Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Posts Tagged Design

Sketchup Coming The 2015 Tiny House Conference

I am really excited to share some big news, the makers of Sketchup are going to be sending a team of folks to the Tiny House Conference to help run training sessions at the conference!  The 2015 Conference will be in Portland, OR April 18-19th 2015 (details here). For those of you who don’t know, Sketchup is a free 3D design program that is perfect for designing your tiny house.  Many people already know about it, but for those of you who don’t, it’s a tool you need to learn.  It will be your go to tool in designing your tiny house.

sketup logo

So at the conference we are having two sessions on Sketchup.  The first will be run in conjunction with one of our speakers, James, he is a master with Sketchup having helped draw up Macy Miller’s very popular tiny house and plans.

The next session is going to be a bonus session that I haven’t had a chance to announce, it just got put on the calendar.  This will be with the experts from Sketchup, showing you how to do things, answering questions and getting hands on with the software to design a tiny house.

For those who are new, check out Michael’s video from Tiny House Design


Come Join Us in Portland, OR April 18-19th 2015


Tiny House Plans For Families

As more and more people join the tiny house movement we are getting a lot of folks looking to make the leap with families.  I get the question a lot: “how do I live in a tiny house with a family?”  People want to know how they can enjoy the family life and set up houses for tiny house families.

Tiny House Families

There are a few approaches to this:

  1. Choose a small house that has enough room for the family, but the per person square footage is reasonable
  2. Build a slightly bigger, tiny house; maybe expanding to 10 foot wide and up to 40 feet long.
  3. Start with a small house when your kids are small, then add on or move to a bigger house later
  4. Build multiple tiny houses: adult’s/kids houses, sleeping house/living and kitchen house, other arrangements

The point here is to not get tied up in what a tiny house is supposed to be, but what works for you and your family.  I have people email me all the time who feel that they have to live in a traditional tiny house that’s 150ish square feet. Nope!  Forget that unless it’s right for your situation.  Tiny houses have thrived because they are flexible housing solutions, not some rigid definition.

Some of my most popular posts of families who live in small spaces are:

I also have posted some small houses that I think could lend themselves to being used for a family or adapted:

When it comes to designing a tiny house for a family I thing there some important things to think about when it comes to the layout, storage, number of rooms etc.

First step is to create a list of needs.  What does your family need to function or put another way, what does a house need to provide you with to live your life?  I like to think of this room by room, I’ll go around the person’s current space and look at what function or activity takes place in each space.  So on our list we will put for the kitchen: pantry storage (10 cubic feet), food prepping area (sink, 6 square feet counter top, trash can, cutting board, knife), washing dishes (4 square feet for dish drying rack, place to hang towel, soap, sink)

You can see the idea here.  We are trying to operationalize everything in our house, making sure to only write down the core functions, our true needs and the minimum that we need to achieve them.

Here is a video of two parents that have designed and lived in their tiny house for a few years now with two young kids:


I think the two biggest challenges when it comes to designing a tiny house for a family is storage, larger food prep/eating area and extra bedrooms.  For storage realize that not all your possessions have to be crammed into your tiny house.  You can read about my extra storage space which is a cargo trailer here; families could easily do something similar, maybe even have the trailer sub-divided into compartments for each person.  Also think about rotating wardrobes, for many people they have a winter set of clothes and a summer set of clothes, try to have another place to put the out of seasons clothes.

For extra cooking space for bigger meals, design the kitchen around what your needs are.  If you freeze a lot of things, have a space for a freezer.  If you supplement with canned vegetables, build in a can rack.  Here is a pinterest board that I’ve made up of great space saving storage ideas for tiny houses:

Follow The Tiny Life’s board Tiny House Storage on Pinterest.

The biggest challenge for tiny houses for families is the extra bedding spaces.  I think there are two approaches to this: 1) have bedrooms for every person or parents, boys, girls.   Or 2) have spaces that convert to a bedroom.

First here are some small house designs that have multiple bedrooms that might work.  Please note, these are just floor plans, there are now building plans for them.


source: http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/books/

rendering_480 rendering_544 bbb-floor-plans-bbh Small-Home-Building-Plans

The next major option for beds for you children might be having convertible spaces such as having some of these ideas below in your living room, at night it would become the kid’s bedroom.


A futon that lays flat to become a bed, then a trundle comes out for another bed.


This is a trundle bed, but I liked they made a tent which would be fun for kids, but also allow them to close the flap and afford them some privacy or alone time.


Here is a elevated trundle that has two beds and storage.


A standard trundle bed


A double bed, bunk bed Murphy style


two bedrooms in a small space.


Your Turn!

  • What did I miss?  What else would you need for your family?
  • What will your tiny family house look like?

Spotlight on Design: Wishbone Tiny Homes

From_storage_landscape_up[1]This month my spotlight on design features Asheville, North Carolina’s father and son design team, Gerry and Teal Brown, at Wishbone Tiny Homes. They were recently spotted at the Tiny House Conference this past spring. With their new location in the up and coming west side of Asheville, they are creating homes that offer “a return to some natural truth…a universal and natural connection to small” as Teal described when I spoke to him last month.

How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?Walk_thru_front_door_see_all[1]

Although we site Sarah Susanka, Jay Shafer, and Dee Williams as some of the trailblazers of the tiny house movement, we have been inspired by dwellings throughout world history that would be considered “tiny” by current standards. Indigenous cultures have always lived in spaces that accommodate necessary daily activities but do not demand excessive resources to build and maintain. You can see these principles in action in the modern, urban context as well. Looking even further into the subject, wild animals tend to build with locally sourced, sustainable resources, and usually take only what they need for their nests. The way we see it, tiny houses represent a return to some natural truth that we have somehow collectively forgotten as we have enabled our technologies to distance us from co-existing with the land around us. The urge to build tiny comes from a deep, innate place in our human existence, and we seek to explore that.

What is your ideal vision in building and sustaining tiny house construction and what life Ext_nw[1]experiences brought your developing such housing?

My dad has been building houses and doing fine woodworking for 40 years +. I learned a tremendous amount growing up under his lead. I also took and loved furniture and cabinetmaking classes in high school. Additionally, I have several building science-related certifications that provide a firm understanding of energy efficiency, sustainability, and renewable energy as they relate to residential construction. Tiny house design provides the ultimate platform to reflect these concepts in the highest form. My dad and I have always enjoyed working together. We share the same mind but also manage to compliment each other’s skills. The mere fact that we can do something as a team that we find meaningful to society keeps us motivated to push forward. We like to help people achieve their dreams too. This means that we might consult on one tiny house and build another. In whatever capacity we can be involved in making a tiny home come true, we are eager to do that.

What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?

_DSC7337_HDR[1]Rustic Modern, Craftsman, Japanese architecture, Greene and Greene, an architecture firm of the early 20th century which greatly influenced the American Arts and Crafts movement as well as aspects of Contemporary in regards to functionality, space saving techniques and energy efficiency.

What demographic are you attempting to reach?

Honestly, there isn’t a demographic we aren’t trying to reach. We believe that the inherent versatility of tiny structures (especially those on wheels), makes them relevant to all walks of life. A tiny home can represent a dignified solution to affordable housing for one group and a unique camping experience for another. In this burgeoning share economy, tiny homes can provide a legitimate investment opportunity as a rental as well.

Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?

We will hold workshops in the near future. In a previous career I worked for a company that specialized in job-skillPurlins_front_with_filter[1] training. During my time there I learned the cradle to grave process of curriculum development and delivery. Solar was my particular program and I was charged with creating a classroom and hands-on learning experience for our students. We created a 1KW roof-mounted array that simulated both grid-tied and off-grid applications. We are working on developing a similar program for Wishbone Tiny Homes that combines a classroom portion with an innovative hands-on training module to teach students the whole process of building tiny. More on that soon!

Keep up with the latest from Wishbone on their website and through their blog.

Thanks Teal for taking the time to talk to The Tiny Life. We look forward to seeing Wishbone flourish and expand that tiny life love.

Your Turn!

  • What design elements inspired your tiny house build?
  • Do you agree that tiny living is a natural inclination?


Design Ideas for a Kid’s Room in a Tiny Apartment

When we imagine tiny living, our minds automatically conjure images of the traditional tiny house built on a trailer. However, for some, tiny living simply means choosing a smaller housing option, such as a small apartment. In this post, we’ve put together some really cool (and simple!) design ideas for a kid’s room in a tiny apartment – although these unique ideas can easily be applied to any small space, however you define tiny living!

