explanations of the various things needed for construction of a container house comes from Tin Can Cabin. This website covers many of the basic details of putting containers together and offers excellent advice on safety. There are aspects to the proper outfitting of a container home that might not be readily apparent. Yet this site covers them.
Another essential article to read is “5 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Shipping Container Home.” This covers the necessity of checking local building codes as well as something I have read over and over again; that of the removal of too much structural steel. When designing a container house, as part of the design, one must include strategies for reinforcing large areas removed for doors and windows or when removing an entire side to affix to another container, for instance. As a general rule, easy designing is hard constructing.
Even though quite negative, this article, “What’s Wrong With Shipping Container Housing? Everything”, and considering this article mainly refers to mass housing, provides some insight into things to consider. One thing in the article, though, not accurate is the dimensions of a shipping container. Some shipping containers are higher than those mentioned, although the width is the same. The width is not necessarily restricted depending on the design.
Another excellent list of what one needs to do to build a container home is on Residential Shipping Container Primer. This post covers subjects such as structural integrity, foundations, and permitting, for instance.
The above link purports to be the ultimate guide to shipping container homes on the website, Home TuneUp.
And, of course, a couple of videos will help, as well:
This link leads to a site that contains 10 films on the construction of container homes.
Obviously, many find a fascination with the many designs coming from the use of shipping containers. Yet there are pros and cons in utilizing them. Hopefully, this article provides a starting point for information in pursuing such an unusual building.
Through all the “ism” in art and architecture, modernist design in architecture refers to the mid-century of the 20th century. So many buildings and residences set the stage for contemporary modern designs. Many of the iconic places so familiar to us have exerted incredible influences on current design to such a degree, that the postmodernist reaction has been to take its elements and add complexity and elaboration similar to the Baroque and Rococo changes from the Renaissance. In terms of modern style, modernist design suits small and tiny houses much more so than the flamboyance of the contemporary due to the emphasis on what I call direct design; that is, avoidance of unnecessary complications and details.
Of that stated above, not all is entirely true. Due to the fact that the modernist impulse leads to experimentation and groundbreaking designs, not all modernist fabrications strictly adhered to the International Style such as in the design of the Glass House or the Farnsworth House.
Significantly different to the Internationalists, Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs clearly differ to the more rectilinear edifices of the Internationalists such as Mies van der Rohe’s creations.
Since this is not a scholarly examination of all the types and elements of all modern architecture, for our purposes we will stick to some of the elements of the International Style.
One always hears or reads the phrase, “…clean lines…” I prefer unadorned or unbroken lines. Modernists seek to find elemental geometry in their vision of the residences they build. The cube, the circle, the triangle becomes their palette. The most important and well-known houses built by modernists possess a Zen-like quality when combined with their surrounding environment.
This brings us to the first modernist element. The house should create an atmosphere when combined with its surrounding landscape. This means that those inside feel the influence of the outside landscape through walls of glass, sliding glass doors, large windows, even walls that move to allow access to patios or verandas. Any room might be exposed in some way to views or have access to the outdoors.
Many times, where there are no windows or glass walls, modernist architects used clerestory windows and skylights to bring in natural light.
This brings us to another important element of modern residences. Often times the walls of glass and sliding glass doors were on the sides of the house not facing the street. When, indeed, the front facing the street had considerable glass, screens of sculpted cement block, wood or metal blocked a direct view.
Rather than walls, screens were also used for spatial arrangements in the interior as well.
Probably the most noticeable and prevalent feature of a modernist, post and lintel dwelling is the exposed skeletal structure. Large beams supporting the roof are left to be admired.
Proudly exposing the structure of a building was thought of as an asset, many times, and not to be bashful about. This notion carries over from commercial buildings and high-rises such as the Seagram Building in New York.
Of course, when dealing with the International Style modernists, they reveled in using steel for the framework of a residence. This didn’t always carry over from commercial to residential. Besides the more famous structures, most modern houses are framed in wood, especially those made in a modern American Style. At any rate, the readily visible frame claimed a poetic beauty among modern houses.
Not all modernist houses in the International Style sported flat roofs. Butterfly, saw-tooth, shed and other unique shapes, such as the hyperbolic parabolic figure into modernist designs.
Decorative elements became frowned upon in the International Style. However, simple sculptural elements, especially those which supported or supplied a function found their way into their architectural palette. Included among these decorative elements, designers created walls of natural stone or wood that continued from the inside to the outside, repeated arches and columns and simple porticoes or decks that continued and accented the rectilinear quality of the form of the rest of the house.
Although the above example of repeated columns is not a family residence, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts provides an excellent illustration of how a simple element presents an appealing architectural feature.
However, a second article will forward the basic ideas of design and, then, digitally build a modernist tiny house inculcating many of the elements above. Possibly, sometime in the future we will venture a try at tiny, modern organic houses utilizing the elements such as those used by Bruce Goff or Frank Lloyd Wright.
Although you might not find use for the information below, you might at least be interested in the creative ways people come up with to construct houses. In a previous post, I examined so-called 3D printing techniques. In the below videos we will see all sorts of sundry methods. Since a video might be better than the written word in this case, I have embedded videos that explain the various methods. If for some reason a link is missing–videos appear and disappear so frequently–let us know and we will try to fix it.
It should be mentioned that expense is not the only reason for using alternative methods. Instead, someone might consider the ongoing use of energy or other resources as well as pure aesthetics. Nevertheless, any method must be stacked up against others based on its inherent cost, time and labor expenditures.
Lightweight Insulated Concrete Panels:
I grew up in Yuma, Arizona and remember a few of the adobe houses still remaining. They were made in the same way the old west icon, Yuma Territorial Prison, was made, from the clay and sand from the banks of the Colorado River. Yuma is true desert. There were no trees for wood construction and lumber was expensive coming from northern Arizona in high country.
My mother had a friend who we occasionally visited and what I remember of her adobe house was even in the scorching heat of the Arizona summer day, the house was amazingly cool. She had no air conditioning, nor needed any.
These are just a few of the different methods for putting a house together. Some of these methods probably lend themselves well to tiny houses, but regardless, for me, I will always prefer a modern style.
I have read interesting articles and reports, watched videos of “printed” structures, mostly as experiments as part of research at universities. The material used in producing these is usually a specialized concrete mixture that flows easily, yet has body and gains reasonable strength when cured.
I originally saw the video below on curbed.com at this link. I’ve included the video from YouTube due to its interesting nature, with the realization that this is a corporate film produced to promote a product, and therefore, may have a bit of puffery. Obviously, most people would not be able to rush out and order one of their own, but maybe sometime in the future such technology might be available.
As for now, I can imagine that the technologies displayed below would be a useful hybridization of current building techniques. For example, suppose the foundation or basement of a house were “printed” instead of laid out in block or poured with concrete forms. For that matter, anything that could be produced with this technique such as steps or a porch would save tremendous amounts of time and labor.
This is just a preliminary. I plan on a couple of articles on alternative building techniques such as these for the near future, along with another article on unusual prefab buildings.
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.