This post is a flashback to before we left. Rather than the details of life on the road, it covers a home improvement project. We benefitted from plenty of internet research on the topic of concrete floors, and I wanted to add our own learning lessons to the mix.
Remember the tiny space that we transitioned with, before hitting the road in the Cricket? It’s fun to think back on that place, realizing what a big deal it was to make that downsizing, and how splendidly decadent it sounds now. Just this morning I was saying to Chris, “remember when we had a coffee maker … ?” Not to mention the indoor plumbing! But we lay in bed now looking at the bay, so we’re not complaining. Just comparing.
Anyway — a major aspect of that renovation was redoing the floors. Here’s what we did, and what we learned!
1. I started by ripping up all the old carpet and flooring. I’ve learned over the years with Chris that he does not appreciate carpet — his standard reaction to a picture of a place with wall-to-wall is “YUCK!” And the idea of a kitchen on top of carpet was yuck indeed, so out the carpet went. The two layers took a bit of crowbarring, especially in the spots with way too much glue (as in by the door, below left) but overall this step was pretty easy.
The yoga studio downstairs had opted to paint right over the cement and glue in their hallway (they put in nice bamboo in the yoga space itself). This seemed to be holding up for them and given the short timeframe we’d be spending in the new space, I hoped for a similarly easy simple solution. We didn’t have much luck figuiring out what the pink glue was, and we didn’t want to get into chemical solutions and tried (without luck) a non-toxic Citristrip that did nothing at all. So I sanded down the rough glue bits until it looked like the pictures below. While the color is mottled, it was quite smooth to the touch in most places. There were a few spots where the glue was thick and wouldn’t sand nor scrape off.
I hoped the next step was painting (and then the kitchen install!) but the Floor Gods had something else in mind. We visited Sherwin Williams to get the Porch and Floor Enamel that I’d read good things about from other fearless concrete painters and — I’m still not sure if we’re suckers or smart — an employee there instilled a fear of “floor failure” that we just couldn’t shake. Over the course of a few visits he listed the possible calamities, largely bubbling and peeling, and kept repeating to us, “your floor will fail.”
We regrouped. Considered our options. Conducted hours of internet research. And concluded with a big experiment.
We both loved the look of stained concrete floors, those gorgeous glowing and marbled surfaces. We might want one in a more permanent home someday, so why not practice now? Our logic was that if we had to put the effort into removing all the glue, we might as well go all the way. The result? Renting a big floor sander and special attachment.
The floor sander required water to keep things cool as it ground up the concrete, and we were left with stone soup! Below, I’m scooping the gunk into a bucket.
Messy, yes. But look! The floor is a beautiful even tone, all ready for spray application of an acryllic-based decorative concrete stain. See how pretty it looks just after application?!
Unfortunately, we had scoured the concrete so well that is soaked it right in. This pale, mottled, version below? That’s what the same floor looked like about four hours after the glowing stain above was applied. We tried another coat in a small area but you know, all this learning starts to get expensive! We decided to cut our losses, return the unused stain, and move on to Plan C … which looked a lot like Plan A. We painted the floor a solid yellow!
Living in the space, I loved loved loved it.* I had been avidly desiring a yellow floor and it brought all the brightness and sunshine into the room that I’d hoped for. But at the time? I’ll admit that I shed a few tears over the failure of that stain. Floor failure. It’s as sad as it sounds.
* Except that we discovered later that it was difficult to clean. The more texture the floor has, the more little spaces there are for dirt — or dirty water while washing — to get in there. Other than a simple process with a vacuum and a sponge, we never figured out how to best handle this.
To gear up for the Cricket Year, we decided to go transitional tiny. To save money faster. So I could commute less. And to start figuring out how best to downsize our things and our habits.
We’re using a space that I already had. In addition to living with Chris in MA, I’ve kept a pied-à-terre and writing studio near my office; although simple (as you can see in the two left-side pictures), it’s been all I needed to avoid commuting a few nights a week and to cover the basics, comfortably.
Chris and I decided to change the floor, put in a kitchen, take on another room adjoining, and move the rest of our stuff (including Chris and the cat) in too. To get here we sorted, packed, donated, sold, gifted, and stored a lot of stuff.
Huge improvements in functionality and class, right?! I had my heart set on a yellow floor. We also have a small room adjoining where we keep clothes, closets, another desk, and another armchair for reading by the big windows.
We were able to do this so cheap because D, beloved fairy godfather of our former loft, let us pull out some of the cabinetry and a sink that we had installed in 2008 and used until 2013. We measured and sorted the pieces like a puzzle and then Chris cut and adjusted. Plus, we hauled it all down to the new place in a friends’ van (thanks P!) and just had to pay for gas.
This small sized kitchen works really well for right now — plenty of storage, plenty of counter, a couple of burners that we pull out for cooking.
This kitchen is a lot more functional than in the Victorian we’ve been in for the last year — we learned our lesson there! A well-laid-out kitchen does a lot for our good spirits and I look forward to designing our canteen for the Cricket.
I started dreaming in late 2013, but 2014 was the year I sold Chris on the idea (more on that later) and the year we got serious about planning our adventure. Our research started wide, with a passion to live mobile but few other fixed criteria: Chris is tall and we like light, and views, and the outdoors.
