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Martins Tiny House Diary

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Use links below to jump around Martin’s Tiny House Diary:

Martin’s Tiny House Tin Roof Redux

“Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do. Bad manners are better than no manners at all, and because we are losing our customary manners, we are probably overly conscious of them; this seems to be a condition that produces writers.”
Flannery O’Connor

As noted in “Roof Rehab” my people are from the south. “When she says ‘Yankees’ it’s not a good thing is it,” my now ex-wife asked after my Aunt Mary said, “Yankees” dripping with so much sweetness Janet knew something was wrong. Imagine she is slapping you across the face as hard as she can each time she says “Yankees” I explained.

Faulkner and F. Scott have nothing on my southern gothic family. J. D. Vance’s masterful Hillbilly Elegy is on my reading list. Moving my mother from her Greenville, Kentucky home brought O’Connor’s “death of manners” to the front. Mom would almost rather die than complain about secret “dirty” health problems. Having grown up in Connecticut, not Kentucky, such an idea is beyond absurd.

Fight, claw, and battle damn the manners torpedoes and full speed ahead is the just outside New York City culture I know. Exposed to the “genteel” south during a summer at my father’s boarding school, McCallie in Chattanooga, Tennessee and short visits with granddaddy Martin left me glad to be home in the land of preppies and beemers.

The Call of the South

When it was time to leave corporate America, the south’s call was strong and undeniable. Dallas, Texas was home until eleven. My father’s company was purchased by Merrill Lynch and packed the Lincoln and headed to Greenwich. The Lincoln didn’t last long on the winding 1776 continental army roads around Greenwich or dad’s daily commute at four in the morning to Wall Street or its environs.

Greenwich then was different than Greenwich now. The house at 65 Overlook Drive, my parents purchased for less than a hundred thousand was just put on the market for almost two million. Proximity to New York City may have made Greenwich’s explosion inevitable, but the legends shared on You Know Your From Greenwich If Facebook riffs create an elegy too.

Today, watching my metal roof get tacked down I thought of my Greenwich elegy and my mothers Greenville passing. Time moves. Soon the rain will make a distinct sound and calls from my southern roots will have a “tiny” home.

Martin's Tiny House - The Lowe's Longitude image

Martin’s Tiny House – The Lowe’s Longitude

If you are contemplating buying appliances in a Lowe’s store don’t. Buying appliances online make more sense these days. While I’m somewhat sad to type that last sentence here’s why:

  • Legacy Systems
  • Better Tracking
  • Same or Better Pricing (with some few exceptions)
  • More Control

Loew’s Longitude – Legacy Systems

I placed my first Martin’s Tiny House appliance order at a Lowe’s near my house in Durham. BIG MISTAKE. If you disregard my advice and do buy in a store, buy from the closest store to WHERE YOU ARE SHIPPING. The Lowe’s store on Fayetteville Road in Durham, North Carolina didn’t have a great desire to sell or ship my appliances.

When my brother Drew’s new appliances got delivered with little wait and no hassle I drove to the Lowe’s store in Mebane, North Carolina (closest store to where I’m shipping my appliances because I’m building on my brother’s back 5 acres). They were helpful, happy to order the same group of Samsung appliances as my brother purchased and even gave me options for delivery.

The Durham store never gave me delivery dates, but they did call and let me know how long it would be before my refrigerator arrived – until after I’m hoping to be in the house. Not so easy to cancel my original order. Canceling required going back to the unhelpful team at the Lowe’s store in Durham. If they only begrudgingly were willing to sell how do you think they felt about canceling and crediting my order?

The lesson is simple – buy from the store nearest your shipping location if you disregard the main advice shared here and insist on the face-to-face contact buying in a store provides.

The Lowe’s Longitude – Better Tracking

Watch what happens when you buy appliances in Lowe’s. The clerk types in your products’ Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), finds your kitchen gear and creates an order. In other words, they do the same things you do easier and with more control online. But there’s a rub.

The Lowe’s store is typing into the backend of what is an OLD legacy system. The web service you’ll use online can’t be as old as those dumb terminals connected via COBOL or something equally musty to the big Lowe’s database in the sky. When you place your order online, you’ll receive email confirmations you can understand instead of a foot long receipt that is impossible to decipher.

