Despite the best efforts of reality TV shows to make "going tiny" look easy, the challenge remains for living legally
Deemed a "Traveling Actor's Tiny House" by HGTV's series, Tiny House Big Living, our episode's title provides an apt description for the purpose behind Seth's decision to build a tiny house. Well, Seth's need to travel for his job may not the original purpose for a tiny house, but enough reasoning to get rolling two years ago.
And for his part -- and ours -- we're glad this talented actor chose to pick up a hammer, strap on a newly purchased tool belt, and sweat through the rigors of building his own tiny home: A fully self-contained, road-ready, 18' tiny house on wheels with full off grid capabilities.
Here's a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Seth Numrich's decision to "go tiny!"
Seth loves to read, and at an early age became enamored with Henry David Thoreau's book, Walden. Study.com provides the following synopsis for the classic book:
Henry David Thoreau spent two years, two months and two days in a cabin outside Concord, Massachusetts, near a place called Walden Pond, because he wanted to understand himself and be completely self-reliant.
Like Thoreau, Seth Numrich spent a great amount of time -- on and off for about 16 months -- building his new home. Seth's tiny house on wheels (THOW) contains all the necessities for his day-to-day life. Beyond the need to "Eat, Sleep, and Go Potty," Seth's tiny house includes other items he deemed important to his life, namely his books.
An acclaimed stage, film, and television actor, Seth returned to the Richmond area in Fall 2013 for the filming of Season 2 of TURN: Washington's Spies. On a whim while away from family and friends in Minnesota... or was that Los Angeles, or maybe New York, or was that London -- and that's kind of the point for a "traveling actor" -- Seth sought to find others with interests in building tiny houses. Home is where the heart is, and Seth wanted a place to call home.
Among other sites, Seth's search in the Richmond area led him to the pages for the RVA Tiny House Team, our local Meetup group. I'm the lead organizer of a group who's numbers have swelled since I founded the local group in 2014, and field calls each week on any number of tiny house topics. Seth's call took me by surprise.
Seth asked about others building tiny houses in the Richmond area, offered his help as a volunteer, and even asked about sharing space for a tiny house build of his own. He had already been searching for a short-term commercial property he could rent to build his tiny house. Hmm... not the usual call. Please continue Mr. Numrich.
From the beginning, throughout the process, and now at the completion of his tiny house project...
This word became the theme of Seth's tiny house build: Organic.
Seth's search for the perfect tiny house began as it does for many: Google image searches, social networks, and emailed article links. During his searches for his own idyllic design, Seth had settled on the P.A.D. Sweet Pea offered by Portland Alternative Dwellings. He considered buying the plans, but was concerned about his ability to adapt the plans to meet his own needs. Which begged the question: Well... What would you change?
Seth was happy with the general look, and felt the classic cabin appeal was a nice fit for the vision of his tiny home that he was now forming in his mind. He had a few structural changes he wanted to make, and I suggested that -- while the plans could be adjusted -- he might do better to start from scratch.
If you're only going to build one tiny home in your life, why not make it exactly the way you want it. And thus our working relationship, and a great friendship, began.
Seth Numrich is very "green minded," so his tiny house interests and objectives centered around sustainable living. Here are some of his initial goals, and ways we agreed to meet them together in his finished tiny house:
For my part, I'm an "idea guy" with a can-do attitude. I'm also a people pleaser, and want to give customers exactly what they want.
From the beginning, I found Seth to be open to new ideas, yet highly introspective, and ultimately very determined to learn, understand, and master new skills. Like many of our clients, Seth does his homework, gathering facts, assembling the pieces until they fit just right, and then having the fortitude to stick with his decisions. That said...
If something didn't work as imagined, well... we would start over.
Thankfully, "restarts" were infrequent, and usually the result of products that didn't perform as expected. So let's add patient and understanding to the mix of attributes for a DIY custom tiny house builder.
There's a twenty year spread between our ages, which is same difference in age that I share with my father. My father and grandfather were my mentors, and I am glad to have had a similar chance to share my knowledge and experience with Seth. We also learned a lot together during his build, and formed a strong friendship in the process.
As a businessperson, that's an ideal relationship, and we are fortunate to have shared all aspects of this project together.
Seth's story is an intriguing one, and we were approached by several tiny house TV programs who expressed interest in covering Seth's story.
There are programs that you can tell follow a formula, and others that more truly document the actual experience. We chose to work with Tiny House Big Living as each of their programs are unique, and we felt their producers would remain pure to the story Seth and I wanted to share about his project. When building a DIY tiny house, there's plenty of real life drama without the need to force formulated reality into the show.
From the beginning, the producers of Tiny House Big Living honored the uniqueness of Seth's project, and respected his goal to share aspects of his tiny "green house" build with others. The crew were always professional, and in their own rights an interesting and eclectic mix of personalities. One of our producers even built his own tiny house and was on a previous episode of the program. How cool is that!!!?
