When Cedric and I started looking for design inspiration for La Casita there were a lot of ideas out in the internet. Thanks to great blogs like this one we were able to implement ideas from other tiny houses on wheels but we also looked to alternative dwellings to complete a design we were happy with. We were especially influenced by the sailing community and we definitely looked to the RV community for ideas on how to implement certain systems. The folks who travel and live year-round in RV’s and sailboats understand the challenge of mobile living and have great solutions to common problems and challenges faced by living the tiny life!
Cedric comes from a boat building background and I always tell people that if it ever flooded where we live, La Casita would probably float. He incorporated a lot of different styles and techniques inherent in a sailboat. When people enter our home they often mention the fact that it feels like being on a boat, without all the rocking. Our built in furniture was influenced by the seating Cedric had on his live aboard sailboat and our counter top has a lip to it, a common element on boats to keep items from rolling off. Our electric system is marine-grade tinned copper wire and our electric box is made for life on the water. We have DC outlets from West Marine and pretty much everything about our house is built with sailing in mind sans a keel and actual sails! We love the cozy aspect of boat design, especially in the sleeping cabins so we built our loft with that coziness in mind and angled the roof to give it that cabin-like feel and appeal.
Sailboat weren’t our only inspiration. I checked out RV blogs and forums as well! I found a lot of insightful and helpful information about keeping hoses from freezing, general moving tips and even wood stove recommendations. This community has been around for awhile and the veterans of recreational vehicle living are full of excellent advice.
Another source of inspiration came from folks living in yurts and teepees. Blogs were really a great source of information from folks living this type of mobile lifestyle. We entertained the idea of buying a yurt for some time but ultimately a tiny house was a better option for our lifestyle. We didn’t feel like a yurt would be as comfortable in the hot climate of the South and friends up North had said that they were difficult to keep warm in the winter. Plus, after putting one up for some friends, we realized they aren’t as easy to construct as we thought. They also aren’t built for modern amenities and we (read me) weren’t quite ready to give up a fridge and electricity.
It was infinitely helpful to read about other people’s experiences and get a better understanding of just what these different aspects of tiny living offer. Comparing the challenges faced by different communities living a lifestyle with a smaller square footage was essential if designed what was best for our needs. I recommend reaching out to these different communities via blogs, forums, conferences or just go up to a sailor or RV’er and ask what’s up! Most people enjoy sharing their many experiences and animatedly discuss just about everything from waste management to the challenges of wintering in a mobile structure-trust me I’ve asked!
- Have any blogs, forums or other recommendations for design inspiration?
Vermont has quite the tiny house scene. Only two weeks after moving up here we came across our friend KJ’s tiny house and heard about several more! Back in SC, we were pretty much the only tiny house folks that we knew about but it seems Vermonters have had tiny house fever for some time! Today I want to share this wonderful tiny house that our friend built and currently occupies with her bull mastiff!
The house currently lives on a farm and sits on a 8 1/2 x 16 foot trailer with two bumpouts that serve as storage and sleeping space. She has a hard wired, 20 amp circuit that allows her to hook to a breaker box in the barn next door and although she has a clawfoot tub she recently bought, she does not having running water in the house.
While taking a permaculture course, KJ was exploring a less toxic, less material based lifestyle. She was living in yurt in Vermont and realized that it was not the best living situation through the long winters. It took a lot of wood to heat it and keep it warm for one person so she nixed the idea of buying a yurt. She became especially interested in gypsy wagons and began researching other small living alternatives, such as school bus renovation, back in 2008. Then she moved in to a tree house on a goat farm owned by a couple of architects. She revealed her dream to build a tiny house and she says their eyes lit up! They agreed to help her in exchange for goat sitting on the weekends. Two months of building and she had herself a house.
The house is built with pine that was cut and milled from the forest on the goat farm and it was built specifically to her measurements. She’s thinking up new ideas for the house and planning to remodel the downstairs to have a narrower staircase and a space for a table and two chairs. The best things about living the tiny life? The strong sense of ownership and accomplishment is certainly a strong sentiment for her. “It’s mine, I made it!” is the first thing she tells me when I asked her the above question but also living in a non-toxic space and escaping the materialistic bent of our consumerist culture are among the positives to living this life.
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<This is my favorite, no fuss project in terms of interior design! It takes about 20 minutes to do and can be completed with simple tools on a small budget. Until recently most of our books had still been in storage due to limited wall space in our tiny house. We put in so many windows it left little space to put up book shelves. We have installed a few over our windows which work nicely but too many of them create a crowded feeling in such a small space. I’d seen floating bookshelves on a few different design sites and decided to make a couple for the house so we could unpack some of our books. They’re great because they don’t take up much space and it’s a fun way to keep our favorite reads handy.
First I headed to my local library and checked out their sale section and bought two hardcover books for a dollar. These are the books that will act as the shelf so best not to spend much money on them. I then went to the hardware store and bought L brackets and a few screws. Some folks use metal bookends instead of L brackets but I didn’t have either and I thought the brackets would be stronger and better able to hold more weight. Next I marked where the wholes would be and started the rather mundane work of getting the screws through all the pages. This could be done in 20 seconds with a drill but when I pulled out our trusty Hitachi the battery was dead. I was feeling impatient, so I pulled out a phillips and it took a few minutes longer but was fairly quick and easy.
I tried hiding the bracket in the inside cover of the book but it didn’t look quite right. It doesn’t make much of a difference whether you put the bracket, or bookend, on the inside or outside cover. The way I assembled it I thought you’d be able to see the bracket easily, which would defeat the ‘floating’ purpose, but it didn’t make much of a difference. You can also use two brackets on either end of the book and create a more stable base which I might do for my next set of shelves. I’ve noticed they’re slightly wobbly with only one but it’s held up no problem (so far).
Once you get all the screws in it gets even easier. Just pick a spot on the wall, mark the holes and screw it in to the wall. Voila! Stack you favorite books on top and you’ve got yourself a stylish and functional storage solution.
Note on Assembly: Don’t drop your screwdriver where playful puppies might try and “help”.
- What are you favorite interior DIY projects for small spaces?
I’d love for this to be my tiny home away from tiny home! This rescue vehicle, previously used by the German fire brigade, was converted into an off-road tiny house! Rugged but with all the amenities to make it a home including radiant floor heating, a heated towel bar in the bathroom and a floor fitted on custom made swings to keep the living space from tilting during travel! Who wouldn’t want to travel in this! A great option for folks who want a tiny house that has more of a camper ability to go anywhere anytime but doesn’t have the feel of an RV. Definitely a step up!
MAN FAE 1.36 Truck
Custom floor built to handle rough roads without tilting the living area.
Heated floors…a luxury we don’t have in La Casita but wish we did!
Truck after being sanded, primed and re-painted.
Water and waste tanks hidden under dining area.
Kitchen comes with electric stovetop, fridge, storage and double sink.
The skylight is a great touch in the bathroom. Light in, condensation out.
Dining area with room for 4 to eat comfortably.
Additional awesomeness includes roof rack and hydraulic elevator mounted in the rear for carrying heavy gear. The vehicle has been tested in Italy, Albania, and Macedonia with great success. You can check out the travelogue here.
- What would be your dream trip in one of these?
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?