Years ago, Pauline Sugarman came to see the Tiny Project house when I was living in Sebastopol, CA. Since then we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve visited her house a couple times while under construction, offering any advise I could along her design/build journey.
Pauline has been very private about her process until now, but the time has now come when her house is near complete and she’s ready to share it with the world. She doesn’t have her own blog or website, so I’ve asked her if I can share her photos and story myself. She’s named her house Hale Lehuanani, which in Hawaiian means “House of the Beautiful ōhiʻa Flower”. It’s a stunningly beautiful house with lots of light, bright white walls accented by gorgeous rich wood, lots of high-end materials — all with a clean, contemporary design. And she did most all the work herself! I could not be more proud of her and I think her story and her house are truly inspirational.
Below is a brief interview with Pauline about her experience designing and building her tiny house on wheels, along with many photos of the completed house and the construction process. A full photo gallery can be found at the bottom. Please enjoy!
What inspired you to build a tiny house on wheels?
I was living in Marin County just north of San Francisco. And the rents just kept going up and I was getting pushed farther away from where I worked and wanted to live. The commute was brutal. I woke up one night and realized that a tiny house on wheels would be a great solution. And once I decided that I became obsessed.
What steps did you follow to build your tiny house?
I had always wanted to design buildings. And learn to build. So I knew I wanted to do all phases.
My first step was inspiration and I started by looking at YouTube videos and books of small spaces and just being honest with myself about what I needed in a home and what I liked in design. Andrew Morrison’s tiny house “hOMe” on YouTube was a great inspiration. And coming to see your tiny house (the Tiny Project tiny house) was an eye opener in terms of seeing the beauty that was possible in a tiny house.
I gathered as many details as possible (measurements for everything) then laid out the tiny house on graph paper, then drew with chalk on the road. When I saw it in chalk in real size it really helped me visualize what was working and what I needed to change. I then created a Google Sketchup 3d design (using tiny house SketchUp tutorials on YouTube) and lastly a foam model.
From there I found a tiny house builder to help me create the framing plans. And Gary Bute of Tiny House Systems (unfortunately no longer in business, as Gary has retired) helped me with plumbing and electrical plans.
I also took tiny house workshops, read tiny house blogs and studied books/watched videos on building tiny houses. Tiny houses on wheels have specific building requirements to withstand winds on the road, for insulation, moisture, balance and for being connected properly to the trailer. I highly recommend Dee Williams’ “Go House Go” who did a tremendous amount of research and Andrew Morrison DVD set on building a tiny houses.
Did you have any building experience?
No. Absolutely none. But I was determined to learn. I kept interviewing builders until I found one (with lots of patience) who had built tiny houses that was open to working side by side and teaching me as we built. And I hired professionals such as a finish carpenter and an electrician to help with some of the more specialized work.
What was the main challenge for you in building your tiny house?
As women in my late 50’s I thought it might be my strength. I was working long days and then doing the building on my days off. But I just took very good care of myself, eating right and resting and my body, though exhausted at times, did great. The real challenge was working, at times, with men in the construction world. Not all, but some thought, as a woman, they could take advantage of me in different ways. I just persisted in seeking out respectful, quality workers and found great help in the end.
Have you completed the build and found a place to park it?
Yes, I completed the house last year but I call it my “maker space” as I continue to work on projects (deck, curtains, hammock) so it is starting to really feel like a home. And yes, it is parked. It took a while but I ended up finding a great space just outside the city limits with an amazing family who love tiny houses.
Any last thoughts on the tiny house building process?
Just that, if I can do it, a women in my last 50s with NO building experience, anyone out there thinking of building a tiny house – if you are determined enough, you can do it!
Above: Several of the beautiful and unique details of Pauline’s house such as the custom shower tiling, and hand-made small shelving in the bathroom and living areas.
Photo Gallery of Pauline’s Tiny House
Click an image to view full-size.
All photos in this post © Pauline Sugarman
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Author: Alek Lisefski