Boulder, Utah on the Hell’s Backbone

Drive nervously along the razor’s edge of Hell’s Backbone, cool off in Upper Calf Creek Falls, and then dine on local food at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder. We enjoyed this town back in June, and are catching up on our posts now.

Boulder Micro House from Recycled Materials

Thanks to Jacob Schor for sharing this article about a hand-built minihouse in Boulder. Love the creatively recycled materials. We’re a little skeptical about the builder’s proposition to “run an internet business in the woods” off of a 40 W solar panel with no mention of a battery bank. (See our posts on solar system design.) However, we love Grassi’s aesthetics and creativity.

Glenn Grassi’s “micro-house” in Erie is big on efficiency

Posted: 12/01/2011 01:00:00 AM MST
Updated: 12/01/2011 07:49:15 AM MST

By John Aguilar
Boulder Daily Camera

Glenn Grassi’s “micro-house” has 84 square feet of living space, with a shower, bed, wood stove and composting toilet.

ERIE In a town where 2,400-square-foot houses with finished basements dominate the marketplace, Glenn Grassi is betting the other way.
Oh, sure, his home has all the basics you’d expect — toilet, shower, bed, chair, table, stove, sink, even a hardwood floor.
But when all you’ve got is 84 square feet to work with, certain efficiencies must come into play. Grassi’s bed doubles as a shower, his chair doubles as a commode, and his wood-burning stove doubles as a furnace and cooking surface.
It’s spartan and spare, but the 41-year-old theater-set designer thinks such tight and cozy quarters are the wave of the future.
“You find what’s important and what’s not important,” Grassi said, as he slid open a refurbished and repurposed window on the side of his newly constructed mobile “micro-house,” which was parked in a quiet Erie neighborhood last month.
What Grassi — who lived in an RV in Los Angeles after discovering that his rock-band neighbors liked practicing in the apartment over his head — finds important is what an increasing number of Americans who have put their faith in the burgeoning “small house movement” find important. Downsizing is good for the wallet and the environment.
Grassi kept that green ethic at the forefront of his micro-house project, sourcing his wood, insulation, windows and a door from ReSource in Boulder and getting nearly everything else from yard sales and giveaways.
Then he used the stage-set designer skills and artistic sensibilities he has honed over the past 20 years to build a structure that not only can stand up to wind and snow but also has the feel of a nicely appointed home.
“I wanted people to be wowed when they walk in here,” Grassi said. “This is designer-quality — it’s got designer touches everywhere.”
Like the antique chair, the lower portion of which lifts up to reveal a composting toilet. Like the chandelier over the bed that runs off solar power. Like the arched wooden ceiling that effectively traps the generous warmth that radiates off the wood-fired stove.
Grassi, who worked on the house for a good chunk of a year, said he triple-screwed each shingle onto the roof to make sure that someone towing the house on the highway — the 3,300-pound structure is bolted to a trailer — wouldn’t see parts of it flying off in the rearview mirror.
“It’s airtight; it’s solid,” he said.
And now that he’s got it the way he wants it, he’s selling it, which is what he intended to do all along.
He’s asking $16,500 for the home. He says he might make and sell more micro-homes depending on how this one sells.

Rob Baer, senior manager at  Glenn Grassi of Erie built his mobile house with materials that were either recycled, found at yard sales or given to him. And now he’s offering the unit for sale, for $16,500. (Cliff Grassmick, Boulder Daily Camera)

ReSource, said it’s gratifying to see the jumble of building materials that regularly getsdropped off at the yard at Arapahoe Road and 63rd Street reconfigured into something as well-built as Grassi’s micro-house. “I think it shows a lot of vision,” Baer said. “Glenn looks past the condition of the material and makes it into something useful. It’s a great project.”
Beki Pineda, who owns Denver prop shop All Propped Up and has worked with Grassi on sets for local theaters, said she is not surprised he was able to build such a classy-looking home out of other people’s trash.
“He’s one of those guys who could take a pile of junk and make something beautiful out of it,” she said. “The idea that someone is going to be living in one of Glenn’s artworks is sweet.”
Grassi said the project is different from his trade in the theater world in that it has an air of permanence. “I wanted to build something that I didn’t have to destroy after a few performances,” he said.
Grassi said his micro-house could work for any number of people — from those seeking to hit the road and get away from everyone else to the teenage kid who wants his own place to jam out tunes in the backyard.
Included with the house are 40 watts’ worth of solar panels powerful enough to juice up a laptop and charge a cellphone. So while it’s off the grid, Grassi said, the micro-house could serve as a mobile office for a road-pounding Web developer. “You could get away from it all and run an Internet business in the woods,” he said.
Of course, that might mean an intruder — man or bear — could show up at the door. Not to worry, Grassi said, pointing to a sheathed knife hanging on the wall next to the door. “You get a machete for a security system,” he said.