Saturday, December 21, 2013

Septic System

Tank should be about 8x12 feet.

 Note that the inlet for black water and gray water should be higher than the "T" pipes in the other two overflows.  The "T: should have several inches of pipe top and bottom to raise the top above the water level and to keep floating scum out of the outlet tubes.

Septic systems can be heavily regulated in much of the country.  You may end up doing a system of your own and later being required to remove or replace it with a different system.  One way of avoiding this is to make it according to proscribed designs for your area and soils test. 
This particular one could equally easily be done with two huge plastic containers.  There are similar self contained plastic systems that are easy to install yourself. 
Septic systems are no great mystery.  There is nothing stopping you from building or installing your own.  In a regulated area, you just need to meet the basic requirements set out in the codes in your town or state.  Pay someone to come to your house to do a design for you.  Then do it yourself.
There will be plenty of digging, but most people can handle that either by hand or by using rented equipment.  Most of the parts are available in home centers, and the only problem is transportation.
Always do more than is required.  The point of doing these things for yourself is not to Beat "THE MAN", but to save money and be self reliant. 
With self reliance, comes responsibility.  Codes are usually in place for a them, or exceed them, even if you use a different approach.
Protect your land, your community, the greater environment and your health. 
There are commercially available systems available that look for all the world like the Yellow Submarine in the Beatles' film.  Just carry it in and bury it.  There are usually big plastic Dry Wells to distribute the treated water into the soil.      
Alternatives are:

 1. French Drains.:

Long trenches are dug.  Filled in partially with rocks and coarse gravel.  Perforated PVC pipes are laid into the top of the gravel.  An impermeable sheet of some sort is laid over the pipe so that soil and other particles do not sift into the perforated pipe and block them.  Then they are attached to your final overflow pipe and buried.

2. Huge Dry wells:

 are buried after attaching to the final overflow from the tanks.  When they are buried, they are often filled with rocks.

3. Reed beds:

These can be wonderful, and are installed all over the world, but they come with risks.  As the water is released onto the surface of the soil into beds of water loving plants, maintaining the beds puts you in direct contact with the plants and the water.  Infections of all sorts are possible.  How do your keep small children away from them, or pets for that matter.

The system above:

Build this yourself in areas where it would be impossible to carry in huge tanks etc.  This could even be put directly under an outhouse that has water and a true toilet.  Just put the outhouse right on top of the first tank, install a concrete floor with a hole and mounting hardware in it, and install a toilet over the hole just like in a house. Either pipe water into the house for summer, or in warm weather areas of the country, or carry a pitcher of flushing water to the toilet in the winter.  A small amount of bio safe  antifreeze would be needed  in the water that is sitting there when unused.  Also, heat from the decomposition may keep it warm enough.  Trial and error will have to lead you.  Flush twice, once to get rid of the antifreeze(environmentally safe only, for trailers), and the second to get rid of the waste.  There are also units made commercially that only have a well with a trap door to drop the waste out the bottom or simple open bottom toilets like you see in government parks etc..  You still need water for the septic system to work, so dump in a pitcher of water, washing the inside of the chute as you do.

Gray water is usually introduced into the second chamber.  Remember to use only environmentally safe shampoo, soap, detergents etc. for all your washing and cleaning.  Whatever you use, is being dumped into your land!
 Whatever you use for a system. try planting nitrogen and other fertilizer craving plants all around the area where you are draining your water.  Fruit trees(as long as there is no direct contact with the water on the surface) Peonies, ground covers...etc...just be certain that they do not have invasive roots.  You just need Heavy Feeders.  No root crops please!  Plants with big, dark green leaves love nitrogen!  Roses also come to mind.  Phosphorus may be absorbed by the soil.

Note that French drains or leach fields are typically laid out in a trident pattern.  The pipe from the septic usually enters a distribution box.  This is usually a concrete cube with four holes in the four sides.  One, higher than the rest, receives the fluid.  The other three holes lead to the right, left and forward.  Pipes from the right and left usually turn at right angles after a few feet, to run parallel with the middle one.  The ends of the perforated pipes are capped, and the water filters into the drain trenches.  If the soil is clay, it may not drain properly.  Always test the soil.  Dig a few test pits all over the area to be used.  Pour in several gallons of water and observe the drainage of the water.  Doesn't drain?...not a good place for a drain field.

Heavy metals are always a concern in any septic system.  Recycle anything that may contain these, and watch out for foods that may contain them.  Never flush anything that contains heavy metals, and recycle batteries etc., instead of discarding them on your land.  Tuna and other ocean fish comes to mind.  It is possible that these heavy metals may be taken up by food crops.  Be especially careful with children in the area as they are affected more than adults by such things as mercury.

Above all, be mindful of local wells, not just yours.  Putting systems like this down hill from wells, especially dug wells, is a good plan, and keep them as far away as possible.  Consult local experts about well contamination and the flow of water into local wells.  Very deep wells may be using water that is centuries old in layers of deep rock, but they may also be fed directly by surface water through cracks in the bedrock.

Remember that animals have been crapping on your land for eons.  The land is still OK.  The big difference is that we are concentrating our waste in one area as we do not move around, and we use chemicals in our waste water.  Take reasonable precautions, and you may do no more harm to the land than those animals.

Composting waste is a good alternative if you have no other choice, but this does not remove chemicals....

Pump out septic tanks regularly, and keep them well supplied with bacterial cultures that will digest the solids.  There is usually a greasy scum layer on the top of the water in the septic tank.  This is good to be pumped away from your land regularly.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Dial M for Murder"

File:Dial M.jpg
Many thanks to Wikipedia for this image.  A good source of information, and a good cause to support financially and to contribute to with your writing and editorial skills.

In general, if you have never seen this Hitchcock classic, you must.  Secondly though, I watch it over and over, trying to figure out the layout of the apartment, that is almost the only location you see in the entire movie.  Must have been a cheap production except for her red dress.
I keep counting the steps that the actors make to determine distance.  I estimate the size of the furnishings, but then give up because classic English furniture can be so different in scale from ours in the "States".
There is one long room in the movie.  There is a rather monumental fireplace at one end with a door to the bedroom on the left side of it, and a large alcove for a highboy on the other.
On the other end of the room is a huge bay of French doors to the garden.  They form a large bay that is curtained with heavy olive green velvet drapes. 
The third(long) wall has a couple of built in book cases.
The fourth(long) wall has(from left to right) the door to the kitchen(which we never see much of), that could not be large, as it is behind the entry hall stairs...then there is a blank area with a bar/console is the entry door...a second blank wall has a console table. 
There are several distinct areas for living.  Along the entry door wall there are only the console tables, but the area serves as a hallway from one end of the room to the other, though open to the room in all ways.
Facing the fireplace wall is a sofa with a sofa table behind it and a coffee table in front of it.  Two comfortable chairs flank the fireplace.
There is an empty area next, which is where they set up a breakfast or dining table as needed. They would probably store it against the wall with the bookcases.
A desk stands in the bay of French doors, facing the rest of the room.
We never see the bathroom, but it is off the bedroom, behind the alcove to the right of the fireplace.
The bedroom is not large, but it has a square bay of windows along one wall, facing the street.
The entire apartment is a small space, but it has fabulous(Adam) period woodwork, high ceilings, and is very elegant despite its small dimensions.
The best I can do in this case is to adapt the size to modern furniture, and guess at the dimensions from there.
The room could have windows where the console tables are, but wall space is minimal in a small house, so, best to use the space for a couple of nice paintings.  To make up for the lack of windows, this might be an ideal opportunity to put in a fabulous beveled glass door, or a French long as you are not in the habit of running around in naught but your skin.
I will try to do a floor plan.
With just the most basic measurements, I would guess that the room could be about 18 by 24 feet.  the bedroom is only wide enough for the door swing, two twin beds, a bedside table, and a wall about the same as the door swing wide....perhaps 14 feet at the most, by 11, and the bath would just fit into the 6 feet left over in the width of the main room.
That would only leave a little galley kitchen of perhaps 8 by 10. 
That only leaves the bay window of the living area to figure in. 
It may total only about 720 square feet of interior space, not including the bay window.  Certainly even adding in the wall thicknesses and closets, you could squeeze the entire space into a 1000 square foot building....that just qualifies as a small house.
I have done a floor plan.  The dimensions will not be there, and I have not put in the little bump outs in the walls that seem to make no sense. (They probably facilitate removal of sections of the wall for filming.) It is just a general idea about how the house works.  I am thinking that it would make more sense symmetrically to reverse the bedroom and put the bath on the front of the apartment/house to balance off the kitchen.  That leaves a little entry courtyard, and the north wall blank to save energy.  These changes are only my own invention, of course, but I am not putting this post in to make a slavish copy, but to use the best parts of the subject to make a good house for you.
Another alternative would be to put a galley kitchen and bath along the bookcase wall, perhaps only five feet wide, to square off the building a bit and leave the north side utilitarian and insulating the main room from the north weather.
The fabulous detail work at the top of the walls in the room can be easily replicated by looking for LINCRUSTA.  This is a linoleum like sheet that simulates carving or plaster work.  The extreme height of the room makes it appear very large.  In this case it was probably to facilitate dramatic camera work in the movie, but in a reasonable climate, or somewhere where the heating bills are not important, a high ceiling is a wonderful space maker.
Still another option would be to put a staircase behind the fireplace and make upstairs sleeping lofts or bedrooms....not too practical for the rooms, as the house would look like it was about to fall over on its side, but a loft would be good as would a storage space.
Please give me a break on this, I just finally decided to make a quick sketch of this and stop beating myself up about the dimensions and the size of the furniture.  This was a ten minute sketch.  It took more time to scan it in than to draw it.  Watch the movie and understand my alterations.  Also, add a good sized coffee table in front of the sofa...whoops!
Using 2x6x10 for framing the walls of this or any building will give a sense of space that you will not have with shorter walls.  Having your walls framed very high also allows you to attach shed roof additions without the ceilings becoming very low at the eaves. 
Make sure you draw a scale picture of your house and look at it critically, so it does not end up looking like Rapunzel's tower from the outside. 

Alcove Kitchen and Bath

One great problem with fitting in a kitchen or bath to tiny spaces, is the physical space that a room takes out of your house.  Consider taking a single wall of the house...perhaps the one toward the street, the north side or the side with the ugly view...and devote it to shelving systems, closets and alcoves, for beds, as discussed elsewhere, or for your kitchen or bath.  Frame alcoves like any closet.  Make them blend into the wall or make them a beautifully framed focal point with fabulous woodwork.  You could even cover the whole wall with drapes that open at the mid points of the alcoves.  This also deadens sound from inside and out.  You could go so far as to bedeck the spaces with beautiful columns and arches.
The point of one of these small spaces is that you are likely to live alone, as a couple or as a small and intimate family.  So, having a bath that is exposed to the room while in use would not be a big issue.  Guests may have second thoughts though...but think of the water you will save if guests refuse to bathe while visiting.

Get a nice ball and claw tub and put it into a closet with the long side toward the opening.

Put your kitchen counter and appliances along the outside house wall in one of the closets.

Another alcove might hide your toilet, turned sideways to save room if the closets are not deep.

 A beautiful pedestal sink with cabinets, shelves or drawers on either side wall inside a closet would give you beauty as well as plenty of storage.

Beautiful Vertical Siding

Ideally one would use cedar for siding, but if necessary many woods will work if they are properly maintained.  Good quality oils will preserve unpainted siding.  a good coat of paint will be very nice in this case, because you flatten the color and end up with nice shadow lines on the wall. You could also thin oil base white paint or primer with oil to wash and whiten the wood while preserving it.  There are oils that are made to weather to a nice gray as well.

In this case, a wall sheathing should go on the studs.  When doing a plank wall, such as board and batten, there is little aid from the siding to keep the house from  wobbling in the wind.  The broad sheets of sheathing act like a corner brace.

Once the sheets of sheathing are on, use milled boards of a decent width(approximately twice the size of the second layer boards) so that you have a nice rhythm to the siding rather than wide and narrow or some irregular pattern.  So, if the final boards will be approximately 8 inches wide, you would want the milled first layer to be about 16 inches or perhaps a little wider.
Nail the first layer boards up along the edges of the boards, into the sheathing, but make sure you also hit the top and sill plates with the nails.  Oil or stain the first layer if that is your ultimate finish.
Now rent or buy a portable sawmill,  Rip logs into 1 inch planks with raw, live or irregular edges on both sides. 
Nail these planks up over the first layer, leaving large gaps between them so that the first layer is about half exposed.  Nail up the boards so that the slope of the live edges is wider against the inner boards.
Finish the outer layer boards to complete the job.  Remember that boards expand and contract with the weather.  You may wish to nail along only one side of the first layer if the boards are wide.  This is fine if they are well secured.  You may wish to screw them on.  The second layer boards would be especially good nailed in the middle so that the fasteners hit the gap between the boards of  the first layer.  This would allow the boards of both layers to expand and contract at will.
Very wide first layer boards may benefit from a half inch or more gap between them, or even more.  You could even SHIP LAP the edges of the boards, so that no gap appears between them.  Obviously they will not show, but air gaps will be lessened.  When doing this, you must make sure that the second layer is nailed into the NON MOVING edge of the first layer boards as there will be no gap between boards to nail into.   

Monday, November 11, 2013

Up, or Out?

There are problems associated with both tall buildings and low, spread out buildings.
A ranch is nice but you have to build a huge foundation to get a lot of square footage in the house.  Invariably it becomes harder to keep piers level over a larger area.   It is always a big investment to put in a full foundation, and a single story home means that the foundation will be a very large expense. 
A two or three story house requires a really good foundation because of all the added weight, but it does not need to be nearly as large a foundation if the square footage on each floor is small.  If you divide the square footage over two floors, you save about 40% on your foundation costs, clearing of the area etc.
On the other hand, the extra money spent might be worth it to you if you are older, and anticipate problems with climbing stairs.    

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Interior Finishes


We will set aside the fact that stone is very heavy for the moment.  It is hard to transport if you are in a remote place, and will be unrealistic if your home is mobile...up goes the gas consumption.
Stone always has a natural grain, a crystalline structure which is very weak in most cases.  It takes practically no flexing at all to crack stone, even the strongest.  Stone will take tons and tons of pressure that is evenly applied with good support, but it does not like to flex at all.  That means that it is absolutely unsuitable for a mobile house.  The jiggling and swaying in even the most carefully reinforced structure will ruin the stone on countertops, walls and floors in no time flat.  In a house on piers, you have a similar problem.  Any area that has stone resting on it must be absolutely stable and inflexible.  Often, the bridge between piers will sag a bit.  This tiny amount of sagging can also crack stone.  You must really reinforce any area that has stone resting on it.  One way to get stone in an area that will flex is to use tiny tiles cut from stone.  The grout between them will suffer, but that can be repaired easily.  Some stone is installed without grout, as the pieces are butted together and the gap will slide past its neighbor.  Still, large pieces will crack if the support is not perfect.
A house with a full perimeter foundation and good floor supports is usually OK...however, if you can jump up and down and notice any flexing at all in the floors, Do not use stone.


Corian is the one we all associate with this species of finish material.  It will burn, but can be sanded to remove this and other marks.  There are tons of other, more recent additions to this genre.  Many will be useful additions to a small home.  More likely to resist cracking in a flexing situation, it is a better choice for mobile applications.  You must consider the weight however.  Take along a piece of plywood and compare the weight to a similar size sample of the solid material and make a careful decision as to the weight in mobile situations.  I think that floors are unrealistic because of scuffing, however, many people use limestone and marble on floors, and those are very soft.  I depends upon whether you are a patina kind of person.  The very first scratch is very alarming.  But over time a network of scratches can be attractive.  Most of these materials have no grain, a much better choice in a mobile house.  Good support is, however, a good idea...JUST IN CASE.


