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Archive for the Design Category

Determining The Need Of A Home

There is a great article over at Inhabitat that sparked some thoughts on what you need in a home.  This is useful to help you develop a overarching philosophy to drive your design, to make sure your needs are met and not get caught up in the glitz of every bell and whistle or trendy thing.

What are your values?

This is an important step because it helps guide your decisions down the road.  For people who feel that sustainability is an issue, this will lead you to things like solar power, responsibly sourced wood/reclaimed wood, higher R value insulation etc.  Determine you list of core values that you hold dear and keep them in mind throughout the process,  this list should be pretty short and concise and you should be willing to pay or expend energy in order to meet these values.

What are your needs?

It is important to consider what your needs are before designing your home, it is from this that your house can begin to take shape.  This is very important to help you to think conceptually about your rooms.  For instance it is common in larger homes to have a guest bedroom that goes largely unused, but if we like to entertain we might think about how we will meet this occasional need without the addition of an entire room.  This realization might lead us to consider only small couches that fold out into a bed.

Many Tiny home designers use what is called subtractive design.  Basically you want to design a space that meets your needs, but then you want to try taking things away from the design.  If the removal doesn’t detract from the design then it should stay out.  If the removal of something actually improves the design, then it should be kept out.

From Inhabitat:

  • Which spaces will be expandable into others?
  • Which spaces will have direct access to the exterior?
  • In which rooms do you prefer sunlight at various times of day?
  • What special storage or leisure activities need to be accommodated?
  • Can any spaces serve multiple functions?
  • Where and when do you expect true privacy?
  • Do you require special accommodations for other generations within the family?
  • Will you work at home? How and where?
  • Where will you eat alone? With family? With many guests, if you entertain?
  • What prized personal possessions need to be showcased?
  • Is energy-efficiency and sustainability important to you?  Will you invest a portion of your budget in green building strategies?

What are you escaping?

If you are considering a new home Tiny, Small or otherwise, these is a reason for this.  What is it about your current living situations and residence that doesn’t meet your needs.  Is it too big, too small, doesn’t meed your needs, poor design, bad location, need for more storage or more efficient use of space?  Think about this and how it should impact your choices and design.

Where are you headed?

An important part of planning your new home is to future proof it.  Traditionally a home builder would add a few rooms, a bonus room, would sell the house to help you envision an office/workout room if you were single or a play room if you had kids.  Children and marriage seem to be the two largest factors here.  Think about what you need now, but what you will need later too.
The article that sparked my inspiration is below in the “via” link

Life Edited Finalists

A while back I wrote about treehugger’s contest where they purchased a tiny apartment and will renovate it.  They asked for designs and the winner’s gets built.  They are closing in on the finalist, so check it out and vote!  Here

Evolution Of The House

This video is an interesting perspective about how with all of our technology and innovative materials, the house itself has not evolved very much even though the concept is as old as man.  Think about the house your great grandparents lived in, now consider your own house, how different is it really?  Slightly better insulation, their wood stove is now replaced with your central air, upgraded plumbing.  There are homes in 200 year old homes in England that are earthen structures that have a significantly higher R value than our homes.  Central air is certainly nice, but only add convenience and older home were smaller, so easier to heat to begin with.

For a 100 years of innovation we haven’t made huge leaps.  Consider the first telephone compared to a cell phone.  One was expensive, didn’t work well and was a piece of furniture; a cell phone is pocket sized, plays music and movies and currently 82% of US residence have one.   In the world of cell phones there has been huge strides, but in houses not so much.  Perhaps this is an apples to orange comparison, but I think many would agree, we have made many fine tuning changes, but not nearly what we see in other sectors.

Loft Bed Ideas

Found some great loft beds, a few for kids, a few for adults.  Check them out.

Go House Go! – Book Review

Today I wanted to share with you a great book that comes to us from Portland Alternative Dwellings (link below) written by Dee Williams.  Many of you will know her from her house being profiled in many videos, some of which I have posted on this site.  Not too long ago Dee launched Portland Alternative Dwellings with her house the Don Vardo, which is one of my favorite Tiny Houses to date.

Click Image For Link

The book, described by Dee as a “Tiny How To Manual” discusses some of the key structural elements in Tiny Houses in great detail.  I am very glad to see such a manual enter the Tiny House market as it fills a much needed gap when it comes to Tiny Houses on trailers.  These houses must be able to withstand huge forces as they roll down the road, Dee has been able to systematically address these issues in her book.

The manual starts of by describing types of forces that are exerted on a trailered house then shifts into how to address them.  She covers, in detail, the foundation, anchoring, wall design, roof design and water infiltration prevention.   Not only are they key elements to the design of a Tiny House, but it is often areas where an inexperienced person needs the most guidance.

There are a few things that this book (and the Tiny House market in general) left me wanting: a discussion on plumbing, electrical and gas.  I think what I really mean to say is that this book is great, but I would love to see Dee take a crack at each of these topics in their own stand alone book (hint hint, nudge nudge).  Dee does starts off by saying this books wasn’t designed to cover those topics, so I see this more as a opportunity than a negative.

There are a few things that I wanted to highlight in this book that make it really stand out.  First of the level of detail that Dee has put in here is great, not only does she show some great diagrams, but she backs up her design with solid data sources.  This book is a nice mix of easy to read language, but loaded with serious content that incorporates elements to adhere to Department of Transportation, the International Building Code and others.

Next is Dee’s foundation/floor framing design, after looking at other trailered Tiny Houses, it was clear this one is superior in many ways.  From handling stresses during transportation to the fact it is superior while have a lower sub-floor height than others.  I really like this approach and feel that it is more robust than others out there.

Finally this is the manual that I feel complements many Tiny House plans.  When you purchase plans from various Tiny House vendors you get highly engineered plans that are good quality, but assume you know a lot about house construction or expect you to pay for a contractor to build it.  This doesn’t mesh with the demographic that builds Tiny Houses.  They are typically hard workers, looking to save on labor costs, but don’t have the construction skill set.  This manual helps mitigate that gap in knowledge.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to those who are purchasing any Tiny House plans.  It will give you the knowledge and confidence in producing a truly high quality house.

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