When you order online you’ll see the accessories you need to buy – and therein lies another warning. Appliances makers keep prices down by forcing you to buy cords and hoses you’d think would be part of your purchase of a $2,000 refrigerator. No such luck. Be aware of your need to buy cords, hoods, and hoses to make your appliances work.

The Lowe’s Longitude – Better Pricing

Lowe’s and Home Despot have less channel conflict than other retailers. Channel conflict is when there is pricing online you can’t get at the store or vice versa. Online it is easy to check Retail Me Not or other promo code providers for better deals. In the store, you are limited to what you see or surf on your smartphone.

Stores are marginally better at rebates and credit cards. When I applied for the Lowe’s card, they wanted 25% APR! The mafia guy on the corner has better rates. I declined the card and will have Barnes and Noble gift certificates for years as a result (who reads books anymore?). Pricing is all over the place. I received a $400 gift card voucher, a Xerox of a laser printed sheet, in the store I wouldn’t have heard about online.

And here’s the funny part. The team in the store told me it is easier to receive the gift card online. Prices are arbitrage these days – they frequently change and for no apparent reason. I’d rather shop online where it is easier to check price arbitrage than in a store where the price is the price is the price.

The Lowe’s Longitude – Control

The experience of driving back to the Durham Lowe’s, using that foot-long receipt, and being treated like dirt was an easy one to pass up. Next time I’ll buy online.  Online control or at least the perception of control is greater. If I’m going to be doing the same thing as the clerk then my doing it reduces the chance for “interpretation” errors.

I trust my mouse and clicks more than anything on that moldy Lowe’s backend. The in-store system must catch up to the web or Lowe’s will look out-of-step and why screw your people? The Lowe’s backend may represent a bigger trend – brick and mortar stores are becoming showrooms for online orders. After Amazon gets finished with Whole Foods, I suspect our phones will be as powerful as a grocery clerk reorder gizmo.

Same is true for Lowe’s and other big-box retailers. Soon we’ll use our phones to shoot, click, and buy. In-store personnel will help with information since time spent stocking shelves will be eliminated. We’ll talk to a knowledgeable resource before using our smartphones in-store to shot, click, and buy. If that sounds like heaven, we bet it’s coming faster than you think or can imagine. Let’s hope so and don’t buy your appliances in-store jump the trend and buy online.

And You?

I suspect many of these issues are common to Home Depot. What about you? Have you had similar experiences buying appliances in a big-box store? Share your thoughts, ideas, and experience and I’ll include in Martin’s Tiny House Diary.

Tiny House Diary – June 23 The Bathroom Vanity Validity

Buying Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is easy. MDF made with Formaldehyde, and bad health things happen when exposed to CH2O, is almost impossible to avoid when building a house. Why we make critical building materials with one of the most dangerous of volatile compounds is a mystery, a mystery solved by money like most capitalist questions we suspect.

THD Construction in Efland, North Carolina has been helpful troopers. They didn’t know much about “green building” before I asked for the use of low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint and sealants. Nancy Roby, THD’s project manager for my tiny house, caught my request for an MDF vanity. Eno Moutain Cabinets owner and the “father” of a reliable father and son cabinet team shared HarwareSources.com. “Find what you want, but let Jimmy Ray buy it,” Nancy instructed.

The MDF Mistake

Hardware Sources is where I almost bought a bathroom vanity made of MDF instead of wood. There is a tiny note beyond the fold called “material” where Nancy saw, and I missed “medium density fiberboard” as the description for the first vanity selected. Whoops! I’ll give Jimmy Ray credit. He knew about MDF. MDF was no mystery to Jimmy Ray.

And that’s a good thing since my kitchen could have had enough MDF to choke a horse or this cancer survivor and asthmatic. The apartment I live in now cared little about low VOC and my eyes burn, and breathing can be a challenge especially at night. Based on how easy it is to hear my next door neighbors “cheap” and fast had to be driving forces when constructing these apartments in downtown Durham near Duke.