Over the five shoots, we made new friends, and enjoyed lots of laughs. Kudos to the production team, big thanks, and lotsa love!
It wouldn't be fair to say Seth's build was smooth sailing from start to finish.
In addition to Seth's starting from scratch on a custom tiny house design, buying new tools and learning new skills, and balancing a long-distance relationship with his girlfriend, Seth is a working professional who puts in long hours on set.
Seth's schedule is based on the show's schedule, and they work day and night, rain or shine. Add the extreme cold, nasty sleet, and lots of wet snow this winter, and Seth's working hours took their toll. As the season's shooting came to an end, Seth's time on-set cranked up to match pace with the story arc: Exciting and exhilarating right to the finish!
And then there was the TV show, which was -- at once -- a blessing and a curse. Tiny House Big Living's producers adapted well to Seth's schedule, but there comes a point when we had to suck it up, and get 'er done! Of course, for the bulk of finishing aspects of the build, the crew was scheduled to shoot over weekends that -- of course -- followed a long week of crazy shoot schedules. Their requests became our marching orders.
We offered Seth a spare bedroom for his time in Richmond this year. My reasoning: you can easily work on your tiny house before or after work; your tools are right here; I'll be available when you need me. Another blessing and a curse: There was no respite from work on Seth's tiny house.
Seth's project would have stalled, and maybe crashed-and-burned, if not for the love and support from many others throughout the project.
We were fortunate to meet Seth's folks, Ann and Charles, on a few occasions during the build. They are really cool, down to earth folks, with great insights and good humor they willingly share. Thank you Ann (and Seth's aunt) for the great work on his tiny home's textiles and tapestries. They really make Seth's tiny house a cozy cottage home!
Seth's girlfriend, actress and producer/director, Louise Dylan, spent many long days and nights commuting from New York to Richmond during the project, not to mention working as a construction worker, painter, and ad hoc interior designer. Thank you, Louise, for your support of Seth during this project, and lots of love as you head into your tiny life together!
On the pro side of the equation, thanks to Al Cobb, his wife Annie, and the crew at Panelwrights for erecting Seth's tiny house of SIPs. Thank you, John Rayfield for helping us gain momentum, as well as Rick and Phil for your supporting roles in this process. Thanks to all involved on Seth's custom trailer, solar power systems, water catchment, and more; there are too many of you to mention, but each of your input is greatly appreciated.
Thank you my son, Thomas, for putting your own work aside, and being such a willing build buddy. I am glad to play my part in sharing skills with you that were passed down from father to son for 14 generations. You're always such a pleasure to work with, and you make me proud!
Thanks Alex and Jess for not being too "star struck" around Seth, and being so accommodating when the parking got crazy (3 cars, 1 motorcycle, 1 big truck, and a tiny house are a lot to negotiate). Thanks also for sharing living space with Seth, Louise, Midge, and me during our time together. There were lots of peeps in one place for a bit there!
Special thanks go out to our friendly neighbors, Mark and Deborah, who took interest in the tiny house's progress, and put up with all our shenanigans (not to mention uninvited drone flyovers in the front yard).
And last, but not least, thank you, Midge: My wife, my friend, my soul mate. Your patience and understanding have no bounds. Your love is infinite, and willingness to walk my winding path still astounds me.
Seth and Louise -- Seth was able to settle in and live in his tiny house over the past couple of months. When our Tiny House Big Living TV episode debuts tonight, Seth may be able to watch it from London where he an Louise are spending a few weeks not working, not building, but just being a couple in love. Seth returns to the US long enough to rehearse for a couple of plays, then returns to the UK for performances in Scotland this summer. We all hope TURN is picked up for another season, at which point he'll return to Richmond for more filming in the fall. Safe travels, homey!
Stanton Family -- Last weekend, Thomas, Alex, and Jess moved into an apartment together, so last Sunday Midge and I were officially "empty nesters" with a big lonely house to share for the first time in 24 years. We've almost completely made the move into our "transitional tiny house," a 35' 5th wheel RV, which will be our fulltime home for the two of us, our two dogs, and the cat. We long for the simplicity of our "college daze," and have been downsizing for the past three years in anticipation of our big move into a small space together. We look forward to working with more great folks like Seth on custom cabin, cottage, and tiny house designs. Give us a call. We'd love to give you a hand.
Beauty and the Beast -- As for Seth's tiny house, she's all buttoned up for the summer. If TURN is picked up for Season 4, then Seth will be back to live in the tiny house this fall. At some point, Seth plans to tow his tiny house behind his big Ford F-350 (lovingly called "Beauty and the Beast" when coupled together in tow mode) to upstate New York where Seth's tiny house will sit on bucolic piece of property, soaking up the sun for energy and rainwater for drinking.
And thus Seth's story arc ends where it began, excited by a dream, and now Seth's reality: A cute little cabin in the woods.
Wishing you all the very best with your tiny house dreams.