Woodworker and tiny home builder Ryan O’Donnell has been honing his craft since he was a kid, when he first worked for his father, a contractor in Ojai, California. "I worked for him for about 15 years, or since I was just a little guy of about 12, sanding boards for him," says O’Donnell.
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Fast forward to 2012, and O’Donnell started applying his love of finish carpentry and custom building to tiny houses. He set up a small shop off the "main drag in Ojai" and spent about a year and a half of nights and weekends building his first model. "I ended up finding a buyer for that house, and the rest is sort of history, from one tiny house to the next," he says.
Since August of 2018, O’Donnell has run Humble Hand Craft out of a 1940s Quonset hut in Ventura, where he builds artisanal tiny homes and converts vans into campers using a more "conscious approach." This includes powering his shop with solar energy and relying on salvaged and sustainably sourced wood, as well as other green building materials such as low- or no-VOC finishes and vegan, recycled denim insulation.
The material that O’Donnell finds on his "wood-sourcing adventures" up and down the West Coast often guides the aesthetics of the finished home. "California has really good wood if you look enough and you’re willing to travel for it," he says. "I have a passion for working with old-growth material and trying to source it as ethically as possible."
Each house ends up being unique because of the nature of the reclaimed wood. "There are a lot of stories behind the material," says O’Donnell. "That might be why I like it so much."
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Photography: Living Big In A Tiny House