Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a tiny house in Iceland? Damien and Steph, the creative duo behind Tiny Spaces, recently traveled to Iceland to film some of the most extraordinary tiny and small houses and they share their insights and experiences with me. In this episode, we explore the unique design features of these tiny spaces, the building materials and systems that keep these remote spaces safe from the harsh climate, and some insights that people can gain by exploring the tiny lifestyle.
In This Episode:
- How turf houses work with the climate
- Alternative energy sources keep remote dwellings on-grid
- Building for extreme environments
- Preserving history through tiny living
- Additional future Tiny Spaces filming locations
Links and Resources:
- Shelter Stream
- Studio Bua
- Episode 111 with Kristie Wolfe
- Watch Tiny Spaces: Iceland on Shelter Stream
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Some of the houses are hundreds of years old
The Water Tower was built over an existing unused water tower
The idea was to use the existing footprint
This converted barn's original structure was preserved for this tiny house
Springtime in Iceland meant 18 hours of sunlight to film in!
The glass house is a retreat
There are two tiny houses situated in front of the Katla volcano
They are situated so that they cannot see each other, thankfully!
Modern turf houses bring old methods and new materials together
Stephanie Mauro 0:00
And it's fantastic to see architects utilizing repurpose spaces. There are so many beautiful structures. And if you take that away, that's the history you're taking away. You can put a bunch of modern day units and it kind of ruins the aesthetic.
Ethan Waldman 0:15
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is Episode 259, with Damien and Steph. Damien and Steph are the creative team behind Tiny Spaces and they traveled all over Iceland to film some extraordinary tiny and small houses. In this interview, I will ask them all about their experiences, what the Icelandic tiny houses are like, what are some of the design features, how they keep them warm, and what they've learned from touring so many absolutely stunning small spaces. It made me want to go to Iceland, and I think it's going to do the same for you. I hope you stick around for the interview.
Hey, it's Ethan. I'm a tiny house author, speaker and teacher. And I'm the host of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. I've been making the show for free for the past five years. But one thing that you might not have known about me is that I love coffee. If anything I've written or produced has helped you on your tiny house journey and you're looking for a way to say thanks a coffee is a great way to do so. Head over to thetinyhouse.net/coffee to buy me a cup. I really appreciate your generosity and kindness. The Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast will always be free. And I bring you a fresh new episode every Friday morning. If you are able to chip in I really appreciate it. Again that website is thetinyhouse.net/coffee. All right, let's jump into this week's interview.
Right I am here with Damien and Steph, the creative team behind Tiny Spaces. Damien and Steph have travelled all over Iceland to film some extraordinary tiny and unique houses. Damien and Steph, welcome to the show.
Damien Lipp 2:32
Thanks for having us.
Stephanie Mauro 2:32
Thanks for having us.
Ethan Waldman 2:34
Yeah, you're very welcome. So how did you get interested in Iceland? Or why Iceland?
Damien Lipp 2:41
Well, we were actually on another job over in Iceland. And we pitched the idea to the production company, at Shelter Stream. And anyway, we're in Iceland at the moment. And because we'd already done in season one in Australia, okay, we said, why don't we take this opportunity to go and suss out as many cool little houses that we can? And so they said, amazing, great opportunity. Yeah.
Stephanie Mauro 3:08
And then the team just put it all together very last minute. Yeah. Yeah.
Damien Lipp 3:13
It was a it was a lot of Slack conversations. And it was just super deep. Yeah. How many interviews we needed to get? I think we did about Yeah, 15 houses and shot 15 interviews. And yeah, it was just like, really just gone and gotten really so nice.
Ethan Waldman 3:31
How did you I mean, some of these houses and you sent me lots of images, which I'll include on the shownotes page for the episode. They're just absolutely stunning, like modern little homes, like, seemingly like planted in the middle of nowhere. So how did you find them?
