Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘small houses’ Category

Friday Favorites

In Auntie Flat, creativity, Learning, small houses, writing on November 17, 2017 at 8:49 am








“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” The nineteenth-century French novelist and author of Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert said that, and John Nieto, who painted the above, exemplifies it in the twenty-first century. One of my top three favorite artists with Georgia O’Keeffe and Vincent Van Gogh, I have two of his posters framed in my common room. You can watch him in his Santa Fe studio in the 80s here or a listen to a longer Facebook interview from just a couple of months ago as he approached his 81st birthday here. I love his use of color and also his Native American subjects. “The colors I work with are a reflection of what I feel.”

Another favorite is writer Joan Didion, whose 1968 book of essays, Slouching Toward Bethlehem, boasts some of the best writing of that decade and the best title bar none. I’d been wanting to watch the new documentary about her life, The Center Will Not Hold, on Netflix, when I found an interview with the director, her nephew Griffin Dunne. After hearing him talk about his respect for her as a “real writer” and his love for her as a member of his family, I finally settled down to watch it. A clear and frequently painful view of her life and work, the film is a reminder to all of us that relationships and work are what’s really important in life. I bought Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album, another collection of essays, when they went on sale for $1.99 each on Kindle earlier this year and I’m looking forward to revisiting them now half a century later.

And finally today, I bring you tiny houses and shipping container houses that you can now order on Amazon. Free shipping! You know that I’m a little obsessed with tiny houses, but you may not know that I once plotted to have my garage converted into a granny flat (or, in my case, an auntie flat) for myself with my brother and sister-in-law remodeling and living in the main house. That didn’t work out, but I retain a strong interest in the idea of living small. The now out of print book, Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon, provided great inspiration and examples of how smaller is better. In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats by Michael Litchfield is another good, though more conventional, introduction to the topic.

Hope you have a great weekend planned. As always, if you miss my posts, you can always find them on my blog, The Constant Learner.


Power to the People

In creativity, Home, Learning, small houses on September 13, 2017 at 7:58 am

The longest I’ve ever gone without power is a couple of hours.

Between my Alexa, laptop, iPad, Fire tablet, Kindle, and phone, my superpower may be using electronics. They all require electricity, although except for Alexa, they will last more than the time it takes to get the power back on.

When the power goes off I remember how much we rely on it.

My friend in Florida has already been without power for several days and it won’t come back on until Sunday.

It must be a little like camping out. Maybe you saw the meme I posted that said “My friends asked me to go camping, so I made of list of what I will need: 1) New friends.” If you like camping, and I know there really are such people out there, you could think of this as an adventure. Just don’t go building any fires in your living room.

Remember William Kamkwamba, the 14-year-old Malawian boy who built a windmill to power his family’s home using old bicycle parts? You can listen to his TED talk here or read his book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. He had the right idea.

The twin disasters in Florida and Texas have me thinking that instead of regional power grids, we need power sources for individual houses or buildings. Solar would do it here in the sunny southwest. Many of the tiny houses I find so appealing rely on solar power, and Europe is taking the lead in developing it while the U.S. remains bogged down by the oil industry and its lobbyists.

Decentralized power sources might not prevent outages, but they could shorten the time needed to get things up and running again. It might help us feel not so powerless.

Some Books

In Auntie Flat, Books, Lent - Season of Change, small houses on March 22, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 19

Since I’m known as a reader before anything else, people frequently ask me what kind of books I like. I prefer books by and about women, especially women artists, and I especially like books in which a house figures prominently. I can easily explain the first—I am a woman with artistic or artsy leanings, if not exactly an artist. The second is probably a little more complex. Home is very important to me, dating back to when I was three and my grandparents made their garden shed into a playhouse for me and my brother when we visited them in the summers. Imagine—I had my own private little house at age three. I think I’ve been trying to recreate that ever since.

Today, my condo is intensely personal, which is to say odd. It makes me happy and that is all I care about as I don’t have guests.

So, women, art, and a house. That describes three of my all-time favorite books, Violet Clay by Gail Godwin, Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer (yes a male author managed to sneak in), and Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos. I’ve read each of them at least three times. This is about the last one.

Broken for You features two compelling protagonists, one young and heartbroken, the other old and dying. Septuagenarian Margaret Hughes lives alone in a Seattle mansion filled with valuable antiques. Wanda Schultz came west to search for the boyfriend who dumped her. When Margaret rents a room in her house to Wanda, both of their lives change as they form a surrogate family and discover ways to right some very dark wrongs.

I mention it because the Kindle version is currently on sale for $1.99. You might want to snap it up. The other two, sadly, are not available in Kindle, but I’m thinking I may have to head over to Abe Books and buy used copies, so the next time I want to read them, I won’t have to wait to pick them up at the library. Some books you just need to have on hand.

Not Your Father’s Retirement

In creativity, Home, Lent - Season of Change, small houses on March 18, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 16

What if art wasn’t just your hobby or even your livelihood? What if art encompassed your whole life? That’s the idea behind a new trend in senior housing – senior arts colonies. Instead of the typical retirement community, residents gather together to devote their later years to the arts.

One DIY group is planning a co-housing community for aging rockers. That’s the music, not the chair. They may buy an RV park to accommodate people who want to live in tiny houses as well as those who would only live there part of the year.

Several senior arts colonies already operate in California, developed by Los Angeles-based Meta Housing and EngAge, a non-profit dedicated to providing arts, wellness and life-long learning programs for seniors. The Burbank Senior Artists Colony features an on-site professional theater and also offers classes in “every art under the sun — fine arts, painting, drawing sculpture, performing arts, poetry and drama, writing, literature,” according to the developer. 

Twenty or more years ago, my friends and I fantasized about forming our own Golden Girls-style retirement home where each person would have her own private space and the opportunity to share some spaces with like-minded others. Now, it seems, that may become the norm. Isn’t it obvious that the people we live with should have more in common than age?

I May Have Found My New Place

In Auntie Flat, creativity, Denver, Home, small houses on May 16, 2011 at 11:17 am

It isn’t exactly what I envisioned. First, it’s outside Denver, close (but not walking distance) to the shops, restaurants and library in Olde Town Arvada. Originally a two-bedroom condo, a wall was removed to open the second bedroom to the living room. This suits me fine. I don’t have or want to have guests stay over. Just the thought of being around someone else 24/7 gives me the willies.
I work at home, so I need a bigger living room to accommodate my studio. My work is so integrated into my life that I don’t like having it segregated into a separate room. This room has a cathedral ceiling and two skylights, which makes it the perfect space to spend my time.
The kitchen is small and open to the common room (my term for the combined living room/studio). The bedroom has both a walk-in closet and a linen closet. It’s been 25 years since I had a walk-in closet and I’ve never had a linen closet, but both were on my “want list.” The bathroom has a large oval tub, perfect for a bath lover like me, and a closet laundry.
There is also an enclosed porch with more storage. At 728 square feet, it’s bigger than I thought I wanted, but will still require me to get rid of a ton or so of excess STUFF. I’m working on it.
There’s no garage, but plenty of parking and pretty, well-maintained grounds, next to three tiny lakes and a little park.
The main drawback is that the current owner is a smoker and the place reeks of smoke. I grew up in a house with two parents who smoked, and I keep wondering if our house smelled like that. Ick.
If I buy this condo, I’ll rip out the carpet, install hardwood floors, and paint, which will go a long way toward getting rid of the odor.
And no, I haven’t made an offer yet (it’s complicated—I’ll explain in my next post), so I may lose it. I’m philosophical about that. If I lose it, I’ll find a better one. Meanwhile, I’m having fun making lists of everything I’d like to do to the place and rearranging furniture on paper.

A Little Jewel Box, A Cool Building, A Great Neighborhood

In Auntie Flat, creativity, Denver, Home, small houses on April 11, 2011 at 6:25 am

This could be called “The Return of the Auntie Flat” (See my previous posts on this topic.) Although that project fell through last fall, I never really gave up my dream of a little house for the next phase of my life. After living here 24 years, I’m ready to sell my house and find a new place. I dread the thought of packing up and moving, but my house has become more than I can handle—not that it’s too big; it’s only 900 square feet, although that is more than I need. The main problem is that the house is 121 years old and requires ongoing maintenance that I just can’t do. Also, I’m no longer interested in doing yard work and my neighbors deserve better.

So, I’m looking for a little jewel box in a cool building and a great neighborhood. Is that asking too much? My initial scouting of the Denver market has convinced me that I should be able to find what I want with persistence, patience, and a little help from my friends.

Here’s where you come in. If you know of anyplace interesting, please let me know. My wish list follows:

A Little Jewel Box

I’m looking for a modern loft with about 600 square feet. I’d like a large, open space, but a one-bedroom is okay. I prefer hardwood or tile floors; a small, updated kitchen (with a dishwasher, which I have done without for 24 years); some outdoor space; a tub and shower in the bathroom; laundry facilities in the unit; and a garage.

A Cool Building

Ideally, this would be a condo in a building converted from a nonresidential use, such as a church, schoolhouse, library, storefront, or warehouse.

A Great Neighborhood

After living all my adult life in the inner city, I think a real neighborhood includes a neighborhood business district, with nearby parks, shops and restaurants. Of course, ideally, I’d like to stay in Highland neighborhood, but other possible areas are near the Tennyson Street shops, the shops on Old South Pearl or South Gaylord, or Olde Town Arvada.

Just in case there is anything to the Law of Attraction, I’m keeping this image in my mind. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with it as you will see in forthcoming posts.

Summer Camp for Build-it-Yourselfers

In Home, Learning, small houses on February 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

I’ve had a fantasy all my life of building my own house. Over the years, I’ve read several books written by people who have actually done that. To make that fantasy come true, these people/organizations offer design/build workshops, which would be an excellent way to spend a summer vacation:

Those who want to seriously downsize can learn to build a tiny house at one of the workshops offered around the country by Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. Check out the schedule here.

Learn to build a yurt at a Vermont workshop.

If your taste runs to alternative building materials, you can learn about building an earthbag, cob, or straw bale house here.

Finally, one of the original design/build schools is Yestermorrow in Warren, Vermont, which offers over 150 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft including a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design and green building. Yestermorrow teaches both design and construction skills in 1-day to 3-week hands-on courses are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country.

Happy building.