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Lee Pera, Brian Levy, Minim House, Tumbleweed Houses, Tiny Houses, Tiny Homes on Wheels, urban design, DC tiny homes, recycled shipping containers, tiny house village in washington DC, green design, sustainable design, eco design, Boneyard Studios, mini homes in nation's capital, tiny homes challenge zoning laws, rainwater capture, AIA merit award, solar power, organic garden, alley lot homes in DC, alley homes, urban infill, The Matchbox, The Pera House, Foundry Architects, Element Design+Build, Indulgent Restraint, Urban Density Lab, Tony Gilchriest

Although Boneyard Studios promotes community and shared amenities, each of the four tiny homes is different – a reflection, perhaps, of their owners’ individual personalities. Jay Austin designed The Matchbox with help from Tony Gilchriest and Urban Density Lab’s Matt Battin. Just 140 square feet and clad in weathered shou sugi ban cedar, this sweet little off-grid home boasts wide windows and skylights (along with a solar-powered skylight blind to block excess sun), a rain chain to harvest rainwater, and an incredibly efficient and modern interior. After trying to survive the wicked DC summer without cooling or refrigeration, Austin finally broke down and installed a tiny window cooling unit and a small 1.7 cubic foot chest that keeps his food from rotting.

Pera found what would become the Pera House on Craigslist. An existing 18 foot shell that she picked up in South Carolina, this tiny home on wheels needed a lot of work. Tony came to the rescue again and essentially rebuilt the whole thing, including the gabled roof. Battin chimed in with a few custom details such as a removable four foot deck, rain screen siding, and a handy ladder that reaches the loft bed. All of the lumber was sourced from responsible sources. Although the interior is not yet complete (Lee has been so busy sharing the tiny house love through community outreach, a mini concert series, and open houses), the end is near.

Indulgent Restraint is a tiny house modeled on Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Lusby design. It has loft windows, a wooden door and floors, and a small welcoming porch. Painted in red and white – like a mini Victorian – this little home boasts all the amenities necessary for a single person, except perhaps a substantially-sized kitchen. Elaine says that she may remodel it some time.

The largest house on the lot, Minim House, has also garnered the most attention. Designed by Foundry Architects and Brian Levy, and built with help from Tony and Element Design+Build, this attractive 210 square foot home boasts a 960 watt rooftop solar array, a 290 gallon rainwater capture system, Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs) that mitigate the need for excess heating or cooling, and a host of interior innovations that maximize the living space. Fun fact: despite being really, really small compared to most homes, Minim House boasts enough room for 175 books.

Unfortunately, none of the four tiny house owners are permitted to live in their homes full time because of outdated zoning laws. In Washington D.C., an alley home must be at least 400 square foot before it is considered habitable, and the lots have to be at least 30 feet wide. The Boneyard crew is trying to change that through a rigorous educational campaign. At the time of our visit, the most recent open house visitors were taking their leave, no doubt dreaming about the day they too will live a more humble, affordable lifestyle in a tiny house of their own.

+ Boneyard Studios

All images © Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat