In a tiny sliver of a neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C., on a tiny sliver of a wedge-shaped lot, sit four tiny houses. Before this sounds anymore like a Modest Mouse song, we’ll explain. Officially, this is “Lot 21” in the neighborhood of Stronghold, but to most people it’s better known as the site of Boneyard Studios. If you’ve been following our Tiny House Journal, you know that we’ve mentioned Boneyard at least half a dozen times. After all, it’s home to the original Minim, the tiny house model we’re building right here in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Garfield. Minim’s designer (along with the folks at Foundry Architects) and owner, Brian Levy, lives on the lot with a few other tiny house compadres: Jay Austin, whose house is called Matchbox, and Lee Pera, the owner of what is known simply as the Pera House. Another woman, Elaine, visits D.C. often, but doesn’t live in her tiny house full-time.
D.C. zoning code requires residential units on alley lots be at least 30 feet wide, thus the houses are officially zoned as travel trailers. The D.C. real estate market is pretty pricey; demand is high and housing stock low. The lot, which sits across from a cemetery, was purchased for $31,000 and Levy, Pera and Austin were able to build their homes for approximately the same amount of money as it would cost for a downpayment for a small one or two bedroom house in the nation’s capital. Like so many other tiny housers, Levy, Pera and Austin thought where they lived mattered more than how big of a space they could own.
The houses borrowed ideas from marine design, where certain pieces, say, a table, serve varying roles as a desk, coffee table, island, dining table, etc. Also incorporated into each house are features, sometimes through necessity, that are environmentally friendly and off-the-grid: rain catchments, solar power, induction stoves, and ceramic water filtration. While any tiny house enthusiast worth her salt knows that Boneyard is the East Coast mecca for micro-homes, the four houses have drawn the attention of a wider audience, including the Washington Post and Dwell, among other publications. Boneyard offers monthly showcases, simply RSVP. If you can’t make it down to Washington, Boneyard’s website is chalk full of great photos, stories from the owners, FAQs and a blog. Definitely worth checking out. In the meantime, here’s a 10-minute tour of Jay Austin’s place, Matchbox. We dare you to not be inspired.