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Meet the World’s First Luxury Tiny House

Tiny Heirloom manufacturers very stylish, jaw-droppingly small homes that can accompany you virtually anywhere you'd like to go.

Photo: tinyheirloom.com

Over the past several years, the tiny house movement has only gained momentum, with increasing numbers of homeowners saying goodbye to extra square footage—and burdensome mortgages—in favor of very small, quite affordable, and often portable dwellings that have come to be not-so-creatively called tiny homes.

Some choose to build their own, designing every inch to meet their individual needs. Others hire a builder to realize their custom design in three dimensions. And still others purchase kits or preassembled tiny homes from the growing cadre of manufacturers who are servicing this rapidly expanding “cottage” industry.

Enter Portland, Oregon-based Tiny Heirloom, the first luxury-oriented company to enter the market. Steered by a close-knit group of six family members and friends, the brand-new outfit combines thoughtful design with fine craftsmanship to create what they call “the best and most quality tiny home in the world.”

Though custom options are readily available and Tiny Heirloom works closely with each of its clients, the company’s 128-square-foot standard model includes a lounge area, kitchen, and bathroom, with bedroom and storage lofts above. It costs $65,000, including delivery to anywhere in the continental United States.

Photo: tinyheirloom.com

What separates Tiny Heirloom from its competitors is the attention paid to interior finishes. Top-of-the-line materials are incorporated throughout. Highlights include hardwood flooring, aged-bronze sconces, and hand-hewn pine ceiling beams. In the kitchen, European-style compact appliances succeed in saving floor space, while their stainless steel housings sacrifice nothing in style. In the main living area, a washer-dryer combination fits snugly within a two-foot-wide closet.

Photo: tinyheirloom.com

Customers choose between wind, solar, or battery power, although each home also comes equipped with 12-volt and 110-volt hookups, allowing it to connect to an external power source, if one is available. Heat comes from a small wall-mounted propane-fueled heater originally designed to be used inside the cabins of boats.

Photo: tinyheirloom.com

Perhaps the best part is that, because Tiny Heirloom builds on wheeled chassis, its little homes are classified as travel trailers. That means an owner can take his home almost anywhere, leaving it parked permanently on a lonely piece of land with a beautiful view, or pulling it behind his vehicle on a cross-country road trip.

Photo: tinyheirloom.com

For more information, visit Tiny Heirloom.


Quick Tip: Make Your Candles Last Longer

The amber glow of those flickering flames doesn't come cheap. To get the most bang from the big bucks you're spending on candles, give these quick tips a try.

Photo: shutterstock.com

Burning at Both Ends

There are so many reasons to burn candles at home, from their flame-flickering aesthetic appeal to their room-freshening aroma. Unless you have small children or mischievous pets, we can think of only one reason not to love pillar and taper candles, tea lights and votives—lovely though they may be, they sure ain't cheap! Believe it or not, you can spend less on new candles by using a handful of simple, time-tested tricks to lengthen the lives of the ones you've already bought and paid for.

To coax a candle into burning more slowly so that you can enjoy it for a longer period of time, try out one of the following two methods—or, for the best possible results, do both in tandem.

First things first, put the candle in the freezer. Yes, the freezer. By doing so, you are hardening the wax, which makes it melt more slowly and therefore last longer. The thinner the candle, the less time it needs to spend in the freezer. While a thick pillar candle might take six or eight hours to freeze, a thin taper might be ready within an hour or less. But as there’s no danger of a candle spending too long in the freezer, you might as well store all of your candles in the freezer, assuming there’s room. If there’s no space in there, simply slip your next-up-to-burn candle into the freezer on the morning or night before you’re planning to light it.

Trick number two can be done in addition to, or separate from, the first. After letting the candle burn long enough for a pool of wax to collect around the wick, go ahead and blow out the flame. Then, acting fast, proceed to sprinkle table salt into the liquid wax. If necessary, use a toothpick to ensure that the salt actually mixes into the wax and doesn’t merely sit on the surface. Adding salt serves the same purpose as putting the candle in the freezer—it slows down the rate at which the wax melts, giving you a longer, more economical burn. When you use salt in addition to the freezing method, you’re doing all that can be done to squeeze extra time out of a candle. But it can also be helpful to keep the candle wick trimmed to about a quarter inch in length, because longer wicks tend to hasten burning.

Beyond burn time, there’s another factor to consider. Have you ever had a candle that became more and more lopsided as the wick flamed its way down, leaving you at the end with nubby, waxen walls encircling a burned-out crater? The leftover wax signals that you didn’t get all you could have gotten from the candle. To get the most bang for your buck, you need to ensure that the candle burns both evenly and completely. What matters most here is how long you let the candle burn the first time you light it. It’s critical not to extinguish it until the pool of wax has extended across the diameter of the candle. Blow it out too soon, and you are in effect dooming the candle to leave excess wax; if it doesn’t melt on the first lighting, the dry, hard wax around the outside edge will almost never burn. Finally, remember not to leave the candle near a door or window or in any similarly drafty spot; not only is such a location unsafe, but it can also result in uneven burning.


Bob Vila Radio: Level Out a Wobbly Ceiling Fan

It's hard to relax under a wobbly ceiling fan. If yours no longer rotates as it should, take these steps toward making the repair.

Ceiling fans are great—until they get wobbly. What causes that to happen, and how can you go about fixing a wobbly ceiling fan?

Wobbly Ceiling Fan

Photo: shutterstock.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WOBBLY CEILING FANS or read the text below:

First, check for dirt on the blades. Yes, even a small buildup can cause wobble. Use a sponge and household cleaner to get off the grime.

Wobbling could also mean one or more of the blades has become warped or cracked. Replace if necessary.

If the blades look okay, check to see if they’re out of alignment. You can do that by using a yardstick to measure from the upper tip of each blade to the ceiling. If the distance varies, check for loose screws where the blades are attached to their metal housings.

Also, those housings sometimes get slightly bent—from overzealous cleaning or whatever—and need to be gently bent back to their original position.

If none of that works, head to the home center and pick up a blade balancing kit. They’re only a few bucks, and if they help you solve the problem, there’s no doubt you’ll consider that money well spent.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


Weekend Projects: 5 Kid-Friendly DIY Forts

What better way to spend a chilly month than indoors wrapped in the blankets of your DIY fort? And once you've gathered your blankets, clothespins, cushions, or other supplies, the only limit is your imagination—or maybe the ceiling!

Remember your mom’s heavy sigh when you and your brother carried off the couch cushions, plundered all the blankets, and ransacked the laundry room for clothespins? That sigh heralds the building of a blanket fort—and for many kids, it’s a first introduction to the challenge of design. Whether you assemble it yourself, leave the construction up to the kids, or do it all together as a family, don’t be surprised if you want to settle into the DIY fort in your living room!

 

1. A-FRAME ABODE

DIY Forts - A Frame

Photo: mycakies.com

Some of the best forts are spontaneously built, but if you’re going for a particular look, it helps to have a plan. Rubyellen (an adult) constructed this easy DIY fort frame using little beyond whitewood molding, dowels, and an drill chucked with a spade bit. Best of all, it’s collapsible. Visit Cakies for the plans and full tutorial.

 

2. TABLECLOTH TENT

DIY Fort - Tablecloth

Photo: etsy.com

After spotting this tent from CoolSpacesForKids, Centsational Girl set out to make her own for less. The process? Simple. Buy enough fabric to cover the tabletop and legs. Then, for the windows, use shortened curtain panels, tea towels, or fabric scraps. Feeling extra ambitious? Sew or glue on ribbon ties as curtain pulls.

 

3. NETFLIX NEST

DIY Fort - TV Nest

Photo: Anna, reddit.com

Pulled up to a TV and stocked with puzzles, you could spend days in Anna’s DIY fort, losing hours like house keys. By night, fuzzy blankets are your mattress, and the string lights are just bright enough to read by. To make yours, use your sofa and coffee table as a foundation, then layer on blankets and pin up some bulbs.

 

4. MAGIC MANOR

DIY Fort - Magic

Photo: fortmagic.com

Fort Magic, best known for its appearance on NBC’s Shark Tank, sells a 382-piece kit enabling you to make more than 20 different forts out of PVC pipe-like parts. The company claims the kits boost creativity and confidence, while teaching kids “the value of planning [and] believing in their ability to complete a project.”

 

5. CLASSIC CUSHIONS

DIY Fort - Cushions

Photo: pacificcoast.com

Your fort might not have four stories, but Pacific Coast’s basic principles still apply. First, pick your spot—an area with enough furniture to support your structure. Next, arrange cushions and furniture in a circle, building up where you can. Finally, add comforters to form a roof that blocks out light and makes the space cozy!


Bob Vila Radio: The Risks and Allure of a Ventless Fireplace

If you decide a ventless gas fireplace would make for a safe and healthy addition to your home, you can look forward to heat and ambiance with none of the mess and hassle of a traditional hearth.