To start with, why not a tent? We’ve done plenty of tent camping, as in the San Rafael Swell, below. A tent would be cheapest (both by eliminating the trailer purchase and improving gas mileage) and it would increase our mobility. But we’re essentially going to be homeless for a year while also working on writing and design projects requiring technology, and a trailer promises to increase our sense of stability and home by offering more creature comforts and formal work/live space (bed, table, kitchen, power, reduced effort to “set camp” every night, and more protection from inclement weather).
We could also try living in the Subaru like my friend Mark Sundeen and his wife, but see the issues with tent camping, above.
We looked at the Safari Condo Alto, which is a teardrop with a retractable roof that opens into something like a modernist greenhouse. This video shows it best. This trailer is an amazing combination of teardrop practicality (limited towing drag) and extensible design (a teardrop you can stand in) but it’s pricey and we worried about relying on a mechanical solution to “raise the roof.” So much could go wrong.
We considered going totally retro with a WV or similar camper van. Its hard to beat the coolness factor, but would have required home schooling ourselves in mechanics and worrying a lot about breakdowns. We’ve both owned enough old vehicles to worry.
We also talked about a modern cousin to the WV van, such as the Mercedes Sprinter. It would be mechanically reliable, more fuel efficient, and we could build it out ourselves like these folks did. A plus of these modern vans is that it would be easier to park — and sleep — in more urban or suburban areas without as much notice. The build-out would be a big commitment although a cool endeavor (do check out the whole post from Traipsing About, it’s worth it). But I preferred the idea of being able to detach our “home” from our “vehicle” on occasion, Chris didn’t like the aesthetics of these vans, and it’s truly tight quarters for a year of life.
We never looked too seriously at other teardrops because of the size factor. Most RV’s were just too ugly for two such aesthetically-minded folks. Alexis looked at a lot of Tiny Houses, but those seemed better designed for staying put. And as we’ve described in detail elsewhere, the Cricket Trailer simply met so many of our needs, and was designed with such elegance, that it quickly became the obvious frontrunner. To look forward to in January 2015: actually ordering our little Cricket! We’ll tell you about the specs we selected soon.
We’re so excited that highlights of our recent visit to a Cricket dealer in Colorado were featured this week as a guest post on Mariah’s Comet Camper blog (COMET being a very cool acronym for Cost-efficient Off-grid Mobile Eco Trailer)!
If you are a new reader who found us as a result of the guest post, Welcome! We are glad you joined us. Please feel free to say hello and let us know your interests or share your story. Curious Crickets has been quiet lately as we settle into our transitional two-room living space and do some behind-the-scenes planning — but I promise that some major developments over the last several weeks will result in more activity very soon. We are gearing up for really good change.
If you are an old friend and haven’t seen the guest post yet, click on over! You’ll find more information about why we love the Cricket — including pictures! — and if you are curious about an “eco awesome” and possibly nomadic lifestyle, you’ll want to check out some of Mariah’s other posts too. Comet Camper includes tips on living small, guest posts, and some dreamy pictures of vintage trailers.
We’ll talk to you soon!
TINY: A Story About Living Small is the story of Christopher Smith, a young man fulfilling a lifelong dream. Often people say they want to live in tiny houses because less focus on “stuff” will allow more focus on “experiences.” Christopher’s story is all about doing, experiencing, and the lifelong value of knowing you have accomplished something hands-on.
“I heard about these people who live in tiny houses, and I wanted to know more,” Christopher says in the trailer.
But in addition to just “knowing more,” Christopher set out to build his very own tiny house (with the help of his girlfriend Merete). TINY follows the building story, interspersed with interviews that set context about the tiny house movement in America.
The cinematography is georgous, with long shots of the Colorado landscape and a calm and elegant color palate that makes their story even more enviable. Who wouldn’t want to live in this lush world?
Kristen Dirksen, maker of the beautiful (and free!) documentary We The Tiny House People makes me think of the value of curating. Living “tiny” means editing and curating the stuff one owns. But it also can give more freedom to explore the boundaries of what a home can be, where one can live, and how the home itself works.
I love the variety in this film, which covers at least a dozen American and European small homes that use space in beautiful and innovative ways. The cedar sided, pitched roof, American-style “Tiny House” that’s all over the media is damn cute but not really for me . Luckily, there are alternatives!
.. . LET THERE BE LIGHT . ..
Windows are a very good thing. They let in light and air and warmth from the sun. I appreciate connection to the outdoors.
In Bordeaux, France, photographer Jérémie Buchholtz lives in a small home with convertible walls that allow variations in light and privacy. Opened up, the interior home flows into a patio area with an open ceiling to let in plentiful light. The patio can be opened to the street for even more spaciousness. The film includes a walkthrough by architect Matthieu de Marien (Fabre/deMarien Architects).
In the San Francisco Bay, musician Fiver Brown lives on a cozy houseboat with windows all around. I’ve never seen anything like it… the video is a must-watch for the interior shots of his love- and light-filled home.
On another houseboat, artist Heather Wilcoxon has built a tiny space with large and luscious personality. It’s about 400 square feet and, in her words, “I am so used to living on a boat in a small space. I have so much light. I see the sunrise. I see the sun set. Not bad!” The stained glass windows are her own creation.
Given my comment above about the value of “curating,” it makes perfect sense that the people whose homes I love in the film all work in creative professions!