ATLANTA ESCAPE: THOW FESTIVAL

A tiny house festivus for the rest of us! Well, not exactly, but I had the fun opportunity to attend my very first THOW (tiny house on wheels) Festival at Avondale Estates, GA last month. After joining several social media groups for THOWs and tiny lifestyles, I stumbled across the MicroLife Institute’s event and signed up immediately. Since Atlanta is only about a 2-hr ride from Birmingham, I couldn’t miss the opportunity! I would also now have to find a tiny house to stay in (keeping with the theme).

AirBnB never disappoints so I have been using them primarily to book our tiny house adventures. There are sites out there that focus on just “unique” stays, but I find AirBnB to be user friendly and legit while some of the other sites seem hit and miss to me – but to each his own. I found Dan’s Atlanta Escape in Decatur, GA. It was a good price (I only needed to spend 2 nights) and the house itself looked adorable!

As usual, the directions and google maps led me right to the home – at first it wasn’t clear that renters were allowed to park in the driveway (that wasn’t indicated on the site), so I parked on the street and the person renting the house on the same lot showed me where the “THOW” guests park. He was so nice, and I kind of liked knowing there was a person nearby in case I needed back-up (I watch a lot of weird movies that start out with this exact scenario so it’s just my thing). Parked on a privately owned lot smack dab in residential central, it was almost too residential (little bit of a drive to really get anywhere). They did a great job with the landscaping which I appreciated. There was a nice lighted path and walkway leading right up to the door. This trip would start my “luck” with opening tiny house doors.

After about 5 tries, I re-read the check-in directions and opted to unlock the physical key box and not use the electronic keypad. It was great they had a back-up (not all places do), so I only had to text the contact to tell them I had issues with the lock and would be using the key. They were so nice and it worked out just fine. Upon entering the tiny house – I just fell in love with the entire concept all over again. This particular home originally looked like it was more RV style. Kind of a “one-room” deal without a stove or full kitchen. There was a TV, a great shower and the bed was super comfy. I definitely appreciated the option of the additional pullout bed but so far the custom made couches for tiny houses are wicked uncomfortable. I couldn’t even really sit on this couch to watch TV (luckily the bed is an inch away). I loved the all natural wood/pine walls, ceilings and floors – it just embodied the entire concept of minimalist design (almost a bit too much for my personal taste) – didn’t feel quite as homey as I know our THOW would feel. Then again – this was and still is way better than staying in hotels and I’ll book a tiny house anytime I can over a hotel any day.

The pocket lights and “internal” blinds (the ones that are installed between the window panes) are my new favorite MUST haves in our tiny house. I was obsessed with opening and closing them. I’m sure the neighbors thought I was practicing morse code or something. I didn’t love cubby holes behind my head where a headboard should be and the bathroom sink was so tiny I’m not even sure why it was there – but it was so much fun staying there – and there was also the festival!

After a restful night in the THOW, I headed to the tiny house festival around 10AM the next morning. It was wicked cold – and windy – and rained. Parking wasn’t too bad, I got pretty lucky. There were vendors with food, but I think the weather prevented some companies from attending, because there were supposed to be about 20 houses to tour – and there were only about five. That didn’t dampen my spirits! I was dressed warm and waited in the very long lines talking with other THOW lovers. Most were just interested in looking out of curiosity, a few lifers were there to offer expertise, and then there were a handful of “mes” – people just learning and loving the idea of going tiny. I listened to the solar power speech which interested me, but the guy had an agenda different from providing power for THOWS so it wasn’t super specific. There was a converted bus called The Eldon which was for sale at about $57k, it reminded me of the Partridge family bus only much smaller. Super cute, but definitely want a home if paying a price that steep, not a decked out bus – but it was really cool. There was a generic van retro-fitted out with a pullout bed!

The two homes on display that were closest to what we would want and need for our THOW were both built by Hummingbird Tiny Housing. The first is the model named The Jasper, which is used only for AirBnb rentals (as are most of their models). The main issue I had with this model was the same as most – the loft bedroom being too low to really accommodate a real lifestyle for me and my man who have limited ability to climb into our bed every night – and I’d also really like to not break my neck sitting up in the middle of the night (and has NO ONE thought about how to have sex in a loft bed…hmmmmm? That’s not happening….).