I love good wood.  However, much of the wood that is used in inexpensive moldings is not meant to be seen.  Paint it! 
Many of the small houses on wheels that I see are completely clad in tongue and groove inside.  It can be quite beautiful if the wood is a decent quality, and even more beautiful if it is poor quality, with knots and marks.   It must be uniformly knotted though, and no cracks or checking.  Some of the most beautiful traditional interiors have been done in knotty pine and other similar woods.  Yew is absolutely lovely, but difficult to find.  Pecky Cypress is pretty and can wear like iron.
One thing I do not like about planking the interior of a mobile, or a less than perfectly stable stationary house, is that is squeaks as it moves.  The wood rubbing against its neighbor would be awful to listen to on the road(even if you are not riding in it).  Even in a stable house, wind pushing at your walls will produce a high pitched symphony.
My other pet peeve about wood in a house is the color. Do not get me wrong.  I love the color of wood, but the browns, reds and ambers will just suck the light out of a space!  You have to turn on a million lights in a room to just read a book....But then who reads books these days.
Wood also expands and contracts a lot.  This leaves cracks and joints opening and closing all the time.  This also produces sounds, and can break fasteners like nails over time.
There are two easy ways to conquer the color issue.  One is to paint rough cut wood.  This will still show wood texture, but give you a reflective surface.
Second, and to many preferable, try pickling the wood.  Do not do this to your African or Brazilian hardwoods, but more common woods are a good subject.
  Thin down white primer.  Paint it on to the wood, and after a couple of minutes or less, (experiment with scraps and do it all in one day) wipe it off with a rag.  This will basically stain the wood slightly, and lighten the color, eliminating much of that amber hue that is so bad for light.  Do not use oil based paints inside a house as the fumes can linger virtually forever!
I saw a beautiful application of wood in an interior recently.  Squares of birch veneered plywood(or other wood veneers) were applied over a base of plywood that sheathed the walls completely.  The squares of wood were cut diagonally to the grain.  The grain went from corner to corner.   A clear finish was put on the squares, and they were mounted on the wall that had been stained darker.  The direction of the grain went in opposite directions in a checkerboard pattern.  No color differences, but the different directions made the pattern.  Very pretty.  There was a one or two inch gap between the squares to form a recess and contrasting line like tile grout.


I like tile, but it does not like to bend!  It needs perfect support.  In a mobile or less than perfectly supported stationary situation, consider weight first, then consider the fact that even the tiniest flex in a tile can crack it.  To battle this problem, use small tiles and repair grout as needed.  Larger tiles can be a real problem! 
Always use porcelain or other very high fired tiles for places that will get wear.  Earthen wear or terra cotta. will scar and scratch, and just when you seal it; it will crack or chip on you.  Lovely but impractical.  Also, Terra Cotta is thick...and heavy as a result.
Never use pale or white grout.  Even if you use a sealer, you will eventually get tired of sealing.  You may just forget once.  Grout getting around it.
Start with colored or better yet, dirt colored grout.  This will drive some of your color choices.
Also, grout can hold smells and mold and mildew.  Damp situations must be sealed all the time, and cleaned often.


Stone and tile, and any other polished surface can be very slippery, especially with snow on it!  Also, if you drop some thing on it...IT WILL BREAK.


.Carpet absorbs sound.  This is a good attribute for a small space and even in a large echoing space.  Walls, floors and ceilings can be good subjects for carpet. 
It does hold dirt, and bacteria... can be hard to keep in top condition, especially in a space that gets tons of a small space.  Try carpet tiles. Lift and replace them as needed.  Think about dry laying carpet instead of gluing or stretching it in a room. 
Buy, great carpet.  It cannot be terribly expensive in small pieces or remnants.  Commercial grades are best.  Short pile that will not mash down.  Avoid Berbers, and light colors.  My navy blue commercial carpet may not be fashionable, with its tiny sprig pattern, but when I vacuum it, it looks the same as the day I had it installed!  My back room has carpet that was installed before we bought the house.  It is a plush.   It crushes and gets dirty and the tan color looks dirty all the time....not a good choice, especially in a high traffic has paths in it.  Who has room for a vacuum in a tiny house?
Think about good oriental carpets with non skid matts under them.  Do not use padding under Orientals or put them over carpet.  It will break the weave of the Oriental.


Plywood and panels of bead-board are good for stability but awfully cheap looking.  The large unbroken expanse of the finish will keep out more drafts though.  They help to keep the diagonals of a wall or other surface from moving in the diagonal.  To help the look of plywood, try laying and clamping long straight boards onto the surface, and use them as cutting guides for your skill saw or router to make shallow grooves in decorative patterns.  Do not try to do this to mimic planks, though,  The grain continues through the area and makes it unbelievable.  Try squares or diamonds to give interest to the surface.  You can pickle the alternating squares or diamonds, stain them different colors, or alternate matt and glossy finishes.  Also check out the pickling technique I described under wood above.
Plaster or gypsum board is not a good idea in mobile houses.  It is too fragile, seams pull apart...It is best to forget it.  In a stationary house, though, you get broad smooth surfaces, color it any way you like, keep out drafts, just avoid it in damp situations, kitchens and baths, unless you use a water resistant variety.
Large sheets of stainless steel, sometimes quilted and texturized are commonly used in automotive situations, and are a good idea for very Spartan modern looks and in damp spaces.  Steel is a little hard to maintain.  Ask someone who has Stainless Steel for appliances.

The Stillman barn and Elsie.


My sister harvested a lot of boards from the Stillman barn, across the road from the family home in Maine.  She used the weathered gray boards on one wall of her living-room and mounted shelves, here and there, using wrought or cast iron wall brackets.  She had trailing plants growing on the shelves...very pretty.
You could easily do the same.  If barn boards are not your thing or not available, you can sometimes find rough sawn boards, sometimes random widths.  Simply give them s light coarse hand...and when you have removed all the little splinters, nail them to the wall.  Paint the wall behind the cracks to match the wood or paint you plan to use on them. 
You can have them ship lapped.  A rabbet is cut on the edges of the boards, and they overlap slightly to cover the wall surface below.
If you do not like the cracks, you can put strips of wood over the cracks and nail through to the wall between the boards.  Planks will shrink and swell with the weather, so this covers the changing cracks.  You can buy Astragal molding to cover the cracks, as well, though this would be expensive.

Using planks on a floor can be great.  You may wish to ship lap them as above, or cut grooves in the edges and fit a thin piece of wood inside the grooves to fill the gaps(splines).
One issue is whether to paint, or varnish.  Remember that paint scratches and wears off.  I rather like this, but it can be alarming when the first scratch appears.
Varnishing planks for the floor forms a hard surface, like candy on a candy apple.  This is good for dusting etc., but what do you do when the first woman in stiletto heels shows up and punctures the surface?  Invite only extremely light women to the house.
Unfinished planking is nice, but it stains.  Not a real problem if you like area rugs.


I could not resist this picture of a tiny house in Eureka Springs. Thank you Wikipedia

File:Tiny house .jpg

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inexpensive Properties

I know that this post is rather time sensitive, so I hope that I will be able to delete it when the economic downturn is over...if ever.
 I was just reading an article on Yahoo about houses under $5000.00.  Most of those listed were in Detroit.  I know that it is always a gamble buying in a city that is having the issues that Detroit is experiencing, but it seems to me that if there are people who do not depend on services too heavily, and just need a place to live, such as a retired couple etc..  It would be worthwhile to buy in Detroit or some similar area.  If I paid $1500.00 for a house, I would be able to retire today.
I would also look in my home area of Aroostook County in Maine.  It is very remote from the big cities and cold in the winter, but it is getting is on the edge of bigger civilization in Canada( a few hours from Quebec City and a few more from Montreal.  New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are very close and have many French speaking as well as English speaking areas)...the houses and land are cheap.  The Summers are absolutely delightful!  They are temperate.  There are tons of lakes and streams.  The area may not be a cultural hotspot, but the people are warm and friendly, and there are services and hospitals etc.  There is a big Snowmobile culture there, and plenty of fishing and hunting in season. 
My sister and her husband(born in the 1930s and 1940) live nearby, and they weather the winters with ease, burning wood in their woodstove, reading all winter and watching the birds and wildlife from their armchairs by the French doors.  There are plenty of black flies and mosquitoes to be the wooded areas.   But, in the towns, they are not a problem, and I have more problems with them in Massachusetts than I ever had there.  Mid-summer is relatively bug free. 
There are plenty of rural areas all over the country with similar attributes, that would be excellent places to retire quietly.
Contact my old classmate, John Randall, in Houlton, Maine to inquire about local properties or take a look at for properties anywhere.  I think he is at First Choice Real Estate.  A very nice guy.  Tell him I sent you!!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Gallery of Old Small Houses.

Please excuse the quality of the photos and the crazy angles they seem to be at.  Many are on a rather busy streets in Massachusetts, and it is hard to get a photo without rushing.

Second Empire design motifs have been added to a Mid 19th century Cape house.  Somewhat similar to Mansart design that started in France.  Is that a slate roof?  How beautiful.  Updates of this type occur from 1855-1890 in the United States.
Again, people call this a Mansard or Mansart roof.  The style is Second Empire, but any name you want to put on it, there is a lot more room upstairs with this kind of roof.  This house is not tiny, but it would translate nicely into a tiny house, keeping the exact proportions but smaller.  This is a more unified design, probably built with that roof on it.  Notice how high the walls are.  It is of the correct period.  I did not have time to stop and take a good look, but I guess the roof is slate or a look alike.

 Here we have a gate house at one of the Mansions in Newport Rhode Island.  Definite Second Empire influences, and tiny, especially by Newport standards.  There is an addition on the back, which gives it the illusion of size, but look at it without, it is just one room on either side of a hall.  The bay window is a good device to add visual size inside.  I am sorry it is so hard to see, but on the far right is a bay that is semicircular.

 Mock Tudor, kind of like Mock Turtle  Two views of a gatehouse and or caretaker's cottage in Newport Rhode Island.  This is not tiny, but you can see that any small piece of this might be used as a complete building.  Just wanted to show the roof and half timber possibilities.  Of course this IS small by the Newport Mansion standards. 
Again, not tiny, but easily translated to a tiny house.  Newport Rhode Island.  Probably an old caretaker's cottage.
A tiny house in a rather grand setting.  Possibly a caretaker's cottage, though this is not easily associated with one of the grand houses in Newport.  It could be just a "Common Man's house" in Newport, RI..
There is a great deal more to this house from the side, but I suspect that this was the original cottage that was added to.  Look at the lovely trim on the porch.
I do not know if this is really a French cottage or not.  Possibly the name of a person???  It would not be out of place in France, but it could be anywhere.  This is a cottage belonging to Salve Regina University in Newport, RI.
 I seem to be getting a lot of these Second Empire jobs, but there are a lot of them I guess.  This is another gatehouse on a Newport estate.  See the portico at the right.  The other end of the trellis at the left is attached to a very large gate which is fifty yards inside the other gate on Belleview Ave. in Newport, RI..  This one really is small.  It is a pale photo, as it was far from the street ans rather hard to get the image.

This is basically an eighteenth century Cape, but with a gambrel roof.  There will be tons of room in this house despite the small footprint, because there is little wasted room on the second floor.  Note the smallish windows and the windows near to the eaves.  A sign of age.

Here is a somewhat later interpretation of a Cape.  In this time period, the rooms grouped around a main fireplace in the center, were not used.  They added a back ell to the house instead when they needed the room.  There may be a room behind each of the front rooms, but they are smaller than in the colonial period and rather more square Capes.  This is not much wider than the pavilion I have started describing in the "build it posts".

Here is the front of the house above.  Sorry, the light was not right for taking a good picture, it is rather washed out.  The doors are not period, but notice the space above the windows that indicate a later house than the one below.  Probably one room either side of a staircase or stair hall.  Tiny upstairs rooms, but better than it might be because the house is a bit taller from ground to eaves.

Here is an eighteenth century Cape.  Notice the light stripe on the roof.  The lime from the chimney mortar is preserving the shingles.  The top of the windows are touching the eaves, indicating great age, but it does not have that rooted into the ground look that the very earliest Capes have, and unless the chimney has been replaced, it does not have the MASSIVE chimney that the earliest have.  Capes enclose the most space with the smallest exterior surface exposed to the cold.  I would have to do some math to see if the gambrel is better. Notice too, there is not much overhang to the eaves.  The earliest, might not have eaves at all, just a trim board and the overhang of the drip edge of the shingles themselves.
Here is a mid nineteenth century church, presently the Swedenborgian Church in Bath, Maine.  When the United States became a nation, it was thought that this style expressed the republican sentiments of the new government.  Hence this became the preferred style in Washington DC as well as for much of the country for public buildings and private dwellings as well.  This is a very pure example, so I thought I would include it here, in spite of it being a huge building.

Sorry about the bushes hiding some of the front, but I was taken by the apparently untouched facade of this 1850s Greek Revival Cape.  Notice the heavy mouldings and temple like cornices over the door and windows, as well as the mock columns at the corners.  Not a very big house, and could easily be much smaller.  Simple elements make for a strong design statement.  This is a good time to add a note about shutters.  Add shutters to a house that really fit the windows.  They do not have to function, but make sure the size is right so the design makes sense. 

This is one of my favorite Greek revival houses in the area.  What a nice contrast in the colors.
The door will open at the base of a staircase and/or a narrow hall.  To the right will be two parlors, or a parlor and dining room with a large arch between them.  To the left of the back room will be a smaller room, either open to the other or closed off with a door or archway.
Upstairs will be a hall overlooking the staircase and two bedrooms, though there is often a third, the smallest at the top of the stairs.  Some people turn the third into a bathroom.
I fell in love with a smaller version of this house on the island of Southport in Maine, and have loved them ever since.  I don't really know why.  I usually fall for 18th century designs. 
I am sorry that this appears so very gray in this picture.  But then it was a very overcast day and I should be happy I got the picture at all.  This is a very attractive soft green.  It is a smallish house, but not tiny.  The main reason I wanted you to see it is for the shingle pattern and for the brackets over the front door.  There are two different shingle patterns  that give very nice shadow lines in a very subtle way.  Notice too that the sections of the shingles are separated by a trim board at the top, but there is also a pattern change without a separation.  Shingles like this can be outrageously expensive, but you can rip shingles down to a single width, saving the scraps and the narrow shingles to mix into other bundles if you are using them elsewhere on the house.  You could also sell the narrow ones for a reasonable price on line.  Even if you gave them away, I suspect you could save money over buying them precut.  Set up a jig on your saw to cut the ripped shingles repeatedly till you have enough.  It may be time consuming, but look how nice.  This is probably from the last quarter of the 19th century to the first world war at the latest. 

Early 18th century Half Cape.  You can find examples of Full Capes as illustrated elsewhere here, Three Quarter Capes and Quarter Capes all over New England.  The door is later in this Half Cape.  Doors with sidelights and the squared flat cornice were not in early Capes, this one from the mid 18th C.  they may have had a lower door with window panes above to let in light to a dark hall.  In England, most places do not allow Bull's Eye glass panes on the south side of houses.  They act like lenses and start fires from the sun.  Though when you would get sun strong enough to start fires in England is a mystery to me! 

