Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Posts Tagged Design

New Design Guide: Planning Your Tiny House

Over the years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks to designing tiny houses – things that can make a house feel like home, common mistakes to avoid and making the build process smooth sailing.

I’ve finally put together all this wisdom into a single guide to help you figure out exactly what you need in your home, how to place the elements and not forget critical things.  I’ve written this guide to help you design the perfect tiny house or small home.

tiny house desing and layout

Design your perfect tiny house with this in-depth planning guide. This step by step guide shows you how to determine your needs, develop a successful design and refine it to perfection. Included is our floor plan kit which has windows, doors, appliances, furniture and much more for you arrange into your dream home.

Check out the details at our store, click here

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Keep Outside Of My Tiny House

When it comes to living in such a small space or living a minimalist life, it’s very important to think about your possessions.  Minimalism doesn’t inherently mean not having stuff, it’s about being intentional with the things I do have.  Part of that is recognizing that there are things I will own that don’t have a place in the home, or shouldn’t be in the house even if I have the space.

These are items that you need, but don’t use much.  They could be things you need keep separate from your main space to maintain a balance in your life.  These are things that I want access to, but don’t want to see.  So here is a list of 10 things I own, but don’t keep in my house.

1. Internet

This seems crazy, even to me. Those that know me know that I’m a unapologetic nerd.  The internet is an amazing thing, filled with interesting, informative and hilarious stuff.  But, I don’t have internet in my house.  This affords me a work life separation.  The truth is I love my work, it’s amazing.  I just love working and therein lies the problem.  When I go to work I am almost always hyper focused, a tad intense and get sucked into the work in a very big way.  Not having internet lets me disconnect and take a break.

2. Bulk Storage

I always like to keep a year’s worth of every day items on hand. I store these items in my enclosed trailer that I setup like a storage building, things like shampoo, TP, propane, batteries, etc. It is an odd habit I started a while back when I decided to try an experiment and track everything that I used for an entire year.  Whenever I run out of something, I have another on hand. I buy a replacement and put the newest at the back, grabbing from the front, which is the oldest.  What I’ve found is that after an initial stocking, it doesn’t cost you anymore to have.  I find this helpful because I’m never out of anything and when life gets crazy, I can focus on the task at hand, not the fact that I ran out of TP and suddenly need to go to the store.

3. Composting Toilet

This is another odd one, that I think I’m alone on (maybe?).  When I first moved into my tiny house, I was trying to figure out tile for my bathroom, so I just put the composting toilet (bucket) outside.  It’s been two years now and I think I actually prefer to have it outside.  I live on a large plot of land, so none of my neighbors can see my house.  As a result, I just put my bucket where there is a really nice view.  I don’t ever have to worry about smells, flies or the like, plus I have extra space in the house where the toilet would have gone.  I’ve gotten so used to it, that I can climb down my ladder, go outside and then get back in bed without really waking up.

4. Work Materials & Home Office

Being self employed meant that for a long time, I didn’t have an office.  I used to work from home and venture out to various coffee shops.   That changed about a year ago when I opened my coworking space and splurged by giving myself my very own office space.

I still operate out of my backpack for most things, but I now have a place to keep a few books and an extra computer. I keep items for the Tiny House Conference in the office storage space.  I think the best thing I like about having an office space outside of my house is that I now have a white board. There’s something about laying out strategy on a whiteboard that I love.

5. Laundry

You all know this about me, I hate folding laundry with a fiery passion.  I long ago decided that I was going to have a laundry service here in Charlotte called 2ULaundry come and handle my laundry.  For about $15 bucks a week, someone comes to pick it up, wash/dry/fold, then brings it back.  The best money I’ve spent all year.

6. Tools

This is an obvious one, you don’t want to drag all the sawdust into your house, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  I keep an enclosed cargo trailer for things I want to own, but not keep in the house.  My power tools from building my tiny house take up a good bit of room. I like to do small projects, fixing things and I don’t want the mess inside the house.

7. Camping Gear

When it comes to camping gear, I’ve been very careful to keep food smell away from them. When you cook in a tiny house, the whole house fills with the delicious scents of your cooking. That’s fine for cooking, but you don’t want your camping gear smelling like garlic chicken or soup. For that reason, I keep all my gear in plastic containers in the cargo trailer.

8. People I don’t want to host

It’s the ultimate excuse, “Oh sorry, my house is too small. Guess we’ll have to have it somewhere else…”  It means I don’t have to deal with having people over unless its a really small group of close friends that I really like.

