Inside the Tiny House Project
Artists Chris Silva and Karly Williams Plan a Permanent Honeymoon
Chris Silva has never done things the conventional way. When he graduated from UCSB’s MFA program with a degree in new media, rather than moving to Los Angeles or New York to seek gallery representation or to Silicon Valley to become a typical techbro, Silva opened a thrift store in Old Town Goleta. What began as an art project in the cozy backside Suite C at 5860 Hollister Avenue morphed from an all-purpose secondhand operation into The Control Lab, the area’s only store that specializes in buying, selling, and trading retro video games. In case you don’t already know, old-school consoles like Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis are, as the saying goes, “a thing,” and The Control Lab has got them by the score. But by now that’s old news, as Silva and his fiancée, Karly Williams, have a new project in the works that’s wedding-related, artsy, and, like much of Silva’s previous work, highly community oriented. Foregoing the traditional honeymoon as well as the standard gift registry, Silva and Williams have established a “honeyfund” to support the construction of a tiny house.
The idea for this minimal structure is a simple one. In the characteristically exclamation-point-studded mission statement on their Honeyfund site, the enthusiastic couple lays it out like this:
Even after graduating from UCSB — We’re lucky to already have a home full of everything we need, actually too much stuff, so we are asking for contributions to our tiny house project that is going to be displayed at the Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival instead of gifts! Here you can contribute to our future, help put us in a better position to battle our student loans, and help make our dreams come true!
The project (see image) has since gained considerable momentum, as a variety of partners have gotten on board, including Sigrid Wright at the Community Environmental Council (CEC). The CEC has chosen Silva and Williams’s tiny house as a featured project at Santa Barbara Earth Day, so that’s where this little home on wheels will make its public debut. In addition to this key opportunity for wider exposure, the pair’s tiny-house project is now being helped along by Kim Yasuda’s sculpture class at UCSB, where the structure is being built, and architect Justin Najjar-Keith, who will help draw the plans. Other contributors to the project include Seattle Tiny Homes, Ashley and Vance Engineering, Santa Barbara Painting, Livingreen, Insulate S.B., Below Magid Construction, and Hayward Lumber.
When I visited Silva at UCSB on a recent afternoon, the tiny house was a not-so-tiny stack of lumber, but as we started talking, it became apparent that the spirit behind this project is anything but small and that it connects to a longstanding interest among the people of Santa Barbara in sustainable alternative housing. Ken Yokota, the affable staff technician who manages the UCSB sculpture yard, joined us to discuss his memories of several such efforts made in these parts, dating as far back as 1971. Yokota himself lived in a tiny house on wheels in a dirt lot behind the Riviera Theatre on Alameda Padre Serra before the area was tamed by more traditional forms of development. Silva told me that the students in Yasuda’s sculpture class were particularly eager to become involved in something that would offer them hands-on experience leading to a livable, sustainable result. Those interested in following the tiny house project as it proceeds toward the big reveal at Earth Day on Saturday, April 18, can learn more by visiting sotinyhouse.tumblr.com. In the meantime, congratulations to Chris Silva and Karly Williams on their impending nuptials and on their unorthodox approach to achieving every married couple’s dream — a permanent honeymoon.