Welcome to the Shelter Blog

How does this differ from other blogs and websites on the subject of homes and shelter? It’s not all recycled web content. Much of what appears below is original material — feedback from people who have been inspired to build homes from our books over the past 40 years. You’ll see it first here.

Top 5 Best Tiny House Books


We don’t mean to brag, but according to Heavy.com, Shelter Publications has two of the top 5 best tiny house books:

The Tiny House Movement is growing rapidly in the United States. There are a lot of cultures around the world who have already discovered the greater simplicity, freedom and happiness that comes from minimizing your “stuff” load and living in a small home. In the U.S., though, the trend for years has been toward McMansions and the “more is more” philosophy: more space, more stuff, more debt, more hours at work, the list can go on and on. The Tiny House Movement provides an outlet and an alternative for people looking to have more creative control over their living spaces and, in turn, their lives. These five books are a good starting place if you are interested in tiny homes and want to learn more, are looking for some inspiration and ideas, or if you are an experienced tiny house dweller or builder.
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In-law Suite Rules Boost Affordable Housing in San Francisco

screen_shot_2014-06-11_at_7.15.52_pm The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved two significant pieces of legislation last April that support accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as “in-law” or secondary units, in the city. The first, introduced by District 3 Supervisor David Chiu and passed on April 17, enables existing illegal units to be legalized. The second, introduced by District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener and passed on April 16, allows for the construction of new accessory dwellings in his district. These landmark legislations are huge steps for San Francisco, a city with a long history of unsuccessful attempts to pass such measures.

Check out the article at www.shareable.net/…


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More on Small Homes in Big Cities

You know what? I am suddenly REALLY excited by this idea. Just as I was with the idea of building on a piece of land in the country in the ’60s–’70s.

Different time now.

The last two posts hit a nerve: There have been 24 comments on the subject so far.

I was thinking last night about the concept of building in sketchy city neighborhoods:

To be sure, there are these. A beautiful young woman was gunned down two days ago in Oakland, trying to protect her kids from a gun fight on the streets. But I believe there a lot more neighborhoods that don’t have drugs and gunshots. When I go to Berkeley, I often cruise Oakland, Richmond, El Cerrito, San Leandro; have checked out Hayward (big town) and Vallejo (on the bay, old buildings downtown; about to get hot, I’ll bet). Then there’s Martinez, Benecia, Hercules, San Ramon, Livermore, Danville … This is San Francisco Bay area, my turf, but others in other urban areas will know the outlying towns of big cities.

Point is: not every part of every city’s small building neighborhoods is a crime combat zone. I find tons of neighborhoods that don’t look dangerous.

Here are a few homes in the East Bay. How many little homes like this are in the U.S.A.?

I just decided we’ll have a big section in our forthcoming book, Small Homes, on “Small Homes in Cities.” If you have something to contribute, write us at [email protected].

See Lloyd’s blog for comments: www.lloydkahn.com/…


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2015 "Shed of the Year" Contest in Britain


Entries in this UK contest are being accepted until April 7. This article in the Daily Mail highlights about 15 of the sheds, located in areas from Cheshire to Northamptonshire and Surrey to Nottinghamshire. In the one shown here, Derek Verlander has spent 30 years transforming his garden in Essex into an Oriental haven.

There is a tea house with a collection of Samurai swords, sake jars, lanterns and other Japanese ornaments, Japanese-style bridge, a 40′ waterfall, bonsai trees and Buddha statues.

Mr. Verlander has never been to Japan.

The Japanese Tea House from Cold Norton in Chelmsford has been entered into this year’s annual ‘Shed of The Year’ competition sponsored by Cuprinol

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Fixing Up Old Small Homes in Cities

Photo by Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

There was an article in the New York Times on March 7, 2015, that mentioned that there are 800 or so abandoned homes in the Bay Area city of Richmond. I think that fixing up run-down homes in less than opulent cities is one of the most viable, practical, and economical things that people wishing to create their own shelter could do in these times.

In fact, I make a point of shooting photographs of small homes in cities like Richmond, San Leandro, Hayward, Vallejo — nearby places where (some) neighborhoods are run down, but hopefully not infested with drug dealers and crime. I guess it’s a balancing act — if you can find a neighborhood that is on its way up, instead of one that is dangerous and has no hope for the future.

Detroit, for example, has scores of well-built small homes in decaying neighborhoods.

I sort of have a fantasy about fixing up an old place and planting a garden and making friends with the neighbors, who will be pleased that someone is improving their neighborhood. Having a house party and inviting the neighbors. People respond to positive action. It could work.

This will be one of the main subjects in our forthcoming book, Small Homes.

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The Near-Impossibility of Building Your Own Home Near Great American Cities These Days

A lot of young people who visit our half-acre compound are inspired by what we’ve got going here: handmade home, garden, chickens, workshop, office/work studio. How can they get something like this going, they want to know.

Well, it was sure easier 40 years ago. Our land was $6,500, building permit $200; I drew up my own plans, was my own architect and engineer; building and health department officials were reasonable; there was no Coastal Commission…

Since then, the bureaucrats have weighted things heavily in their own favor (bureaucrats beget ever more bureaucracy) and building permits in Marin County (Calif.) are something like $50,000 (more than my entire house cost). Building and health departments do not get their funding from the county, but from fees paid by homeowners (or builders), so guess what? Fees are ever higher, now to the point of absurdity. Regulations also have grown to have their absurdities (having to install sprinklers in single-family homes is one such absurd requirement). And to the point of it being just about impossible for an owner-builder without a trust fund to build around here now.

So I tell young people, if they’re looking for land to build upon, they have to get a couple of hours away from any of our great cities.

I’ll post a few ideas of what I might do now were I starting nowadays. It’s a challenge!

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