Damien Lipp 3:50
Well, a lot, a lot of work is done by Dustin and Camille the produces tiny spaces. And yeah, they just, I think we just jumped on it together. And we were just like, You know what, this looks like a cool place. So this is a cool place. They found a lot of stuff on Instagram. And yeah, like cool architecture. Like magazines. So and like, obviously a lot of online stuff. They just looked up Tiny Spaces and
Stephanie Mauro 4:20
and whatever they found they tried to fit into a specific narrative, and also make sure our timeline work to travel around the entire country. Yeah, it all worked out. That's awesome.
Ethan Waldman 4:32
Can you briefly explain what Shelter Stream is? And is that is that your business? Or is that a separate thing?
Damien Lipp 4:39
No Shelter Stream is basically a Netflix for architects.
Ethan Waldman 4:43
Damien Lipp 4:44
The architects that love seeing cool, tiny spaces, call structures in our interesting people that just create the most amazing houses and spaces. And it's a streaming service that you can get on all of your devices and stream from anywhere.
Ethan Waldman 5:03
Okay, so So Shelter Stream has some of your content on it as well as other filmmakers that but it's all just about architecture and homes.
Damien Lipp 5:11
Okay. Across the globe. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 5:14
Cool. And is is Tiny Spaces. Is that Is it live now? Can people watch it? Or is it is it coming out at some point?
Damien Lipp 5:22
Tiny Spaces is live now. I think the last episode has just gone up to episode four or five might have just gone up so nice.
Ethan Waldman 5:35
So are tiny houses kind of part of Icelandic culture?
Damien Lipp 5:40
huh? Yes, the USA in one of the turf houses is it's very modern. It's very old school sort of building style. And that's where
Stephanie Mauro 5:51
it was bought from Ireland. What you don't want to houses I think small houses. Not just that because in the cities like everyone lives in these big concrete apartments and comprehensives are limited resources that you can use the materials you can use because of the harsh conditions of Iceland. Yeah, so I think modern architects are utilizing what was done before to make more sustainable homes.
Ethan Waldman 6:26
Stephanie Mauro 6:27
So it's becoming more and more popular. And I think the tradition of turf housing, which is something that they used to do a long time ago.
Ethan Waldman 6:37
What is yeah, what is turf housing,
Damien Lipp 6:39
basically rocks and sticks put together just using the land and basically molding a house into the land. So it's like, looks like a seamless bit of architecture.
Stephanie Mauro 6:50
And they dig slabs of turf and layer it on top of each other to insulate walls to insulate the roof. And it stays really warm. stays really, really cool.
Ethan Waldman 7:01
Damien Lipp 7:02
depending on some of the locations as well, they would make like a big a big house or some would have like a small house that would make churches they would
Stephanie Mauro 7:12
like even a stable use you drive around us and you didn't see like a massive waterfall and then a giant mountain and inside that mountain is a small little turf hot, which is a shed. Yeah. Mine or, you know, yeah,
Damien Lipp 7:30
there's actually built it into the land. So they integrated into the
Stephanie Mauro 7:35
so it looks like it always looks like it's part of nature. That's really cool. So modern architecture, I think for you know, roofing on these incredible houses
Damien Lipp 7:45
now, like super modern structures. Now we're taking the the turf, sort of installation and placing it onto the modern Roof. Now, to create an extra
Stephanie Mauro 7:57
area it really like aesthetically looks like these, you know, modern houses shouldn't be there.
Ethan Waldman 8:04
Yeah, that's amazing. Just that the imagery is is just stunning. And the homes are amazing. There's, there's one I think it's kind of like the home that's being used as like the cover image for Tiny Spaces, Iceland, but it's like, it looks like it's mostly glass. And you can like see, right, you can see right into it like into the bathroom and stuff. So what is that? Is that a dwelling? Is that like a retreat? Like what what is that space?
