Posts Tagged With: design

Shower & Soaking Tub

When designing the shower for Arborion I knew I wanted a tub for multiple reasons. The first was to be able to soak in a bath. The Japanese often make use of small soaking tubs such as this. I also wanted a backup to washing clothes at a laundry mat. This tub would provide that utility if needed. A tub also provides more assurance that the water from a shower leaves through the drain instead of being held back by the low lip of a shower pan.


Tub parts stained and drying in the sun

The tub is constructed from marine grade fir plywood and maple. These pieces were stained dark on the faces that would be seen. The bottom of the tub was built up with an additional layer of maple and shaped by sanding a gradual slope to the drain location.


Tub assembled


Tub epoxied with several coats to keep it watertight


Tub installed with drain


Marine grade plywood wall substrate


Applying the Max-metal to shower wall surfaces starting with the ceiling

It took me months to locate a suitable material for the waterproof surface in the shower. Although, just about the time I was ready for the material I found a local supplier.

I did not have confidence in thin plastic liners or tile so I went a different route. This material goes by Dibond or Max-metal. It is two layers of aluminum with a core of poly ethylene. It can be cut easily enough so using it in a custom sized shower was not a problem. It is waterproof and will not corrode. It is also lightweight and durable.


Max-metal aluminum panels glued to plywood substrate

I chose a brushed aluminum surface which looks great in such a small space. Now all that is left is to use silicone in the corners and install the shower head and faucet.


All that is missing now is a bit of walnut trim

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Tansu Stairs

Initially I was not going to build stairs for Arborion. I thought that the room they would take up was not worth accessing the sleeping loft more conveniently, nor the extra storage space. However, I slowly came around to seeing the benefits beautiful tansu style stairs could offer.


Initial clamping to make sure everything lines up before gluing

Where ever possible we used a datto for more strength when joining the 3/4″ maple plywood. The front edge is banded with walnut, but the inside is left the lighter maple in order to reflect more light.


Assembly begins

The largest cabinet opening will be used for hanging clothing like shirts and jackets.


A little chiseling and sanding

Dad built the pulls that will be inserted into the top right corner of each door.


Doors and pulls

The treads are red oak with a very dark stain to match the flooring.


Dark stain on red oak stair treads


Tansu stairs with treads


Tansu stairs up to sleeping loft

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Kitchen Counter Tops

These kitchen cabinets have been in need of beautiful black walnut countertops for some time now. Here’s how my Dad and I made that happen.


Kitchen cabinets ready for countertops

It all starts with careful measurements and a cardboard template. The gas range and sink are located along with faucet and knobs.

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Cardboard template for the countertop

We used a generous amount of marine grade epoxy and clamped up the strips of walnut to cure.


Strips of walnut are epoxied and clamped together

The countertop for the pantry cabinet is also complete. Now it’s time to transfer the final dimensions using the templates.


Template used to mark out the countertops

Using a router and straightedge, the edges of the countertops are trimmed.


Trimming with a router and guide

Marine grade epoxy is applied in coats on both sides to seal out moisture.


Countertop sealed with epoxy

The epoxy is sanded down to a satin finish. Drop in cutting board will cover the sink and add more counter space.


Countertop with drop in cutting board

The finished counter tops fit nicely. I oiled with with several coats of bee’s wax and linseed oil until the walnut looked beautiful.


Countertops in place and oiled

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Extendable Futon

Just inside Arborion’s front door is a maple futon under a large window. As with all things in a tiny house it has to serve multiple functions to maximize the usefulness. This futon is both a bench and bed, but also Scout’s bed fits underneath.

The construction of a physical scale model was crucial to getting this project right the first time. From this I was able to experiment and learn what worked best and the trouble areas I might encounter during the actual build.


1/8 scale working model of the futon


Large maple boards for best yield


All the pieces for the futon are blanked out

The spacing between the slats was critical. Dad insisted on making Formica spacers to go between every one on both ends. This was a very important step! With each slat in the correct location I could make the attachments to the supports.


Assembly of the 46 slats with proper spacing

After a little more oiling it was time to install the futon in place.


Futon in bench mode


Futon extended into a 4′ x 6′ bed


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Composting Toilet & Bathroom Cabinet

This post is about the business end of the bathroom. The bathroom measures 2′ 6″ wide by 7′ 4″ long. On the right side is the composting toilet and upper cabinet. This cabinet is for towels, toiletries and other bathroom supplies.


Bathroom cabinet frame


Bathroom cabinet doors


Bathroom cabinet

The composting toilet is a waterless system where waste is broken down through proper chemistry (nitrogen + carbon) into rich soil. The process takes about a year in an external bin, but it keeps the build simple and does not pollute water like traditional toilets.


Composting toilet base


Toilet lids clamped up

The center hole is where the human waste goes. The left and right holes are for sawdust (to cover the human waste) and regular trash.


Assembled top of toilet


Composting toilet


Bathroom perspective from tub

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Inspiration from my Granddad

On July 21, 2015 at 10:10 in the evening my Grandfather passed away peacefully. His name was Ron, and he was a great man. The best Grandfather anyone could hope for. He never forgot any of his grandchildren’s birthdays and always made the holidays extra special with his child-like enthusiasm. He’d end every conversation letting me know how special I was and that he was proud of me. And now that he is gone it has occurred to me that I’m not sure if I ever let him know just how much he inspired me.

