Updated: Oct 16, 2018
Who I am, why I want a tiny house, where I got started, and what in the world am I doing?
When you were writing a paper in high school, did you ever have a teacher tell you to start with the second paragraph, then come back and write the introduction later? I guess you could say that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been working on this idea for more than half a year, and only now am I really going back and putting things down in words. Putting my thoughts out in the world is terrifying, exhilarating, and makes this project feel so much more real. Hopefully you'll stick with me!
Hi. I’m Annie. I’m a single 28-year-old gal living in Richmond, Virginia. I spend my days as the marketing coordinator for a local architecture and design firm - managing their website and social media, submitting proposals for new projects, coordinating photo shoots... your general mixed bag of marketing duties. I also spend a few hours a week at a firm that specializes in green building certifications like LEED. I love to cook, but I despise doing the dishes... so much so that it sometimes keeps me from cooking anything that requires more than a single baking sheet. I thrive on planning events and hosting parties, but I also LIVE for seeing movies by myself or going to dinner alone (is there such a thing as an introvert with extrovert tendencies?). I grew up 15 minutes from the beach, but given the choice, I’ll pick a trip to the mountains every time. And like a lot of people, I don’t spend as much time traveling or reading or gardening or hiking as I’d like.
That said, I'm embarking on a major adventure. To keep myself motivated and to document my progress, I’m starting this blog. There will be triumphs, frustrations, travels, DIY projects, maybe some chickens, maybe some details about my dating life, and probably a few cooking tips to boot. I’m always drawn to blogs with personality and an individual perspective, so that’s what I’m hoping to emulate. Maybe that’ll change! Maybe I’ll hate blogging. Maybe you guys will hate what I have to say! Who knows. Here we go.
Where It All Began
A year and a half ago, I decided I should start looking for a house. Tons of my friends were buying houses and renovating kitchens and putting in patios, but I’d been living in the same apartment for 2 years and had no real plans to move. At a certain point, I heard these words coming out of my mouth before I even realized I meant them: “I’ll probably stay in this apartment until I buy a house.” And truly, I love my apartment. It's a spacious one-bedroom 'English basement' style apartment in the heart of downtown Richmond, across from a huge park. I can walk to tons of restaurants, I have a 5 minute commute, and the apartment itself is really cute. I even have a friendly landlord! But the space isn't really mine. I still have to make sure I'm not playing music too early or late, I can't change the vanity in the bathroom or the backsplash in the kitchen, and basement living isn't exactly overflowing with natural light.
I was knocking around the idea to buy a house for almost a full year but just kept feeling like something wasn't right. I would get really excited looking at online postings of available homes, but quickly I’d lose steam and just get anxious. Around that one year mark, a friend of mine had a certifiably HORRIFIC home buying experience. Of course, that’s not the norm, but it started to unlock all of the things I was worried about - shoddy inspectors, shady owners, and hidden issues. But the more I thought about it, the more I struggled with the idea of traditional homeownership. Why would I want to be tied to a 30 year mortgage? How am I supposed to go about filling up rooms with furniture when I already feel like I have too much stuff? What if I invest tons of time and energy and money into one house, then for some reason need to move away from Richmond? ......So why was I so set on buying a house? Finally I had the answer - I realized what I wanted was to create a space that was truly my own. I wanted to design something for myself, but I didn't want to be sunk into decades-long debt in order to do it.
I actually remember the exact moment the idea fully clicked into place. I had known for a long time that tiny houses were a movement unto themselves, but I had never even thought of myself in one for some reason. At the time, I was following a handful of van-lifers on Instagram, as a type of escape from my day to day. I’d think - “Look at these amazing people, living so happily with just what they needed to get by, building out these incredible compact spaces, saving money, traveling the world. I don’t think I could ever be that nomadic, but what an inspiring life to live!” I was just on the couch scrolling through Instagram on a Friday night when the light bulb went on. "Annie, you say you don't want to live in a van, but you like the idea of designing a home that you could move with you if you wanted to? JUST BUILD A TINY HOUSE ON WHEELS, YOU IDIOT." I think I might have actually slapped myself in the forehead.
"JUST BUILD A TINY HOUSE ON WHEELS, YOU IDIOT."
All of a sudden, all of those glaring red items on my Annie Buys a House Pro and Con List just disappeared. I stayed up until 3am that night. I fell 100% down the rabbit hole - researching everything I could find about the build process, trailer sizes, potential builders versus DIY, how much everything costs, off-grid versus on-grid, how composting toilets work, etc. etc. etc. I even downloaded a free 3D modeling software to my iPad to try and start playing around with a design. Over the course of an excruciatingly long Saturday a few weeks later, I sat at my desk, in an otherwise empty office, and taught myself how to build models in Revit. Two weeks later, I bribed a co-worker with pastries to teach me more. I bought books. I read blogs. I downloaded podcasts. I binged HGTV shows. I watched countless documentaries. I consumed every single bit of knowledge I could put my hands on. To be honest, I thought that after few weeks, I'd get bored with the idea. Or it might sink in that it's a little nuts. But everyday I fell more in love. And here we are.
The Gist Of It
I’ve always been someone who delights in looking at new spaces. When I’m bored, I dig through Zillow and Craigslist, even when I have no desire to move (spoiler alert: I DESPISE moving). I click through countless photos, imagining how I’d rearrange rooms, or paint walls, or refinish floors. I ooh and ahh over original details like glass-paned kitchen cabinets, crown molding, and ornate bay windows. My mom thinks this is my hidden interior designer/architect trying to burrow out of my creative subconscious. But what I truly feel is a need to create a place of my own. To paint my kitchen cabinets the same beautiful color I saw in a photo and figure out what countertop stain looks best with it. To pair the brass faucet I saw on sale with the clawfoot tub that’s lived in my dreams. To some people, that would mean a future as a designer. But I wouldn’t know how to design anyone else’s space. I want to design what looks perfect to me, and then make it real.
Life is already full of distractions. I’m ready to live somewhere where their volume can be turned down.
More than anything, what I’ve realized is that I need space to really breathe. Not space as in square footage, but space as in open air: space to live intentionally without worrying about the people living one floor above or one wall over, space to be away from people when I need it, and space to invite people to join me when they need it. Life is already full of distractions. I’m ready to live somewhere where their volume can be turned down.
I hope you'll join me on my journey to get there.