Extravagant Tiny Houses on Tour

Last weekend, the Boise High Music Department hosted a tour of 10 tiny homes in Boise’s Historic North End as a fundraiser.  Homes ranged in size from 240 square feet for a new home on wheels, to 380 square feet for a historic house (possibly a Sears and Roebuck catalogue house), to 1000 square foot home (500 square feet on the main floor with a basement). Most of the homes were built around the turn of the century, average about 800 square feet and while small were extravagant reflecting their owners eclectic taste. Many features embodied the homes’ heritage.  For example, most had fireplaces even if they no longer were functional, many had quirky additions, and one had two front doors.  Originally, one door led to the harness shop and the other door led to the family home.  Because Boise North end is designated a district, the double doors will stay and owners need permission for remodeling. Most of the garages were stables for horses in early days.

Double doors for shop and family entrances


Owners of these homes are a diverse bunch; a retired couple , a single woman, a young couple, a mother and teenage daughter. All impress their unique style on their homes. Since owners have to pare down to what they love to fit in their tiny abodes, tour participants learned the owner’s passion. One house made room for a four-foot baby grand, in one house there was no TV, one house had a sunny sitting room opening to a glorious garden. In another home,the owners had lovingly crafted the furniture to fit the space and the kitchen tiles were hand-made reflecting the park view out the window.

Outdoors is the biggest room in the tiny house. We saw fabulous decks, seating areas with fire pits, handcrafted  cement and glorious yards. The tiniest foundation built home (350 feet) had a wrap around porch, a yard composed  entirely of zany stepping stones, perennials and a fountain. This house had one chair inside, a recliner for it’s owner to watch TV and a single bed. The owner told us she had lived in the house 13 years and regularly entertained large groups outside in good weather. Boise has 8 months of the year when we can be outside easily. The other four are iffy. These homeowners focus outwardly.

Kitchens are made roomier by opening walls to dining and putting regular size refrigerators around the corner. We had to ask several places where the refrigerator was and found it on the porch or in a hallway.

Most houses have regulation size appliances but the two diminutive homes under 350 square feet both had regular appliances in a smaller scale.

Doors are in short supply. Closets were open or covered with  curtains. Creative storage is found in every nook and cranny.

Small does not equate with cheap. We saw exquisite chandeliers, top of the line gas ranges, handsome vanities, Bosch dishwashers, and  a gas fire place imported from England.

Everyone had laundry, sometimes popped in on a porch or in a closet or bathroom. Most were high end stackable units, some were small in size.

Stackable laundry was tucked into closets, bathrooms


Since most houses had only one bathroom, bathrooms did double duty. Many had two doors so you could access from hall or bedroom making an en suite, some also served as laundry rooms. There were many full-sized tubs including claw foot tubs but no double sinks. Sharing brushing your teeth must be a tiny house morning ritual.

While small, these houses were not inexpensive. The North end with its walkable restaurants and shops and strong sense of historic preservation sports some the highest prices per square foot in Boise ranging from $200 a square foot up. The sample new tiny house model at 250 square feet without a parking place was $68,000.  One of the one bedroom houses was available for rent starting in April 2017 for $1400 a month.20161015_154626

250 sf house on wheels for sale







The Global War on Morris–humor with a bite!

The Global War on Morris (Simon & Schuster, 2014) is a political satire written by Congressman Steve Israel, Democrat New York.   My  first thought when beginning Morris was how a  13-year Congressman has time to write  a novel, particularly a representative who headed  the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  On second thought, maybe the debacle of the last congressional elections for Democrats can be credited to Congressman Israel focusing on his novel rather than elections. The current deadlock in Congress has probably given all  435 Representatives and 50 Senators tremendous time on their hands to engage in creative writing, playing cards, hunting with Supreme Court Justices  or other hobbies, since it is clear they are not engaging in the art of politics . The act of political civility as I  understand it requires endless conversations in the arena of ideas  with the goal of identifying compromise solutions. With no willingness to collaborate, there is plenty of time for personal ventures at the public expense.

