Exclusive Interview with “Larkitect” Derek Diedricksen

A few weeks ago I posted an article about the world’s most loveable “big-kid” designer, Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, whose mini dwellings have captured attention for being at once imaginative and functional. You can explore his structures in his YouTube series, “Tiny Yellow House” and also his book, “Humble Homes Simple Shacks Cozy Cottages Ramshackle Retreats Funky Forts,” which we will be reviewing soon, once we have sufficiently pored over it from cover to cover!  After contacting him, Deek very kindly agreed to do an exclusive interview for our blog, which I want to share with you all here.

1. So, Deek, how did you first become interested in designing and constructing tiny dwellings?

Well, that’s actually a pretty lengthy, eye-glazing tale, but more or less, being fort-obsessed as a kid, an outdoors nut, a boy scout later on (Eagle Scout), and having a woodworking teacher as a father, the transition and implantation of my interest in small architecture was somewhat inevitable. I grew up in a small house, shared a small room with my brother Dustin until high school, vacationed in Maine and Vermont in tiny cabins, camped out all the time with the family, and just grew up loving the whole “Cabin” aesthethic and getaway-mentality. To me “Small houses” were synonymous with fun, freedom, and coziness.
    My father, Glenn, also gave me the book “Tiny Houses” by Lester Walker for my 10th birthday, which was another one of the catalysts that showed me that it was OK to keep an interest in this alive into adulthood. That, along with him and my mother, Sigrid, being very supportive and tolerant of the childhood construction projects of me and my brother, laid the groundwork for my future and current “obsession” with all this. My father was also a high school woodworking teacher in Guilford, CT- which didn’t hurt either in terms of knowledge and the array of available tools at home.,

2. Tell me about the first structure you built. How old were you? What was it called? (I’m assuming you lovingly name all your creations). What was its purpose, if any?

I built a TON, and I mean a ton of ramshackle kid forts when I was very young, in fact I often had more than one being worked on at any given time, but the FIRST cabin I built, that I consider an initial step into a more “serious” approach, surprisingly didn’t have a name. It was a 6′ by 8′ one-pitch roofed shed in my back yard in Madison, CT that my brother, Dustin, and my good friend, Dane Sjoblom, cobbled together. It had heat, insulation, a hammock, platform bed, a “real” window, electricity, and vintage typewriter on a desk that I used to peck away stories on. This cabin/shed sat right next to a little turtle pond that my brother and I hand dug too.

Why did we go to such lengths to construct something like this? Well, my parents weren’t too fond, understandably, of my brother and I incessantly playing video games when the first Nintendo system came out, and since we only had one TV and they didn’t want us monopolizing it, we built our own little getaway house out back, where we could blast away digital aliens on a tiny, discarded, black and white television to our hearts content. We had quite a few fun sleepovers in that cabin. My father, Glenn, did help us build the door, and a few other things, but for the most part, at age 11 (my brother was 8), we almost built the entire things ourselves, design and all. Sadly, from years of not being used, and sitting there unmaintained for so long, we had to finally dismantle is several years ago.

3. Your design-cum-comic book “Humble Homes Simple Shacks Cozy Cottages Ramshackle Retreats Funky Forts and Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here” contains tons of wacky ideas for living space, no doubt a vestige of your comic strip writing days. How do you decide what to build, and what to leave to the imagination?

I think a lot of that depends on the materials I have on hand, my mood, and what chunk of time I might, or might not have in the forseeable future. With kids, another book in the works, a side job doing other forms of carpentry, being involved with two bands, and running my blog, among other things, its sometimes real tough to squeeze in these micro-shelter projects- but I often do. Many times it just comes down to what’s striking my fancy, or what is freshest in my mind- which is always changing, design-wise. For example, I’d like to begin work on a shanty-boat I’ve been plotting in my head (and somewhere on a napkin at best), but that’s on the back burner because we’re still stuck in frigid temperatures out here in New England.

Some of these designs in my book, will probably only be left to the imagination on my end, as I have neither the yard space, nor the funds- or the need- to tackle some of them. This more so applies to many of the unreleased sketches I have, which I self-describe, or categorize, as “Future Funk”- alot of them being free-form, sculpted, ferro cement micro homes. Most of these will end up in Book three of the “Weird-guy-on-a-couch-with-a-pen-who-drinks-too-much-Folgers” tiny house design series.

4. One of your designs is for a $100 Homeless Hut. Obviously, there is potential for great philanthropy there. Also, using recycled materials is a large feature of your designs. Do you have any specific goals as a “larkitect” e.g. promoting sustainable design, or better care for the homeless?

I guess my goals as a “larkitect” are mainly to think outside the box – a luxury I have, in terms of backyard experimentation with prototypes and designs- and to additionally attempt to develop ultra-affordable options for housing, homeless quarters, relief shelters, and vacation camps. The uniform theme, in a nutshell, is wasting less, spending less, and hoping to convey to others that you actually NEED less than most of us have been conditioned to believe. The emphasis on recycled and discarded materials, is pretty constant throughout all my cabins as well.

5. Finally, the question we all want to hear. Any chance you might take on an apprentice?

Funny you mention it, even if in jest, as I’d LOVE, and need, to have one, but my schedule is so erratic, I really don’t ever know how I’d work things out. Its also tough to find someone you completely click with in terms of carpentry and construction. Two is often a crowd and the “helper” ends up getting in the way unfortunately. My brother Dustin is the only person I can really and truly read the mind of in terms of projects, and the same goes the other way around- he’s the one person I don’t even have to speak to, and he understands what needs to be done. He and I can build for hours without even communicating in some cases- its almost bizarre. Unfortunately he’s a full time environmental engineer, and a brand new dad, so time-wise he’s out. BUT he will be helping out with our July 9th workshop in Massachusetts. But yeah, down the road, heck, I just might need a carpentry crew if things continue at this pace.

Thank you, Deek!

Mr. Diedricksen’s Book, “Humble Homes Simple Shacks Cozy Cottages Ramshackle Retreats Funky Forts and Whatever the Heck Else We Could Squeeze in Here” is available on his website Relaxshax.