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The Small House Book
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:$29.95+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on May 18, 2017
anyone, who loves to dream of cutting down on things, traveling to new destinations or living without all of the stuff that seems to weigh us all down, will love this book. It is beautiful and the pictures are clear, the script easy to ready and it would be difficult not to spend hours dreaming of how you could plan and build a tiny house and be so very comfortable....
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on January 20, 2014
A wonderful primer for those exploring smaller housing. Jay locates the small house movement in the wider US culture, explaining environmental, practical and beauty considerations of small housing. Lots of beautiful pics of exteriors, and some of interiors. Some great ideas, like sleeping lofts (storybook nooks! Clothes would need separate storage) . A lovely spread of ideas, including how to carefully fit your house to your life. Not a detailed how-to, more a philosophical and inspirational book. Everyone interested in more financial freedom and a unique interior layout in minimal space would enjoy this book, whether looking for a house on wheels or on a foundation. I would have preferred less of why big houses don't work, and more of how to design tiny ones that do, but I'm still expecting this to be a book I show to many people, and I will use some of the specific design ideas, like 90 degree gable roofing, a front porch, and open cathedral ceilings in some areas. It even makes me wonder if I could make my own doors... I am grateful to have been able to access an electronic version of this extraordinary book, so easily.
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on July 29, 2012
The book starts off on a rant. OK. A lot of such books do. He then gives only the most sketchy details about how to build your own tiny house, before turning the end of the book into nothing more than a catalog for his products. Many of which violate the fundamental design principles he laid down in earlier sections. While his design advice is helpful, his own designs seem unnecesarily closed off. I'm certain much better design is possible within the parameters of the trailer regulations.
He talks about making use of the vernacular architecture, then makes a travesty of the Romanichal Vardo. The Vardo evolved for more than a century in exactly the context of Mr. Shafer's tiny houses. On wheels. So ignoring the lessons of the Vardo is foolhardy at best. All-in-all, I would say this is really only good as a coffee table book. Not so much for someone who really wants to build their own tiny house on wheels.
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on November 24, 2012
I'm a little biased. I work with the author, and I've known him since I first ordered a set of plans from him in 2005.

So I had better make a case for my rating:

- Why tiny houses?
In telling his story, Jay expresses a motivation for material simplicity and a life open to more options. I know these were MY motivations for designing a tiny house, and I suspect these are the motivations for many others who are planning or building their tiny houses.

- How to design tiny houses
In suggesting how to successfully design a tiny house, Jay provides good fundamentals, and his included design portfolio attests to the validity of his design principles. His designs were the best detailed and best proportioned tiny houses in 2005, and I believe this is still true at the end of 2012.

- How to build tiny houses
In explaining how to build tiny houses, Jay offers real experience. Seven years ago, he had already built his 2nd tiny house, and he still had some stuff to learn about carpentry and structural design. Today, his greater experience and understanding of building construction is evident in the text and the new box bungalow designs contained within this book.

-What do tiny houses look like?
This book is a unique 7" x 7" format (tiny -- it fits on a standard sheet of paper with room to spare).
Yet, in this small format, Jay includes numerous full-color photos of houses which exhibit his points, as well as created images of 23 houses of his own design (the last 80+ pages are a sort of 'bonus' portfolio).

- And Jay writes well. It seems that his approach to writing is much like his approach to architectural design -- a meticulous process of revision, whereby he is forever finding ways to do more with less. His informal tone respects grammar, and flows for easy reading. ...but count the pages, and review everything he has just told you -- he's concise!

Every industry and movement needs its own go-to book of fundamentals and inspiration. "The Small House Book" is capable of playing this role for the tiny house movement.

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on August 1, 2010
For those who have seen Jay's houses on Yahoo! or otherwise and want more information, you might consider this book. I said "might." Jay goes through his history of living in small homes, and then goes on a bender about why small homes are preferable to large ones, why people who design large homes and large neighborhoods are poo-poo heads, calls a few architects pretentious and arrogant, then goes on to talk mostly about how to go about designing these homes in architectural terms. He writes about symmetry of design, and so on, covering more ground in cosmetic design than practical usage of space or structural considerations.

There is useful information, such as how to legally build and live in one of these homes in your area, though the topic isn't exhausted by any means. He also discusses the general building process, but if anything his youtube videos or his website are more detailed.

It's just...Mr. Shafer is preaching to the choir. By the time you've bought a $36 book, you've got your own ideas about why you should build a tiny house. What you want to know is the nuts and bolts. What kind of solar and batteries to buy and how to manage them; how to plumb the house; how to downsize your lifestyle (what to get rid of, what to keep and what to get); things of that nature that just aren't present in a real way. Jay is writing for the home designer, not the homeowner. So if you buy his plans, he's writing a book that's mostly intended for himself.

I guess he wants you to attend his lectures. ;)

Edit: A few folks have asked in the comments for an alternative that does cover the how-to information. I would recommend "Off The Grid: Simple Solar Homesteading" by LaMar Alexander. Check out his youtube channel "solarcabin". He provides a lot of information about his off-grid cabin. While not on wheels like a Shafer Tumbleweed, many concepts still apply.
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on October 19, 2012
Pretty good book and I like it a lot that the author included his own experience of living in an RV to building his dream home. The book spends a great deal of time trying to convince people that spacious living is bad and that you ought to feel guilty for having enough money to live American style. I think the volume would be more well served to focus on building practices, sustainable ideas for the construction of smaller homes and how to help affect the movement to actually owning something of your own that you don't have to spend 30 years paying for. Some of the questions I had were answered by the volume, like how to construct the units and how to begin trying to find a place to park it. Over all a good read and worth the price... I would enjoy having a website devoted to the THM (Tiny House Movement) where local people, by State, can help each other make the transition and not fall into pits of legal trouble. If your interested in simplistic living, BUY IT!
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on March 23, 2013
This book is a little more like a catalogue of Tumbleweeds than a book. It highly resembles the website. I really like Tumbleweeds, but if you want a book for inspiration, or looking for what to add to your Tumbleweed design, I'd go for the book by Shelter publications called Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn. The resolution of Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter isn't as good, but it does have an array of maybe 100 tiny homes, off and on wheels, and stories of the people that built them. Otherwise the binding/quality of The Small House Book is good.
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on July 9, 2013
I give half the book 2 stars and half the book 5. He has some great tips and photos. The actual content about designing and building a small house is really great. Unfortunately about half the book is simply arguments about why large houses are bad and small houses are good, the conspiracy to force people to build big, etc. I'm already convinced that small houses are good or I would not have bought the book so those sections were a waste of pages for me. The useful half is good enough that I would still buy it.
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on March 4, 2017
love it
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on June 6, 2012
I've been a fan of Mr. Shafer since we moved back to NOLA after katrina. I feel pretty sure that 1 of his small house/cottage plans would be well suited for the lot sizes down here. I really don't think the local officials would object to those - especially considering the number of 3 room shotguns that exist anywhere you look in this city. When his stuff emerged on the scene, I was already a huge Kaufman fan and was ready for what would arrive next. I love this sort of "out of the box" thinking that Tumbleweed and Mr. Shafer bring to the movement. Geaux Jay Geaux~
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