The same Half Cape as above showing additions behind.  Notice the Dust Pan Dormer that brings more light and floor space into cramped upstairs rooms.
This was my day to find odd and unkempt houses to photograph.  Now, just exactly what is going on here.  This half cape with addition has a huge chimney.  It could have been a bigger house that burned down and was rebuilt smaller.  It may have been a real starter home with a chimney for a bigger house that never got built, or it could be a house remodelled from a very VERY early house.  This is not outside the realm of possibility as there are 17th century houses in the area.  It is less than half a mile from the 17th century house pictured two spaces below.  I was sure that I was going to get run down while taking this picture.  One of the great tragedies of old houses in a built up area, is that they were often built on very important routes that in this century have become quite built up and major modern routes.   So many houses are right on the street.  Notice that I could not get a picture fast enough to avoid getting a car in the photo.  The chimney appears even larger from the end of the building. 
 Notice the windows shoved right up under the eaves, and the door right on the corner post of the house.  Very early half capes have these characteristics.  This has a whole string of additions that many people joke about in connection with Maine buildings.  They are often referred to as "Continuous Maine Architecture".  Notice too the tiny window on the gable end to let a little extra light into the room upstairs or to let light into a storage area under the eaves.
 I was frightened to stay too long photographing this one as well.  It has a number of huge additions in the back.  Notice the 17th century date on this.  I don't know if this is really the 17th century facade of the house,  It may have been remodeled or it could have a germ of the early building hidden somewhere inside the fabric of the house.  This is also a gambrel roof.  The two dormers look mid 19th century to me.
 Just a little house in a rather exclusive town in coastal Massachusetts.


 This house was a little summer cottage probably built in the late 19th century, or used as a fisherman's cottage.  It was put onto a more substantial foundation and is now a home that could be used year round, though I believe it is only used in the summer.   It could be much more recent, but I hate tip-toeing up to a person's house and peering at the foundation and interior.  I do not want to scare someone to death.  Lets just say that is a typical history.

 The same house as above.  It is now in a rather exclusive coastal village only a few hundred yards from the water.  It had a water view before the neighborhood "grew up".


Just a tiny Forties or Fifties ranch I found in my travels in Stoughton, Massachusetts.

The same design in different finishes.  How it changes the look!


 This is a not particularly small Greek Revival house.  I snapped this picture as it was a good example of the type.  It is near the water...note the tall windows to catch the summer breezes. It was a design that was made in all sizes, some of which are about half this size, using the exact same design.  There will be a staircase behind that door.  A hall beside it, and a room front and back to the right and a small room behind the stairs. They just added an ell as they needed more room.  Mid 19th century.


 Still early, but a bit later Cape.  Note the lower windows and a smaller chimney.  It was not uncommon to have formal looking corners and clapboards on the front and shingles(sometimes unfinished or soaked in lime) on the sides.

A reproduction cottage in an expensive town on the coast of Massachusetts.  A pretty good illusion, but an old house might have much smaller windows.  Notice the closely lapped clapboards on the front.
This is a tiny cottage in Hingham, Massachusetts.  Not far from the water, I an guessing that it was built in the 1940s sometime.  The entry hall is not any smaller than the kitchen.  I can lie down on the floor in the living room and almost reach from wall to wall.  Very Very small, but perfectly comfortable.  There is an addition to the back of the building shown with two good sized bedrooms and a bath, but it really only needs the one bedroom and bath to be perfectly comfortable for a couple.  If he doesn't snore!  In fact, if the kitchen were in the entry, this would not really need an addition, the center core could easily be the tiny bath, separating the living room from the kitchen.  the deck really makes up for the lack of interior space with tons of outdoor living space.
Is this to die for or what?  This is not a tiny one, but it has so many of the Carpenter Gothic or Gothic Revival characteristics that I had to share it.  Actually, all you really have to have is a couple of mouldings and perhaps a steep roof pitch to give a cottage a Gothic style.  The only thing I would fault this house for is the lack of vertical line, like the Board and Batten siding, and to be really obvious, it might have had a pointier roof line. There is a perfect example of a 
Gothic Cottage in Wiscasset, Maine, but I will have to wait till I have a chance to get a photo.
I just looked over a whole series of copyrighted photos of Gothic cottages.  They were teeny.  Most were little more than two of the 12x12 foot rooms with a center hall that would have led to the upstairs and/or to the back ell if present.  There was a pointy Gothic dormer over the front door as you looked at the broad front of the house.  This was often the only place that Gothic ornament appeared, and it was enough to make the statement.
OK..So it is huge!  My problem is that I have never seen an Italianate cottage in this area.  I know that they exist, but I have never come across one.  The Italianate style has squat lines as a rule. (this one does not really) Often you will see it on somewhat flattened cubes of houses.  In the center of a low roof that rises from all four sides to the top, you find a Cupola or Belvedere covered with brackets and ornamental gingerbread.  The windows are often hooded, as if sheltering the drapes from sun.  Windows are often round topped or round in the gables.  Arches with round tops abound, and of course there is the OH SO COMMON tower...mostly square.  People often confuse them with Gothic because of the gingerbread.  Also, some of the 19th century pattern books show low roofed cottages with Gothic gingerbread, and call them Gothic.
Another gate house in Newport.  This one is another Italianate.
Do not let the rambling appearance deceive you. It is not very big. 
Note hallmarks of the style, the brackets supporting very deep eaves
 and round topped windows.
The Children's playhouse at the Breakers in Newport, RI.  Thanks, Joe for passing this on to me.
There were a couple of these in Houlton Maine, where I grew up. Sometimes there would be one of the smaller gables or the entry with a roof line that extended close to the ground and sometimes they would curve up like it had a wilting "Pageboy".  I always associated these houses with Hansel and Gretyl, fully expecting a witch to come out.  They are a variation of Tudor, this one in brick, but you often find them with Stucco and false timber patterns on the outside.  Sometimes you see siding made of sawn logs that were applied like Clapboards, but the lower edge of each were irregular showing the contours of the tree they were cut from.  This would be a wonderful idea for a small house as well, if I can figure out how to do that, I will describe it in a later post.
Another Tudor Revival house in Brockton Ma..   Not quite so elegant or early a design.

