The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update

by Shilpi Paul

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 1
Boneyard Studios

Last time we visited Boneyard Studios — the tiny houses of approximately 200 square feet located on an alley lot in DC’s Stronghold neighborhood (map) — the homes were little more than raw building materials and rough outlines.

Seven months later, the site has four nearly completed and varied homes, a garden with fruit trees, vegetables, and herbs, and complex water filtration systems. While the homes are not legally habitable in DC, according to the current zoning code, the showcase serves as a way to experiment with the idea of a tiny house and find solutions to tight space problems.

For the past year, Brian Levy, Lee Pera, Jay Austin and several architects and builders have been at work on the varied homes. Some have pitched roofs, while others are flat and slanted. Some are modern, and others look like miniature colonials.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 2
Brian Levy’s Tiny House.

Many of the solutions for the tiny homes were inspired by technology used on boats, which have similarly small footprints. For example, boat hardware was used to create a four-in-one table surface at Brian Levy’s house, which also has a photovoltaic panel, air conditioning and a full house of furniture.

“It’s a pedestal system, with four different sockets in the floor,” Levy told UrbanTurf. Moved around, raised or lowered, the surface can act as a dining table, coffee table, desk by the window, or kitchen prep counter.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 3
Levy’s kitchen and living area.

“You can even pivot and make it into a bar,” he said. “We fit 25 people in here the other day for a Boneyard Studios party.”

Another space saver is the cube of chairs. Levy wanted the home to have room for a six person dinner party, but wasn’t eager to have six chairs taking up floor space. So he found a five-in-one cube from Resource Furniture. When not in use, it looks like a cube, but when necessary, each side can be dismantled and turned into a chair.

The water filtration system for the homes is also marine-inspired. The three-part filtration mechanism installed for the homes is used by fresh water boaters. Water is collected, stored and passed through a ceramic filter when needed.

Over the last several months, the folks from Boneyard Studios realized that they also needed an air ventilation solution. Because many tiny houses are tightly sealed, toxic air can quickly get trapped and lead to a larger problem. Right now, the homes have an intensely woodsy smell.

Levy, Pera and Austin addressed this by using non-toxic, organic materials, but they are also installing air ventilation systems — essentially giant bathroom fans — that will ensure 30 percent air change every hour in each of the homes.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 4
Lee Pera’s Tiny House.

With a variety of homes to look at, a quick tour reveals which circumstances lead to claustrophobia. One of the houses belongs to a Florida woman who visits a couple times a year. The home is adorable and dollhouse-like, with a pitched roof, stained glass, and a tiny front porch. Frankly, it looks like a normal house that has been shrunken. However, that means that the doors and windows are quite small, making it dark and tight. Once inside, a normally sized adult has a hard time moving around without knocking elbows.

To make their tiny houses more livable, Levy, Pera and Austin focused on installing big windows and furniture that folds away to create more floor space. Levy constructed a bed that slides out from underneath an office area, and Pera and Austin lofted their beds.

The outdoor area at Boneyard Studios is designed to be a communal space. With an extensive garden, two sitting areas and a firepit, Boneyard Studios often invites friends to come enjoy the space. They also share their goods with the neighbors, offering produce to facilitate friendly relations. “I call it vegetable diplomacy,” said Levy.

If you’re interested in seeing the homes for yourself, Boneyard has periodic open houses. More photos below.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 5
Jay Austin’s Tiny House.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 6
Austin’s interior.

The Tiny Houses of Stronghold: An Update: Figure 7
The garden at Boneyard Studios.

See other articles related to: tiny houses, stronghold, editors choice, dclofts, boneyard studios

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_tiny_houses_of_stronghold_a_showcase/7305


  1. kob said at 8:14 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    Great story, great houses -- I have absolutely no problem with these types of units. They let in enormous of light, and can be integrated well with whatever natural environment DC affords.
  1. puffatiel said at 8:34 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    where did they get the compact furniture for their houses? especially interested in where Brian Levy found the couch-- Thanks!
  1. Diana said at 8:45 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    +10 to kob
  1. mona said at 8:53 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    I wonder what rent would be on something like this. This would be perfect for students. Not big enough to have friends over to party and disrupt the neighbors but small enough to study and live in for short period of time and no roommates to deal with
  1. Jeff Frank said at 9:20 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    There is a furniture company that specializes exclusively in Furniture for Small Spaces. Simplicity Sofas of High Point, North Carolina makes sofas, sleepers and sectionals guaranteed to fit through narrow doorways as small as 15 inches (less than half the standard door width.) All pieces are only 30" - 34" deep but do not look or feel like small-scale furniture. The company ships nationwide by UPS.
  1. Brian Levy said at 9:32 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    Here's the link for Resource Furniture in NYC (where the cubista stool came from): http://www.resourcefurniture.com/space-savers Couch was custom built into the wall.
  1. LittleContessa said at 9:47 pm on Thursday July 11, 2013:
    Brian Levy -- I love your house!
  1. Delonte Mckinley said at 12:21 am on Friday July 12, 2013:
    Do these houses hold up during bad storms?
  1. Lee said at 1:05 am on Friday July 12, 2013:
    My house has been through a hurricane and through the derecho storm and transported from South Carolina to DC. Yes, they hold up through storms, are built to code to withstand hurricanes and travel on the road.
  1. Rhetor Marcus said at 5:39 am on Friday July 12, 2013:
    I commend and envy these people´s minimalism. I am trying to recover from our typical American acquisitiveness. We have much to learn from them.
  1. riss said at 12:49 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:
    but what about winter storms/blizzards?
  1. david said at 3:55 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:
    No shower, toliet?
  1. Josh said at 4:29 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:
    Visited Boneyard Studios a few weeks ago. Such a fantastic way to go. I wish more people could see what they have done. Very inspiring.
  1. Angry Parakeet said at 5:27 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:
    What about the sewage? The water filtration they mentioned was for potable water. When I lived on my boat I had a state-of-the-art incinerating toilet.
  1. Anon said at 10:52 pm on Friday July 12, 2013:
    Does this not remind anyone else of a trailer park?
  1. Ann Zelle said at 5:12 pm on Saturday July 13, 2013:
    please add me to your list. I am in Western North Carolina, near Asheville. We are interested in innovative initiatives here.
  1. Sharon Cooke said at 7:22 pm on Thursday October 17, 2013:
    Lee Pera.....Your house is perfect!!!! Please e-mail me. I would like for you to speak to my agency (Department of Environment) about your tiny house project.
  1. Hunter, Ashley, Bertha said at 10:42 pm on Wednesday April 2, 2014:
    I have a tinyhouse/schoolbus project right outside DC!! Check it out!! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bertha-TheBus/401234006597809

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »