Tag Archives: iHouse

Contemporary Small House – Airstream

You never know what’ll turn up under the next rock. Debbie and I are enjoying our eighth year of full time living in our 25′ Airstream trailer. We love living on the road, able to travel where and when we want.

A year ago we closed on a nice piece of land. Now we wonder how small a house we can afford to build. Browse the web with different key words for search terms, and you may find an endless array of hits. How many floorplans do we need for enough choice?

We keep looking. The iHouse isn’t offered anymore. Still, there are enough new options to keep us looking. Sometimes we find really stupid hits on the Internet. On the other hand, we get lucky too. Look what we found today when we searched “contemporary small homes”:


Pretty cool. We should get one, right?

Hanging out in Corpus Christi for the month

Expenses, Taxes, Work, Worries

We haven’t had enough to worry about for a few years. Our property taxes are for two depreciating assets, so they go down each year. We are lucky to avoid unusual expenses overall. We’ve stayed on budget, year to year. No worries, no problems so far.

Two weeks ago we mentioned we were in the hunt for a place. Since before Thanksgiving, we’ve visited a pretty spot in Ashe County, high up in the northwest corner of NC. Week after week, we found ourselves hiking on it and sometimes sitting against a tree, listening and watching. The afternoon sun shines through the leafless branches and warms us a little. All is quiet but the trees talking to the wind.

The NW county of NC

The NW county of NC

Finally this week we bought that very pretty wooded acreage. It has road frontage along part of two sides. No buildings, no development, just a nice large wooded parcel. We learned at closing it has been part of their family farm for over 150 years. We’ve met two members of the family, both really nice guys. We apparently are the second family of outsiders to be allowed in the cove.


A value of full timing, we’ve always thought, is the freedom to search the continent for the best place to live. We’ve enjoyed exploring almost all of North America and have often asked each other, “Could this be the place?” Many places could, and we’ve met many of you in these places. A few come to mind immediately like Durango, Bozeman, Madison, Port Angeles, Bend.

Two things no other state has are the Appalachian Mountains and our families. Each time we return to NC we always feel at home. We love the beaches, pulled pork barbecue, the Great Smokey Mountains and our state’s history. North Carolina is where we’re from. We like being close to family. The NC mountains tick all the boxes for us.

A friend showed us around Ashe County last September and introduced us to a great group of local folks at a diner he frequents. One thing led to another and we found ourselves working with a wonderful realtor, Scott Cronk at Real Living Carolina Property. He was consistently helpful, patient, and responsive, never pushy.

Scott knows the area well and offered helpful insights on land he showed us. Several places ended up on our short list, and any would have been great. Scott said of this one, it is all usable, something definitely not true for any of the others. We enjoy working with him and would gladly recommend Scott to anyone interested in buying in this area.

Often we will post our thoughts about looking at house designs. We long perused the designs in the newspaper and in books, pointing out how we’d change this or remove that. It’s fun to dream about how our house could be, if ever we built another.

Almost four years ago we posted about picking the perfect house, but not knowing where to put it. Very sadly, we learned yesterday we won’t be ordering an iHouse — they’ve pulled it from the market. There are other great modular designs including Marmol-Radziner, BLU, Method and Green Pod. We weren’t ready yet anyhow, but we’ll miss the iHouse.

Shady Cove drive2

We aren’t looking to build yet. But we we have found the place we want someday to do it. We’ll determine where we would build a house. We hope to figure out an attractive and serviceable driveway and parking area this year. We’d love to pull our Airstream in and enjoy for a week sometimes the quiet solitude of the NC mountains on our own little piece of paradise.

We paid this year’s taxes at the closing already, the most property tax we’ve paid in over six years. Our annual taxes won’t be reducing anymore. We’ll have work to do every time we visit. Hopefully we haven’t added any worries to our bag, although our heads are spinning with all the possibilities for using this beautiful land.

Full timing appeals to us now as much as it did when we started over six years ago. The rumors are false. We have no plans to stop living on the road. Our plan originally was to full time RV for between three and twenty years. We’re still on that plan, seven years later. We love what we’re doing. So little time, so much still to see!

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2014 Dreamstreamr

Our iHouse can be ready in three weeks!

We left Chattanooga this morning after a sweet two day visit. Chattanooga was five sets of tennis; a couple of world-class walks; the world’s best hamburger from Zarzour’s, the oldest restaurant in Chattanooga (by many years); two wonderful meals and a great visit with Jim’s sister and her husband; and fantastic weather. We left for Mississippi early, very early, Wednesday morning for Cleveland, Mississippi.

Our route took us from Chattanooga through Huntsville, AL, and Muscle Shoals across the MS border through Corinth and over to Olive Branch, MS, then down through Clarksdale to Cleveland, MS, to visit Jim’s aunt and uncle. This was a really easy one-day drive, four lanes highways all the way, and very pretty across northern Alabama and Mississippi.

Earlier, before Chattanooga, we had an exciting pair of stops in Bean Station and then Alcoa, TN. We toured a Clayton Homes production facility in Bean Station, TN, and viewed the prototype iHouse in Alcoa, TN.

The plant manager, Charlie Hemphill, met us and guided us through an extensive tour of the Norris Plant. The plant produces high quality modular homes, including i-Houses. An i-House II with two large Flex units on the lot piqued our interest. These were in final stages of preparation for shipping to an owner, and have highly customized floor plans and appointments. More interesting still is the work flow and coordination inside the production facility.

We saw many modular homes, in various phases of production, throughout the plant. Every part of the process seemed attended by numerous skilled individuals, working together to complete their tasks and send the house on its way. The production process is a finely choreographed ballet of floor frames, interior components, and wall and roof systems to compose completed modular homes in five day to twenty day cycles, depending upon the complexity of the model.

Our favorite part, of course, was surveying the i-House and Flex units at the production facility.

We spent awhile peering inside and all around the exterior of the i-House and Flex units at the Norris plant. The production facility was fun and our tour very educational. Charlie Hemphill, the plant manager, has been with Clayton 36 years and at this plant 21 years. He operates a very clean and effective operation, and was a great guide for our tour.

Now let’s go to Alcoa, TN, to meet Brandon O’Connor, Clayton i-House Product Manager. Brandon introduced himself to us months ago after we had written a couple of blogs about our impressions of the i-House. He invited us to visit Bean Station and Alcoa. We felt like we already knew him when we arrived at Clayton’s retail campus in Alcoa.

The i-House entrance still captivates us as sharply as it did at our first visit in Everett, Washington, last September. The soaring roof overhangs the entrance doors, the two lights bracket the doors, and the entrance just seems to call to us, “Come on in!”

We could look forward to coming home to this beautiful and clean-cut interior. The kitchen is very inviting and fresh-looking with IKEA-style cabinets, glass-block backsplash behind the range, recessed-can CFL lights and pendants over the island and dining table.

We love how the i-House looks from every angle. Natural light abounds, the open floorplan works great with this IKEA furniture. The ceiling rises from the kitchen to the entrance wall, creating a tall ceiling height. The glass entrance wall and large windows on one side combine with clerestory windows on the other side to light up the Shaw bamboo floor.

Another cool angle, the view down onto the roof shows this roof is about more than just keeping the interior dry and collecting rainwater for storage in a cistern — this roof supports all the solar panels you want to throw onto it. We counted 1,800 watts of photovoltaic panels, almost ten times our Airstream’s panels. The panels are connected to a grid-tie to feed the kW back to the power company. Everybody wins!

The Norris production facility has tuned all parts of the home-building process very finely. Floor systems are built on one side, roof structures on the other. Walls systems are built in-between. Completed floors move ahead, are locked together for the remainder of the production process. Components like tubs and interior wall sections are added onto the floor systems before exterior walls are attached. Roof structures carefully crane overhead and into place atop the walls, insulation is filled onto the ceilings, the roofs are sheathed and shingled.

The i-House requires more time to build than the production facility’s other models due to it’s more complex materials and other features. Like an Airstream trailer, it can be a bit more customized and has features requiring more time to finish, like smooth ceilings. Still, Charlie Hemphill and his team have optimized the production cycle so the i-Houses are built both with high quality and expeditiously.

What amazed us most about our tour? We learned our i-House can be ready in as little as three weeks production time. If only we knew where to put it. . . We’re looking for a place with 75 degree temperatures.

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

Another iHouse message?

Yes, friends, yet another message about the Clayton Homes iHouse. We’ve talked about it a couple of times previously. We can’t resist one more post, except it probably isn’t the last time we’ll talk about this.

We can try to tell you how impressed we are with how it looks, and why we like it. The open floorplan, economical use of space (1,023 sf iHouse, 199 sf Flex), and durable finishes inside and out all appeal to us. The notions of Usonian design we feel in the sensible and appealing floorplan remind us of our tours at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West.

We may not buy an iHouse but it has, at least, started us thinking about what we expect from any house we might build. The Andersen Low-E windows, no VOC coatings, the complete collection of rainwater from roof systems, great use of natural light, these things all appeal to us. And we like the small footprint.

Words fail in describing the fine job Clayton Homes has done staging these model homes. So we thought we’d share this link to pictures we’ve taken. We hope you like these pictures as much as we do. And no, we still aren’t planning to quit full-timing.

This iHouse is so nice we’re tempted, but we just haven’t found yet where we want to stay more than six weeks. We’re full-timing North America, visiting all the places we can. How can we decide before we have checked all the places?

Another message about iHouse, yes. And we’ll offer another, perhaps, down the road as we consider full-timing and its alternative(s).

[Disclaimer — Jim and Debbie are not connected to, nor compensated in any way from, Clayton Homes nor any division related to them nor to their advertisers or agents.]

Jim and Debbie
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©2010 Dreamstreamr

Holiday Surprises and Delights

This is the season for surprises and delights. Hopefully, the holiday is filled with delight and joy for all of us. We’re glad to be in North Carolina amongst our family during this season.

Monday we spent the day running errands in Charlotte. We had our semi-annual teeth cleaning and check-up, visited our financial advisor, picked up some needed items from a few local stores, and had a great lunch visit to Mr. K’s Soft Ice Cream and Drive-In. We didn’t get the ice cream — we always have a Mr. K burger with chili, slaw, and mustard, with some fries. Yum!

Tuesday we made a couple of holiday visits and spent a half-hour at our little storage unit. We dropped off a few things, like our backpacking gear and goose-down sleeping bags we won’t need in south Florida. We exchanged a few clothes (to freshen up our wardrobe), and picked up some things we’d been missing awhile like a few of our music CDs.

Our biggest surprise was to find things in our storage unit we didn’t remember storing. How did these things end up here? We spent a little longer than we expected as we peered into a couple of the boxes. Sometime in the next year or two we’re going to need an entire day to go through everything and thin it out.

Christmas visit with Chas

Christmas visit with Chas

Wednesday we had a short day trip to Asheville, NC, to visit Charles, Jim’s son. Asheville is 140 miles west of Kannapolis. Each mile westward we saw a little more snow and a little cooler temperatures so, by the time we arrived in Asheville, we found snow everywhere. Charles had a little time before going to work so we had a nice brunch and opened presents with him. It was great to see him again.

Snowy Western NC

Snowy Western NC

Western North Carolina received 12 – 18 inches of snow last Friday and we saw plenty of evidence of it during our drive. We thought you who may be in non-snowing climates might enjoy a couple of pictures. The pictures are probably a lot easier to manage than the roads, driveways, trees, gutters and other things subject to damage from snow and ice. Enjoy!

Christmas iHouse

Christmas iHouse

How can this keep happening? First we saw an iHouse in Everett, Washington. A few months later we were surprised and delighted to find an open model on display in Mesa, Arizona. We saw the iHouse on display in Austin, Texas, on our way across the states last week. And today we stumbled upon our fourth iHouse by Clayton Homes, on I-40 in Statesville, on our way home from Asheville to Kannapolis. This model unit hasn’t been announced or officially opened, but the nice folks at Clayton Homes in Statesville, NC, allowed us a long visit.

This visit we noticed one big difference — the North Carolina version of the iHouse has twelve inch, instead of no, roof overhangs on the long sides. Each time we visit one we figure out another thing about the house, and we find ourselves liking it even more. We could live in one of these. But we still know neither where we would want to put it, nor when.

The weather outside is frightful

The weather outside is frightful

The weather in Kannapolis is still cold. We are so ready to be in warm weather again. We miss playing tennis. We miss being warm (whoops, did we already say that?). But there’s a time and place for everything. There are things we need to do in this home territory, like our dental visit, a little truck service, banking, and the storage unit. And we’re glad we’re with family for Christmas.

