Did Austin Hay, the ambitious 16-year-old who constructed his very own tiny-house-on-wheels in his Sonoma, Calif., backyard, not leave you feeling sufficiently contrite over the fact that you wasted away your high school years playing video games in your parents’ basement and loitering in a 7-Eleven parking lot?
Inspired by Kirsten Dirksen’s full-length documentary “We the Tiny House People” and the handiwork of raucous DIY Network host/tiny dwelling cheerleader Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, Kolbeck is currently building — or working alongside her father to build — a 128-square-foot solar powered tiny home with a full bathroom and 30-square-foot sleeping loft. The fully functional scructure is being built on a 8-foot-by-16-foot trailer in her parents backyard. (By the way, Diedricksen’s 32-square-foot “Gypsy Junker,” as featured in all of its micro glory in the New York Times, is now for sale for $1,200).
Whereas Austin Hay specifically embarked on his mortgage-free Tumbleweed Tiny House Company-inspired micro-home project with plans to haul it with him to college after he graduated from high school, young Kolbeck has a ways to go before she’s forced to ponder the complexities of independent living. For now, her tiny home, dubbed “La Petite Maison,” will simply be a place to “bake cupcakes, to read, and to hang out with friends.”
Kolbeck is a student at a tiny nonprofit private school in Marietta called HoneyFern. The school was founded in 2010 by Kolbeck’s mother, Suzannah, as a means of escaping the “test-based culture of public schooling.” She elaborates in an article about her daughter’s tiny home building project published at GOOD:
Each student at HoneyFern works intensively with their teacher to identify their interests and design a project that capitalizes on their strengths and remediates their weaknesses. Every part of their curriculum is designed around their project.
This intense focus on each individual student is a far cry from the national standardization of schools sweeping the country — the school believes that the learning is in the doing, that students need to have a voice in and responsibility for their education, and that true learning happens when students are engaged, creative and collaborative.
Naturally, Kolbeck is also blogging about the entire thing. Recent posts brush down on topics such as pawn shop nail guns, the dearth of quality budget lodgings in Orlando, and composting toilets (“I decided to go with a sawdust composting toilet because it's cheap, but just in case I am installing plumbing for an RV hookup because I want to be #1 in the business of #2. Like a boss.”) Alrighty then.
There are also plenty of updates about Kolbeck’s now-expired Indiegogo campaign to raise crucial funds needed for building materials. The goal of $1,500 was reached with a few extra bucks to spare. All campaign backers, no matter the contribution level, are invited to an open house planned for May when the project is due to be completed. No word if Kolbeck plans on serving cupcakes.
I’m going to go ahead and assume that Sicily’s mother/teacher is doing most of the dirty work on the blog front (which, curiously, hasn’t been updated in more than a month). Or maybe she isn’t, because the last thing I thought I’d ever see a 12-year-old girl write on a pink-wallpapered blog also comes equipped with a cute misspelling. Okay, two misspellings: “I finally got my Double Bubble Radient Barrier EcoFoil! It arrived at about three o' clock and I was extatic!"
On that note, Iowa-based reflective insulation manufacturer EcoFoil got a nice little PR story out of their contribution to Kolbeck's project. Kolbeck explains how she — and her parents — sourced mostly salvaged/recycled building materials in a press release issued by the company:
Our plywood came from packing boxes at the Atlanta airport; our roofing, front door, wiring and window were reclaimed from a construction project done by a friend. We’re also visiting the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and checking Craigslist. I have a flexible design, so I can change it depending on what materials I have.
I am building a tiny house to wake up in a place that I have built with my own two hands; I am also trying to be more independent and live on my own, and to show others that we can live more simply.
Being able to freely work on my own time and on my own project helps me be creative and learn the way I should learn. Maybe people have forgotten what it means to educate students, but this is the way to go. Who wouldn't want to follow their dream and set their own course? This experience gives me knowledge and skills that will last forever.