But I digress, Mr. Israel’s book is a work of fiction crafted by  taking headlines of the War on Terror during the the Bush/Cheney administration and loosely  linking these actual stories into an amusing narrative.  All of your favorite Republican henchmen during the period, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Tom Ridge are alive and well in the story line. Vice President Dick Cheney is hunkered in an underground bunker, a Machiavellian puppeteer controlling American’s views on terror. The ultimate goal is not to protect the country from would-be terrorists but to beat Candidate John Kerry in the 2004 election.

I read the book because New York Mayor Bill deBlasio recommended it in the Wall Street Journal’s, Books of 2015 “Who Read What”. I realized once I started reading that the WSJ endorsement was probably a shameless plug from deBlasio for his Democratic friend, Israel, from upper New York.  The recommendation also provided an easy way for the Democratic leadership to spoon feed readers in a humorous forum fundamental constitutional issues  of privacy and civil right bludgeoned by the War on Terror.

Morris, of the title, is an unassuming, nondescript Jewish pharmaceutical salesman living a routine existence with his overbearing wife Rona, a clinical social worker.  These two conventional, average, liberal New Yorkers become mistaken as American terrorists by Cheney and his crew through a series of bizarre and comical  mistakes and poor life choices. As is true of many things in life, the real villains manage to escape while Morris becomes embroiled in an endless round of red tape and bureaucratic nonsense. Rob Reiner & Andrew Lenchewski are adapting the Israel book into a cable comedy series.  If you don’t enjoy reading, you may soon be able to see the plot on television.

While Israel is writing in the theater of the absurd, two real-life points jumped out at me. First, I know Vice President Cheney personally.

The author knew Dick Cheney when he was first elected to Congress before he turned to the dark side.

He is from my home stomping grounds of Wyoming.  When he first ran for Congress, he was young and unknown.  I remember receiving a phone call asking me to host a house party for Cheney at my rented bungalow on the fringe of gentrified Cheyenne, Wyoming.  The caller said, “We are having trouble identifying people to support a younger, unknown candidate.”  Cheney, of course, went on to win the election.  In my executive job, I remember visiting him in Washington where he always had time to see Wyoming constituents, particularly those who had helped him get elected.  I also remember running up steps of the stadium at the University of Wyoming football game as Representative Cheney was coming down them.  He called out, “Hello, Julie.” So what do we learn from these little tidbits from my past.  First, everyone starts somewhere.  It is still possible in this country to start out as an unknown candidate and over a long, successful career end up as a Secretary of Defense, corporate titan, and Vice President of the United States.

We also learn that people change.   I have turned into a liberal as I age and see the haves becoming wealthier and have not’s becoming a permanent underclass.  My Democratic friends in Wyoming tease me mercilessly about my support of Cheney but then my sister and I were also Goldwater Girls back in the day.  The same can be said of Cheney.  The man, who was gracious at a rental house party, saw and knew his constituents by name and rose to power in an unlikely manner, seemed to move to the dark side as his career jettisoned.  The lesson here is not that I moved towards the light and he moved towards the dark but rather in life there are many opportunities to change.  I heard a wonderful presentation on homelessness a few weeks ago and one of the featured speakers when queried about the potential of the homeless to improve said quite clearly, “My approach to homelessness is based on my belief in redemption.  No matter how many drugs a person has used or how long they have been homeless, redemption is possible.”  Now in my 65th year, I see where every day there are opportunities to choose the light or dark and we each must define and build our own personal trajectory.

Second, we learn from the tyrannical vision of the unfettered Federal government, that as Americans we do have some very real concerns about the balance between protection of privacy and the need to know to keep us safe. I have to admit that I have not been in favor of Apple’s opposition to providing the FBI with information about how to unlock  the San Bernardino shooter’s cell phone. These people are known killers who willfully shot their co-workers in a planned attack.  The haunting question remains are there others out there waiting their time to strike?  If so, is that information contained in the cell phone data? The Global War on Morris reinforces Apple’s position.  A government with complete access to our personal information and without any oversight body could quickly germinate into an authoritarian regime seeking out anyone who disagrees with it.  I am not sure what the correct answer to the balance of personal privacy versus terrorist among us is.  But after reading the book, I do agree with Apple CEO Tim Cook that this decision  must not to be taken lightly.

apple versus FBI
Apple versus the FBI raises important questions about the right to personal privacy versus the government’s right to know.