Maybe it was the Legos I obsessed over as a child. Or maybe it was my inability to build a proper snow fort, with or without my dad’s help. Whatever the reason was, I grew up with a fascination with making my own little hideaway.
Every kid dreams of creating the perfect tree house for sleepovers and sneaking out at night. We (my sister, the neighbors, and I) were constantly attempting to contrive a makeshift lair. We’d scrounge up discarded wood and try to erect something that wouldn’t collapse under the slightest wind. After more than a dozen precariously crafted concepts, my dad agreed to help us make a proper tree house.
We’d seen designs that would astound and make the creatures of Endor jealous, but my dad took a different route. Knowledgeable from his years doing construction, he devised a structure that continues to stand today. In lieu of a spotty perch, he dreamt up a miniature deck off of our tree.
The dimensions were about 6×8 feet and stood 9 feet off the ground. It lorded over the backyard like an observation tower, monitoring the adventures of those below. Its inspiration and larger counterpart, the deck to our house, often looked on in admiration. It was incredibly solid, so much so that my father, my sister, and I could use it simultaneously without concern of its integrity.
It was then that my love of building evolved.
In my early high school years, I wanted to be a builder. I wanted to create and design homes and buildings like the amazing architecture I’d experienced firsthand. This was at a time when my childhood imagination had not been snuffed out by standardized education, so bizarre and exciting concepts could still be envisioned.
The second architecture class I took had a single overreaching assignment. By incorporating each element of what our day-to-day lessons taught us, we were to build our dream home.
Faces throughout the room lit up anytime we were given time to work on them. We even took advantage of the CD-ROMs and brought our own music to keep us going. I often credit that class with creating a much better understanding and appreciation of rock and roll.
Outside of the regular Metallica and Guns ‘n Roses, new bands like Slipknot and Disturbed were mingled in with veterans like Kiss and Black Sabbath. It was there my music taste embraced a world more diverse and strange than the teen pop and country I’d been raised on.
As my musical growth occurred, I slaved away on a computerized architectural drawing (CAD) program. On top of elements like walls and fixtures, it gave room for flourishes like basic furniture and a pool table. Obviously, these wouldn’t be a part of the final design, but the program had a feature to allow you to visualize the room in 3D. This gave the would-be creator a better chance to see how the layout could function.
For weeks, I slaved away on my dream home; a small abode that would be my universe. Once the design was completed in CAD, our final grade was based on how we would display it to others: either a scale model or hand drawn schematics of the exteriors.
As I began to start that stage, my teacher wanted to sign off on my concept thus far. I was slightly shocked by his reaction, but I remember to be laughing at it as well. In a nice but befuddled tone, he told me to start over. My dream house was way too eccentric for reality. He turned and announced the class a new requirement of the assignment. The minimum square footage for these domiciles was 500 feet. My outside-the-box thinking had created a new requirement. It was a brief moment of accomplishment.
The rejected design was the stuff of nightmares for any practical builder. In wasn’t a rectangle or adhered to most building structure templates. A corner was jagged like porcupine quills, while an adjacent wall bowed out for no reason. But the outside merely hid the most bizarre secrets.
For starters, the main hallway was scarcely shy of 3 feet in width. It went straight to a kitchen that any cook would be offended by. It had a few rooms, a bathroom, and a spiral staircase to a poolroom straight out of Seinfeld. It was impractical.
The kitchen was so small that opening the oven all the way wasn’t an option. This was probably the first indication to my teacher that I was building a death trap. Coupled with the surprisingly ample counter space given my choices, whoever would be cooking would have less room to stand or maneuver than a phone booth. It was cramped and absolutely insane.
The poolroom had to have been something I unintentionally took from Seinfeld, one of my favorite TV shows. In the episode in question, George moves out and his parents are left with an empty room. George’s father and Kramer decide to convert it into a pool hall. When the pool table finally gets installed, the men have no room to use a pool cue and spend hours dinging the walls and the table trying to get a shot. There was simply too little room to justify any type of billiards play.
That was my upstairs poolroom in a nutshell. Downstairs had its own problems.
The bedroom was merely a recess large enough to accommodate a twin bed and a small end table. The bed would be nestled in a room that only had a single window. But an interior one. Opposite the pane was the shower stall that was on the other side of the wall. This perverse concept was to simplify hygiene by allowing the sleeper to climb through a window into the cleansing waters in lieu of walking the couple of feet to the shower door. In the back of my mind, I think it was also for the purposes of voyeurism.
All these features combined to a home that had a square footage of approximately 350 feet. So, suffocation aside, I had created a “house” smaller than many storage sheds. There was no way this would have worked. It would have given even the most unlikely person claustrophobia.
It was an abomination, but small enough to take up your backyard. So much for living on my own.
I gave up pursuing architecture shortly after that. Not sure why. My thirst for organization was never quenched. I still want a tiny home that could live on a simple trailer, but it will be a great deal more functional than my first foray into home building.