It’s not hard to understand the allure of ventless gas fireplaces. On the one hand, they offer heat and a cozy ambiance. On the other hand, they enable you to circumvent what’s often the most challenging aspect of adding a fireplace—proper ventilation.

Ventless Gas Fireplaces

Photo: majesticfireplaces.com

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Listen to BOB VILA ON VENTLESS GAS FIREPLACES or read the text below:

Be aware that there are health concerns associated with ventless gas fireplaces. That being the case, anyone considering one ought to discuss the project with a professional before purchasing.

If you decide to move forward, you’re likely to enjoy the fact that ventless gas fireplaces involve fewer hassles than traditional hearths. There’s no splitting of wood, no trudging to and from the woodpile, no messy soot and charred wood to clean up.

You’ll also like the fact that ventless fireplaces are generally less expensive than their vented counterparts, since the former don’t require exhaust vents or flues to get rid of combustion byproducts. That’s because, at least theoretically, they produce very few byproducts. But again, you should know that some building scientists doubt whether these products truly operate as claimed.

One other plus: They don’t need electricity to operate, so if you get hit with a power outage you’ll still have a reliable source of heat.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.


Would You Buy a Mattress on the Internet?

The convenience and ease of ordering your next mattress online may mean farewell to the ritual of lying on a dozen different mattresses at three different showrooms.

Casper Mattress

Photo: casper.com

It would be an exaggeration to state that mattress shopping provokes as much stress as, say, losing your job or getting a divorce. But if you’ve ever replaced a mattress, you know how utterly confusing, inexplicably time-consuming, and overall unpleasant the process can be. Why does it have to be so hard?

Casper, a “sleep startup” less than one year old, seeks to do away with the many hassles involved with buying a mattress, simplifying the often trying process. The company’s methods are unusual: Unlike other manufacturers who offer a dizzying variety of options aimed at people with different budgets and sleeping preferences, Casper sells one model at an affordable price. Although the company does operate one showroom, in New York City, most customers make their purchase where mattresses have rarely been sold before: the Internet. Within days, your new mattress arrives at your door, compressed inside of a large box.

Photo: casper.com

The popular wisdom has always been to test a mattress before you buy it. If you don’t happen to live near the Casper showroom (most customers don’t), you can still test the mattress, and not just for a few minutes, but for up to 100 nights in the comfort of your own bedroom. If you decide—after one night, two weeks, or even three months—that you want something different after all, Casper refunds your money in full and sends a courier to retrieve the mattress. So, as the company says, “even if you insist on shopping around, why not try Casper while you do it?” It’s hard to disagree, even if you have doubts about buying a mattress this way.

Casper believes that once you try its made-in-the-U.S.A. mattress, you won’t want to bid it farewell. Extensive research and development went into the product, and its design has been carefully tweaked to be comfortable for the greatest possible number of people. While the support layer is made of medium-firm memory foam—the stuff that made Tempur-Pedic a household name—there’s also a soft and springy comfort layer on top, composed of premium, nonallergenic latex. Through this combination of layers, the mattress achieves a happy medium. It’s bouncy, but not too bouncy. It’s enveloping, but not at all smothering.

Photo: casper.com

Pricing is simple: the twin size is $500; full is $750; queen is $850; and king is $950. And because foam mattresses do not need a box spring, there are no surprise hidden costs. Plus, Casper offers a 10-year full replacement limited warranty that covers any product shortcomings resulting from normal wear.

For more information, visit Casper.


Cabin of the Week: The Floating Farmhouse

A four-year labor of love transforms a derelict Catskill Mountains farmhouse into an effortlessly stylish amalgam of cutting-edge and country.

Floating Farmhouse - Exterior 1

Photo: givonehome.com

In 2002, Tom Givone went out on a limb. The former advertising copywriter decided to purchase and resuscitate a 19th-century farmhouse in Upstate New York. Thus began a four-year-long odyssey, filled with both physical and design challenges. The stop-and-start process was hampered not only by the delays and frustrations that typically accompany large-scale renovations, but also by the Great Recession. Today, however, the reborn structure carries no scars from the struggles that bedeviled its completion. Rather, the Floating Farmhouse, as Givone Home calls it, blends old and new with seemingly effortless style.

