Archive for the Tiny House Category

Why You Need A One Story Tiny House Without a Loft

Why You Need A One Story Tiny House Without a Loft

one story tiny houseMany people who want to go tiny love the idea of a one story or a tiny house with no loft because they’re not interested in climbing up a set of stairs or a ladder each night. You might consider a tiny house with a ground floor bedroom if you’re thinking of retiring in your tiny home, have mobility concerns, or just would rather not have to climb down in the middle of the night if you have to go to the bathroom.

If I had to do it again, I think I’d try to come up with a tiny house design with a downstairs bedroom. I’m a pro at climbing down my ladder at this point and age is on my side, but the convenience of a single floor tiny house with a bedroom not in loft is appealing.

ground floor bedroom in tiny house
tiny house with first floor bedroom

One Story Tiny Houses Have A Lot Of Advantages

One Story Tiny Houses Have A Lot Of Advantages

It is really nice to have everything on a single floor in your tiny house if you can swing it. Having stayed in single floor tiny homes over the years, I’ve been won over. Not having a loft to climb into each night is convenient when you’ve had a full day, not to mention those late-night bathroom runs.

one story tiny house with bedroomIt’s also easier to get around when you’re not climbing up and down into a loft bedroom. Many people looking to retire into a tiny house or age in place have considered that they might not be as nimble as they once were. Many also want to make considerations for ease of mobility if they need to use a wheel chair in the future, when a ground floor bedroom in your tiny house would be a must.

Remember, just because your bedroom isn’t in the loft of your tiny home, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have one. Lofts are great for storage, guest bedrooms, or other purposes.

Alternatively, if you build a one floor tiny home, you can skip the loft altogether and have very tall ceilings to make the space feel open and airy. Combined with a shed roof and some transom windows, you can make a single floor tiny house feel huge. This will of course come with some downsides.

Disadvantages To Building A Tiny House With A Bedroom On The Ground Floor

Disadvantages To Building A Tiny House With A Bedroom On The Ground Floor

The reason so many tiny houses have been built with bedroom lofts — including my own — is that while a traditional bedroom can take up a lot of space, a loft bedroom doesn’t have to be a full height space since you’re just laying down in it.

Meanwhile, your ground floor bedroom will take up at least as much space as the mattress, which is a fair bit of square footage when you consider how little you have in a tiny home. You could build your bed into a small nook where it touches three walls to minimize the bedroom space like the below tiny homes do.

tiny house no loft bedroom
tiny house no loft
tiny house bedroom nook
one story tiny house floor plan
bedroom nook in tiny house
tiny home with bedroom nook on first floor

common bedframe and mattress dimensions

The disadvantage to this approach is that you have to crawl into bed and don’t have access from the other sides. If you’d like to be able to walk on either side, you’ll need even more room. If you want enough space for a wheelchair, you’ll have to consider additional space for access there too.

Why You Still May Want A Loft

Why You Still May Want A Loft in your tiny house

Even if you build a tiny house without a sleeping loft, you may still want to build a loft in your one story tiny house for a few reasons. The first is that they’re great for storage, particularly for things that aren’t used a whole lot but still make sense to have.

I’ve downsized a lot and my wardrobe is pretty minimal, but there are some things I still keep in my house even if I don’t use them on a daily or weekly basis. While that usually signals to me that something’s a good candidate to declutter, some things just make sense to keep and are ideal for storing in your loft. For me, it’s boardgames and luggage, which I keep in the loft over my front door. I have to get the ladder out to reach them, but it’s a nice place out of the way to keep them.

tiny house with loft space
one story tiny house with loft for storage
loft in tiny house for storage
ground floor bedroom in tiny house
storage loft in tiny house
one story tiny house with lofts

Many people also like to store seasonal items like decorations and out of season clothing items, or hobby items like skis, snowboards, or a sewing machine. Books, tiny house books or otherwise, are also great for storing in a loft.

tiny house storage

Great Ways To Have A Ground Floor Bed In A Tiny House

If you are going to build a single-story tiny home, there are several options for beds to maximize the space. Remember that every square inch is important and beds will take up a large percentage of your overall square footage.

Murphy Bed On The Ground Floor Of A Tiny House

Murphy Bed On The Ground Floor Of A Tiny House

Murphy beds are one obvious way to balance the space of a bed without giving up too much when not in use. I’m not a huge fan of them for reasons I get into in my Tiny House Furniture post, but if I were to put my bedroom on the ground floor, this would be a solution I’d seriously consider.

murphy bed in tiny house
first floor murphy bed in tiny house
murphy bed in tiny home
tiny home with murphy bed
murphy bed in tiny house first floor
hidden murphy bed in tiny house

tiny house closets

Tiny House Elevator Beds

Tiny House Elevator Beds

Another popular option is to have an elevator bed that lowers down from the ceiling in your tiny house. This makes a lot of sense because it’s there when you need it but can rise up and tuck away out of sight when you don’t.

Most people have utilized garage door hardware for this, along with cable winches to raise and lower the bed. You’re going to want to make sure that the bed doesn’t have any play in it when lowered as you toss and turn. Here is a good video showing how you can accomplish this.

tiny house elevator bed
tiny house with elevator bed
elevator bed in a tiny house
tiny home with elevator bed
tiny house with loft space and elevator bed
elevator bed fits space in a tiny house
tiny house elevator bed over sofa
use an elevator bed to open space in a tiny house

The one major downside to these that I’ve noticed is the noise. When I’m waking up in the morning or settling down for the evening, the last thing I want to hear is the loud noise that most of these make. I think that can most likely be overcome with some quality hardware and motor, but as of yet, every single one I’ve seen has been very loud.

Pull Out Drawer Bed In A Tiny Home

Pull Out Drawer Bed In A Tiny Home

Another really good option that is a happy medium is a pull-out bed that slides out like a giant drawer. This usually means you have some of your space slightly elevated by two to three steps, but I think it’s a great trade off.

