Even before I started researching how to build a tiny house, I was day-dreaming about how my finished home would look. I had seen hundreds of pictures and stories all over social media, and watched all of the tv shows, but it was becoming harder and harder to organize all of those thoughts and inspiring photographs. I decided to order some books to help me nail down a concept. One of these books was Surf Shacks by Gestalten. This book chronicles a wide variety of gorgeous photos of small beachy homes all around the world, paired with the stories of the people that built/ live in them. The very first story is about a couple in Hawaii that built a small home with a big round loft window, and I immediately recognized it from a story that I had seen on Instagram months earlier. There was just something about that big window by the bed. It inspired me so much that I knew I needed to have one. This little surfer’s cabin became one of my biggest design inspirations. (pictured below on the bottom right)
Throughout my research I had also seen many people add small stained glass windows in their doors or as accent pieces around their homes and thought it was so charming! I started imagining the possibility of not just stained glass, or a large round window, but both!
So what’s the first thing you do these days when you need to find something on the internet? Google it! My search eventually led me to the Etsy shop of Derek Schmid, a stained glass artist in San Diego, California. There I browsed his work and stumbled on a round wave design that I instantly fell in love with. After several conversations via email, Derek agreed to fabricate a 29” round window (tempered an insulated) with a blue wave and orange sky. I actually made this purchase before anything else, and my new window was all packed and shipped from California for just under $600. Not bad for custom glass art to travel 3,000 miles across the country. When it arrived, I opened it up to inspect the work, fell in love with it, and then immediately returned it to its shipping crate where it stayed all tucked in and safe for the next year while construction on the house progressed.
The trickiest thing about purchasing a custom window, is framing it out. Derek would have framed the window for me in a vinyl frame but I decided to give it a go myself. It was a little difficult imagining how to start, but my dad had some ideas to get me over the hump (as usual, thanks dad!).
Below you can see the initial build out of the round window in the front wall frame. As you can tell, there’s nothing round about it. The circle piece was fabricated separately.
Using a sheet metal template that I created, I measured out three, 1 1/2" thick rings of cedar (each made up of 4 pieces: See below). Each of those three circles was glued at the ends, and bound with a ratchet strap to set overnight. This resulted in three wooden, circular frames, that I finally stacked together and glued in place to give me one 4 1/2” thick frame. I wish I could explain that more clearly but hopefully the photos help! Again I had no idea what the heck I was doing, I was just following instructions and hoping for the best!
After the frame was set and the glue was solid, I positioned it into the wall frame, flush with the front face of the house, and secured it through the center ring, all the way around, with deck screws. I guess the photo below is the best one I have of this step. The screws are in the top, bottom and sides. Don't mind the vapor barrier stretched over top!
When it came time to cut the exterior siding for this section, I cut it using a metal template, much in the same way that I cut the original frame, but this time in 7 pieces (I couldn’t make a very wide arch on the pine planks I was using). I made sure that the exterior frame was an inch less in diameter all the way around so that the window itself would have something to push up against and therefore not fall out. As a temporary measure, and in order to keep my stained glass safe from harm, I cut out a plexi glass circle instead, and pushed that into the hole with a few wooden wedges to hold it in place and keep out the weather. This is how it stayed until the following summer when we were finally ‘done enough’ to not worry about damaging the new glass.
Spoiler Alert: At this time I’m going to skip WAY ahead in the build process in order to more quickly help those of you that may need this information. About a year went by before this process actually went down.
So… the next summer….Out went the plexi, and in went my beautiful window. This installation was a family affair. My dad and I shared a ladder outside, while my mom and sister sat in the loft on the inside. A huge amount of silicone caulk was applied to the inside edge of the exterior frame, and then all together we lined up the window and pressed it into place. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d hold the window on the inside, but then I found a stack of very thin mahogany off-cuts from some other project, stacked in my dad’s wood-shop. They were just flexible and long enough to wrap around the inside of the window frame and nail in place! A stack of 4 sealed the whole deal and my stained glass window was finally home. I still see this as the crowning achievement in a job well done!
In my next article I’ll jump back to the exterior siding and talk about where I found it, and why it looks the way that it does!