The Kitchen Complexity

Jimmy Ray spent more than an hour diagraming my kitchen. “Yes,” Jimmy Ray shared, “I can build your cabinets, but your costs will be very high.” Better to buy “boxed” cabinets Jimmy explained. Jimmy’s diagram will generate an order for unfinished cabinets, kitchen cabinets made of wood and shipped without color or sealant. Jimmy will then use low VOC paints and sealants.

Jimmy Ray’s expertise is no less important. My brother Drew’s new kitchen cabinets arrived yesterday (picture soon), and watching Jimmy Ray, and his son engineer those “boxed” cabinets into Drew’s kitchen was art and science personified. Jimmy Ray grew up around the corner from my brother and soon to be my address on Lebanon Road in Efland, North Carolina.

Jimmy Ray looks you in the eye, and there’s no artifice, misleading or felony. Misleading felony is rampant in construction. Much like websites, new construction is purchased, for the most part, by naive consumers who may “buy” one or two stick built homes in their entire life. Who do you think has the advantage? Finding people to trust, people willing to do fair work for reasonable compensation can be a challenge (and one I failed at first, and that is another story for another time).

Much of the interaction even with the good team I’ve found is Kabuki theater, but more on the dance of buyer and seller next time on Martin’s Tiny House Diary.

Here is the bathroom vanity Nancy helped buy, and Jimy Ray and his son will install:

Martin's Tiny House - The Bathroom Validity image

The Metal Roof Rehab – June 21st

Today was tiny house roof day. Nancy from THD Construction in Efland emailed to ask if I’d like a black or silver metal roof. There is something about a meal roof, something southern, gothic, and aesthetic. The sound of rain on a hot tin roof defines summer as it puts a sound to an otherwise incomprehensible subject – what is rain.

Rain in the south comes hard, sudden and often between three and five every day. Summer heat builds up and then spills down as heaven decides if it will turn sideways and tornado, twist, and shout. The metal roof I always wanted but could have proven costly and impractical atop my Chicago loft or even our (my ex and my) craftsman bungalow in Carrboro is finally reasonable, practical and appropriate.

My family is from the South – Kentucky, and Texas. Metal roofs have been present, beautiful and influential just never mine. Today I had to decide black or silver. Nancy shared how her silver metal roof reflects and projects end of day reds, greens, and oranges. That movie I have to see, and it would be difficult to be an audience in such a promising, colorful, and painterly production if my tiny house had a black roof.

Silver it is!

Martins Tiny House Silver roof example image

Black Metal roof example image

Martin’s Tiny House Front Door Dilemma

Turns out buying a front door requires an engineering degree. Measure and buy I naively assumed. Assumptions will make an ass out of a house building newbie like me fast. My brother Drew explained I wanted a “pre-hung” door. Pre-hung doors come with the molding. Apparently, the crew slaps the pre-hung molding +door up, zaps it with a few nails from one of those machine gun nailers and bang they are done.

After a day I’ll never get back looking for a “mid-century front door”, I found a family owned company in Texas – Doors4home.com – that looks promising. Here is their note on Facebook prompted with my asking if anyone knew or has purchased a door from them:

Doors4Home Hello Martin, we would love to earn your trust and business. The door you selected is a modern Mahogany door, one of our top sellers. Please check our reviews on Houzz, see:https://www.houzz.com/browseReviews/doors4home. Feel free to call us with any questions 877-929-3667 we are here to help.

Here is the door I’m thinking about.

Doors 4 Home mid-century front door image

Martin’s Tiny House The Etsy Easement

Owe a big debt to Etsy and the special merchants, designers, and artisans who work hard to find share, and curate cool stuff. Not hard to be a fan of mid-century furniture with such amazing resources. Etsy is like having hundreds of scouts out looking for what you don’t realize you need, want, and desire.

I attended Vassar College. Surrounded by architecture by Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen, and César Pelli’s Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center (not long after my graduation in 1980). A love of mid-century design seeped in during my four years in Poughkeepsie.  I wasn’t sure how to express share, express, or encourage a love always present but left unexpressed prior to finding Etsy.

Etsy helped channel, express and discover a love of stuff created in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Design then feels more rigorous, personal and a little more accidental. Here are Etsy resources who helped create a new vision for my tiny house with “old” design.

Etsy mid-century finds for Martin's tiny house image

Snacks Vintage store on Etsy image and link

SnacksVintage on Etsy

Benjamin’s eclectic, brilliant, and colorful Etsy store shared a set of three mid-century pendants. Currently, I only have room for one of these great hanging lights, but the color, character, and design were too special to pass over. Benjamin pledged to keep his curatorial eyes peeled for me and I’m sure these magical mid-century pendants won’t be the last purchase I’ll make from his Milwaukee-based Etsy store.

Mid-century Pendant Lamps from SnacksVinatage Etsy store image and link

Starlight Etsy store image and link

Star Light Lighting

Sheridan’s Star Light Modern Lighting helped me rethink my exterior lights. Mid-century furniture and fixtures inside need the same on the outside. Exterior lights get more beat up than interior fixtures. It was hard to find vintage exterior mid-century design lighting in good shape so I did the next best thing – ask Sheridan to make several of his classic Double Asymmetrical Bowtie Sconce Atomic Mid Century fixtures.
Double Asymmetrical Bowtie Sconce Atomic Mid Century exterior lights for my tiny house. Got to love any product with “atomic” and “bowtie” in its name.

Atomic Bowtie Sconce from Starlight Lighting Etsy image and link

MaxineSynder Etsy store image and link

MaxineSniderInc on Etsy

Couldn’t change the exterior sconces to Sheridan’s cool atomic bowties without finding something similar for inside. Maxine Snider’s store to the rescue. Maxine has an amazing eye for the small yet powerful. And the red mid-century wall sconces she found for me, little did she know she was on such a mission, are magical and influential. I’m going to change my idea about a hanging fan thanks to Maxine’s great eye for color and small things with make big impacts.

Maxine Snider Inc's Etsy store's red mid-century scones image and link

BrooksvaleArtisans Etsy Store image and link

Alan and Bonnee Jarman’s BrooksvaleArtisans store is located in Chesire, Connecticut is near where I went to prep school (Choate in Wallingford, CT). Alan and Bonnee are on a mission to save the industrial, architectural, special character of American mid-century design. And they toss a broad and inclusive net. If I could have figured a way to use one of their industrial carts in my tiny house I would have. I did find a great desk and metal side table for my soon to be delivered Herman Miller bed. Alan and Bonnee are in the middle of mid-century heaven. We are about to experience a massive divestiture as a generation raised with mid-century design leaves. If Alan and Bonnee have their way another generation of mid-century design fans will be following. I’m a believer.

Mid-century desk from BrooksvaleArtisans Etsy store image and link

BrooksvaleArtisans metal table image and link

Martin’s Tiny House Begins

Martin’s Tiny House is different. While I loved the Muji Hut sleeping on an army cot and taking baths in my living room was a bridge too far. I respect those who construct a tiny house on wheels with a few hundred feed and creative storage but that too was a bridge too far. After showing the Muji Hut to Greg and Nancy at THD Construction in Efland, North Carolina they said they could build it.

And build it they are!

I’ve been asked about why I’m building a tiny house. Some reasons are practical – I don’t have enough money for much more house. My first budget was for $150,000 all in, but we’ll go about 20% above that if the current trend holds. Other reasons for building a small house were spiritual and practical. I’m divorced and we never had children. No need for a big house to accommodate lots of guests.

I don’t entertain or throw lavish parties. I write, work and try to keep going. After twelve years of leukemia, every day is a blessing. When you have the Big C stupid stuff drops off. I don’t want to spend much if any time cleaning, organizing or doing other dumb stuff that doesn’t matter. I try to keep the “dumb stuff” to a bare minimum. Building a tiny house helps keep dumb stuff time down.

With only a few non-rainy days Greg and the THD Construction team are creating my tiny house in the back portion of my brother Drew’s property in Efland, North Carolina. Things are moving so fast now I’ll try to post a video a day showing progress. Stay tuned for Martin’s Tiny House.

20 Seconds Inside Martin’s Tiny House Video

Shot this video today inside my “tiny house”.

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