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 http://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

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