Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

10 Tips for Potential Tiny House Dwellers!

When we began designing La Casita we knew we needed to think seriously about space management. I remember wishing there were more blogs dedicated to advice on designing and living in a tiny house, not just constructing one. Now I’m living the tiny life and I want to provide useful advice to those out there embarking on this exciting endeavor. Here are a few suggestions from our experience and what influenced us in our design and build. While each tip may not be useful or of interest to you, I hope it helps to inspire and assist in your tiny house design, build and overall living experience.

1. Create a visual of the size space you wish to live in. Have fun with it! Try building a cardboard version of what you want and play around with what you think is best for your lifestyle! Cedric and I took painters tape to our bedroom floor in our rental apartment to figure out just how small we could live. Creating a visual will give you a much better picture of the physical space and how much of that space you truly need.

2. Identify your needs. What are your specific requirements for a good life? Do you love to entertain? If so plan your kitchen and living space accordingly. Do you work from home? Make sure to create an appropriate office space. For us, good life means good food! We love to cook so we made sure La Casita had a kitchen that could accommodate our need to make delicious meals!

3. Windows windows everywhere! When you live in a small dwelling windows make all the difference. They open up cramped areas allowing natural lighting to extend an opening effect. Without sufficient windows you’ll end up feeling like you live in a box creating a claustrophobic experience. Only warning: make sure you place them logically in to your design or you might end up with a funny looking exterior that creates an unbalanced look.

4. Don’t forget storage! Look at what you own, decide what’s important to you and plan, plan, plan for it in your design. Not only will this allow you to organize your space more readily once you move in, you’ll also notice how open your space can feel with the right amount of organization. We did not design storage in to La Casita and it has caused a lot of headaches for us. As we’ve come to find out, it’s easy to feel cluttered in a tiny house and I will never again underestimate the enjoyment of an organized space.

5. Travel! Explore! Find other small space dwellings and visit! Go camping for awhile and find out what you really need to be comfortable and happy. Cedric and I volunteered on organic farms for nearly a year and had the opportunity to live in yurts, studio apartments, tents and even travel vans! It allowed us to achieve a better design and helped us to figure out what it was we truly desired and required in our living space.

6. Take a cue from theater design! Visual boards are essential elements to the staging, costuming and acting aspect of any production. Create your own visual boards to assist and inspire your design. Be creative! Come up with any and all design ideas that you want to consider in your home. Whether you use old fashioned board and glue or websites such as Pinterest you’ll find that having created these visuals will help sustain enthusiasm in your design and build. We taped magazine cut outs all around the house during construction to inspire design and map out specific areas. It helped inspire us and keep us visually motivated.

7. Connect! Find other blogs, attend workshops, and contact fellow tiny house builders and dwellers. Ask their opinions and perhaps they’ll even give you a tour of their home (beer bribery has also been known to work wonders at achieving access to tiny house tours). In our experience, the tiny house community is friendly and helpful. Most people want to share their experiences and help out fellow soon-to-be tiny house dwellers.

8. Create a check-list. This will help you to organize the building process and make it easier to realize specific goals. It can seem overwhelming at first but ultimately it will help drive your construction. A list gives you a realistic idea of the amount of work you have to do plus it’s super satisfying when you can look at a goal and check it off! Anything you can do to keep motivated is very important to the designing and building process. For a fantastic example, check out Ryan’s for his tiny house build!

9. Call in help! Organize work days and ask your friends to come out and help you at appropriate stages of construction. It’s a refreshing and fun way to fuel a build, especially after months of construction by your lonesome self. Cedric and I had a Saturday Roof Raising Event and invited friends to join because not only was it a community experience, we also believe that the positive energy our friends lent to the building of La Casita transformed it from a house to a home. We can look at many parts of our home and give thanks to the help our friends provided in creating such a beautiful space.10. Have fun! Enjoy the process and though frustrations will come up, as they do in any project, keep positive. It’s not always easy to stay motivated over the course of months it takes to build a tiny house but remember that the end product is all yours and having a cozy, safe space to come home to is the ultimate reward!

 

13 Comments
  1. Tip #4: Storage – The great thing about most tiny houses is that they have built in furniture. This creates great opportunities for incorporating storage. Take a look at your standard couch. They have a really large footprint and a useless amount of space underneath. Whereas a built in couch can incorporate a huge amount of space underneath and all sorts of cool drawer systems, etc.

    When I design my tiny house I am going to purposely make the couch high and deep, to allow for maximum storage space underneath. Also the bed.