Their next house was generously shared with the public but was privately owned by a female veteran! The best way to describe the Rosebud was it was like a split level THOW. The main living area is awesome, but up in the gooseneck/loft area there is a step up bathroom AND master bedroom that you can stand in and actually walk around. I am not sure of the requirements and codes for driving a house like this down the street but it felt like it would be too big for a normal truck to pull (which is a downside for me). I don’t want to move our tiny house every month or anything – but I do like the idea of “easily” moving it when we need to – otherwise what’s the point? This home was gorgeous though, and felt like a home, which reiterated my faith that tiny living is going to be awesome for us. Before coming into this house, I noticed a young guy who was actually looking at the house set-ups like me in great detail, so I waved him up in front of me in line so we could chat and we talked about some of our thoughts on the THOWS and what we hope to do. There is definitely a community out there!

I signed my name to a list for a contest to stay in a THOW made by Hummingbird Tiny Housing – a few days later when I got home they would call me and tell me I had won a stay in the Royal Iris! (That ended up being my birthday getaway – story coming next!). I saw everything there was to see at the festival, spoke to everyone and decided not to go back the second day, but instead explored Atlanta. I “cleaned” up the tiny house and checked-out (such an easy process), it was a wonderful little Atlanta Escape. I truly hope to attend more THOW festivals in the future (hopefully even display our tiny house at one someday!). For now, the next step is going to be finding a first parking “home” for the THOW – and moving towards more detailed and serious talks with builders.

This process is going to take time, but once all the pieces fall into place hopefully it will manifest fairly quickly. I am really looking forward to the adventures this lifestyle is bringing. Next story to come: The Royal Iris in Mentone, AL.

LULL-a-BUY

Although the big dream to live tiny is still in the very early stages, I realize the importance of thinking and planning ahead – especially with (physically) big purchases. It’s been clear for a while now that the mattress I purchased in Boston, circa 2014, was long overdue for replacement. It seemed an easy enough purchase but knowing me and mine will be living tiny in the not-too-distant future, I was a little hesitant to get anything until I did the research. 

Yes, I know I want the bedroom of the tiny house  to be on the main floor, but other than that, how was I going to purchase a mattress that would work just laying on a floor or a platform? My guy has a lot of back, spine and shoulder issues so a soft, supportive bed is essential. I myself am the world’s oddest troubled sleeper (that’s a whole other article trust me), and I like something more firm. I was also hesitant to invest what I knew would be needed for something of quality without being able to test it first. With COVID and it being a mattress, I didn’t think this would be possible.

After reading several blogs and articles about tiny house mattresses, I was quickly discovering that a mattress for a tiny house is the exact same thing as a mattress for a regular bed. Of course height – something to consider for a loft bed –  wasn’t really going to be an issue for our setup, so I was back to square one with basically the entire world of mattresses at my disposal for the choosing. Crap.

I came across Lull via some random article (I really wish I could credit where I first saw the mention). I had heard of several of the other big ticket companies: Stearns & Foster, the “Purple” mattress to name a few – should I take a chance on a brand name I didn’t “know”? I loved the simplistic, yet sophisticated products at Lull. There are only two types of mattresses and they don’t mess around with sleep numbers, different firmness grades or any of that other  confusion other companies try to pass off as significant. 

In addition to their non-frills approach their customer service representatives were super nice (I had texted them about old mattress removal), and had several options for me. The best part of their process is they give you an entire year (365 days) to try a mattress and if you don’t like it, they will refund you 100% and not ask you any questions. That checked off my box about trying something before I buy it – I could always send it back at no cost to me (and they come and pick it up).  The only choice to make then was – which mattress to try?

I went with their Original Lull Mattress, at the time they were offering $250 off what was already a great price for a memory foam mattress. Of course as soon as I bought it, I was emailed an offer for $300 off, but I digress. The company is very vocal about having to raise their prices and makes every attempt to save their customers money with special promotions (which seem to be offered all the time). I ordered the queen size (and two standard sized pillows), and it was delivered in less than a week.

