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Martins 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

Etsy and Martin’s Tiny House

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 Underway

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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