This August I traveled to Colorado Springs to participate in the annual Tiny House Jamboree. The event featured tens of thousands of spectators, over 50 tiny homes, and a slew of well-known names giving talks and workshops. Oh, and little old me, future toilet-dweller, giving a Sunday talk on the stigma of small-space living for urban professionals.
Though much of my focus during days leading up to my talk was devoted to crafting the final details for a solid presentation, I came away from the Jam with a few key takeaways. For those of you unable to attend–and those who did make the trip–here are my 5 takeaways from the Jamboree.
My ketnote address, captured in thrilling low definition.
#1 The setting was incredible.
This year’s jamboree was situated in the foothills of America’s most impressive peaks–the Rocky Mountains. Tucked into a sprawling corner of the Air Force Academy’s athletic grounds, the Jamboree had both impeccable scenery (with Pikes Peak in the distance) as well as space to accommodate scores of exhibits, vendors, presenters, and the endless line of vehicles coming to see them. Walking the grounds had the feel of the air shows I used to attend as a kid (apropos, being that it was literally on the Air Force campus), with a cornucopia of stimuli just waiting to be explored.
Shot with my iPhone4.
While loitering with a friend on the lawn outside of the Drury Hotel, our accommodations for the weekend, the view of the Academy football stadium and adjacent Jamboree grounds revealed themselves in the distance. The afternoon storm clouds rolled in as we talked, and we admired the contrast of blues and grays against the stark greens and browns of the mountainside. We stood there and watched as an eye of sunlight opened between the clouds and soaked the grounds of the Jamboree in a beam of sunlight. One had to wonder if Mother Nature herself had blessed the event. I’d like to think so.
#2 Seeing the work of great builders, up close and personal.
It was great to see so many well-known builders on hand at once, from ones I had known well from my travels and experience, like Tumbleweed, Airstream, and the Colorado Yurt Company, to others that impressed me with their ingenuity, like OldeWood, EcoCabins, and MitchCraft. The boom of the tiny home community has yielded an array of creative construction, meeting the desires of aesthetics and functionality for a variety of interested parties. Perhaps the most impressive exterior design was the MitchCraft adobe tiny home trailer, with its Pueblo Revival architectural themes in full effect, proving that small-space living need not give up all of the splendor of traditional homes.
MitchCraft’s adobe mini-masterpiece.
#3 Assessing the current state of the tiny living movement.
While there was a notable contingent of innovative and inspiring lifestyle pieces on display, there was also an indication that the movement has its fair share of profiteers as well. With some units priced well above the range of what many of us would deem “affordable”, one was left wondering if certain units really needed that state-of-the art washing machine or RV-style sliders. Six figure units are nice to look at, but the six-figure pricetags and all the frills that come with it suggest that there is indeed a limit to how luxurious one can live the truly tiny lifestyle. After all, downsizing is about removing the excess from one’s life, not cramming it into a smaller space.
I really need a new phone for these shots…
One builder who nailed this concept on the head was OldeWood Limited, with their primive, Walden-esque Salt Box model. This home embodied the style and feel of the true downsizer. Using reclaimed timber frame to construct this modern micro-cabin, the folks at OldeWood put forth a model that fuses functionality with affordability–standing out from the crowd by not including the frills and features that bogged down other units. At under $40k, there’s no wonder this unit sold before the weekend was up. I suspect OWL will have more orders on their way soon.
#4 Meeting and hearing from the greatest minds in the world of tiny.
I had very much been looking forward to hearing fellow keynote speakers like Kent Griswold and Dee Williams address the crowd, or listening on as Tiny House Nation host Zack Giffin took the stage or others discussed the ins and outs of tiny living philosophy and legality. It’s rare to see a collection of minds of this caliber gathered in one space, so doing so was something I was eager to experience.
"Father of the Tiny House Movement" Jay Shafer and I celebrating an engaging event.
One of the weekend’s highlights, though, was sitting down and talking with some of the event coordinators and participants from the weekend. Sharing dinner and drinks with event organizer Angie and Bobby Alcorn and talking with one of the movement’s most pre-eminent minds, Jay Shafer, ranked up there with the weekend’s most memorable experiences–mostly because the sincerity of the connection and how genuinely we shared in the mission of the tiny living experience. We all had experienced our struggles and were united in the core belief of the lifestyle to bring the solutions to fruition. Having once felt like an outlier in the tiny living movement, spending time with these folks helped me realize that wasn’t the case at all. What drives us all is intricately linked, and I’m proud to count myself as a healthy member of their community.
#5 Sharing ideas with this passionate community.
Ah yes, the talk. I spent many hours preparing this speech, meticulously combing through stories and studies to support my thesis. When Angie contacted me back in January about giving a talk, I wasn’t sure my point of view would be the best fit for a tiny house expo. I should’ve trusted her, though, because in preparing and then delivering the speech I was proven wonderfully wrong.
Signing a copy of Turning Tiny for a pair of new fans as a storm rolls in.
It was so flattering to present to such a curious and attentive crowd. My concerns were unfounded, as my careful weaving of the entertaining and informative, the humorous and heartfelt, offered a perspective that gave myself and the audience a certain level of communion. Even when I stupidly dropped my papers, an audience member rushed up to help me gather them (thanks again, Ron!). All in all, it was an experience I’ll never forget. And one I hope to replicate with more folks in the future.
This experience got me pumped to start my own tiny project. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to secure and release a video of the speech as soon as I can get my hands on one. I implore those of you who missed it (or part of it) to encourage organizers at ensuing events to bring me on as a speaker, so that we can experience this together again. Live. And without me spilling my papers everywhere!
A video of my 2016 Tiny House Jamboree Keynote Address is here! The hour-long video can be found below: