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What Makes a Home?

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Little House on a Small Planet: Simple Homes, Cozy Retreats, and Energy Efficient Possibilities

“Live in less space but have more room to enjoy it. Does that sound like a contradiction?”

So opens the synopsis on the back of this guidebook to simple, small, and planet-friendly housing. Author Shay Salomon, a construction manager, had noticed through years on the job that large McMansions were weighing down her clients, requiring gobs of maintenance and money. These stressors, she observed, took a considerable psychological, social, and financial toll. In the late 1990s, she began exploring a concept that has now captured the attention of many Truckee/Tahoe residents — small homes.

Salomon collected floor plans and photographs, visiting more than a hundred little homes across North America and interviewing the people inside. The resulting manual is part how-to and part why-to, whether you want to build new, remodel an existing space, or learn ways to live more simply.

When this book was hot off the press 10 years ago, the publisher alerted me that the author was on a book tour and would be passing by Tahoe in about a month. I scrambled to put together an event, with an excellent last-minute partner in the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. The response was surprisingly swift and strong — Tahoe-ites came out in force, with standing room only and a lively active discussion after Salomon’s talk. It’s proof positive that the concept of a lifestyle that emphasizes “home life over home maintenance” resonates with many of us. ~ Mayumi Elegado/Moonshine Ink

The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

In Tahoe, we are far removed from city life. Coming from New York City to Truckee was a transition for me. NYC’s homeless problem is to the point where they have sought out living quarters below the surface. The book, The Mole People by Jennifer Toth, explores these tunnels. She talked to the homeless, the cops, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority about life deep in the subway and Grand Central Station. Toth was invited to see the tunnel homes; some were decorated and well-cared for, including murals from graffiti artists who put themselves at risk to create masterpieces.

A lot of the homeless people in NYC have drug problems, but of course not all do, and some simply prefer living underground. Many people have gone so deep that they are never coming back to the surface. To survive, they have rigged ways to get electricity and water. Gruesome stories surround this way of life, with mention of putrid smells and rats the size of felines.

This book is a great read if you can handle the terrifying and saddening stories that Toth encountered exposing the reality of the homeless. ~ Andrea Bartunek/Moonshine Ink

Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and Other Small Structures

If there is such thing as a grown-up’s picture book, this is it. Derek Diedricksen takes his reader on a journey through all things microshelter, from environmental benefits, to permitting regulations, to materials. You name it, he covers it.

As of 2013, the average house size in the United States was 2,598 square feet, according to the U.S. census bureau. The average size house in Derek Diedricksen’s book Microshelters is 94 square feet — with the largest measuring in at 300 square feet, and the smallest at 12 square feet.

The book is beautifully outlined and begins with stunning graphics and photography — who knew looking at blue prints of 100-square-foot homes could be so interesting. But, what I really enjoy, is that Diedricksen doesn’t just tell you how cool it might be to live in a tiny house, he shows you how the average Joe can be inhabiting a microshelter in no time.

Another aspect I particularly enjoyed about this book is the relatability. Ok, so you have three kids and a golden retriever — maybe living in a tiny house is not a viable option, BUT Diedricksen suggests microshelters for home offices or kids’ playing rooms.

“My aim is to deliver as many new concepts and design approaches as possible, and to offer you fresh ideas, fuel for future projects, and techniques and approaches you might not have considered,” Diedricksen said. “In other words, I hope this book lights a fire under your bottom.” ~ Ally Gravina/Moonshine Ink

For specific examples, including local alternative housing solutions, to the #TahoeHousingCrisis click here for the fourth and final installment of Moonshine Ink’s housing series, Housing Solutions: Making the Pieces Fit.

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February 14, 2019