  2. My best idea:
    Once I started thinking in terms of what I could do without my tiny house started making sense.
    Less stuff means less storage
    No bed (roll up mattress) means more space
    Sitting on the floor (pillows & rugs) means no clunky couch or table/chairs
    By deliberately simplifying every aspect of my life I was able to fit it all in a 8×18 house – and it feels spacious.

    • This is all well and good as long as you can get up and down easily from the floor. If you have any kind of disability with your joints or muscles or even sense of balance, this won’t work.

      Also, you need to think of re-sell value. If you ever want to sell your little house you will have a harder time finding buyers with no seating or bed.

  3. No way works for everyone – this works for me.

    Any buyers could add a bed or seating of their choice, instead of being forced to use built-ins.

  4. Thank you!! This information is great, especially your checklist. Before I found it I went through some blogs and written down their order of doing things. But didn’t consider some things that you have. Planning on building a tumbleweed fenci next year. Look forward to following along as you build your tiny house.

  5. no comments at this time. researching and reading.

  6. I am loving these posts. For the last couple of months I have had my head in my computer finding out about the tiny house “movement” and reading sites and wonderful blog. There is a lot of info out there about building the tiny house, not so much about the “after” experience. For instance I look at interiors, and wonder if they have an iron and ironing board, or is shabby chic the way we dress living in a tiny house. I just saw a post about cooking, and saying that if you cook a lot in your tiny house, then a good range-hood is such a good idea for sucking cooking smells and heat out of the tiny house. The comment from Tiny Houses in Australia also makes sense – I see photos of Jay Shaffer’s Epu and the two little Ikea chairs he has in there and I don’t think I would be comfortable in one of those for an extended period of time, so the idea of a good built in couch, with storage under, extendable to make another spare bed, is a great idea. Then the only thing to do is find an alternate place for the heater. In Australia we don’t have as much need for a boat heater like those commonly used in North American tiny houses, but we will need some sort of heat. I’ve yet to come to a good conclusion on that matter. Hoping there are some tiny house builders her down under. Some of my time on the net is sourcing versions of appliances that would be available, and would work, down here in a land that has different electrical requirements, and also builds in metric. What is need to do now is to reduce my stuff. I have so much stuff that I don’t need. Then there are working out what compromised need to be made for stuff or systems that you cannot do without. What a journey. Thanks to all involved.

    • Hi Ian,
      I am also on oz building a tumbleweed house. Recently, tumbleweed helpfully redesigned their plans to metric system. In terms of appliances I have found a that camping boating and fishing stores to be most helpful in terms of research. I may or may not buy their product but it gives me a springboard of ideas! I My plan is to build the foundation first, move in, then gradually add what I need. Nice to know other Aussies are thinking about tiny houses.

  7. i’m also in Australia and looking at applying the tiny house concepts. have you seen IKEA’s current display of a 35m2 (377ft2) home? it would work well for 2 people so i could make it even smaller for me. they have lots of clever storage ideas and gadgets to make good use of space.

    since most tiny houses are built in temperate climes, they do not include the wide verandahs and eaves we need here in oz. it would also be useful to include the whirlygigs that passively exhaust hot air in the ceiling/roof (i hope they can be shut during winter). also, to avoid feeling dark and gloomy (or using more energy than necessary to turn on lights), lining the walls with some mirror tiles could be good.

    i’d also like to make room to install a Tower Garden aeroponics system (with skylight above) to grow food in my tiny home.

  8. Hi ginger,
    I love the ideas of ikea, they have some beautiful solar lights that I am using now. You can also get a solar power fan that is like a whirligig that will do the same job roughly. Are you thinking about having your tiny house on a trailer? There is a Facebook page of all of us Aussies who are tiny house fans. ( some international too) come join us and discuss tiny houses there if you would like. Facebook site http://www.facebook.com/TinyHousesAustralia?ref=ts&fref=ts

    Look forward to hearing what you have to say!

  9. For creating story boards mentioned, Celtx is great for that. Also, under the floor storage is a great idea. Look at the stow and go minivan and other things that offer compactness in the design. The raised floor I’m putting in at my house will have easy access panels to stored items.

  10. I am still in the designing stages and I am happy to say that I have thought of most of your tips already! I do have one question, when it comes to storage, do you have to think about weight of the extra shelves instead of having just a wall, or is it not really a big deal?

  11. Enjoyed your blog, while a tiny house is a bit impractical for me (we are a family of 4 +2 largish dogs) We are seriously considering a cottage style home. We want to simplify, downsize, and make a home. We also want to build it ourselves. Just trying to get an idea of what it is going to cost and find a place to put it. I am not sold on where we live now, I want to move to the Pacific Northwest.

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