Tiny Tuesday: The Nomad

My dear friend MK lives in a house she built on a 24-foot-by-8-foot trailer. The Nomad (as she named it) is parked in her hosts’ sloping backyard in the Finger Lakes region of New York; legally, it’s an accessory dwelling. It’s not a house on wheels at the moment, because she jacked and leveled the house and removed the wheels.

MK previously served as an intern at Yestermorrow Design-Build School, and the courses she took there gave her the expertise to design the house herself. She drew plans with Sketchup. She cut material costs and overall weight using advance framing: rafters align with studs and floor joists to eliminate plates, and strategic placement of windows and doors allows for light header beams. She hired local talent to build a custom trailer (with floor joists in the right places), and she leveraged a building class to contribute labor.


MK’s Sketchup plans for the Nomad.

I love the house’s wedge shape, using a shed roof with a shallow 1.5-on-12 pitch to create headroom without complicated roof lines. As you enter through double doors near the low end, an eat-in kitchen stretches out to your left, with open cabinets, a 3-burner stove, and a huge chest freezer (which MK intends to convert to a fridge). To your right is the bathroom and the mechanical area, including an array of batteries for a future PV installation. The far end contains a steep stairway to a landing that serves as a dressing room, then turns to a loft, which is entirely filled by a queen-size mattress. The stairs and the loft floor frame a living room with built-in shelving and a loveseat tucked into the far wall.


Eat-in kitchen, stairs/dressing area, and living room with loft above.


Handsome finishes on the living room’s built-in shelving.

Right now the house is pretty much off the grid. There is no running water or electricity, although the hookups are all there. (MK uses a composting toilet and showers at the gym.) Insulation is tight with no thermal bridges, and MK expects her marine wood-burning stove and her heat recovery ventilator will be more than sufficient to keep the place comfortable as she prepares to spend her first winter there. In the meantime, the Nomad helps her save money for her dream of one day running a farm and rustic B&B.


MK says it was a challenge to level the house on a wooded, sloping site.

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