I also really like this concept because I wouldn’t have to always make my bed, as it tucks away nice and neat. I’ve even seen a few of these that only roll in part way to make up the seat of a couch. This is a fascinating idea for multi-purpose furniture.

pull out drawer bed in a tiny home
pull out drawer bed with storage in a tiny home
hidden pull out drawer bed in a tiny house
open pull out bed in a tiny house
pull out drawer bed behind sofa in a tiny house
pull out bed on tiny house first floor
drawer bed under raised floor in tiny house
drawer bed under steps and floor of tiny house
pull out drawer bed
one story tiny house with pull out drawer bed

tiny house kitchens

Day Beds & Futons For A Single Floor Tiny Home

Day Beds and Futons For A Single Floor Tiny Home

Day beds are another way to combine your bed and couch, but I find these either do one thing well or the other, not usually both. The same goes for futons — they sound great in theory, but I’ve sat on some pretty expensive futons and they never feel that comfortable.

Your mileage may vary on these two, but they’re certainly options.

day bed in tiny home
corner day bed in tiny home
built in day bed in tiny home
tiny house with built in day bed
wrap around day bed and sofa in tiny house
futon bed in tiny house
tiny home with day bed
day bed and pull out drawer bed in tiny house
tiny house on wheels day bed
tiny house with futon for bedroom

desiging your tiny house

Tatami Mats For A Tiny Home With No Bedroom

Tatami Mats For A Tiny Home With No Bedroom

I’ve only seen a handful of tiny houses with Tatami mats, but the owners swore by them. Most of them had spent time in Asia so they had to adopt that way of sleeping and had carried it over when they moved back home. Most folks do have a small padded mat they put on top, similar to a thick comforter.

I don’t know if I could swing it being a side sleeper, but it’s yet another option if you don’t want to have a bed in your tiny house loft.

tiny house with tatami mat for sleeping
tatami mats in tiny house

Tiny House Hammocks

Tiny House Hammocks

Hammocks are another good option because you can stretch out at night, then in the morning you can unhook one side and fold it away easily. This is also a good option for guests, though you might want to offer them the real bed because not everyone can swing it (ha!) in a hammock, but it’s a great on-demand place to sleep.

hammock in tiny house
sleeping hammock in tiny house
tiny house hammock for sleeping
tiny house hammock for bedroom
tiny house hammock loft
tiny house hammock in loft
cozy hammock in tiny home
modern tiny house with hammock

designing your tiny home

Single Floor Tiny House Ideas

Single Floor Tiny House Ideas

one story tiny house floor plans
tiny house no loft
tiny house without sleeping loft
tiny house with bedroom downstairs
tiny house without sleeping loft
one floor tiny house with bedroom on ground floor

Your Turn!

  • Why do you want a single floor tiny house?

What Truck Do I Need To Tow A Tiny House?

What Truck Do I Need To Tow A Tiny House?

towing a tiny house


When I decided to move my tiny house, there was a lot to learn. First, let me say that towing a tiny house is slightly (or maybe not-so-slightly) terrifying. It’s a big undertaking, and you’re not only moving a big load, but you’re moving your actual HOME.

Towing a tiny house is no easy job, even for someone who’s experienced. Most tiny house owners either buy a home that needs to be moved to their land or build a tiny house that needs to be moved around the property. Unless you’re building your tiny home from the ground up on its foundation, you’ll definitely need to move it at least once—more if circumstances change.

Ryan Mitchell in his tiny house living a simple lifeHi, I’m Ryan

Towing a tiny house is pretty nerve wracking, but with the right truck to tow your tiny home, you can have one less thing to worry about.  It’s something that a lot of people don’t think about until after they build their own tiny house.
Ryan Mitchell - Simple living expert

It’s important to know how often you plan to move and how much your house—and everything in it—weighs before making any decisions. Not every truck is suited to tow this much weight, either, so you must have the right truck for towing a tiny house. After moving my house this last time, I must admit there are a few things I will do differently if there’s a next time.

If you need to move or tow a tiny house, here’s what you need to know.

Understand Your Truck Towing Capacity

Understand Your Truck Towing Capacity

If you’re towing a tiny house, you need a vehicle that can handle the job. To put it simply, truck towing capacity is how much weight your vehicle can pull—and it can be tricky to figure out. You must account for all the weight, including the trailer, the payload in your truck bed, and even passenger weight if you’re running close to your truck’s limits. You can calculate the weight of your tiny house here.

Once you’ve determined the weight of your tiny house, contents, cargo, trailer, and passengers, you’ll need to find out what trucks are capable of pulling it all.

truck towing capacityIn 2015, all the major truck manufacturers—Ford, GM, Toyota, Chevy, and Nissan—adopted a uniform testing and rating method to determine towing capacity. This made it much easier for me when I started looking for the best truck for towing a tiny house.

However, the maximum towing capacity you find in brochures or on the manufacturer’s website isn’t always accurate. Your truck may have features that reduce towing capacity, so you need to check the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb for the towing capacity for that specific build. When in doubt, make some calls, visit a dealership, or consult with an expert to avoid a mistake that may damage your vehicle AND your home.

Towing capacity is determined by two numbers, the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and the Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). I’ll explain these two numbers below, but you should understand them before towing your tiny house.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The GVWR is the maximum amount your truck can weigh fully loaded and full of fuel, including the trailer’s tongue weight, tiny house, passengers, and cargo.

The “tongue weight” of a tow trailer is usually 10-15% of the combined weight of the trailer, tiny house, and contents. Tongue weight varies based on trailer design and weight distribution. It doesn’t refer to the trailer’s weight but rather to the downward force the trailer exerts on the hitch.

Trailers also have a GVWR. You’ll need to make sure your trailer can handle your tiny house weight as well. In most cases, you’ve likely done this calculation before (but if you need help selecting a trailer, please explore my post on Tiny House Trailers).

tiny house vehicle weight

Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)

Gross Combination Weight Rating

The Gross Combination Weight Rating (or GCWR) is the maximum weight of the truck, trailer, tiny house, plus the passengers and cargo. Don’t forget to factor in the weight of the fuel.

Here’s how to determine your truck’s towing capacity:

  • Start with your truck’s curb weight. That’s the weight of the truck by itself, with no fuel or cargo. Check the owner’s manual or the sticker.
  • Add the weight of passengers, fuel, trailer, tiny house, and its contents, plus any cargo in the truck’s bed. Don’t forget add-ons like a camper shell or roof rack and whatever is strapped to that.
  • Subtract the total from the GCWR to make sure you’re under the towing capacity.
truck gross combination weight rating

I would recommend making sure you’ve got some wiggle room too. You want to be hundreds of pounds underweight (not within a narrow margin) just in case your calculations are off. If you need to off-load weight, consider what you can remove from the house, the vehicle, and the trailer. Being conservative with your estimate will give you some peace of mind once you start moving.

tiny house building checklist cta

The Best Trucks For Towing A Tiny House

The Best Trucks For Towing A Tiny House

Towing a tiny house requires a lot of power, and the truck’s configuration matters. The size of the engine, type of gear, cab style, length of the truck and bed, number of axles, towing package, and some luxury features will all impact the towing capacity.

Tiny houses and their contents can vary hugely in weight depending on size and materials used. I’ve seen simple 10-foot tiny houses that weigh in at 3,200 pounds and 34-footers weighing 14,000 pounds and up. Because tiny homes are so heavy, and you might replace or add items in the future that add weight, it’s better to have more truck than you need. With that in mind, here are the best trucks for towing tiny houses.

Large Trucks

Large Trucks for towing a tiny house

The Ford F-150 or a Dodge Ram 1500 are the best in class, so it’s no wonder they’re two of the most popular trucks on the market. But even with these “big truck” options, your tiny house towing capacity is limited, and you’ll have to keep close track of everything you add to your tiny house load. These trucks range in towing capacity from 9,740 to 13,200 pounds.

This “large truck class” includes:

  • Nissan Titan
  • Toyota Tundra
  • Chevrolet Silverado 1500
  • GMC Sierra 1500
  • Ram 1500
  • Ford F-150
toyota tundra

Heavy-Duty Trucks

Heavy-Duty Trucks for towing a tiny house

With a heavy-duty truck, you can tow a much larger tiny house. The towing capacity of heavy-duty trucks ranges from 12,760 to 18,500 pounds. This class of truck gets the job done and still offers a cushy ride.

These heavy-duty trucks include:

  • Nissan Titan XD
  • Ram 2500
  • GMC Sierra 2500HD
  • Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
  • Ford Super Duty F-250
dodge ram 2500

Ultra-Duty Trucks

Ultra-Duty Trucks for towing a tiny house

If you’ve got a larger tiny house filled with furniture and appliances, or if you think you’ll be moving your tiny house often, an ultra-duty truck might be worth the extra money. These trucks are especially useful if you’re crossing mountains or off-roading in rough terrain out in the wilderness. Bear in mind that these trucks can cost more at the gas pump. More power means more fuel—a lot more fuel.

This Ultra-Duty (or Super-Duty) class of trucks include:

  • GMC Sierra 3500HD
  • Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD
  • Ram 3500
  • Ford Super Duty F-450
ford f450 superduty

Of these, the Ford Super Duty F-450 has best-in-class towing power, up to 37,000 pounds. It comes with standard dual rear wheels, five seats, and an extended-length cargo bed. The Ford Super Duty is a commercial truck, meaning it’s built for hauling the heaviest loads.

That said, the Chevy Silverado 3500HD is less expensive, with almost the same capacity. Yes, the Chevy has less sophisticated features but pulls nearly as much weight, up to 36,000 pounds. If you’re looking at a truck to tow a tiny house, either one of these (or any truck in the Ultra Duty category) will get the job done.

I’d also like to answer one more question people ask me: Can a Jeep tow a tiny house? Sadly, not likely. Even a Jeep Grand Cherokee only has between 3,500 and 7,200 pounds of towing power. You’d need the tiniest of tiny houses mounted on a fairly lightweight trailer. So as fun as it can be to have a Jeep for camping or off-roading, I wouldn’t recommend buying a Jeep for use as a tiny house truck. You could, however, use a Jeep to tow a teardrop trailer or a small camping pop-up.

tiny house plans

Rent, Buy, Or Hire A Truck To Tow Your Tiny House?

Rent A Truck To Tow Your Tiny House

So, if you need to tow your tiny house, what’s the best method for getting the job done? Should you rent a truck? Should you go out and buy one of the heavy-duty trucks above? Should you hire someone out to take care of the move for you?

using a rental truck to tow a tiny houseThe best way to answer this question is to ask another: Is this a one-time move? If yes, then I suggested hiring professionals to tow your tiny house. Like I said before, towing your tiny house is nerve-wracking, and professionals know how to tow a tiny house and have the equipment to get the job done without incident.

The other benefit of hiring someone to tow your tiny house is that professional towing companies also have the right insurance if something goes wrong. It’s also tough to find a suitable rental with a towing package, especially for a one-way trip if you try to DIY. Hiring professionals typically costs $1 – $2 per mile, and it’s worth every penny.

If you plan to move frequently, or if you’re clearing land and working on setting up a homestead, your best bet is to buy the most powerful truck you can afford. After towing my tiny house 1500 miles, I advise purchasing a dually—a truck with double back tires—for added stability and control.

Legal Requirements for Towing a Tiny House

Legal Requirements for Towing a Tiny House

There are two kinds of tiny houses. Tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) intended for nomadic use are generally smaller and lighter than homes built on a foundation. If you have a THOW, you probably know that you need to register in most states like any RV.

If you’ve never taken your tiny house on the road before, then it’s essential to know that, like any vehicle on the road, your tiny house must be registered and have a license plate when mounted on the trailer. You have to get your trailer inspected and renew the tags every year (and pay taxes annually) in some states. In others, like NC, where I live, you can pay taxes upfront and not have to worry about it.

In this video, I’ll discuss the legal information of dealing with the DMV and your tiny house.

What I Learned: Things You Should Know Before Towing A Tiny House

Things You Should Know Before Towing A Tiny House

From my tiny house towing experience, I definitely learned a few valuable lessons. If you need to move your tiny house, here are the things you should consider before you prepare for towing.


  • If you plan to move your tiny house often, avoid asphalt shingles and vinyl siding. It will all blow off. For guidance, check the Florida building code. It’s centered around hurricane wind speeds.
  • Enlist friends and family to help. When I pulled my tiny house, I had a spotter on the passenger side to ensure I had no blind spots and a follow car to prevent tailgaters.
  • Plan your route carefully, with the fewest number of turns, least traffic, slower speed roads, and no bridges if possible. Time your trip to avoid rush hour traffic. You do not want to navigate downtown Atlanta at 5 PM, pulling a tiny house!
  • Towing a tiny house uses a ton of gas. Don’t expect to get more than 5 MPG.

designing your tiny home
Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for moving your home?
  • What’s your favorite truck for towing your tiny house?

How To Design A Tiny House: Ryan’s Guide To Designing Your Dream Tiny Home

How To Design A Tiny House: Ryan’s Guide To Designing Your Dream Tiny Home

how to design a tiny house

ryan tiny house and the tools he used to build it

Hi, I’m Ryan
When I was about to start my tiny house journey (a decade ago!) I remember feeling confident in my plan. Yet, part of me was unsure if I could pull off living in 150 square feet full-time. What I came to realize was that a good tiny house design was critical and planning made living in a tiny house possible.


You’ve decided that you’re ready to take the steps toward living the tiny life. You’re ready to start planning the home of your dreams. But you don’t know how to design a tiny house—where do you start?

tiny house design journeyThese doubts about how I planned my tiny house lingered until I had lived there for at least a few months. Suddenly, I realized that it was working out perfectly for me and that all the effort I’d put into planning my dream tiny house was worth it.

In other words, planning is the most critical piece in learning how to design a tiny house. Here’s how to avoid missteps because you don’t want to get down the road in six months or a year with any regrets about your tiny house design.

Why It’s Crucial To Get Your Tiny House Design Right

getting your tiny house design right

Take a minute to look at the real estate listings out there. You probably see many beautiful homes—big, spacious home designs, stainless steel appliances, 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. There’s almost a formula for the standard American house.

When you have a few thousand square feet to play with, getting the design perfect isn’t as critical. After all, if you forget a pantry, there’s always a closet down the hall. Turn a guest bedroom into a home office; switch your workout space with your kids’ playroom.

good tiny house designIn a tiny house, you’re working with so much less room. If you forget a place for the trash bin or fail to plan enough kitchen storage, you’re out of luck.

I see tiny homes on the market all the time that are being sold because of poor design—the designer didn’t take the time to focus on a design that fit their needs. They’re living in a concept of what a tiny house “should” be, rather than determining their ideal living space.

The biggest factor in knowing how to design a tiny house that fits your needs is to determine EXACTLY what those needs are first.

Once you’ve pinpointed all your needs, you can rest assured that you’ll either find the right pre-designed tiny house plans to meet all those needs, or you’ll have the confidence to fully design your own tiny house. For most of us, designing your house according to your needs and preferences will ensure that you’ll have the perfect home—one you’ll love for years to come.

But how do you design a tiny house? How do you create tiny house plans?

How To Design A Tiny House: Determining Your Needs

determining your needs when desiging a tiny house

I will cover how to design a tiny house from a logistics perspective in a moment, but first, we need to explore the importance of getting started with the right plan.

how long to build a tiny houseWhether you build your tiny house yourself or have someone else build it for you, YOU have to make the design. You can start with official plans, and you can hire someone to help with the technical drawing portion (although we’ll discuss the best way to do that yourself). But no matter how you get the plans, you need to play a strong role in sorting out your own needs for your house.

When I first designed my tiny house, there were very few resources out there. No one was talking about how to design a tiny house.

So frankly, I made a lot of mistakes and spent a lot of time thinking about it and going back to the drawing board. Now I have the benefit of learning from those mistakes (and years of experience) and talking to hundreds, if not thousands of people about their tiny house designs.

I’m going to help you learn from my mistakes, so you can design a tiny house that you love.

Use The Post-It Exercise To Predict Your Tiny House Needs

post it note exercise

The best way to determine your needs is to do what I call the “post-it exercise.” This will help you understand what space you need and what areas you can do without.

post it note exerciseTo begin this room tracking exercise, gather a bunch of pens and post-it notes. Go around to each room of your living space and close every door. On the top of each door frame, put the pen and stick a post-it note on the door—this is your visual cue.

Now, each time you go into a room, pause to write down what you’re going in the room to do and how long you believe it will take.

On your entry door, write down the activities you leave to carry out and the time estimates for each outside activity. Carry out this room-by-room assessment for at least a week.

When the week is over, you will gather all those post-its, now filled with activities and time estimates. These notes become the comprehensive list of what you do in your home and how long you spend. This list is your guide to help you plan how to design your tiny house.

As you review the list, consider how important each activity is to you (and be very honest with yourself).

Are you spending time on activities that are most important to you?


  • Which activities could you do outside the home? These might include home gyms, a home office, and a laundry room. You might not need an area dedicated to those activities in your home.
  • What activities can you cut out all together? Do you need to keep books you’ve already read? What about DVDs if you have a streaming service? Do you collect supplies for hobbies that you never carry out?
  • What areas can do double duty or serve as multipurpose spaces? Could you read, watch TV, hang out with friends, and eat in your living room?
  • What activities can I outsource? I outsourced my laundry, which saves me time and space on a task I don’t enjoy. For things you can’t cut out of your life, could you hand off the duty instead?
  • What is the best option for single-use spaces? If you only knit once a month, you probably don’t want to dedicate a space for that, but you may want to plan in ample cooking space if you cook three meals a day.
  • What activities are realistic? Many of us aspire to do certain activities or have certain lifestyles, but what is practical for the way you really live your life?

tiny house building checklist

Develop A Functional Layout As You Develop Your Tiny House Design

how to develop a functional tiny house layout
A functional layout is a type of mind map—it’s the in-between state of a needs list and a final design or floor plan. The functional layout helps you start to think about how you will group activities.

The post-it note exercise allows you to create a functional layout—a look at what activities you will perform in each space in your tiny house.

post-it note exercise

Your functional layout doesn’t need to be perfect—it gives you a visual to associate with the space. In the kitchen, you might store food, cook food, use a pantry, toss items in the garbage, perhaps eat. As you start to think about each space, designated areas will begin to emerge.

Public activities (socializing, eating) generally go at the front of your space, whereas more private activities like sleeping and the bathroom will go towards the back. So the kitchen and living room will act as main areas; the bathroom and bedroom might be further away from the door.

As you create the functional layout, you can also think about flow. I often think of activities—what do I do when I walk in the front door? I take off my shoes, my jacket, put down my keys. I need storage to be near the door. Think about all the interactions you have in your functional areas and start to plot out the space in a way that makes sense to you.

From there, you can sketch out a rough floor plan or use a tool to help you begin to create a tiny house layout.

How to Examine Your Tiny House Design

how to examine your tiny house design

People often come up with a long checklist of things they want to do in a space. They don’t want to adjust their mentality or their lifestyle. So they try to jam everything into this small space. Maybe they’ve fallen for the “more is more” mentality that so many of us have. Or perhaps they’ve just failed to put their designs to the test.

You now have a rough, functional design for your tiny house. You’ve got a good idea of what you like and what you want in the space. It’s time to examine and test the design to better whittle down your assumptions and ensure you aren’t trying to pack too much into limited space.

design triad

Subtractive Design

Subtractive design is an important concept with tiny house design. You should go through each area and item on your layout and ask yourself, can I remove this item? Would my design get better, worse, or would it stay the same?

tiny house kitchen sinkIf subtracting the item will leave the area the same, then it’s a strong candidate to remove from your design. If removal makes the design better, then definitely take it out. Each item should serve your design and make your life more functional.

To understand this concept, consider the bathroom sink. Many of us are used to having a sink in the bathroom. In a tiny house, that sink is probably very close to the kitchen, where there is also a sink. In fact, they may only be separated by a small wall. So why not go with one sink that can function for both spaces? Most of us use the bathroom for less than an hour a day, so it makes sense that it’s not an area where we should allocate MORE space.

Low Fidelity Testing

Another critical way to evaluate your tiny house design is to apply low-fidelity testing. When you think you want something a certain way, get out some cardboard and build it. See how it looks and how it functions.

Building a simple prototype is a good exercise to see how something will work, quickly test it, and improve it. In a tiny house, every item is small, so it’s easy to test each piece out to see how it will work in your design.

how to build a tiny house book

Slow Building

In the world of home building, everything is geared towards efficiency and speed. Builders tout how quickly they can build a dream home from start to finish.

When designing my tiny home, I realized that I had to take the time to think about the space as I was building it. When I did, I always discovered something that I needed to adjust or something that wouldn’t work for me.

using reclaimed windows on a tiny houseFor example, I framed up my windows and built my walls. I stood back to admire my handiwork, and I realized that the windows were too low. I was staring out above my windows!

If I hadn’t taken a moment to slow down and really think about the framed window, I would have put up sheeting and dropped in the windows. I would have been living with windows that were too low, and I would have had to duck every time. The person who helped me with my framing plans was about six inches shorter than me, and I realized he had designed the windows to meet his needs, not mine.

I refer to my lawn chair as my most important tool. I had this old beat up cheap plastic patio chair where I’d sit whenever I have a problem. It’s a place where I can stop, think, relax, and reflect. When you build a tiny house, you’ll run into sudden problems that you never expected, so having a place to sit down and problem solve is very helpful.

Real-World Testing

The other way to test your tiny house design is to put it to use in the real world. When you have a plan, get out the painter’s tape and go to space in your driveway, garage, basement, or even living room—tape down the design to scale. Act out a day in the life of your house.

I urged a friend to do this activity before they built their tiny house. He came back to me to report, “I realized as soon as I tried it that my door hit my toilet! I would never have been able to escape my bathroom!”

When you test out the layout to scale, you can see problems that might arise before you actually go through the building process. For just the price of a roll of painter’s tape, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle.

Get Feedback

As you test your design, get plenty of feedback. If you live with someone else, their feedback is especially crucial to both of your overall satisfaction with the design. If you live alone, ask friends, family, and other tiny house dwellers to review your tiny house design. Ask them how you should change things or if they foresee any issues.

designing your dream tiny home

Avoid These Common Tiny House Design Mistakes

common tiny house design mistakes
As I said before, when I designed my tiny house, I made mistakes. It happens. Even with all the planning and testing, I still have a few items that, in hindsight, I wish that I could change.

tiny house mistakesI wish I had more cupboard space. I forgot to put in a spot for kitchen trash. I regret not building in dormers, but none of these items is a make-or-break issue for me.

Many people don’t have the right mindset about tiny living. To live in a tiny house, you have to have a shift in mindset. You might see others living in their tiny houses, happy and fulfilled.

You might see beautiful designs for tiny homes and small spaces on Pinterest and wonder why your tiny house doesn’t feel that way. You may be reaching for a certain aesthetic—but building your house for Instagram rather than for your lifestyle is a sure plan for failure.

Even though a tiny house features less “stuff,” making the change to a tiny house is still trying to buy a solution to a problem. Those who are happiest with their solution have gone through the mental energy and work to shift into the tiny house mindset.


  • Not downsizing first. Some folks wait to clean out and downsize until they’re already moving into their tiny house. Not only is moving day confusing, but you’ll have so much happening that day that you won’t be able to downsize too. Even more stressful, you won’t have anywhere to store your stuff while you sort.
  • Trying to do all the things. Don’t be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades and a master of none. Many times, home designers want a craft room, guest room, and more. They make sacrifices to jam everything into the small space rather than choosing a design that supports their needs and realistically works for their lifestyle.
  • Getting attached to a design or floorplan. Choosing a pre-designed tiny house floorplan is helpful IF it has everything you want. But many fall in love with a design before they’ve really figured out what they need.
  • Not personalizing your design. With a tiny house, you don’t need to be as focused on the resale potential. Instead, focus on what’s right for you. Design the home you want to live in for a long time, and you’ll never have to re-sell anyway.
  • Focusing on a narrow checklist. It’s also easy to focus on a checklist of specifics or to think of all the things you want your tiny house to “be” rather than thinking of what you need the space to “do.”
  • Failing to separate needs from wants. Deciding what you really need versus what you want requires mental and emotional maturity. You need to be able to keep your wish list separate from your must-have list.

Once you’re in the right headspace, the most challenging part is complete! But there are still some other mistakes you should avoid.

Awareness of these common tiny house design pitfalls is the first step. Once you are aware of how each of these factors can work against your tiny house design’s success, it’s time to look at alternatives.

Here’s what you should do instead of making the above mistakes when you’re figuring out how to design a tiny house.


  • Downsize, declutter, and break up with consumerism.
  • Do a few things well in the space—focus on your priorities.
  • Allocate your space based on the time you will spend using it.
  • Design your tiny house for you and your needs (not what sounds good to others).

Ready To Design Your Tiny House? Here Are The Design Apps You Need.

tiny house design apps you need
Once you’ve done the mental work and planning, you’re ready to start designing your house! But many people panic when they get to this stage because they’ve never designed a house before. You’ll need to decide whether you feel comfortable doing the design part yourself or if you need to enlist the help of professionals. If you do it yourself, don’t worry—it’s surprisingly easy and even fun!

I’ve discussed the best tiny house design software extensively before, but here’s a quick rundown on the technology you will need to help you design the tiny house of your dreams.


SketchUp: Sketchup is my top recommendation for tiny house design software. It’s free for a basic license, easy to use, and strikes the right balance between being full-featured but user-friendly. There are many helpful videos on YouTube to learn the software, which also does 3D modeling, rather than just a 2D plan.
Floorplanner: Floorplanner is another design software that many folks like for designing tiny homes. It’s a little more expensive, at about $30/month for the professional version. It’s free for casual use (but you won’t have access to all the features).
sweethome 3d
Sweet Home 3D: Sweet Home 3D is a simple, free interior design planner that can help create your design. It’s based on open-source software, so you benefit from other users’ knowledge and experience.
HomeByMe: Home designer HomeByMe is another software option that many users like. You can pay a small fee, and they’ll convert your floor plan into a HomeByMe project, making it helpful if you’ve already started your design. You can also browse the design gallery to see other users’ projects.
DreamPlan: Home design software DreamPlan has an extensive library of pre-designed furniture pieces, accessories, and finishings to help you easily envision your layout. You can even use the software for landscape design.
the simms
The Sims: Yes, the EA video game, The Sims, can help you design your layout. Their builder is customizable, and it’s fun to use. If you have experience with the game, you could use it to layout your tiny house and get a feel for your plan.

Because you’re working with such a small space, DIY tiny house design is realistic. Many of us can tap into our inner design skills and may find the process very enjoyable. I suggest having an expert review your plans and getting some feedback from friends or family as you go (just in case you’re missing the forest for the trees).

Tiny House Design Tips Room-By-Room

tiny house design tips room by room

When you’re ready to design, you can break it down room by room. I’ve written specific posts and guides for most of these areas that will help you in your planning. Here is a brief overview of each area of your home and the essential points for each space.


kitchenThe most important thing about designing a tiny house kitchen is that it needs to be sized to meet your needs and the way you cook. For example, I love to grill outside, so I don’t need a HUGE cooking range or a lot of room in my kitchen.

In the kitchen, storage is crucial. As I mentioned before, I wish I had more storage, and I failed to include a trash pullout. While it’s not a huge deal, the trashcan does take up some floor space. It works okay for me, but in retrospect, it could have been better.

For kitchen guidance, explore my post Tiny House Kitchen Ideas And Inspiration.

tiny house kitchen ideas

Sleeping Loft

sleeping loftDoes your ideal tiny house design include a sleeping loft? It depends on your comfort with climbing up a ladder or stairs each night for bed. It also may depend on the number of people in your family and other factors.

Remember, there are no rules that say every tiny house should include a sleeping loft! I’ve seen ranch-style tiny homes and tiny homes where the loft was a play area, living room, or home office.

I have a sleeping loft, which I like, but it does present some challenges. When I was choosing a mattress, I had to get one specially made to fit the space (and eventually switched out to a smaller mattress to have more room on the edges of my loft.

The biggest regret I have with my loft is that I didn’t build in dormers. I really could have used the extra space. At the time, dormers weren’t a common feature, but now they’re very popular, and I wish I would have had the foresight to put them in my space.

For sleeping loft guidance, look at my post How To Set Up A Tiny House Loft.

setting up a tiny house loft


tiny house officeAn office isn’t needed in every tiny house. If you work remotely, you may want a home office if that fits your work style. For me, a coworking space and my outdoor “office” (on my picnic table) work really well. When living the tiny life, sometimes you have to extend your idea of living space to include your corner coffee shop or your neighborhood gym.

Should you decide that you will need a home office, there are plenty of options to turn a corner or a small area of your tiny house into a workspace. Consider if you will need the workspace all the time or an area that can do double duty, like a breakfast nook or corner of the living room.

To learn more about tiny home offices, check out the Tiny House Office Guide.

tiny house office


bathroomI get a lot of questions about designing a tiny house bathroom. As someone who’s lived in a tiny house for years, I’ve definitely learned a few things about bathrooms and tiny homes—it’s an area people really worry about, but the reality is much simpler than they may think.

My bathroom doesn’t have a sink because I have a kitchen sink right outside the door. It seemed unnecessary to have two. You may want to think about whether you want a tiny house toilet inside your bathroom or if you prefer an outhouse. There are many benefits to using an outhouse, especially if, like me, you live on a large parcel of land.

To explore tiny house bathroom design, read the post Designing Your Dream Tiny House Bathroom.

designing a tiny house bathroom

Storage Solutions

tiny house storage solutionsThe major challenge of a tiny house is having enough storage. It requires all the mental work that I outlined above, so you can find the storage solution for everything you’ll need and use in your tiny house. Storage is one of the biggest tiny house challenges, so it’s my rule to take whatever storage you THINK you’ll need, then double it.

Even following this rule, I must admit that I didn’t plan enough pantry space when I designed my tiny house, and it’s one area I wish I could improve. I hear that same frustration from many of my tiny house friends—pantry space is a necessity.

To help you plan for your storage needs, don’t miss my post on Tiny House Storage.

tiny house storage

Tiny House Stairs

tiny house stairsI wanted to touch on stairs a little here too. Many people assume that stairs are a must-have, especially if they have a loft, but I would challenge you to really think about the space that stairs will take up and find a more functional solution.

I don’t have stairs, and I just use a ladder to get up to my loft. For me, it works well, and I wouldn’t change it. The ladder takes up hardly any room, and it’s easy for me to use. If you decide that stairs are more realistic for you, consider how you can overlap your stair plan with storage to create a multifunctional space.

For tiny house stair design ideas and inspiration, check out Tiny House Stairs.

tiny house stairs

Tiny House Floor Plans

tiny house floor plansHere are some basic tiny house floor plans to give you a starting point. Remember not to rely on the parameters of the tiny house plan. Customize the design and figure out what will work best for your lifestyle.

Ready To Begin Planning Your Tiny House Design?

ready to begin planning your tiny house designIf you’re ready to take the next steps and need guidance on how to design a tiny house, download my comprehensive book Designing Your Tiny House.

Not only does the book delve deeper into many of the topics we’ve touched on here, but I’ve included a grid and floor plan kit so you can get started with your layout. There are tools to help you budget, configure the weight plan for your trailer, and set up a supply ordering schedule.

Designing your dream tiny house is a lot of fun and can be a really exciting, creative experience. My book will guide you through the process step-by-step to ensure you end up with a final design that you love!

tiny house design and build collection

Your Turn!

  • What are your biggest mental challenges around designing your tiny house?
  • What areas of your life need decluttering BEFORE you begin the design process?

Tiny House Closets To Inspire Your Closet Design

Tiny House Closets To Inspire Your Closet Design

tiny house closets

Tiny House Closets For Your Clothes

I think the biggest piece of advice I have when it comes to your wardrobe is to question everything. You first want to pare down your wardrobe to only pieces that you love to wear and that work well together. I’ve covered how you can embrace a minimalist wardrobe, but I know that isn’t for everyone.

Ryan Mitchell in his tiny house living a simple lifeHi, I’m Ryan

Storage is a huge part of making a tiny house practical.  I’ve been living in a 150 sq/ft for close to a decade now and having a great designed closet for my clothes and organized storage for all my possessions keeps my house tidy despite being such a small space!
Ryan Mitchell - Simple living expert

That said a massive study that interviewed 18,000 families found that 82% of clothes in a closet aren’t worn in a given year. That means that opportunity lies in everyone’s closet to declutter.

wardrobe worn in last year

Ryan’s Tiny House Clothes Closet Video Tour

tiny house clothes closet video tour

The way I dress isn’t for everyone, but I thought I’d show a practical example by giving you a video tour of my own closet in my tiny home that I’ve lived in for close to a decade.

Tiny House Closet Design

tiny house closet design

Once you’ve figured out what you need to store in your closet, it’s time to figure out how to design the actual layout. I find that people either like to hang their clothes or keep things in drawers. While most of us might use both, we tend to prefer one way or the other.

Think about how you like to store your clothes and what kind of wardrobe you have. If you have a lot of nicer blouses or business-casual wear, your closet will be different than someone who wears yoga pants and T-shirts most days. You may also be a person who has two types of clothing: casual wear and a professional wardrobe for when you’re in the office.
When I built my tiny house, I also transitioned away from my corporate job, leaving my business wear behind me. I now only keep one suit and a few polos. The rest is a minimalist wardrobe of just grey shirts for a minimalist uniform.

Tiny House Closet Dimensions

Tiny House Closet Dimensions

There are some key dimensions you should consider when designing your closet. I recommend you first figure out exactly what you want to store, then design around those exact items. I also tell people to figure out what you need to store, then double the volume for things you forget and to future proof your design.

tiny hosue closet shelf depth

Standard Clothing Dimensions
Men’s Suit Coat 1-1/24″ x 38″ long
Men’s Shirt 1″ x 38″ long
Men’s Pants Straight 44″ long
Men’s Pants Folded 44″ long
Women’s Dress 68″ long
Women’s Jacket 36″ long
Women’s Blouse 24″ long
Women’s Skirt 36″ long
Folded Clothing 10″ wide x 12″ deep
Shoes 9″ x12″ per pair

Tiny House Closet Layout

Tiny House Closet Layout

When it comes to the layout of your tiny house closet, you want to build it to suit what you need to store. Keep things that you use often in places that are easily accessible. Items that you don’t wear often or are out of season can be tucked away on higher shelfs or in drawers you need to bend over for.

Storage is something that you’re going to want to take pretty seriously, I usually advise people to gather everything you want, down to the very last item, then design your storage around that.

If you’re a person who hangs a lot of things, you’re going to want more hanging space.  But if you’re like me, I don’t like hanging much, so I’d swap these spaces for shelves, drawers and bins that I can fold and stack thing into.

I don’t have a lot of accessories, I keep my shoes to a minimum, and I have a backpack that I keep my laptop in while I’m on the go. You’re going to want to balance how much space you dedicate to your clothing and other stuff in your tiny home, because we don’t have a lot of space to begin with.

Here is a design I recommend:

tiny house closet layout guide

Items You Might Want To Store In Your Tiny House Closet

Items You Might Want To Store In Your Tiny House Closet

Tiny House Closet Items
Underwear Shorts Winter Coats Dress Shoes
Socks Dresses Rain Coats Sandals
Bras Skirts Hats Belts
Sleepwear Sweaters Gloves Ties
T-shirts Sweatshirts Scarves Jewelry
Dress Shirts Suits Leisure Shoes Purses
Casual Shirts Vests Hiking Boots Workout Clothes
Jeans Swimsuits Sneakers Towels
Pants Cover-ups Snow Boots Bandanas

declutter challenge

Open Shelves Vs. Cabinets In A Tiny House

Open Shelves Vs Cabinets In A Tiny House

Open shelving has been trendy for a while now, but I’d argue that you should set aside whether something is fashionable or not and think about how it suits your needs. I think there is a case for both open and closed storage, but it depends on your needs, the placement, and your behaviors.

Use Open Shelves For Quick Access Of Regularly Used Items

Use Open Shelves For Quick Access Of Regularly Used Items

Open shelves are something that you need to carefully consider, as they are part practical and part decorative. This means you can’t jam a lot on them without looking cluttered. Because of this, the storage density isn’t very high, which should give a tiny house person pause, because you often need to maximize every square inch.

I use open shelving right above my kitchen counter in a small nook I couldn’t otherwise use as cabinet space. Here I put things I use multiple times a day: dishes, bowls, toothpaste, and my little Bluetooth speaker. These are easily grabbed but can be tucked out of sight when not in use.

use open closet shelves for quick access

Use Cabinets For Higher Density Storage And To Hide Disorderly Items

Use Cabinets For Higher Density Storage And To Hide Disorderly Items

The nice thing about cabinets is that you have a door that you can close to hide stuff behind. This isn’t to say it’s messy, but there are things that are disorderly, like your landing pad for your wallet, purse, mail, keys, etc.

have a landing pad for your stuffI think the big realization I had with this is that even if you’re pretty organized, your storage is going to have an irregular pattern to it. There are always some disorderliness to things like jackets hanging, etc. These irregular patterns can cause some subconscious stress at an almost undetectable level because it enters our visual field.

A tiny house is just too small for such things. A cabinet door lets you visually cloak the irregular patterns, making the space feel really comfortable; that’s the brain telling you that the micro stress of irregular patterns is gone.

Everything Has A Place And Everything In Its Place

Everything Has A Place And Everything In Its Place

The reason I emphasize figuring out what you want to store first is because the key to a tidy home (tiny or otherwise) is that every item you own has a designated spot in your home. That means that when you use something, you know exactly where it should go afterwards.

As you live like this, you’ll train your brain to flag items that don’t have a home. That brain pattern will signal to you that either this item needs a designated spot or it’s not important enough to have one in the first place, which tells you that it should be decluttered out of your house entirely.

Learn about this while I talk about my junk drawer here:

Tiny House Closet Ideas

Tiny House Closet Ideas

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Living In A Yurt As An Affordable Way To Live Tiny

Living In A Yurt As An Affordable Way To Live Tiny

living in a yurt

Image Source – The Yurt Life

Before I moved into my tiny house, I was really interested in living in a yurt. I almost closed on some land and moved for grad school. I could have set up a yurt on the land for the same amount I would have spent on just a few months of college housing. Living in a yurt was a very affordable option.

I’ve always found the modern versions of Mongolian yurts interesting. They offer a way to set up a structure quickly on a plot of land that is more than just a tent, but isn’t a permeant as a building. They’re an excellent solution for shelter as you’re building a tiny house or setting up a homestead. Most of the time, when homesteaders buy land, they need to get on it immediately; living in a yurt presents a nice, quick option.

If you’re considering the merits of living in a yurt, here’s why living in a yurt is an excellent choice for a temporary tiny home.


What Is A Yurt?

what is a yurt

A yurt or a “Mongolian yurt” sounds exotic and different if you haven’t heard the term. You may be wondering, what is a yurt anyway?

mongolian yurtThe short answer is that a yurt is essentially a round tent. These structures were native to Mongolia and were used by the nomadic groups across Mongolia and Turkey. The translation of the Turkish word “yurt” means “home,” and that’s precisely what a yurt is—a simple home.

Traditional yurts were created out of wood, with a wool outer covering. These are portable homes that nomadic tribes would take with them as they herded sheep, goats, and yaks. The entire structure could be folded down and carried on a camel. It’s similar to the Native American tipi.

Mongolian yurts could be quite large and include different rooms, a cooking space, and more. They were often decorated with beautiful patterns, some of which aligned with Buddhist philosophy.

Today’s yurts aren’t covered in wool anymore. They’re usually made out of strong tent fabric. These yurts will withstand quite a bit of use, and there are many permanent yurt-like structures throughout the United States. Many national and state parks offer permanent yurt dwellings for campers to use when visiting. Yurts are also popular across Europe in many different camp settings.

There are several types of yurts, and when someone refers to living in a yurt, they could be discussing any of the following:

Types Of Yurts

Types Of Yurts

mongolian yurt

Mongolian Yurt

The original type of traditional yurt. If you find an authentic “Mongolian yurt,” it will likely be historical reconstruction (similar to a tipi).

Modern Fabric Yurt

This describes most modern yurts—a lattice structure with a fabric overlay. You can buy yurt home kits online.

wooden yurt