 I took this right in the middle of Hurricane Sandy.  Notice the rather simplified Tudor look, but what about the curved edges of all the roof borders to look a little like thatched rooves in England.  It is a little more effective when done in cedar shingles, which can be steamed to conform to the curves.  You see a lot of this in Santa Monica in California I think...someone correct me if I have this wrong,  They are actually quite famous for this and other very quaint styles of houses.
This is not that small a house, but there are not that many examples of this sort of thing in Massachusetts.
Here is another photo that is not my own.  There are plenty of bungalow style houses in Massachusetts, but I cannot seem to find a good example.  I actually found one in Stoughton, Mass the other day, but by the time I got permission to photograph it, the sun was in the wrong place, and it was all washed out in the photo.  Despite the fact that these are everywhere, they are closely associated with California for some reason.  Probably a popular style when California was in its boom growth period from 1900 to about 1930.  There are a couple of marvelous examples in my home town of Houlton, Maine, but they were quite large.  I had a hard time finding a picture in public domain that was small like this one.  You might notice a similarity with Prairie style houses.  The square columns are common along with shingled and stone solid railings around the porches.  Shingle style would have many similarities, though it started a few years before.  Low angle roof line a rather broad and squat appearance, they often have a hip roof, and the roof might extend over the porch.
here is a less idealized bungalow.  I did not even realize I had two yellow ones till I uploaded....perhaps I have a fixation.  Unfortunately this has had siding(the scourge of good sense) put on it, but the woodwork and shape are what characterizes the style.  This is in Brockton Massachusetts.  Despite its terrible reputation and its mass of run down apartment houses and squalor, you can find almost all styles of houses there.  Like many places, though, people did not want the upkeep, so they often got stripped of anything interesting about them
I suspect that this house is only twice as wide as the house in the building posts we are working on now.  This is not a great looker, but it is cute, small, and apparently very livable.  This is in a nice neighborhood, one of three identical houses(at least when first built) in the town of Easton Massachusetts.  The little ell on the right looks to be only about the size of a garden shed.  I do not know the age here, and there is not specific style.  If I had to guess, I might say late forties, just after the war for returning vets...That is Veterans, not animal doctors.  But it could be anytime really.  this is another one where I would have to examine the construction and the foundation to tell you
This is a pretty terrible house.  I am doing some work with this one in eastern Massachusetts.  It could be quite attractive with care, but it is at present unloved.  This is a bit of a hodge podge of styles.  Notice the Jerkin head roof at the top gable, the projecting siding at the break between the floors, the square room over the bay window,  All good design options.  If I was pressed to name a style, perhaps I would say Shingle style or something related to Queen Anne...late Victorian perhaps, for want of a better name.  These were often painted in earthy tones, Garnet reds, Forest greens etc.  Very natural.  Some would have been mail order from Sears.  Notice how silly the shutters look.  Too short for the replacement windows, and they would certainly not close over the windows if on hinges.
Little town houses  have plenty of room with two bedrooms at just about 500 square feet total living space on two levels.  without wasted hall space it would feel quite large.  Creative design would eliminate space wasted by halls and dead corners.
I am guessing 20x20, but unless I sneak up in the night we will never know for sure.  This is probably mid 20th century.  Even if I error by a foot or so, It is still smaller than my living room.  I have often thought I could be content with a house the size of my living room, and it would be doubly nice if I had a sleeping loft.
Here is a dugout in the 1940s, lined with logs and walls built up from ground level...Good for dry climates but I cannot imagine a wet spell in this.  Not terribly large, but look at the kids being raised in it.  Library of Congress color slides.
Probably just a few years old, but look how small.  There is an ell on the back, perhaps 12x 12.  They run a business on the property.  The business is probably three times the size of the house.  Not quite the same as when you see a tiny house with an enormous garage attached!
This is not a particularly old house, but terminally cute.  I think that the main house is probably only about 12 feet deep, and perhaps 14 or 16 feet wide facing the street.  It is not in a very expensive town in Massachusetts, but perhaps a mid to upper level town, and in a rather nice neighborhood.  An awfully good way to get into a house where the values are high.  By the way, this is absolutely the worst way to attach two buildings to each other.  I assume they tried to avoid roof work by doing this, but as it is, there is a joint between them that will tend to collect debris and water.
This is so cute.  It is set back a little from the street, and you really do not get a sense of how small this really is.  I think that the truck is longer than the side of the house.  I paced it off at approximately 18x23...very strange measurements at best.  This would work out like most construction at multiples of 4 for the least waste or cutting up of sheet goods.  I suspect that this was not built in the time of plywood, so flexibility was there.  This would be better then at 16 or 20 by 24 for the least waste or fewer cuts of sheet goods.  A tiny house with a huge Doberman in it!   The buildings are not attached at the back. 

I am not going to show this house to you in detail, it is a wreck that I have begun work on for a bank...God help me!
This is the Adirondack siding that will be discussed in detail in posts about the exterior of the house.  this was built in the 30s to late 40s when there was tremendous interest in The West and country lifestyles.
Please see more on this tiny ticket booth and gift shop at Blthewold Mansion in Bristol, Rhode Island in the post closer to the new part of the blog. Of course this is new, but the spirit is old.