My earliest memories are explorations around my Granddad’s river house. It is one of, if not the oldest, original house built in Brevard county. Built in 1786 along the Indian River in Sharpes, Florida, it is a two-story river house with wrap-around balconies, rope swings hanging from huge magnolia trees and a long dock out into the river. My two younger brothers and I spent our early childhood growing up in this old house. That grand river house had character, but it needed repairs. My granddad restored the house with help from others including my Dad. It was truly a sight when completed.

Ron also built an A-frame in Port St. John, Florida with the aid of a government grant based on his environmental design. I was still too young to help with the construction at this time, but my Dad and a couple of his brothers were put to work.

I remember going with my Mom and brothers to the site and bringing lunches. The stages of building a house looked so much like a life-sized version of the same forts my brothers and I spent our days building out in the woods.

My family moved from the river house into a house that my Dad built almost entirely by himself. I remember helping alongside my Mom and brothers as we swung hammers, soaked bricks, and played under a hand pump in the backyard. My granddad helped with this design as well. Passive solar winter heating, and convection currents were employed to make our house more energy efficient.

Memories of Granddad

It’s been two years since I’ve said goodbye to Grandfather Ron. He continues to inspire me to this day. His memory lives on.

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Loft Storage

Much has happened since my last post. We have been busy finalizing designs and building the cabinets for Arborion. The first of these cabinets were ‘foot lockers’ for loft storage. I call them foot lockers because they are one foot high by one foot deep and used for storage. They also create a nice shelf just below the gable windows.

Foot locker frame and pieces

They are constructed from solid maple stock for the face frames and cleats, along with 1/2″ maple plywood. There is also a 1/2″ walnut plywood top on each.

Assembled and clamped up

There is a center partition for reinforcement which compliment a pair of bi-pass sliding doors.

Ready to transport and install

Storage loft locker

Sleeping loft locker


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Modifications & Personalizations

The Arborion design has evolved since my last posting. Several of the changes involve more storage, higher quality roofing and larger sleeping loft. The effects of these changes have also altered the general appearance of the the tiny home both inside and out.

Looking a bit more green.

Looking a bit more green.

The storage loft and sleeping loft now extend out from the main building an extra foot. This creates room for extra storage closets at both ends of the house without eating up interior space and provide a convenient ledge or shelf below the gable windows. In addition to the increased storage area I also just like the look it gives to Arborion from the outside. The sleeping loft has been extended an extra foot to be flush with the top of the wardrobe and upper kitchen cabinets.

Insulation wall

Insulation wall

Room has been allocated in the kitchen for a tall, slim fridge/freezer as well as a small propane oven/range. I have plans to install a reclaimed copper sink and faucet beside the oven and in front of the kitchen window. The shower I’d like to cover in micro slate tiles. These are composed of super thin slate adhered to polyester and capable of being bent along curved surfaces. The ability to use actual stone, but at a fraction of the weight. However, it is not cheap. Luckily nothing in a tiny home is all that big.

Passive solar wall

Passive solar wall

The utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer will be divided into left and right sections. The left will hold the circuit breaker access panel, controller, inverter and batteries. While the right section will hold the propane tank and tankless water heater. The roof will be covered with hundreds of interlocking aluminum shingles. Both light-weight and very durable, these shingles are incredible.

Utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer.

Utility closet located over the tongue of the trailer.

More on my roofing choice in my next post.

Categories: Green Building, Tiny Home: Arborion | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Tiny Home Design: Arborion


It was a few months ago that I finally committed to building a Tiny Home. The prospect is daunting to say the least. But after following the likes of Jay Shafer, Dan Louche, and countless tiny home blogs and newsletters for 10 years now, it was about time to get going if I was ever going to make this happen.

This may be a good time to briefly explain the main reasons I have for choosing this lifestyle. The main point is simplicity. I like the idea of less stuff and more freedom. Next would be the efficiency and consequently the reduced impact on the environment. Finally, I wish to live the life I believe in and share it with others that are interested. I would not be at this point now without many others who have graciously shared with me their knowledge and passion for tiny homes. My sincerest gratitude to each and every one of you.

I have attended a tiny home design workshop hosted by Jay Shafer a few years ago and a tiny house tour by Dan Luche recently which provided me invaluable insight into what truly to expect when building on a trailer and at that scale.

I initially started crafting and refining my design on paper. Then I quickly moved on to a simple 3D layout and design program. The excitement of designing my own tiny home kept me up late at night and early in the mornings for many weeks. Even now it is still an evolving design. I call it Arborion.

Once I had a visual concept in SketchUp, I was able to get an idea of what I could fit inside an 8′ x 20′ structure. I could step through many of the design features and layout ideas in this mode. Several critical areas for consideration were the narrow walkway between the cabinets in the split kitchen, loft (kitchen ceiling) height, wardrobe size and location, storage areas, bathroom & shower size, door size, number of windows and various other relational distances. Some of the choices helped me to arrive at other decisions, but a few I struggled with for many days. When in doubt I lean toward what will make the home stronger or last longer, then what will look closest to my initial visual concept.

Much time has passed since I first dreamt of building my own tiny home and the decision to start the process. All I can say is I’m glad to finally commit to building my dream home. It will take a year or more to save the money needed to start the physical build, but in the meantime I have several other steps that I can take to refine my design.

The build will consist of two main phases. Phase one will be everything from the trailer to drying it in. This includes the sub floor, framing, sheathing, house wrap, metal roof, windows & door, and cedar siding. Phase two is anything after drying it in and will mostly be interior work like wiring, plumbing, insulation, flooring, cabinetry, shower and lots of finish work.

I’ve included a link for the PDF of the initial layout and design concept below.

Early Study Plans: Arborion

Next up – Life Size Floorplan

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