Floating Farmhouse - Addition

Photo: givonehome.com

Probably the most stunning aspect of the Floating Farmohouse is the spacious, open kitchen, situated within a new wing, the gable end of which is composed entirely of glass and steel. Here, there are overtly modern touches—polished concrete floors, wraparound bluestone counters, and high-gloss cabinetry. But there are also testaments to the history of the farmhouse. For instance, antique hand-hewn beams salvaged from a dairy barn in neighboring Pennsylvania span the contemporary space.

Floating Farmhouse - Bathroom

Photo: givonehome.com

The luxuriously minimalist master bathroom features a nine-foot-long wall-to-wall shower, as well as a tub housed within a white-painted wood surround. Girding the vessel sinks is a countertop made from one of the 11 pine trees on the property that were felled and milled to provide most of the lumber used in the project.

Floating Farmhouse - Bedroom

Photo: givonehome.com

Cor-Ten steel frames the fireplace and serves as a bold focal point in the master bedroom. The airiness of the room owes partly to its all-white palette, but more so to the soaring vaulted ceiling. A pared-down version of traditional wainscoting travels the room’s perimeter, recalling the building’s origin. But a more overt reminder of the past comes from the original cedar shake roof shingles, exposed during the renovation and deployed here, along with roughly aligned planks, as decoration for the doorway.

Floating Farmhouse - Guest Bathroom

Photo: givonehome.com

It’s hard to pick a favorite feature in the guest bathroom, but perhaps most noteworthy is the sumptuously imperfect Italian marble sink, which cantilevers into the room with no visible means of support (in fact, it’s hung by means of angle irons concealed within the wall). Also eye-catching is the wood-and-zinc tub, a 19th-century artifact rescued from a New York tenement building. Givone chose to wrap the vintage tub in stainless steel, again finding a way for different centuries to complement one another.

Floating Farmhouse - Before

Photo: givonehome.com

You can rent the Floating Farmhouse—located two hours north of New York City, in the Catskill Mountains—from $600 per night. Click here for details.


MDF 101

Learn the pros and cons of medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, and decide whether it's the right choice for your next carpentry project.

What Is MDF?

Photo: lowes.com

Medium-density fiberboard—most often known by its initials, MDF—rivals the affordability and versatility of plywood and similar engineered wood products. In certain situations, MDF even trumps all the others, because it’s so wonderfully easy to work with. Unlike real wood, MDF has no knots, grain, or warping, and its smooth surface gives way easily to the saw, leaving no splinters, burns, or tear-outs. For light carpentry projects, such as shelving and trim, MDF can be excellent.

Composition
MDF starts as sawdust and shavings—all the little bits and pieces of wood that are created as a byproduct of industrial milling. Once dehydrated, those wood fibers are then mixed with resin and wax and formed into panels. Under high heat and intense pressure, those panels are compressed and become rigid, with a hard shell. In the final stage of manufacturing, giant machines sand the panels down, giving them a silky smooth finish before cutting them to fixed dimensions.

What’s Available
MDF boards are typically tan or a darker brown and are sold primarily in either 1/2-inch-thick or 3/4-inch-thick sheets. Depending on where you live, the largest- and thickest-available sheets should cost you no more than $50. Also, important to note is that an MDF board may be marked or stamped to indicate a particular property. For instance, blue or red marking means that a board is fire retardant; a green marking indicates that it’s resistant to moisture.

What Is MDF? - Detail 2

Photo: lowes.com

Advantages
Working with MDF is the same as working with real wood. You don’t need any new skills or special tools. In fact, you are likely to find that, compared with sawing and attempting detail work with solid lumber, MDF is much more pliant. For smaller projects, such as bookcases or cabinetry, it’s user- and budget-friendly. Plus, its surface accepts paint well and also provides a welcoming base for a thin veneer layer.

Drawbacks  
You’re probably thinking there must be some downsides to using MDF. You’re right. There are several…

Handle with care: Heavier than plywood, MDF—particularly full-size MDF panels—can be difficult to carry without an extra pair of hands. Take care when transporting MDF, because much more so than plywood or real wood, its corners are easily damaged, and its smooth surfaces are easily scratched.

Water wary: In its untreated state, fiberboard fairs poorly, swelling or even fracturing when exposed to even a negligible amount of water. That shortcoming would severely limit the number of applications MDF could be used for, if it weren’t for the advent of moisture-resistant MDF, now readily available.

Dust settles: Working with MDF tends to create a great deal of dust, and not just run-of-the-mill dust, but a powdery, pervasive species that makes a mess and chokes the air. Go out of your way to seal off your work area, cover any immovable items you wish to protect, and be prepared to vacuum afterward.

