When folks ask us what was the most challenging aspect of building a tiny house we will chorus in unison: BATHROOM. Several factors made this the most difficult part of construction.
Firstly, this is the room we spend the least amount of time. For Cedric, this meant that finding inspiration to work on the bathroom was not easy. It was more interesting for us to design and build the kitchen where we spend the majority of our time. Secondly, designing a bathroom on wheels is challenging in and of itself. We love tile but the fact that the motion of moving the house would likely cause cracking and/or breakage threw that option out the window. We tried buying a shower pan but nothing fit our tiny space. We looked to RV and boat design but we wanted as little plastic as possible and much of those use plastic to create a waterproof space. We considered using a hardwood such as teak since it was available through the warehouse where we constructed, but we feared it would be too heavy. Our bathroom is on the tongue side of the trailer and we didn’t want to weight it down. That was another reason for throwing out the tile idea-too heavy.
Finally, we decided on corrugated tin which was light and attractive. Before installing the outer materials the walls and floor were painted with reclaimed, heavy duty marine paint that’s used on ships to prevent water damage. For the flooring we decided to make a stainless steel shower pan. Cedric found the material at a junkyard. It was previously a kitchen counter but Cedric shaped, cut and welded it to fit our bathroom space. This is where our community came to our aid because we did not have the equipment to reconstruct the stainless steel counter top. We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of our friend Bill who has a machine shop. It was not a cheap option and it took a lot of work to get right but we don’t regret the time or the money spent. Our bathroom will probably outlast the rest of the house!
Once we had installed the tin and pan we noticed we had issues with standing water. We fixed this by banging the shower pan in around the drain allowing for better drainage. We built in a box on one side with a hinged lid where our bucket composting toilet is located. We heat our water with an on-demand hot water heater that’s propane powered. It works like a charm although we did have trouble keeping the flame lit on a very windy night!
The bathroom, or the wet room as we call it, is still not quite finished with one window left to trim but other than that it has turned out to be a great space. We created a drainage field based on a gray water system we had used while working on an organic farm. It allows us to water our plants while showering which our banana and pineapple plants love! We are careful with the products we put down our drains using biodegradable soaps and shampoos that won’t harm the soil or plants. If comments on our garden are any measure of success than we hit the nail on the head. Of all the gardens I’ve had in Charleston, this one received the most praise from neighbors. I definitely think the extra watering had something to do with that! Ultimately, we’d like to build an outdoor shower for summer months as well as a possible outdoor kitchen but we still have a few months to consider those options!
- What challenges have you faced designing WCs for tiny spaces?
When designing and building a small space, functionality is vital. Each piece of furniture in our tiny house was designed, re-designed and then tweaked again before we installed anything. It took us nearly a year of living in the house to finally figure out what we thought would be the best living space we could have in La Casita. Our style throughout the house is heavily influenced by boat living. Cedric lived on his parents’ sailboat as a young child and as an adult he re-built a small sailboat and lived in the Ashley River in Charleston. His experiences in that particular tiny living community have inspired much of La Casita’s design. Our built-in furniture is a further testament of that fact.
When drawing out our seating arrangements we knew they needed to be multi-functional, allowing for reading, eating, relaxing, working and sleeping. We were asking our living room to do quadruple duty since space is so limited in the house. Below is our bench seating. To the left we have drawers that pull out and act as a storage space/dirty laundry hamper which helps keep our entire house more orderly. Two little drawers make all the difference in a tiny house!
Under the seating you’ll notice a small hole in the flooring. That is where a stainless steel tube fits into our floor which allows the transformation from bench to dining table. The boards mounted to the wall stabilize the table and keep it from shifting during use. We had the hardest time figuring out how to attractively stabilize the table so that it was functionally sound but also visually appealing. We also wanted to keep as much room as possible available under the table for our long legs. The pipe was left over from our kitchen counter set-up and all the wood you see in the pictures was reclaimed. It ended up costing us nothing to build which was a plus!
We are really enjoying the use of a dining/work table!
Sleeping on the converted bench is a bit like camping. Cedric and I have both tried it out and it’s not quite as comfortable as we would like so we will probably continue to tweak the design. We want a space where a guest could sleep comfortably and not feel quite so cramped. Lengthwise it’s fantastic but it is so narrow it makes sleeping through the night a bit challenging.
All in all we’re pretty happy with the results of our efforts. It’s truly made our house feel more like a home. The space will continue to evolve and we’ll continue to challenge our design but that’s part of the fun of living in a tiny space. It doesn’t take much time or money to recreate it if you want to change an aspect of your design.
- What’s your favorite multi-functional tiny house design idea?
Today we have a small house that was remodeled Victorian boathouse overlooking the lake of Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park, Berkshire. The top floor of The Boathouse, once the Royal Boat Keeper’s lodgings, now serves as a spectacular retreat taking advantage of one of the most outstanding settings of the south east of England. The ground floor maintains its purpose of housing boats with two large timber doors opening outwards onto the lake. I don’t have the square footage of the home, but it is certainly on the larger side for the houses we cover, but I really liked the look and the furniture.
So for those of you on the East Coast, Ross Chapin, who designs pocket neighborhoods (some photos here) will be holding a free short workshop in Asheville, NC. I will be going to the event so those interested let me know in the comments (I will email from there to coordinate) and we can be sure to meet up!
These are gorgeous neighborhoods that are small cozy houses surrounding a small public green. The What I like about it is that the parking for the houses is in a lot that is set out of sight from the homes. At the end of the green is a common house, used to hold events, meet with friends, share a meal, etc.
From the press release:
Author of the book Pocket Neighborhoods, Ross Chapin, will host a workshop in Asheville, North Carolina on November 5, 2012 (from 6:00pm to 7:30pm) at the Lord Auditorium in the Pack Memorial Library located at 67 Haywood Street in downtown Asheville.
Chapin describes pocket neighborhoods as, “clustered groups of neighboring houses or apartments gathered around a shared open space — a garden courtyard, a pedestrian street, a series of joined backyards, or a reclaimed alley — all of which have a clear sense of territory and shared stewardship. They can be in urban, suburban or rural areas.
These are settings where nearby neighbors can easily know one another, where empty nesters and single householders with far-flung families can find friendship or a helping hand nearby, and where children can have shirttail aunties and uncles just beyond their front gate.”
During this workshop, Chapin will offer a presentation on this topic for professionals and the general public, sharing stories of communities from around the world, their historic precedents, and the key design principles that give them vitality.
Event Flyer here
Right now the majority of people on this earth live in cities and the number of people is growing. We have arrived at the point where we must grapple with the fact that people want to live in these areas and that they must be able to house them all. Many argue that a city is a more sustainable pathway for us, but we still need to balance that with quality of life. I know for me living in a dense urban area I personally find it difficult because the lack of nature, even with great green spaces, I find a need to connect with the woods. So how can we balance the demands of humans with the needs of the earth and do it in small space? This video I found is really interesting and answers many of these points.
- How can we take these ideas and concepts of Tiny House to make awesome cities?