9. Living Space (some of it)

Part of living in a small space is extending your living room to the world outside.  Right when you walk out of my house, I have an outdoor living area complete with tables, chairs, fire pit, grill, pizza oven and much more.  When the weather is nice, I’m outside.  Beyond that I extend my need for a guest bedroom to a local hotel, my dining room is at the best restaurant in town, and other needs to the best that my city has to offer.

10. Formal wear

I wear a suit once every couple years, which means that instead of owning and storing a suit, I just rent one.  The best part is that it always fits me well because they size it for you, plus I can match the formality of the event I’m going to.  It also means I don’t have to worry about storing it or cleaning it because they take care of it.  For women, they have online dress rental services where you can find lots of options in style that you can rent that are pretty affordable.

Your Turn!

  • What things are you thinking about keeping outside your house?
  • What things are you going to outsource?

Ryan’s Tiny House Kitchen

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update on my house, I had my kitchen done a long time ago, but never really took any photos.  So today I wanted to share some of those photos and the design that went into my kitchen.

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I started by putting together a Pinterest board of ideas I liked (I’ve since deleted it).  This let me consider features I wanted to bake into my design. I also narrowed down my color scheme for the tiny house interior.  I have such a hard time choosing colors so this was a big hurdle for me.

I then got into the design:

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Some renderings before hand (note the colors aren’t correct here):

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With this rendering you can see the main cabinet which will house the sink, the hot water heater and it has this pull out storage bin which was designed for cans.

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This is the main storage cabinet which allows me to keep pots, pans, food below.  I custom designed the top drawers for utensils and spices.

The whole thing came together like this:

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Your Turn!

  • What features do you want in your tiny house kitchen?

 

Determining The Needs Of Your Space

Understanding what you do in your home and work is an important step to designing any space for the perfect place for you.  The greatest thing about living The Tiny Life is that you get to design your space and your life from the ground up.  Today we’re going to focus on our physical space and what need in a built environment that sets the stage for our best life.

Determining

In some cases understanding your needs will show you that all you need to do is tweak a few things in the space you’re already in.  It may be the case that more drastic changes or starting from scratch may be required.  You may also be looking towards building a new space anyway so it’s time to consider what that design will be.  It’s important to understand that to live The Tiny Life, you don’t necessarily need to live in a tiny house and what you have right now may be adapted.

room-trackingThe first step in understanding what your space needs to have in it, you need to understand how you actually use it already.  We often have ideas of what we would do if… or if only I had ____ I do more of this one thing.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of future planning so let’s focus on what you do right now.

To do this I use my Room Tracking method: to start, gather a bunch of pens and some post-it notes.    Go around to each of your rooms in your house or apartment and close every door.  Put a post-it note on the door and a pen on top of the door frame of each door.  When you go into a room, write down what you are going into that room for and estimate how long it will take.  On your front door (or your main door) put a post it note on it and write things down that you leave your house to do with time estimates.  Do this for a week.

This will create a comprehensive list of what you actually do in your home, not just what you think you do in your home.  You can even re-purpose this exercise for your work space.  Take all the post-it notes and combine them into a list.

I put together this free worksheet to help, click here.

Once you’ve compiled a list of what you do and how long you do it, start estimating the amount of space you’ll need to do that one thing.  You can even rank your activities by which you do the longest and ask yourself, “Are the things I spend the most time on the most important to me?” Just think about that.

What can you outsource?

With your list consider things that could happen outside the home.  A gym membership is one example.  Instead of having a home gym, would a gym work just as well or even better?  Or if you haven’t stepped foot in your home gym in several months, do you even need it at all?  For me I realized while I was effective at working from home, it was lonely; so I started working at a coworking space.

What things can you cut out all together?

I realized that I really didn’t read a book twice, so keeping books was often a waste of space. So, I replaced my bookshelf with a kindle.  I did keep about 10 books that were more reference books, but the rest went.

What things can pull double duty?

Think about things that are on your list that can happen in a single area or what things are important enough to have a dedicated space.  For me I knew I wanted a work space that was just for work, but my living room could serve as a place to read, to watch TV, to hang out with friends, and to setup a table for meals.

Whittling down the list

Consider the above questions and think critically about what you really do need.  Avoid what you “hope” to do, but focus on what you actually do.  With this you can come up with a solid list of activities that can help you design your space more effectively.

Your Turn!

  • What was your most important activity in your house?
  • What other tricks have you used to determine your true needs?

Five Things To Do Before You Build Your Tiny House

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It’s the final countdown, folks.

I’ve made the executive decision to begin building my tiny house in the spring of 2017.

While that decision is exciting, I realize that I need to get my butt in gear and accomplish a whole slew of tasks before I’m ready to buy a trailer. Today I’m sharing my to do list with you, and I hope it can help you prepare for your build too – whether you’re starting next week or next year. This is part one of a two-part post – so stay tuned!

Step Zero: Be Sure It’s What You Want

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Me, on the porch of Jay Shafer’s original tiny house, wearing unflattering pants.

This seems like a given, but there’s more at work here. If you want a tiny house because you think they’re cute, you might need to do a little more soul searching. If you want a tiny house because it’s the logical next step in creating a more intentional way of living, well…now we’re getting somewhere.

How do I know a tiny house is right for me? Well…

  • I’ve wanted to build my own house since I was eight years old.
  • I love small, cozy, confined spaces.
  • I’ve always been passionate about good design and creating homes full of personality.
  • I want to learn new things, because it improves my life and makes me a better person.
  • I want to feel the pride that comes with tackling a big project.
  • I care about my impact on the environment.
  • It does not make sense for me to buy a traditional home because I don’t know where I’ll end up settling down someday.
  • I’m a tiny person (5’2″) with very little stuff and few worldly needs.

Your reasons might be different. Be honest with yourself and trust your gut! You know yourself and your own motivations.

Tips:

  • If you are going into a tiny house build with your partner or family, agree going in that if anyone decides they’re done with the tiny house life, that you’ll both/all find another living solution. Not feeling trapped will work wonders when it comes to living peacefully together in a tiny house.
  • If you’re on the fence, there are other ways to live smaller without building a tiny house. Even just downsizing to a small house or apartment can dramatically change your outlook.
  • At the end of the day, a tiny house is just an object, and objects don’t change your life for the better. Only you have the power to do that.

Step One: Connect with Tiny House People

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Tiny house people love nothing more than sharing pizza and beer.

Even with the wealth of information available online, you’ll still have questions that can only be answered by people who have gone through the building process. Also, tiny house people are just plain cool and interesting and definitely worth knowing!

I’ve been lucky to meet so many wonderful members of the tiny house movement through my work, but to get here, I had to seek them out myself. As an introvert, this is much easier said than done. In the beginning, I had to do a lot of hunting to find other people who were just as excited about tiny houses as I was.

Tips:

  • Meetup.com is a goldmine. If you’re in a major metropolitan area, chances are high that there is a tiny house enthusiasts meetup nearby. If there isn’t one already, why not start a group yourself?
  • If there isn’t a tiny house meetup group, search for related groups about minimalism, gardening and permaculture, or prepping, and you’re bound to meet other people who are interested in tiny houses!
  • Tiny house events are popping up all over the country, and they’re a great way to meet cool folks. If you’re pretty convinced you’d like to live tiny, the Tiny House Conference is a great place to make friends and ask people your questions.
  • Don’t just hound people on the Internet, begging them for a tour of their tiny house. Form strong give-and-take friendships with tiny house folks just like you would with anyone else.

Step Two: Pare Down Belongings

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I once owned over 300 books. I now own 30.

Paring down your stuff is a huge part of living the tiny life. Last summer, I moved to Charlotte from Boston, and I took the move as an opportunity to bring only the things that could fit in the back of my Honda CRV. I got rid of two thirds of my clothing and 90% of my books – something I thought I could never do – along with decades’ worth of accumulated crap from my school years. It was surprisingly easy to distinguish trash from treasure once I got in to a rhythm. Driving down the highway to my new home, with a trunk full of my most precious possessions, was a liberating feeling.

Tips:

  • “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
  • For analytical minds: try the box method. Empty the contents of a drawer, closet, etc. into a big cardboard box. Each time you use an item from the box, it can return to the drawer. Whatever remains in the box after three months is something you don’t need in your daily life and you can safely donate it.
  • For intuitive minds: If you have more of an emotional attachment to objects like I do, I highly recommend the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It has gone viral for a reason, and I couldn’t have decluttered without it. That book is worth its own blog post, which I will write soon.
  • Budget enough time for this crucial step. One tiny house family I know took a whole year to declutter.

Step Three: Assess Needs

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Dee Williams’s petite vardo at the 2015 Tiny House Conference.

This is what Dee Williams from Portland Alternative Dwellings calls “playing anthropologist.” A lot of what we think we need in a home is marketed to us through building trends and realtors. A tiny house is a chance to shed the excess and create a home that fits you like a glove. For this step, I wrote a big list to brainstorm all my weird quirks and how they affect my interaction with my living space.

For instance, I noticed that I never use more than two stove burners at a time, but I do use my oven very frequently (roasting vegetables is the most reliable way to trick myself into eating them). For me, an oven would be a necessity.

I find that I spend most of my leisure time lounging around in bed rather than on the couch. Aside from sleeping, I do all my reading, drawing, writing, and music-listening in bed. I’ll probably forgo a lounge space in favor of a dining area, and design a luxurious sleeping loft that will double as my creative haven.

I also dye my hair monthly, so an open shower stall won’t work for me unless I want to flood my whole house as I rinse out the dye. I think a stock tank bathtub would work well for me.

Tips:

  • Try the Post-It Note Method: Stick a Post-It Note next to each doorway in your home. Every time you leave a room, write down what it is that you’re doing in each room. After a month or so, get a glimpse into how you actually use your space.
  • Design for the life you have, not the one you want. This is the equivalent of keeping “skinny pants” in your wardrobe. You want to feel comfortable in your home, not guilty.
  • If you have hobbies or accoutrements that require a lot of space, consider outbuildings or off-site storage, or outsourcing that hobby to a different location (e.g. an artist’s studio).
  • Remember: our needs are surprisingly few and easily met.

Step Four: Figure Out a Floor Plan

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My latest tiny house layout, which I have already overhauled completely.

Right now, I have a folder on my desktop with 39 scanned, hand-drawn floor plans. To be fair, I’m a big nerd and I’ve been drawing these for four straight years. But whether it’s digital or on paper, it’s important to translate your design ideas into a visual medium.

There are lots of great ready-made tiny house floor plans on the market. We’ve reviewed our favorite plans to help you pick the one that’s right for you – click here to check it out. But because everyone’s needs are different, don’t be afraid to modify an existing plan to better suit your lifestyle.

Tips:

  • Carry a measuring tape with you wherever you go. Measure chair heights, counter widths, the rises and runs of stair steps – it’s important to know common dimensions of different elements so you can accurately plan for them.
  • Measure yourself! Know how much space you need to feel comfortable. My needs as a 5’2″, 130 lb. woman will differ from the needs of a 6’3″ 275 lb. man.
  • Don’t forget to design space for your clothes hamper, kitchen trash can, recycling and compost bins, suitcases, bulk paper goods storage, brooms, and other cleaning implements.
  • Include empty storage space in your design. Because you’re alive, you’ll probably still acquire new things after you move into your tiny house. Give yourself some wiggle room.
  • Strive for an excellent design, not a perfect one. If you stress too much about getting things absolutely perfect, you’ll never get off the ground.

Step Four-and-a-Half: Work with an Expert

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Great ideas always begin on a napkin.

Optional, but highly worth it. Even if you have a pretty strong grasp on what you’re doing in terms of your design, it never hurts to have an expert offer their advice. At the Tiny House Conference after party, I hungrily listened to Lina Menard and Ethan Waldman as they gave me feedback on my tiny house design, which I drew on a napkin in pink pen. I’m currently collaborating with a professional plan designer and draftsman to hash out a solid layout and set of building plans, which is terribly exciting!

Tips:

  • Try to find experts who have experience building tiny houses. It’s important for folks to have the skill of translating theoretical designs into tangible structures.
  • If you can’t afford a consultation, buy or borrow a copy of A Pattern Language. It’s a great manual for learning the psychology of vernacular architecture (a.k.a. how to build a house you feel good in).

Step Five: Create a Budget

Christian and Alexis of Tiny House Expedition made their dollars stretch during their tiny house build.

Christian and Alexis of Tiny House Expedition made their dollars stretch during their tiny house build.

Ideally, if you’re ready to build within a year, you should have enough funds saved up to at least get started. If you’re not careful, a tiny house can become a money pit if you don’t budget and track your expenditures.

My plan is to build in stages. I’ll first finish the exterior, so that the unfinished inside is safe from the elements. I can then take my time finishing the interior and saving up for some nicer appliances. Since I live in Charlotte and it’s pretty warm here, I might even move in early and live in the house while I’m still working on it to pour even more money into the build. I’m planning for the build to take a long time, but I know I’ll have a more rewarding learning experience that way.

In terms of saving money, it’s important to have a savings account just for your tiny house so that your funds don’t get mixed up and accidentally spent. I know that I’m the kind of person that will spend all my savings if they’re accessible and unallocated. I use SmartyPig.com to keep my tiny house savings separate, which is free and easy to use and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Tips:

 

So what are the next steps as I move toward building my tiny house? Tune in next time for part two of this topic!

Your Turn!

  • Which step will be the easiest for you?
  • Which step will be more challenging?
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