Wednesday, November 18, 2009

the next big thing in small living

It began back in 2005. It was a small decision - well - sort of small but big in what we were deciding. We were putting the concept of what ideabox was going to be together.  We looked at the markets and realized there had to be an end to the mcmansion philosophy of housing. We saw crazy financing of houses by people who couldn't afford them. And we sensed at some point quality of life would become more important than mass consumption.

(For all of our sensing we didn't sense the almost complete erosion of the economy).  But that's okay, because we made a literally small decision that day back in 2005.

Our "small" decision was that ideabox would become "the next big thing in small living."  ideabox would focus on small spaces that are modern, easy, and a delight to be inside and outside  (as we think about how our houses interact on their sites. Outdoor "rooms" are as important to us as the indoor ones!) Every house would be energy efficient and built to green standards. We wanted a simplistic modern lifestyle.

The ideas behind ideabox came from a career ranging from architectural design, energy & resource efficiency, and commercial design and marketing. We were inspired by real, actual energy savings our programs were realizing. We saw opportunities to use resources more efficiently by creatively using cool building materials. And we saw that we could create an identifiable brand that represented our beliefs about design and living more responsibly.

And perhaps most important, we figured out construction methods that allow us to build incredible houses at reasonable costs without compromising quality. It's kind of exciting.

So you can see - ideabox is the next big thing in small living!

Our first house was 400 SF in size.... and you wouldn't know when standing inside. Our houses are the resolution of details coming together.  Blending "the right amount of everything" to create spaces that are truly delightful. Careful use of glazing to cast your eyes beyond the walls. Simple lines that ebb and flow allowing an ideabox to nestle in its surroundings making each home a unique living experience.  Our biggest house is just over 1,200 SF, and it seems huge.

It's practically perfect!

ideabox houses live beyond their walls. Our houses are crafted and real. Each and every one is a unique build, not a product out of inventory or on a lot somewhere. They're not the result of a fad or trying to be like something else. They are the result of a career looking for solutions that better peoples lives.

It's why ideabox is the next big thing in small living!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

it began with a bike travel trailer

Over the years, especially lately with the new "fortino" in Seattle, we've been asked about where ideabox came from. To answer the questions, we thought we'd use this blog to sort of tell the story.  This is Chapter One, or maybe a prologue.... we'll see.

The ideabox story - we think - goes way back to a pivotal event in my childhood, which was the day we created the "bike travel trailer". I was about ten. I had already built a tree fort, and a back yard fort. The idea of a fort on wheels, a fort I could take anywhere with my bike, now that was a cool concept of a fort. So with the limit of materials my dad said I could use (plywood, 4x4's, a ton of nails, some tar paper, and an old awning thing for sides) the design was created. A couple of days in construction the first prefab fort (otherwise known as a bike travel trailer) was complete. It was very cool, complete with working blinkers controlled from the bike's handle bars, interior lights with switches, a radio with two speakers, all powered from a 6 volt battery.  There was a sleeping loft above the main level. To save weight, we cut the awning cloth material to make the sides. The new prefab fort was designed to attach to a sting ray bike with the banana seat (easier connection).

I called the City with for applicable permits, (none required). Two red flyer wagons were required, so we thought. (They were my sisters wagons, which was great because they weren't my wagon). Wagons affixed, "hitch" attached to the sting ray banana seat, blinkers attached to the handlebar and tested, we were ready to go. The goal of the inaugural journey was a county park along the river, several miles away. We had a long journey ahead of us.

The first journey quickly became the only journey. The prefab fort/bike travel trailer was heavy. Really heavy. (My dad thought it might have been the thousands of nails we hammered into anything that would take a nail). The idea of pulling via the stingray was jettisoned in favor of a push assist from the back of the unit.  But that was okay, cuz we could see where we were turning because of the blinkers. The journey was epic, we knew we were doing something way ahead of its time. All the neighborhood kids were gathered to watch.  My sisters were even okay with using their red flyer wagons.

We were off. About 25 yards from our driveway, the first wagon lost its wheels, the metal flattened and the rubber part shredded due to the weight of the prefab fort. Not to be deterred, another wagon was summoned (my wagon). This worked... for about fifty yards when the second wagon lost its wheels - again flattened.  My sisters were already calling for mom.  This wasn't going to end well.  

By the time we made it to the corner of our street, all the wagons and all their wheels were flattened. It was metal on pavement. It wasn't pretty. The executive decision was made to return to the production facility (my backyard) using the hopelessly flattened wagon wheels. It was embarrassing. All the neighborhood kids watched our less than triumphant return. My sisters were crying.  My mom was mad. And dad wasn't even home yet (but he was due soon, as the 100 yard journey took most of the day).

The prefab fort lost its bike travel trailer status, finding a home on top of a couple of saw horses. We added a sterno stove and an old coleman cooler creating a kitchen. It was starting to get very cool. We had the only elevated prefabricated fort with blinkers, lights, a working radio with speakers, and now a kitchen, in the neighborhood.

And what was to be ideabox was born.

Next - the more recent story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jim to speak at Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting

ideabox co-founder and chief design guy Jim Russell was invited to speak at the Urban Land Institute's Fall Meeting, starting today in San Francisco. The annual meeting expects over 5,600 attendees over its four days and speaks to ULI's relevance to current real estate concerns in a rebuilding economy. 

Jim was asked to talk about his design and energy efficiency experience, and about the ideabox solution to small, designed, green and energy efficient prefab housing and its place in urban environments. Of particular interest is Jim's thoughts on "right sized" density applications and a reexamination of existing development models such as parks and land based condominium solutions. "We are looking forward to a lively discussion, there a lot of bright minds at ULI," Jim said. "Even in a challenging economy, we think good reality based design will result. There are a lot of people who are looking for a terrific lifestyle and a housing solution that is more about living than about keeping up a house."

Jim's session is on Wednesday. "It's terrific an organization like the Urban Land Institute recognizes what ideabox is doing. It speaks to our market relevance."

Hope to have interesting thoughts to write about after the presentation.  Enjoy the week!