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Main Homes The allure of tiny homes

The allure of tiny homes

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Monday, May 02, 2011

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Photos by Teresa Meier

What’s fire-engine red, has wheels and is utterly fantasy inducing? No, not a sleek Euro sports car but the Don Vardo, a 7-by-10-foot mobile structure with French doors, a tiny cedar deck, radiant-heat cork floors and hemlock walls.

Built by Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD), the Vardo represents a new way of looking at living, says Dee Williams, one of the owners of the Portland-based company. “We work with dreamers, people who are realizing they’ll gain greater liberty and clearer thinking by living in smaller spaces,” she says.

Because the Vardo doesn’t have a full kitchen or bathroom, it’s not suitable for a full-time dweller. But with a desk, pullout bed and nook for a hotplate and water vessel, the mobile room would be an ideal guest room or writing studio, the kind of place Thoreau might have chosen to park next to Walden Pond. In modern times, parents facing a returning college grad or a novel-in-progress writer might revel in the Vardo’s flexibility.

Williams says the Vardo, and similar types of mobile spaces, was born from tenets of sustainability. The structure can be moved (at speeds up to 60 mph behind a moving vehicle), which makes it more enduring and cheaper than any home addition or new structure with a foundation. It doesn’t require utility hookups and was hand-built with eco-friendly materials.

The Vardo is a manifestation of what some call the “tiny home” or “small house” movement — the idea that people can rejigger their lives in order to dwell in uber-small structures. Williams intimately understands the idea; she lives in an 84-square-foot bungalow that runs on solar power and is currently parked in a yard in Olympia, Wash. “The Little House,” as she calls her home, features a tiny sleeping loft and a kitchen nook without running water.

Building the home inspired Williams to form Portland Alternative Dwellings with finish carpenter and designer Katy Anderson in 2009. While the duo has only completed two structures top to bottom, they’ve worked on bits and pieces of three other tiny homes and drafted many plans for future structures.

If going small helps you think big, and the Vardo doesn’t meet all your specifications (it’s currently for sale for $16,000), learn to craft your own tiny home from scratch at one of PAD’s one-day building workshops.




+3 #1 Don Vardo Ron 2012-01-08 20:55
Can you make a Don Vardo on a duel wheel platform twice as long allowing for a port-a-potty shower unit? Have you considered designing a Vardo with the option of a sliding roof (open air option.) It also looks as if the roof design would allow for a motorized system (many tent trailers have it)that can raise the roof several feet creating sleeping space. Are you laughing yet? It has been done. In 1992 I met a man whom built a get-away unit in his back yard the size of the Vardo. The roof slid out when weather permitted so he could see the stars while reading infront of a little wood burning fire place. What do you think? I now you can build it,your a great artist/builder. The Vardo by itself is beautifully crafted. how much would it cost me? I just gave you a beautiful idea that can create space. Heck, just take the original Vardo and now you have two sleeping areas or a living room with a bed above the couch.
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0 #2 GypsyLinda Sanfratello 2012-01-11 01:51
Hi, I was born in a bardo. But I can tell you it was not as high class as yours is:-)
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-2 #3 America GypsyET 2012-06-10 06:19
I have lived mobile for 30 years and thou most of it has been in a school buss platform, the Vardo is great. Would be happy spending 3 months in the baer tooth rezerve in one
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+1 #4 SalesT Patrick Griffin 2012-07-17 16:16
I have a question regarding the trailer specs re; GVWR I understand the axle weight of 3500. Also is the frame of the trailer 4" or was it 5". My daughter bought the plans but the details are sparce in regards to the trailer.
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