We’ll see lots more family Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, between Debbie’s family in Kannapolis and Jim’s family in Charlotte. We’re excited to see them all, it’s been many months since our last visit with many of them. The biggest surprises and delights are yet to come for us and for you. Be careful, be good, and be joyous. We’ll write again after Christmas, perhaps from sunny (and warm) south Florida.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from both of us.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

How not to tour Texas

We missed Texas. We just sorta flew across, you know? Every time Jim would awaken from a catnap, Debbie would have moved the truck and trailer east another hundred miles or so. After one nap we were out of the desert and in grasslands with, get this, water in the river beds. What, not dry riverbeds? If you’ve spent any time in Arizona or west Texas, you know what we’re talking about.

Yesterday morning we drove 400 miles from Mesa, AZ, and entered Texas from below Las Cruces, NM. We then drove another almost 300 miles and were still in west Texas, in Ft Stockton. This morning we left the Wal-Mart in Ft Stockton, TX, at 06:00 a.m. and started our zoom eastward in the dark and cold morning. It stayed dark and cold all morning, too, aided by very nice cloud cover.

The cloud cover is great for easterly sunrise travel, no hour or two of driving into the bright light on the horizon. Unfortunately the lack of sunlight also meant the day didn’t warm up much. Jim checked Texas cities current temperatures at mid-morning — not a single reported city anywhere in Texas, among two or three dozen, had temperatures above 42 degrees. We would have enjoyed even 42 — we were driving through 25 to 30 degree zones all morning.

Every hour or two we stopped and checked the Airstream’s indoor thermometer. The temperature stayed above 40F, not too bad. We ran the furnace for five or ten minutes during two stops, just to warm the plumbing spaces in the cabinets and under the floors, and turned it off again before heading out onto the highway. Great news, no frozen pipes.

Again, we alternated driving a couple of hours at a time each. Interstate I-10 was great, again. And we schemed to zoom through San Antonio and Houston before their rush hours, morning and afternoon, respectively. It worked great, except for I-10 and I-45 ramps construction right downtown Houston. Small delay there and another one in the ‘burbs of Austin. No big deal, and we arrived almost without incident in Sulphur, Louisiana at 17:45 hours Central time. Zoooooom!

Almost without incident, you might ask? Well, there was this one moment in Austin, TX. . . You see, they also have a Clayton Homes i-House in Austin. And, like the others, they stage their iHouse in a prominent place on their lot. Everyone driving by can see it, stare (a replacement for texting while driving, we suppose), and hit the brakes to try and turn in and visit it.

So we have, as of today, seen the iHouse models in Everett, Washington; Mesa, Arizona; and Austin, Texas. Except for Clayton Homes staff, and possibly some support/install staff of Ikea, we think we might be the best visitors Clayton Homes has for iHouses. Unless, we suppose, they more highly regard the visitors who also purchase an iHouse. What do you think?

Back to missing Texas — we didn’t stop anywhere and eat Texas Barbecue. This isn’t actually much of a loss to most North Carolinians, since we have much better BBQ in NC anyway. We didn’t stop and visit the LBJ State Park, although it looked really nice. We would love to return to Johnson City and Fredericksburg some time when we can return. El Paso looked interesting. Tex-Mex food is one of Jim’s favorites, and how did we do sampling this while crossing Texas?

Let’s see, we stopped last night at a Sonic for a burger and fries. That’s it for Texas dining for us — all the other food consisted of snacks in the truck while driving. What would Ray LaHood, our federal Secretary of Transportation say? Well he already did, and we weren’t so much eating as snacking. The difference, we maintain, is the same as the difference between cell-phone talking and talking to each other in person.

We have only 1,000 miles remaining to arrive in Kannapolis. We’re only 150 miles ahead of schedule, not really a very big deal although it took part of three hours extra driving to attain. Before we hit the sack tonight we’ll check our distances to any rush-hour potentials between here and Montgomery, Alabama, and plan tomorrow’s drive accordingly.

Follow us next time, to tour Texas. We’ll take our time in Texas, and enjoy it. Next time we visit Texas, we want stopping time instead of driving time. There’s a lot to see, and a whole lot of it isn’t even on I-10. Don’t tour Texas on this schedule — too fast, too thin, nearly might as well have flown across.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr