Innovation / Leaders & People

Innovative Provocateur: Jay Austin and the Tiny House

Jay Austin, founder of Boneyard Studioes

Jay Austin, co-founder of Boneyard Studios

Jay Austin, co-founder of Boneyard Studios, is an innovative forward thinking designer both in living space and in decision making.

In the midst of the transitioning Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Austin demonstrates what is possible by freely designing a space with energy efficiency, environmentally sustainable comforts, and, affordability.

Sidestepping antiquated social and civic rules of home design and living, Austin designed his 140 square foot home on a flat bed trailer and almost lives completely off of the utility infrastructure grid.

What makes a tiny home so oddly compelling to explore? Is it the radical defiance of conventional norms in space, expected comforts, material consumerism, and, even witnessing a life unencumbered?

Austin started with a plywood shell of a container and a budget of under $46,000.

Slowly over the course of a year, first weekends and then moving in, camping style, he let the space evolve naturally and in relation to each choice. The space materialized to include a loft, a bathroom, a kitchenette, a cafe bar and a living room area with a hideaway coffee table. Grand windows line the home with a long narrow center window that easily opens from the bottom or the top along a skylight window on the ceiling.

Selecting self-sustaining measures to create comforts within and to live as much as possible off of the ‘grid’ for utilities to meet his daily 2kWh, Austin selected energy efficient appliances to include :

Austin’s design incorporates collecting rain water to meet his daily need of approximately three to four gallons of water a day. Rain is collected from the roof, directed down along rain chains and then run through a filtration below the house to process and store up to 80 gallons of water to use and drink.

With minimum shelf space and what must approach zero waste, dried food is acquired in bulk and stored in small jars lining a wall or even in small Grundt magnetic containers from Ikea attached to the ceiling steel beams.

The most challenging and the most unexpected aspected of building the home, Austin explained, was the realization of the emotional investment required to adapt and change to a new dynamic of space and living reality.

In the process, Austin said he realized that “each decision has consequences.” Every square foot required a decision overcoming any possible lingering decision paralysis.

As though, Austin explained, he was creating a 3-D puzzle. Every item within has multiple purposes or at least fits within with ease. For example, the air conditioner fits in the long window during the summer and underneath the seating area of the living room during the winter. The ladder to the sleeping area of the loft, fits on the wall perfectly during the day inconspicuously acting as a work of art to the guest. The back center window, feet from the kitchen opens from the bottom to make it easy to clip herbs growing on outdoor ledge.

A modern day Zen master, Austin rapidly determines whether something belongs, fits and is even required.

By example, Austin quietly presents a new way of thinking of old ways of acting. Are systems and structures in place because each continue to be valued and needed or are each in place because no one has the courage to innovate, adapt to current dynamics and invest in the future?

Austin demonstrates the value of creative problem solving, qualitative and quantitative decision making in designing affordable, energy efficient, environmentally comfortable living spaces as well as being a thought leader.

Now, imagine the possibilities across sectors. Revolutionary.

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” — Camus

Follow Jay at If you have any questions or comments, please add below.

By Keri Douglas, editor, 9 Muses News, a web magazine on new global trends in art, science and business. All Copyright Rights Reserved. Please ask for permission to use.


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