In case you were wondering...

In case you were wondering...

This blog exists to encourage all those who have ever wanted--and needed!--a tiny getaway close to home. A workshop, playhouse, garden shed, sanctuary, mini-greenhouse, studio, home office; whatever it is you need, it IS doable, with some sacrifice, imagination, and compromise.

It helps if you're handy, too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Dealing with VERY small spaces--this is also one of our permanent tabs!

When You Only Have 10' x 10' of Floorspace or Less–Start Climbing the Walls! 
(tips on dealing with small spaces)

Several people have commented to me that this space would be too small for them, that it felt cramped, that their bathroom was larger than that...and to each his own!  I've always loved small spaces and spent much of my childhood in little tourist cabins, tents, or hiding out in my own forts under the front porch or the dining room table! 10 x 10 is what we could afford, what (theoretically!) fit within the City's guidelines as not needing a building permit (wrong), and what I wanted. Sort of an individual, freestanding cubicle--Dilbert would be SO jealous!

So how do you plan for such a small space, and make it work for you? Fortunately I wasn't planning to live there, so didn't have to have plumbing or a furnace...our "real" house is right next door.  Here are some of our strategies:

The obvious place for storage is the walls, as most tiny-house fans will agree–even though we have big French doors, a regular door on the North, and two windows, we still have a fair amount of wall space. I purposely designed the shed with no openings on the south, both for privacy (neighbors and a small state highway 3 doors down) and for storage space. Of course, floor to ceiling shelves on that wall (not as deep as many bookshelves, at 8") hold a lot of books, art supplies, coffee and teapot and more, with rectangular baskets for things that are better out of sight. (We left the bottom shelf about 12 inches from the floor and my bedroll/yoga mat fits under there along with a small footstool and the wastebasket. No extra floor space needed!)

The desk, studio lighting, and kitchen area fit on that wall too.

I planned exposed rafters, which give us a great place to hang things so they’re handy as well as up off the floor. Where the rafters meet the walls there are a series of small cubbies–my husband built a narrow shelf to extend that space so lots of books, art supplies and miscellaneous things can be stored there.


Joseph also put Shaker pegs below this shelf, to hold drafting tools, templates, scissors, T-square, and my tambourine and jacket, at the moment. A vintage clothes hanger with two types of hooks holds cups and small pots near my hot plate–all I need for coffee, tea, or soup in this small space.

Three small cubbies are wall-mounted hold other small items–more art supplies, microscope, matches, whatever. Two are above the desk, and one is by the North door.

An old magazine rack holds catalogs and watercolor blocks; the cubby is a gift from a friend.  You can see templates and a ruler hanging from a nail, and more goodies between the rafters and on the windowsill...and OFF the floor.
The broom, which takes less space than about any kind of cleaning tool, hangs from a vintage style hanger made from a board and two wooden spools.

Double-duty furniture and accoutrements work too. I found a great little step stool that lets me reach the higher rafter-storage shelves over the French doors; it’s sturdy and the top is hinged for storage. It holds mosquito coils, dustrag, window cleaner, extra matches, incense or whatever–all the unsightly-but-necessary stuff that you don’t want out on the shelves!

Sure, it was empty THEN...full, now!
Folding furniture is a great solution to limited floor space, allowing for a great deal of versatility–we have two camp chairs and a vintage folding chair that fits at my desk. The desk has a moveable drafting surface, so it serves double duty. A small oak TV table is just the right height for a laptop, when I need it (the desk is a bit too high.) A tabletop can hinge to the wall and fold away when it’s not needed. Even my easel is a small folding one–when it’s not in use it fits snugly between the desk and the wall.
The top will go up to accommodate larger paintings...
Folded up it takes almost no space...

The camp chair still folds, but it's a lot more comfortable now...

Of course I also planned for outdoor storage–the shed has its own mini-shed attached at one side for construction equipment, BBQ, charcoal, tools–you name it. (Right now it still has a lot of the construction stuff.)

You can store things under the building, too. That’s where extra wood is...

When you're planning on a small space, you have to think about what you REALLY need–some things, I’ll admit, as an artist, are there just because they please me aesthetically. But hey, that’s a need, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Page and a new solution to the comfortable chair issue

First things first!  The folding camp chairs were really inexpensive (under $10 new), but not exactly comfortable after a while.  We both have bad backs, and it had gotten so J. didn't like to spend long out there because it HURT.

We shopped endlessly to try to find comfortable padded folding chairs that were also short enough, since I am, looking at hundreds of chairs online (used to have some, but they got away...)  We looked at non-folding overstuffed chairs in a variety of thrift stores, but we really need the versatility and the option of chairs we can fold away, in the small space.'s my solution!  I tied chair seat cushions to the back to pad that area, and put a nice big soft bed pillow in the seat...that helps a lot with the place where the diagonal legs wanted to dig into my fanny! 

Ugly as can be, of course, but a nice down throw we've had for years covers one of them, and a polar-fleece throw the other one.  Now they look almost like Real Chairs, and they are a LOT more comfortable!


The other project today was the new page on the tabs at top, dealing with and planning for small spaces!  Click the link to see what we've done so far--I'll be adding to it as I think of things, I'm sure...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Heating the shed...

So far, it's still relatively nice fall weather--some mornings have been almost down to freezing, but not yet.  (Might have been frost one morning...)

But winter's coming and Missouri can get very cold when "there's jes' two bob-wahr fences between here and the North Pole and one a-THEM's down," as I heard an old farmer say once!  I know, -12 degrees F. isn't as cold as it's been in some places, but it's not really conducive to sketching...

We didn't install a "real" heating system in the shed...certainly no furnace, no natural gas, and no electric baseboard heat or similar--in other words, nothing that comes on with a thermostat when the temperature drops below a certain level, so water WILL freeze at night or when I'm not there.  I won't be storing paints, waterbrushes, or drinking water...

This is the current solution to those cold mornings: 

It's a small ceramic heater with 1500 BTUs** (Note!  J reminds me that's 1500 watts, not BTUs...), about standard for most electric heaters.  (Yes, the floor's still going to be cold till we solve the insulation problem...)

This is a BIG help for now, however.  J. found a timer that comes on an hour or so before I'm likely to be out there, and makes it nice enough to work...about 60+-ish, on chilly mornings. (I used to need 72 degrees, but I've weaned myself pretty well, with wool or polar fleece and localized heat.)  For now, we have it set to turn back off at 9 am, with an override button on the side so I can manually keep the heat up if I'm out there...

And here's the other solution...polar fleece knee sock/slippers I got a few years ago at a thrift store--they were brand NEW, and have been great.  J's old heating pad now has a slipcover of a quilted pillowcase, also a thrift store find, and my toes are toasty!

We had originally thought we'd install a small woodstove, and may yet, one day (I really do love wood heat)--but with the necessary clearance from combustibles, it would need nearly 1/4 of the floor space.  Hm.  That's a LOT.

Plus the fact that I've got arthritis and J. has a bad back, since a fall 4 years ago.  Very much wood cutting, carrying, and splitting is NOT an option.

So.  Here's something else I'm considering, a home made solar heater.

(Wouldn't you know, plans for one from the 70s fell victim to my Discardia mania a few weeks ago!  Yes, I want less stuff, yes I want a simpler life, and yes, they WERE sort of beat up, but I wish I'd thought a bit first...)

Anyway, a home made one could vent right into the AC hole during the winter, and come down and be stored away in summer...I purposely left that big south-facing wall blank so I'd have privacy and plenty of wall space for the books and desk.  Plenty of room for a solar panel, too!

Another possibility is a wall mounted convection heater...saw this link on the Tiny House's the direct link. 

Hmmmmmm---wall mounted...more floor vents or additional holes efficient...

But for now the tiny heater and the timer are getting the job done...with a nice low-tech heating pad.

A contest for 10-square buildings!

And they mean meters, not feet...that would be about 107 square feet (I think!)

I won't enter the shed since it's meant to be about actual living spaces, but it is FUN to look at the entries!  Check it out...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Shed gets around!

