The Mayday Experiment: Seeing Stars

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Recently I stumbled across a document on my computer while I was looking for something else. It outlined the initial plans for the tiny house, and brainstormed ideas. Many of them were crazy – folding walls and tables on the outside to delineate outside workspace for a studio, for example. Or my early insistence that a washer/dryer was a good idea. Some were frivolous – a ramp for Monkey, my cat, to climb to the loft, I suppose when I was still thinking I would have a ladder instead of stairs. Some of the ideas are still in the plans: the small tub, for example, and creating drawer space in the floor of the loft with lift-off lids, and one that was a particular must-have, underlined and in bold – SKYLIGHT. The one thing highlighted as a necessity.

This week, it happened: The tiny house finally has a glorious large skylight! Angled at the back of the house, above where the stairs will be, the skylght already has it feeling like a real house, an actual defined space, despite the still-broken windows and lack of interior finish. And it looks like a real house from the outside, too, as you walk up the street: The plywood is gone and the roof almost finished, with the black EPDM smooth and gleaming and the sun glinting off of the glass. No more plywood showing at all!

In deciding where to place the skylight, a couple of factors were important. I work at night a lot and tend to sleep in the morning, so I didn’t want it directly over the bed, but the dilemma was that I DID want to be able to see stars from bed. Another factor was water while the tiny house was on the road – any window or opening that would have wind and water coming towards it at high speeds would be more likely to leak over time, so placement at the back end of the house would help prevent that likelihood.

Philip Spangler and I had bought the skylight at Extras last fall before we'd framed in the roof, leaving the appropriate-sized hole that we had measured once, twice, three times…and somehow still created a curb for the skylight to rest on that was ½” too long. But we didn’t know that until we got the skylight on the roof — and it was HEAVY.

Too heavy, in fact, for us to understand how we would get it on the roof with only three of us. Victoria Salvador and I were joined by my new friend, blacksmith and recent transplant to Colorado Aaron Schulz, who I had met at a party at the house of my bestie, Aaron Loki Johnson, a couple of blocks from my place. He is the latest friend to be forced out of Whittier by the rampant gentrification, and as his landlord prepares to sell his quirky Victorian, where we’ve had fun times and dinners and garden parties and deep conversation, a party was in order to say goodbye.

Aaron was the strong one – though Victoria and I are both pretty strong, we also have back issues, and the skylight was a couple hundred pounds of glass and steel, awkward and too easy to break. It was clear we needed at least one more person, and planned to lift the skylight through the hole with two people on the roof and two below. 

My first call, of course, was to Loki, since he still lives only two blocks away for the time being, but he was out of town visiting his father. So I called friends Sabin Aell and Randy Rushton at nearby Hinterland. Randy, though on deadline, agreed to take a quick break and come over, with their sweet dog Mo in tow. Randy has so much construction experience that he could have gotten the skylight up there by himself, and within ten minutes we had it on the roof and ready to install by placing the long ladder at the end, feet upended and dug into the gravel and dirt. We simply laid the skylight on the ladder like a ramp and pushed it up easily, and Randy and Aaron attempted to fit it onto the curb…only to find we needed some modifications. Randy headed back to his work, and we dismantled the skylight curb.

The curb is the wooden part that sticks up above the roof to hold the skylight. We needed to lose 7/8” of the wood, but only on the part that stuck up above the roof. So we cut it free, cut the chunk of wood roughly in half on the table saw, and that did the trick with a little more fussing with the EPDM patches that Victoria had carefully cut and applied in two layers. By this time, the sun was beating down, and though it made us sweat like mad and run when we heard the ice cream truck’s welcome jangly tune, it also made the patches easy to pull apart, pliable and soft in the pounding heat. 

After determining the fit, it was a simple matter of putting down window sealant on the curb, then screwing it into place. And now, a beautiful patch of sunlight tracks across the floor. I can envision Monkey chasing it in the future and spending afternoons sunning his furry belly in this swath of warmth. And more important, no more moisture inside – a good thing, since errant volunteer seedlings had started to sprout!

From 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday, June 26, you can come check out the tiny house at the Untitled event at the Denver Art Museum, as part of the  evening focusing on “Habitat.” At 7:30 p.m., I will be giving a talk on the Mayday Experiment: Come gaze up at the museum through the new skylight for yourself!

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging out her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.

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