Stephanie Mauro 8:30
A retreat. It's a Yeah, Airbnb retreat, okay, and escapes that honor of you. Well, not on the field. And it's in the middle of nowhere. There's there's actually another one located just down the road, but they're positioned in a way that you can't see inside. You know, that's good. So yeah, it is pretty much like the only time that you can have ultimate privacy in nature with a giant volcano behind you as well.
Damien Lipp 9:03
I think it's called Katla. Yeah. Katla was one of the it was one of the most active or dangerous mess massive volcanoes so that it's in? Yeah, it's the apparently the rocks and all the love that comes out can shoot up to 60 kilometers. So he was just out of striking range.
Ethan Waldman 9:26
Stephanie Mauro 9:27
And I think the inspiration behind it is just to you know,
Damien Lipp 9:31
be immerse immersed in nature and it's literally to
Stephanie Mauro 9:35
unwind and relax and just get
Damien Lipp 9:37
away from all of the noise really? Yeah. Although there is like Wi Fi and stuff there but there's yeah, there's towns are not that close, and it's just yet to be secluded, and
Stephanie Mauro 9:50
just Yeah, unwind. Yeah, get out of it.
Ethan Waldman 9:53
It almost looks like you know it pulls from the surroundings in terms of the the color of the lava rocks in the house. itself almost looks like a lava rock just kind of planted in that field
Damien Lipp 10:04
100% That's what they that's what we really did find over there is a lot of people are just trying to use the landscape and bring it into the dwelling as much as they've got inside, they would bring like the moss inside and all the branches that are around the area that would use for the light fittings. And yeah,
Stephanie Mauro 10:23
yeah, well, that's actually something Ari, who owns the glass cottage was saying that everything that's used internally or the interior design, it's sourced locally, from local artists and manufacturers and, you know, little things. So it was really important that it was, you know, I think it would fit obviously, with the aesthetic of the area, but
Damien Lipp 10:50
nice part of the,
Stephanie Mauro 10:52
the Icelandic culture.
Ethan Waldman 10:54
And are they completely off grid those those
Damien Lipp 10:57
lava field houses? No, they're not offered. Okay. But a lot of the electricity in Iceland is from thermal. And waterfalls, create the energy to the electricity
Stephanie Mauro 11:12
Ethan Waldman 11:15
With geothermal, okay. Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah, there's, there are some, I'm actually there are most ways that that European countries and northern European countries are so far ahead of the United States in terms of the alternative energies, and the geothermal is is one of them, I teach a tiny house course. And there's one of my students is really interested in geothermal. And he did a bunch of research and found that you can't get a small enough geothermal system for a small house. Like they're all just, they're more industrial sized here. They haven't like figured out how to make them available to individual homes or smaller homes.
Damien Lipp 11:55
Yes, it's crazy, isn't it? Oh, yeah.
Stephanie Mauro 11:59
Yeah, Australia is very behind as well. So you're just has it together.
Ethan Waldman 12:05
Europe does have it together. I mean, there's there are more people in a smaller space. So I feel like in some ways, they have had to get a bit more creative and technologically advanced with their housing, because because of that limitation, like, you know, there's just so much space here, you can just go off and find your own your own hunk of land and do whatever you want, if you want to.
Damien Lipp 12:29
Yeah, another thing with the the glass cottage as well as the insulation, so it's like, triple glazed windows and it's, it's like you can be in the super harsh condition outside, walk inside and it's, it's just completely peaceful
Stephanie Mauro 12:46
because all of the houses all of them have to withstand extreme winds, extreme snow, extreme anything, you know? Yeah. One of the houses is located on water. And there could be like many tornadoes in the water. Sand pelting at the the exterior. Okay, so strong materials.
Ethan Waldman 13:11
Hence the like, I see like a lot of concrete a lot of stone. A lot of metal. Yeah. durable materials. Yeah. Yeah. And what season were you there filming?
Damien Lipp 13:25
It was actually my was this
Stephanie Mauro 13:29
spring? So there was
Damien Lipp 13:31
and in our days, like the days were 18 hours, it was most
Stephanie Mauro 13:36
incredible. Did one in the morning? Yeah.
Damien Lipp 13:40
It'd be like, it'd just be completely daylight. No, it's just, but as
Stephanie Mauro 13:46
of the bulk of volcano mountains, north of the island. It's freezing. It's so cold. So we were in ski gear in spring but the surface
Damien Lipp 13:57
Yeah, it was it was pretty good. Yeah. Okay. Cool.
Ethan Waldman 14:03
And I saw do they heat much with wood or other biofuels I did see some woodstoves in some of the some of the images.
Damien Lipp 14:13
More wood that was more in like the, the the museums so some of the turf that we shot were actually museums, the Icelandic national national gallery and museum of Iceland for the bombs just to preserve it because otherwise if they didn't buy it, it would just rot in full full full bases. Okay, all right. That was more there were more to is just like a show pieces like our his the National Heritage national heritage. Yeah. Like here's the here's like the way they cooked and all of that sort of stuff. So there weren't really too many fireplaces because, as I mentioned before, like everything is heated by by geothermal so the houses are slightly warm. inside? Yeah, yeah, they will. They were all
Stephanie Mauro 15:03
surprisingly well insulated. And I think that's yeah, environmentally a huge, a huge concern for all of the architects building these houses, they want to make sure that they can withstand all of that. But yeah, in terms of, like, how they look and all that everything
Damien Lipp 15:21
was quite modern. Yes. Still very modern. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 15:25
Yeah, they all do look very even. There's one, and I don't I don't know the name of it, but it's, it looks like it's kind of very close up to the slopes of some kind of ridge line. And the the house itself looks very old. Like, it looks like a stucco or like a stone hut.
Damien Lipp 15:42
So that was a it was an old barn where they kept sheep. Okay, and that, that that land was that farm has been around since settlement, which is like in the nine hundreds or don't quote me on that, but okay, so yeah, like, super old school. And, um, yeah, it's just, it's just about, it was more about the person that owned the house. Goodrem, her name is and her husband. And they just worked with a company called Studio Bua. And they just came together and said, we still want to keep this old house as it is. And just turn it into this. Just an amazing space and being able to,
Stephanie Mauro 16:27
I mean, there were other architects that wanted to take it away, but to do have or wanting to utilize the space and make it something unique. So it's this beautiful art studio where you can, you can go and create downstairs and as you know, as you're working you can work in a kitchen and you can see in the annex it see like your art and the studio in the same space. And then upstairs as your you know, your where you would sleep and everything. But I think just that being surrounded by nature, you're being surrounded by something so all in beautiful. And she I think she's got like a little garden in there, too. And then put a giant volcano mountain, and then the say, it's so stunning. So how could you not be inspired every day? To create? Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 17:18
So I feel inspired, just looking at the photo of it not being there.
Damien Lipp 17:23
Yeah, it is. It really is amazing. Oh, yeah.
Stephanie Mauro 17:27
I mean, I wish I could find that in Australia. I don't know. I don't know where that is.
Ethan Waldman 17:33
Maybe you'll you'll have to make it.
Damien Lipp 17:36
Maybe that's maybe, maybe in the future. Is that thing
Ethan Waldman 17:40
I wanted to ask you. There's there's one I think I guess it's called the water tower. It's like, hoping actually, since this is a podcast, could you kind of describe the water tower for our listeners? And then and then kind of I'm just curious to hear the story behind it.
Damien Lipp 17:56
Describe the water tower. So
Stephanie Mauro 18:00
it was a block of concrete.
Damien Lipp 18:04
Okay, that the owners looked at it and they said, You know what, we can do something with this.
Stephanie Mauro 18:11
So they cut corners out of it? Well, it was a block of concrete is in that water towers.
