Biggest Little House in Sidney

“We can do anything!!!” My Love threw her arms up in the air as we stood, heads tilted back hard, gazing at the bright blue sky framed by the golden glow of freshly stained Douglas Fir beams. The crane had just left our construction site and the adrenaline was still pumping in our veins. Moments before I was scrambling on the catwalk while Laura was guiding the beams with her tagline. Now twelve 20 foot glulams were resting in their notches, spanning the second floor framing.

“Boy, I would like to live here!” a decade earlier, I was home to grab a quick sandwich for lunch one day in winter. The sun was bouncing off the gleaming golden hardwood floor in the sun-room as I walked through the foyer, past the oak banister trailing the wide staircase. I was working 80 hours a week in my business and only saw my house in the dark for six months of the year. It made financial sense to make money at Compu-Clone and pay others to cook my meals, clean my house and fix my car. But I was literally paying other people to live my life.

When I made the move to the west coast, I promised myself that this would end. After the chapter of caring for my mother in her Sunset Years came to a close, it was not long before My Love and I embarked on a new adventure together. We decided to build The Biggest Little House in Sidney once we realized that the fixer upper we just bought really was a tear down as advertised.

When people decide to build their dream home, it usually means that they choose an architect to prepare the plans, they hire a general contractor to organize the work, and they write the checks that make it all happen. Our story was different.

We spent six months designing our sanctuary. Building, plumbing and electrical code books at our side, we drew and redrew our design details. We recognized early that we only occupy one square meter at a time and that everything else is visual. To make a small house feel large, open and inviting we needed to focus our attention on sight lines and light lines. We learned about the three kinds of heat transfer and how to apply that knowledge to an external envelope design. We drew our detailed framing, plumbing and electrical plans using the shapes and forms on spreadsheets since it’s far easier to move a 2×6 on a screen than once it’s nailed into place. This attention to detail meant that we had already built our place once by the time we broke ground in the spring of 2007.

From day one it  was a joint labour of love. Laura learned how to drive the skid steer loader while I learned how to operate the excavator. Together we dug the hole for our foundation. Once the slab was poured, Laura assembled and mastered the chop saw while I became intimate with the compressor and nail gun. We proceeded beyond framing to roofing, sheathing, siding, plumbing and electrical work. Each time immersing ourselves in the climbing of the relevant learning curve and mastering enough of the trade skills to impress the inspectors: “A thing of beauty!”and “I wish contractors would pay this much attention to detail.” were common refrains.

That’s how our plans took shape right before our eyes. For five years we dedicated ourselves full time to this adventure, rolling out of bed into our overalls and embracing each new challenge that faced us, together. It was not only a time of intense learning and exploration but also a time to put into practice our deep conviction that “Love” is a verb. And so it was that on the roof decking, behind the drywall and under the floor covering the words “Love Manifest” would be boldly embedded in perpetuity.

Of course we documented this adventure. You can find pictures and a rough diary, as well as a link to our eco-renovations book, here:

return to the portfolio