Health risks: Most MDF contains urea-formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen. Until it’s fully sealed, MDF continues to off-gas. So when you’re working with this stuff, it’s best to do so outdoors or in a well-ventilated part of the home. You may also wish to go a step further and wear a respirator.

Assuming you take precautions to safeguard your personal health, MDF offers several practical and financial benefits. Keeping your eyes open to the pros and cons, give due consideration to MDF.


Bob Vila Thumbs Up: The Penny Competition Starts Today

Vote now—and vote daily—to choose your favorite among the penny projects competing to win this month's Bob Vila Thumbs Up competition!

They’re at the bottom of your pockets, purses, or change jars—but did you ever stop to consider their DIY potential? That’s right, we’re talking about pennies! They can dress up anything from a kitchen countertop to a custom made sign. And their copper tone makes them a coveted material for anyone who wants to showcase the new copper trend in their home for, well, mere pennies. For their resourcefulness, this month’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up competitors, all get a big round of applause.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

Pennies are pretty easy to use in your DIY project. But each penny project can pose specific challenges, too. These bloggers have invented different methods for shining, cutting, bending, or adhering pennies to their surfaces—and they all get points for creativity. But only one can win this month’s prize—a $250 gift card.

SEE ALL PROJECTS HERE

So cast your vote today and every day in February to help your favorite blogger win the prize and be the this mont’s Bob Vila Thumbs Up winner. After all, it’s your vote that determines the outcome of this competition.

Congrats to last month’s winning blogger, Two Thirty-Five Designs. Read more about the winning Bob Vila Thumbs Up project right here.

Would you like to recommend a blogger for the next Bob Vila Thumbs Up? Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter!


Clean Your Floors with What’s in the Pantry

Cleaning floors doesn't have to be a tedious chore. Once we hook you up with the right DIY solution for your flooring type, the rest will be easy.

Homemade Floor Cleaner

Photo: shutterstock.com

Sweeping dirt under the rug: Tempting, sure, but it’s no long-term solution. Different rooms in different houses require different levels of care, so only you can determine how often to clean. But we can tell you that homemade floor cleaner simplifies the task, somehow making it seem like much less of a production. In other words, when you clean with a homemade floor cleaner, it doesn’t feel like the sort of cleaning you know and dread. We think that’s largely because homemade floor cleaner contains no harsh chemicals; it’s completely non-toxic. It smells good, too—not in that artificial way, but genuinely good. Best of all, it’s cheap and easy to make and only requires ingredients that you likely have on hand. Here’s how to make special formulations  for some of the most common floor materials out there.

Wood Floor Cleaner
A popular recipe for cleaning and freshening hardwood floors includes the following: ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 gallon warm water, and a few drops of essential oil. When it comes to the oil, use any you like, or whatever you have, be it lemon or lavender or something else. While the vinegar disinfects, the oil adds a pleasing scent. Though it’s a forgiving formula overall, be careful to use the correct ratio of vinegar to water. If you fail to strike the right balance, the acid in the vinegar may damage the floor finish. When applying the homemade floor cleaner, do so with a dampened cloth or a mop with excess liquid wrung out of it.

Homemade Floor Cleaner - Mop

Photo: shutterstock.com

Ceramic Tile Floor Cleaner
Before applying homemade floor cleaner to ceramic tile, remember to sweep or vacuum first. There’s a chance that, in the process of wiping or mopping, loose debris could scratch the floor surface. Once it’s free of bits and pieces, scraps and shards, proceed to mix the DIY cleaner. Combine ¼ cup white vinegar, ¼ cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon dish detergent, and 2 gallons hot water. Apply it either with a damp cloth or a wrung-out mop. After, go over it with fresh water, then allow to dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
The trick here is to avoid using any ingredients that might damage the vinyl. One safe bet is to mix together ½ cup rubbing alcohol, ½ cup vinegar, a few drops of dish detergent, and 2 gallons of water. The alcohol cuts through the really tough stains, while the detergent helps remove grease and residue. Mop the entire floor, then rinse with fresh water, if it seems necessary. If desired, you can also add a few drops of essential oil to infuse your home with a fresh-smelling aroma.

Carpet Cleaner
Carpet cleaning can be a complex job involving a big machine or expensive outside help. But for a more casual approach, try this: In a spray bottle, combine a few drops of dish detergent, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 cup warm water, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. After vacuuming, generously spritz the carpeting in one section. Then, using a clean towel, rub the solution into the stain. Now, use a different towel to absorb all the moisture. In this way, clean the entire carpet, section by section.