Humble Homes, Simple Shacks… preview and giveaway

Energy & Sustainability Furniture & Lighting
Humble Homes, Simple Shacks… preview and giveaway

MZ_MAKEcation_Badge2010.gifOur pal Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, of Tiny Yellow House and, sent us a video tour of his 100% indie-produced, “trash-funded” book, Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts, and Whatever Else We Could Squeeze in Here. The book is a hoot and an inspiration, crammed with Deek’s designs — from practical to pie in the sky — for “micro-houses,” small backyard retreats, kid forts, treehouses, and other no-cost/low-cost outbuildings. The emphasis here is on fun and clever use of recycled materials. Deek did all the hand-lettering and the book is obsessively illustrated with wonderfully wacky cartoons and design drawings. As he himself describes it in the video: “A carpal tunnel-inducing barrage of dime store pen sketches.”

humbleHomesCover.jpgI used to be heavily involved in zine and small press comics publishing in the 90s and this book captures that same spirit. It’s hand-written and drawn, hand-assembled, GBC-bound, and the printing was funded by selling recyclables. It doesn’t get more DIY than that. The book sells for $18.95 and you can order it from Derek’s website.

We thought this book was a perfect companion for our summer MAKEcation coverage. What a great idea for a family project — make a backyard retreat, kid fort, or treehouse! So we’ve asked Deek to do some micro-house project videos for us. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, we want to give away a signed copy of Humble Homes to one MAKE reader. In the comments below, tell us what sort of backyard retreat, fort, or kids hangout you fancy building, or tell us a story about building forts and treehouses when you were a kid. This Friday, at noon PDT, we’ll announce a winner.

Relax Shacks



36 thoughts on “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks… preview and giveaway

  1. cathymccaughan says:

    We’re trying to make a playhouse. It’s going . . . slowly.

  2. robothacker says:

    We are getting ready to make an 8 foot by 8 foot platform with pallets and 3/4 inch plywood. It is to sit under a 10 foot by 10 foot awning to keep the pine needles and drizzle off so the kids can play on it even if the northwest weather gets a little wet (like it does.)

    I also have plans to make a couple of 4 foot by 4 foot shacks and some play kitchen items. Hopefully I can use the GridBeam system so they can be modified as the kids grow.

  3. Todd says:

    We are building one now.

    We live in a townhouse and have a single tree in the backyard. We are building a platform around the tree (not attached). We have the post holes dug and are framing the platform (the tree trunk untouched through the center of the floor about five feet off the ground).

    We will be adding railing all around, mounts for rubber band guns and super soaker water guns, a ladder and possibly a slide (we have looked as several commercial tube and open slides and are considering adding that). We have also seen others of this type that extended out and added a swing or two; first though we need to finish the main platform!

    My boys (construction crew) are 5 and 9; we get occasional help from our 16 year old, but you might or might not know how his interest can wax and wane…

    I plan on buying the book even if I win one for the boys (I want my own copy!).

  4. Sally says:

    My husband and I made a big climb/slide/sand/swingset structure, we even made the slide out of a roll of roofing aluminum(not sure exactly what it’s called but it’s edging). Then we moved and I made a smaller version all by myself, a platform about 5 feet off the ground, with a bought slide this time and homemade ladder on an tilt. I attached a basketball hoop for free shots and put sand in the rectangular framing. My husband began to add a swing, but that never got finished.
    This book looks fab, reminds me of the book, “Andrew Henry’s Meadow” a childhood favorite I found and read to my kids. It’s about a boy who wants a place of his own, and builds a fun place like those in this book. Other kids seeking their own space join him, till all the kids around are living in unique homes to fit their interests and their parents come to find them. It’s cool. I love this!

  5. netserv666 says:

    Chained to a boiler in the basement, I could only dream of even being in a backyard. I have an idea that a tree house must be something awesome to see but I can’t even see any trees through the dust covered tiny windows that light my miserable life. If were to win there might just be enough light for me to look at the pictures and dream a little …

  6. Vorple says:

    I would like to build a larger and decent version of the Polaris sub that used to be advertised in comic books. This would be a back yard club/fort.

  7. dr15 says:

    My little brother, our friend and I built a tree house in our back yard (well, our friend’s father helped, a lot) but the neighbors objected and so not only was the house dismantled, the trees were chopped down too :-(

  8. Donald Haas says:

    I wish I could live in a world of tree houses and back-yard forts.
    Where imagination has you sailing a pirate ship
    Or on an epic castle raid
    For a bounty of bubble gum and pixie stix;
    Fuel for the adventures ahead.

    I long for staying up late
    Bundled in sleeping bags on plywood floors
    Listening to the cricket serenade
    And dreaming of super heroes and flying spaceships.
    And dreaming.

    I hunger for secret knocks and passwords,
    Where the only security I need
    Is a green army man on a windowsill
    To make sure my little brother
    Doesn’t touch my stuff.

    My son will know these days
    Of secret poker games
    For Dum-Dums, Atomic Bombs and Jolly Ranchers,
    Of possibilities limitless
    Of tree houses and back-yard forts.

  9. Deek D says:

    Thanks for the support/checkin’ out the book, and good luck with the contest!

    And Sally, that book “Andrew Henry’s Meadow” – never heard of it, but I’ll looking for it momentarily- sounds great!

    I also have a kids book available up on my site too- “Williker Wumbly” the tale of a runaway Watermelon- and a few secret/semi-hidden forts (including a sketch of my own VT cabin) are amongst the scenery.

    Anyway- thanks again- and a BRAND NEW episode of “Tiny Yellow House” TV on youtube is up soon (all based on things I’ve built).