The real fun began when it was delivered. The box for the pillows was pretty standard, but the mattress box was fun – great marketing/artistic branding, with fancy exotic cat cartoons. The packaging is pretty ingenious and space saving – they essentially shrink wrap the mattress down to a small (but heavy) bed roll. Although I was home alone when it was delivered, I didn’t have much trouble unwrapping the plastic once the roll was on the bed platform. Watching the mattress “rise” after breaking the air-tight seal is quite satisfying and it didn’t take long for it to finish and the plastic smell doesn’t linger for long.

First I will say – I am in love with the pillows, they were a great additional purchase and I highly recommend including them in any order you might place. I myself, never liked memory foam (yes, I said it) and  yet, I just purchased a memory foam mattress. At first it was a strange difference when sitting because you do feel like you’re “sinking” a little bit . That feeling is still odd on Day 2, but I am realizing it’s just the difference between a really good mattress and the piece of crap I was sleeping on for the past six years. 

I can’t honestly say it was the best sleep of my life, but that has nothing to do with the mattress. I will say I woke up without back pain, hip pain (I’m a side/stomach sleeper) and pretty darn refreshed for someone with insomnia. I really love the mattress and feel good about the company that made it! They had a fun social media contest right on the box (totally my thing),  and their instructional packet was fun and simple (these things matter to me as a writer and home goods enthusiast).  The company’s honest and focused approach was one that I appreciated and the products themselves are worth every penny spent. They lull-ed me in for quite a buy – I’m a happy customer. 

For more info visit Lull’s website:  https://lull.com/

A Big Little Impression

Timbercraft Tiny Homes, Guntersville, Alabama

It didn’t take long to communicate my big dream of tiny living to my better half and immediate family members. The countless benefits were easy to explain from affordability, to the adventure, to it being the solution to having to live apart for the moment.  Although I can clearly see the perks – I’m a big believer in figuring out the logistics of a situation by trying it first-hand. It was time to step foot in a tiny house.

Luckily for me, there is no shortage of tiny home builders in the South (or was there?). A lot of the companies I thought might still be in business (based on HGTV and some online research) were closed. Several seemed to have taken  a hit even before COVID. Of course the pandemic posed its own set of problems even as recently as  just a few months ago. Most of the working shops don’t exactly give tours (why would they?). 

I sent emails to locations that I thought might agree to meet with me, and Jamie from Timbercraft Tiny Homes in Guntersville, Alabama responded almost immediately. I was transparent about my intention, which was to step into a tiny house and see what it was like. She knew I wouldn’t be putting down a deposit during my visit, but was gracious enough to take time out of her day to meet with me – so I booked the appointment.

The drive up to Guntersville was a nice way to end my afternoon. I had been there a few years prior to visit local wineries, but forgot how gorgeous the lake is. When I turned the corner and saw the sun sparkling off the top of the water it was such a positive feeling – almost like an affirmation that my exploration would be beneficial.

Jamie was a fun and honest host. After chatting and admitting I had no idea what I was looking for (or doing), she grabbed a 3-step stool and unlocked one of their completed models for me to tour – a version of their Denali model. I knew immediately when stepping inside that it was above our budget at around $75k. It didn’t feel like I was stepping into an RV or a “tiny” anything. In fact, the first thing I said to Jamie was for us, it was too big.  It was stunning though – decorated with white wood walls, high ceilings and hardwood floors (my personal fav). The fixtures were high-end, quartz countertops and all the things you would expect to find in a fancy house. 

I especially loved the master bedroom being on the first level with space for end tables and a dresser/tv. There was even a closet! There are several reasons I don’t want a loft master bedroom – one of them being I can’t imagine getting dressed while laying down or standing in my kitchen. Overall the house was gorgeous, but not practical for my purposes. This tiny home definitely left a big impression on me, and reinforced my feeling that this is the right path. The idea of tiny living is to create memories and not memorabilia – the process of transitioning and exploring a new lifestyle is an adventure in itself, and there are so many more to come!

For more info visit Timbercraft Tiny Homes’ website.