Take a peek!

Relaxshax' Derek "Deek" Diedricksen featured our little shed studio today--Deek's working on a new book on sheds and little houses, and we may be included.  Bookmark his site, if you like, and check back often, I know I will...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shed Prezzies!

Godchild Ann Brown gave me this wonderful velvet pumpkin for my birthday--she said it was for the shed, and she was right, it looks great!  Just the perfect combination of elegance and nature (that's a real stem...)  Thank you, Miss Ann, I love it.

And Joseph put up my new birdfeeder, right outside the work window--PERFECT.  This isn't where I'd imagined it, it's infinitely better.  I'll be able to watch the birds and maybe even get some decent sketches and photos as they get used to me...

It looks cool, too!  It should be safer from raccoons and squirrels (yes, resourceful little acrobats as they are!), it's easy to get at to fill...perfect.  Thanks, babe!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

...and there was light!

The new lamp came already!  You can see what a huge difference it's going to make.  It's not really that bright--I won't get a sunburn--but it will be wonderful for making art, especially at night.  (You can see the shelves are filling up too...looks homey, and it is VERY functional.)

We had thought maybe we could bring my ancient one home from the cabin, but it only works halfway, and half the REALLY glad this one came today. 

 You can use just fluorescent (but who would want to!?!)  Kind of cold and blue...

Or just incandescent for warm light if you want to read...

Or both, if you want balanced light for judging color and value in artwork.  It's wonderful!  This one is an ALVIN Combination Swing-arm Task Light, and it was the least expensive model we found. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And the answer is YES...

My old studio lamp gave up the ghost when we were in the middle of shed-building, and J. asked if I needed one for out there.  Hey, I've got windows, a sunny day, white ceiling, a hanging Japanese lantern, and the cool little antique desk lamp...I said "I don't know...let's wait and see."

I waited.  I see.  The answer is YES.  Please.

I'm working on an illustration for Watercolor Artist, and the existing light just isn't sufficient for artwork.  Working in the journal, yes, sure.  Reading, no problem.  REAL work, um, no.

So he ordered me this one, which looked as close as we could get to what I've always liked, and it's more affordable than the more futuristic "studio lighting."

You can see more about it's the ALVIN Combination Task Light   Looks like it will do exactly what I'm used to, with warm and cool light combined.  And y'know, I just like that drafting-lamp look!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Winterizing progress...inexpensive and easy.

The hardware store offers several types...we figured low-density would compact more readily.

Piece of cake to cut to size...

Since we used recycled windows and doors, there's not much weatherstripping...both the small door and the French ones have weatherstripping at the bottom, but I could see light around the edges.  Where there's light there's air, and in the winter that means BREEZY.  
Self-stick foam weatherstripping is easy to install and quite inexpensive ($2.99 a roll, might have found it cheaper if we'd shopped around though.)  You need to do it when it's 40 degrees or above to insure a good sticking, so waiting till the day warms up to finish (I quit yesterday when the evening mosquitoes got too interested in the process!)

The French doors are fairly tightly fitted when it comes to closing, but not where air leaks are concerned...I'll just make sure they're shut and locked!  I did the bottom of the window nearest the desk, but we will be doing a removable storm window for that one, too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Looking toward winter...insulation and other issues

Yep, insulation DOES help, even the relatively thin sheet foam stuff.  Unfortunately, not when it comes off and lands on the ground.  We've lost even more since I posted about it before (you can see more info in my OOOPS-es tab)  We need a skinny handyman!

Definitely something needs to be done before winter.  If I put my hand on the section of floor that still has insulation, it warms to skin temperature in seconds.  On the section where the insulation has fallen off?  Maybe eventually it would warm.  I don't have that much patience!  It stayed chilly.  So did my feet, yesterday, and I was out there for HOURS.

Eventually, I'd like to have something that FILLED the space between the floor joists, but for now just having the insulation we put up in the first place would help...

When we lived on our farm, back in the 70s, we piled bales of straw or hay around our foundation.  Looks weird, but it DOES help.

One layer of plywood between me and the North Pole isn't enough.  The floor's going to be very cold this winter.  (Even here in the house, at the computer, I usually put a heating pad under my feet...just a crawl space here, and this is the NW corner of the house.  Cold...)  So...looking for a good heating pad, or even a heated doggie bed, for under my feet at the desk.

I'll be dragging my antique soapstone footwarmer out there!

And I WILL want the lovely rug that Joseph brought from Virginia in the winter, if we can get rid of the mildew's thick and padded and should help.  Lysol has some new sprays that aren't as ghastly institutional-smelling for mildew and we plan to try baking soda, too...

I moved my retro thermometer into the shed--this morning it was 40 degrees outside and 40 degrees inside, though it felt colder--buildings seem to hold the night's chill. (Finally let the furnace come on in the house last night!)

This little guy's not going to be up to the task, even though the walls and ceiling are insulated.  It managed to raise the temp 10 degrees in an hour and a half, at full blast.  (I used it all day yesterday and my feet were still cold...)

My buddy the blacksmith, Dennis Miles at Double Edge Forge, says they have two Lasko ceramic heaters...and they do a great job in his old farmhouse.  Definitely looking at that option, since they can be had with a timer as well as a thermostat.  We plan to use some sort of timer to turn on the heat about an hour before I'll be going out there, but a more efficient heater sounds like a good plan, too.

We have recycled single-pane windows, and the French door will be a heat loser, too...we plan to make removable storm windows for the two windows, and I'll use some sort of curtain over the one by the desk.  Years ago I made quilted roman shades in my LR that helped a lot...probably try something like that.  (It gets below zero here, from time to time.)

Weatherstripping around the doors will help, too...seems like a lot to do, but I like that sort of work.

Eventually, I hope to build a passive solar collector for the south side of the shed--I'd like it to be movable, so I can use it in winter, but not in summer's heat.  The shed has no windows on that side because the view was nothing but cars and houses and I wanted some privacy--as WELL as a place for the big bookcases, the desk and all, of course.  Perfect place for a simple heat could even vent into the AC's vent hole.

Wouldn't you know I just ditched an old Mother Earth News article about building just that.  Recycling is good and I desperately need to simplify my life (been big into Discardia lately!) but...well, I used to write for them a few decades ago, I'm sure I can find something...

Here's another blogger's small-house thoughts on insulation...good stuff--to which he added, HERE.

Meanwhile, we've been making a LOT of upcoming posts!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Teardrop Trailers are the ultimate tiny house!

Click here for one from the Tiny House blog...

Joseph built one himself a few years ago, and we've camped in it in the Adirondacks and only problem is whacking my elbows on the wall in bed!  It's 4'  x 8'...the photo is from his move to Missouri almost three years ago.

You can see why we're fine with the size of the shed...perhaps not for full-time living, but as a getaway?  You bet!  At 100 square feet, it's a LOT bigger than the teardrop's 32, and I can stand up in it!

He IS a handy's his Photobucket set on building this tiny traveling home.  It's a work of art!

Does this look cool or what?  This is the the awning!

We would LOVE to find chairs like this for the shed--they fold, they're padded, they're comfortable...and they got away from us when he moved here...

Friday, October 1, 2010


...make serenity a bit hard to come by.  I am so angry.

This was there yesterday.  It isn't, now.  Last night someone apparently thought it was fine, if they wanted it, to just take it. Apparently their lives are so devoid of beauty they thought it was all right to steal some.

At least nothing else was taken.

After having the basement next door broken into a few months back, and then a year or two to lose light fixtures and all the new copper pipes in the rehab project, and my garden shed broken into, padlock cut with a bolt cutter and both chain saws stolen--among other things (and not to mention the vandalism at the cabin)--I'm ready to chew nails, today.  And not fingernails.

I KNOW it's "just stuff."  But we work hard for our money; we earn it; we share it when we feel so led.  Stealing is not earning, and I prefer to make my own decisions about what to give away.

Needless to say nice peaceful meditation did NOT happen this morning.


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