    We’ll be shootin’ a REAL cool episode for MAKE soon too! Can’t wait! Thanks Gareth and crew!
    -Derek “Deek” Diedricksen and author of the book way up above, on your screen….

  10. Phlamingo says:

    When I was ten or eleven, my brother and I were staying with my grandparents and youngest uncle during the summer. They had about ten acres in Thonotosassa, Florida, with a few orange trees, a few cows, a couple of ponds, and a lot of sandspurs and mosquitoes.

    One afternoon, we carried some lumber and nails out to the big live oak that grew beside the corrugated steel barn, and started putting up a platform fort in the branches. If you’ve never seen one of those twisty, gnarly, wide-growing live oaks, you’ve never seen a truly great tree for climbing and fort-building. This one was probably two hundred years old, fully mature, just a beautiful thing.

    I don’t recall how we planned it, and I really don’t recall many details of the build or the result, but there is one thing about that day that I will never forget. My granddad was nailing in one of the support beams, and said to me, “Hand me some of those blessings.” I looked confused, and my uncle said to me, “He means the nails.” Whenever my granddad couldn’t think of a word, he didn’t hesitate to just use whatever other word came to mind at the moment. So, I laughed a little and handed over some nails.

    Now that I’m pushing fifty, I find myself doing the same thing. Sometimes it drives my wife crazy, but my kids seem to get a kick out of it, just like I did in that tree on that hot Florida afternoon.

  11. Sally says:

    Hi Derek,
    I think your book is amazing looking by the way! Andrew Henrys Meadow is available on Amazon. It is by Doris Burn, and was originally published in 1965. There is a movie in pre-production that might(or might not)be based on the book, I was on imbd when I searched for the book.
    The author lived on an island, not too differently than Andrew Henry! Best to you, Sally (going to check out Tiny Yellow House next on You Tube)

  12. Tree Frog says:

    The best fort we ever built was put together around three trees. We built a basic triangle out of scrap lumber, then constructed ramshackle walls out of anything we could find-old plywood, cardboard, etc. The “door” was simply a hole in the floor at one of the apices of the triangle…you had to climb up and in.

    One January we had the brilliant idea of enclosing the bottom of the tree fort with old Christmas trees…so we scoured the neighborhood and drug all the discarded trees we could find back home. We leaned the old trees against the tree house base…instant alpine camouflage! Of course, the fact that we were in the South didn’t discourage us!

    Ah…the simple joys of an old board, a hammer and some nails…

  13. says:

    Forts were a big part of my childhood. Growing up in a small town before Chicago suburban sprawl spilled over, I lived on a quiet street with plenty of kids my age.
    We took to the outdoors all summer long in the 1980’s. A few of the kids had Atari and Coleco-Vision, but sunset games of Jailbreak or Ghost-Ghost-Come-Out-Tonight were the bigger draw. Seven or eight of us pre-teens would gather after supper at my backyard fort and decide the game, the rules, and the teams. From then it was a couple of blissful, carefree hours running around the neighborhood and returning to the fort which served as “home base.”
    My father, a tool and die maker, designed and built the wooden fort. It rose from the ground on pressure treated 4×4 posts. The deck was nearly two feet off the ground probably to allow space for his lawnmower, but consequently served to keep the younger kids from climbing in.
    The fort layout was a long rectangle, open on both ends with plywood walls halfway to the top. The roof was plywood covered with leftover shingles from our house. Out of view from my parents, I would clamber up on the roof and nervously soak up the new perspective of my backyard.
    The fort stood for years – well into 1990’s even as the neighborhood “kids” grew up and moved off to college. It survived being blown over in heavy storms. It escaped harm during a July grass fire started by my neighbor.
    The fort finally fell at my own hands as my family prepared to sell the house. My chore, as we “depersonalized” our house for the market, was to dismember the fort and haul it to the dumpster. Being older and having other interests, I thought of it’s removal as “progress.” Now, reflecting on this memory as a 34 year old father-to-be, I feel bittersweet. I don’t see very many kids running around outside these days. I don’t hear parents calling for their children who’ve stayed out playing a little too late. Hopefully I can encourage my kids to prefer the outdoors and to be creative with their play time. I can’t wait until they’re ready for their own fort.

  14. Fuzzy says:

    Hey guys, greetings from Croatia… My wife finally got pregnant after more then two years trying. I know it’s a little bit early, but I’d love to make a tree house and a small fort for my future kid :)
    No one ever made me (or my two years younger brother) anything like that when we were kids. We were not even allowed to climb on trees and only forts we had were snow forts and forts made of blankets and pillows in between my grandmothers sofas.
    One “fort” that we actually made was a space between tree trunks that were left in the garden and which we covered with bark and branches and leaves. We were full of bugs every time we came out of there. Unfortunately, tree trunks were soon cut to firewood :(
    The only thing that got really close to a fort was “trench and outpost” we dug up in the pile of dirt that the workers that were working in our backyard piled up next to the driveway. That was a great “fort”, especially when it rained, mud everywhere, and the WW1 going on :)
    And unfortunately, one day my dad cleaned up that pile and our fort was gone :(

  15. Abhishek Duggal says:

    I’d like to build a miniature version of the Taj Mahal because it is the most magnificient structure that I’ve ever seen.

  16. Gareth Branwyn says:

    The winner of a signed copy of Deek’s book is:


    Congratulations. Email me ( your mailing address and we’ll send you out your copy.

    And thanks to everyone who chimed in here with their stories and to Derek for giving away one of his cool books!

    1. Phlamingo says:

      Just a public thanks for the opportunity to participate in this, and for working so hard to make Make my favorite magazine and Web site.

  17. Machines automatiques pour produire des pellets de bois says:

    The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see
    if it can survive a 30 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views.
    I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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