It can be difficult to find apartments that are big enough for all of the stuff your child has and wants. Not only is there a constant stream of new clothes coming in and old clothes that no longer fit going out, children also typically have tons of toys, books and electronics. Of course, it’s even better if your child has a desk to do homework at and a comfy place to read or watch TV. Check out these design ideas for organizing everything your child wants and needs in a tiny apartment.

Find Space-Saving Furniture

You aren’t likely to find apartments with big bedrooms for your child. One of the first things to do when trying to design a child’s bedroom in a tiny apartment is to look at the furniture. There’s just no place for bulky, inefficient furniture. Check out places like Ikea and Target for functional, space-saving items – or check out the rest of this site for more unique ideas! Beds that have drawers built in underneath the mattress or at the foot of the bed can provide a lot of extra storage space without taking up any extra floor space.

2 Image Credit:  http://www.wetwillieblog.com/

Go Up

Bunk beds are a great idea if you have more than one child sharing a room, and loft beds are the perfect choice for single children. Under the loft bed you can find designs that have a desk, dresser or even a seating area. You can also maximize floor space by buying taller furniture, rather than wide, low-to-the-ground options. Tall dressers hold quite a bit of stuff, as do shelves and bins for storing toys, books and clothes. See the image above for a beautiful example of how to maximize tiny spaces by building up instead of out!

Use the Walls

While many apartments for rent lack floor space, there’s most likely going to be plenty of wall space. Once you’ve built up and maximized all of the space in the room, start looking at the walls. A hook near the bedroom door is perfect for backpacks and jackets. Hooks in the closet can store hats, belts and scarfs. You can even find storage containers that attach right to the wall! These are perfect for storing toys, art supplies, school stuff and even diapers or baby wipes. The image below is a beautiful example of how to open up space by utilizing effective storage ideas – from the wall-mounted storage shelves to the drawers underneath the bed!

1Image Credit:  http://themaisonette.net


When you just can’t fit anything else in the room, it’s time to customize. This is a great idea, especially if your child can’t fit everything in his or her own room – or if they aren’t quite as excited as you are about living in a tiny apartment. Let your child personalize the room and have fun with it! It may be as simple as adding some pictures or painting the furniture. All that matters is your kid feels at home in your tiny apartment, and the best way to do that is by letting them help you decorate – they’ll love the idea of finding a funky chair or putting removable stars on the ceiling. Speaking of removable, you can also find large stickers that adhere to the wall and just peel off when it’s time to move out! This is a great option if your landlord does not allow you to paint the walls, or if you know your kid will want to redecorate again in a few months!

The most important thing to remember when you find a tiny apartment with even smaller rooms is not to throw out your dreams of living in a tiny home because you think your son or daughter won’t enjoy it. Remember, with a little bit of planning and organization, your child can still have a room that he or she will absolutely adore!

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Should Tiny Houses Have Bathrooms?

One area of my tiny house that I have come to think about a lot is the bathroom.  Now of course you need a bathroom, a place to use the restroom, a place to shower, etc.  It can range from in your tiny house flush toilet or composting, to an “outhouse” style with a properly designed system or even a flush toilet;  But I am beginning to wonder if a bathroom should be outside the tiny home.  It might be using the extra bathroom of the house you’re parked in the back yard of or it might be like Drew over at Tiny R(e)volution who build his “shower shack” photos at bottom of post.  I’m not saying you should do this, but I think it warrants discussion.

tiny-midwest-tiny-house-07-600x400The reason I’ve been thinking this is because while a bathroom of some form is a necessity, as it is in a tiny house, it takes up so much space and is used so little.  This is a really important factor when it comes to small spaces.  The amount of square footage should be directly proportional to the amount you use it.  So for example your mattress takes up about 30 square feet if you have a queen size bed, which is a lot of space, but you use it for 8 hours every day.  Compare that to the bathroom, about 22 square feet, I use it for maybe 30 or less minutes a day for showering, shaving, brushing teeth and going to the bathroom.  If you simply look at it like a return on investment a bathroom is not that great use of space.

Now you can reduce your space by building a wet bath (frankly I’m not keen on that idea).  You could also setup bathroom and shower outside, using an outdoor shower and bathroom, but there are a few months a year this wouldn’t work well.  You also could arrange for whoever house you park your tiny house behind that you can use their bathroom.   Obviously nothing will beat the convenience of having a shower and toilet in the actual tiny house, but I still struggle with how much space it uses versus how much I use it.

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