Damien Lipp 18:18
The water was still there. 60 years old, not being used. Okay. And then they just said, Yep, we're going to do something with this. They cut the sides out of it. wrapped it in metal. Put two more layers on it. On top of it. Oh, no. So build another layer on top of it, converted it inside and and the reason that it's as tiny spaces the footprint that it takes up on the land, so they've just built it, they've just utilize this space that the water tower was and they'll upwards and upwards. Yeah, so you see a concrete you see a rusty metal outer shell with a cor. 10 steel. Then you see a black
Stephanie Mauro 19:04
wood wood. Chute shou shou sugi. Ban.
Damien Lipp 19:11
The Japanese how they burned the wood just to
Stephanie Mauro 19:14
prevent really strong. Yeah. So they just upkeep that whenever it gets
Damien Lipp 19:18
and then and then also, once again upcycling as well like that's quite a big part of their process was upcycling so they would use old glass panels, which would create the balcony you guys
Ethan Waldman 19:34
Yeah, the deck or the balcony, the
Damien Lipp 19:36
balcony around the glass so and it's just it's just everything
Stephanie Mauro 19:41
inside to even the interior designers a lot of its upcycled
Damien Lipp 19:44
Yeah, old sinks and I'll like cupboards and benches and stuff and concrete like they've created their own concrete. Bench and sink and I don't know does that really explain it?
Ethan Waldman 19:58
Yeah, that's That's great. I'll put you know, I'll sorry to put you on the spot I'll put I'll put pictures of that one in the show notes for sure. But I just, I didn't even realize that it was a repurposed structure. I mean, it looks so intentional, like, it just looks like a very modern design, it's kind of wider and bigger on top than it is in the in the main kind of section. But that's even cooler to know that it's that it's an Old Water Tower, repurposed.
Stephanie Mauro 20:25
And it's fantastic to say architects utilizing repurpose spaces, as there were so many beautiful structures. And if you take that away, that's the history you're taking away. Yeah, you can put up a bunch of modern day units, and it kind of ruins the aesthetic of the fact that, you know, you're behind a volcano, like that volcano just stopped erupting at the time. Yeah, and you're, you know, you're by the ocean, it's just so inspiring. Yeah,
Ethan Waldman 20:55
it can be more expensive on fourth, or it can seem like more work to reuse an old space than it can be to just kind of knock it down and build whatever you want. But I think that a lot of the beauty comes from the constraints of the old
Damien Lipp 21:09
space. 100%. And that's definitely what we found with the family that did it. They, they it how much it meant to them. Yeah, really shines through in the episode.
Stephanie Mauro 21:22
They started their family in their house, and they, you know, it was a real family effort. So I think there's a lot of luck behind that space for them. Yeah, they can feel it, you can feel how much love and energy they've put into it to make it such a beautiful space for people to come in and observe.
Damien Lipp 21:41
Yeah. Like AJ and Indy Berg, who are the owners, they like the chemistry that those two had, and like the relationship building that happened in that place, like it just made them stronger. As a as a team to build it together. And yeah, just Yes, very inspiring. That's for sure. To say that a couple of other nice.
Ethan Waldman 22:07
I was hoping that you could each share, you know, if you have one, your one favorite, tiny house from this from this project, and you can't choose the same one.
Stephanie Mauro 22:21
We often do. Yeah. I think they're good for different reasons, though. I have favorites for different reasons. Okay. Like,
Damien Lipp 22:30
don't you think in saying that we did stay in only one of them. One, no, two of them said. We stayed in the water tower. And then we stayed in the one on the volcano and by the sea. Yeah. I know what my favorite is. And I think she knows what her favorite is, as well. And I think that the same but um, you go Fair enough. I think
Stephanie Mauro 22:55
I would be so inspired to be creating hot in the studio, but it was a house. That was a stunning space. But in terms of you know, I don't know a cool place to live. I really love the water tower. I thought it was so cool. Yeah,
Damien Lipp 23:12
I definitely love the water tower as well. I think really like seeing seeing an old building. Come back to life, like tenfold is is just amazing. And what those guys have done.
Stephanie Mauro 23:28
Yeah, but I also think that's because what we like to do in Australia as well, we like to renovate houses as well to fashion for us. And we're repurposing seven years houses. So it's amazing to see people that are doing it with something's like these materials that are it's a more of a duck the the they've gone more the roll, roll, yeah, term wave.
Damien Lipp 23:51
We're just sort of flipping houses and doing a lick of paint here and there. But they've literally taken taken the structure and completely gutted it and then moved on.
Stephanie Mauro 24:01
They really inspired us. Yeah, for sure. Nice.
Ethan Waldman 24:06
That kind of reminds me. I don't know if you've ever heard of Kristie Wolfe. She's kind of a tiny house person who's gotten who's a really talented builder and designer and has some of the most famous Airbnbs in the US. One of them is a is an Idaho Potato. It's like literally a potato from like, she was Miss Idaho, apparently. And like this is the potato and she turned it into a house. And one of her homes is actually a fire tower in Idaho that was like a former, like, you know, a fire tower. And that's at home. She has a Hawaii tree house. And then she also did these Hobbit houses in Washington that are like literally like round door built into the hillside. So just like really cool finding spaces that aren't necessarily homes and then turning them into an experience for a short term rental
Damien Lipp 25:00
100% And I do think like, if you're traveling to Iceland, definitely look for these unique houses. Like unit Iceland is littered them. And it's the, they're beautiful. And like in cubic actually said in one of the in the water tower episodes that like all of these old buildings that are abandoned farm houses, like, if they don't do something about them, they will just go to waste. So to upcycle them into these fancy Airbnbs is, is definitely a, like a thing that they're looking for in the future. Yeah, yeah. And hopefully also,
Ethan Waldman 25:41
you know, Airbnbs are great. They get, you know, they let people have these unique experiences, but also hopefully, there's some actual housing too, for people to live in
Damien Lipp 25:52
Stephanie Mauro 25:54
definitely. I mean, they lived in that house for a long time, but they've actually built their own now down the road, which is just okay. But it's utilizing the same sort of materials and resources. Nice. But I think yeah, all these houses have inspired us to do that. We want to buy a block somewhere in like a forest in the middle of nowhere, you know, when you want to escape, and then just put a tiny shipping container on it
Damien Lipp 26:24
would like to do, and also are in the glass, which is also said that a lot of these guests that stay in this the house, they've literally transformed their life. And they've just said, You know what, we actually don't need all of the stuff that we have, but we're very consumed. Like, we're a consumer generation. And, yeah, we don't really need it also. Like,
Stephanie Mauro 26:51
it's nice to live small. It's nice to minimalize
Damien Lipp 26:54
downscale a bit and just take a breath and
for sure, see what's needed.
Stephanie Mauro 27:00
You accumulate a lot over the years. So it is really nice to unwind with just a few things. Agreed. It's good for us all I think. Right.
Ethan Waldman 27:12
So what's next for you? Do you are you do you have more tiny homes to film in
Damien Lipp 27:17
your future? Conversations? Yeah, the conversations already been had with shelter. So yeah, there might be something we're thinking we might be either going to New Zealand or to Tasmania, just to the south of Australia. Nice. Yeah.
Ethan Waldman 27:34
Well, if you need somebody to podcast your trip
Stephanie Mauro 27:44
Ethan Waldman 27:45
this was really fun. I loved to I love looking at the photos. So I will post lots of photos in the show notes for the episode but Damien and Steph, thank you so much for being guests on the show today.
Stephanie Mauro 27:56
Thank you so much. Thank you
Ethan Waldman 28:00
so much to Damien and Steph for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes including some images of my favorite tiny homes, links to the series and more over at thetinyhouse.net/259. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/259. Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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