How I Designed My Tiny House

One of the main questions I get when people first see my tiny house is, “How did you design this?”  Well, the answer to that is actually pretty easy.  I thought about what I need every day.

First of all, designing a tiny house in and of itself is easier than designing a traditional home, simply because of its size.  When you are only working with 100-300 square feet, your choices are limited to begin with.

And if you decide to go with a builder or company that has pre-made floor plans, then it’s simply a matter of choosing the floor plan that works best for you.

But if you decide to build your own house, or do what I did… work with a builder to design your own… you will want to sit down ahead of time and take a serious inventory of your daily life.

  • What parts of the house do I use EVERY day?
  • What are my absolute deal breakers?
  • Do I have to have space for guests?
  • What features do I need for my dogs?
  • What features do I have to have in the kitchen?
  • Do I have to have a bathtub in my bathroom?
  • How much closet space do I need?
  • How much storage space do I need?

These are just some of the questions I asked myself.  But basically, I went through my house room-by-room in my mind and envisioned what I do in each one.  I jotted down notes as I did this, recording important things like “space for my smoothie ingredients” or “place to put the dog bowls.”

Then, once I had all of my “must haves” and a general idea of what I wanted in my tiny house, I took the lists to my builder.  Luckily, I worked with a builder who was just beginning his business, so he didn’t have established floor plans and was more open to custom design.  (This is not to say that other builders won’t do custom designs, because most of them will!)

With my list of needs and wants, along with my budget which determined the overall size, he was able to then design a custom home that would fit my specific lifestyle.

For me, this is what I came up with:

Living Room”

I say living room with air quotes because it’s not exactly a room as much as it is a couch and a TV.  But, I did want to make sure that I had a place to relax since I enjoy laying down with the dogs to watch a few shows in the evenings.  Which brings me to another important part of my design – the couch.  I am pretty tall for a woman (5’8”), so I wanted to make sure that my couch would feel comfortable.  I didn’t want it to be too short lengthwise and I didn’t want it to be too shallow either.  Although I did have to cut it back to 2’ from the original 3’ (to keep it from blocking the front door), it is still comfortable.  Especially if I use the ottoman that I purchased.

Oh yes, the ottoman that fell straight from the heavens…

It is the perfect place to put my legs up, it keeps my files and office supplies nice and neat, and the best part is… it tucks perfectly away in the space between my closet and the bottom of the stairs.

Of course, I also designed the TV to be mounted on the wall to save space and I had a shelf mounted up high above it to hold my Tivo and DVD player.  Because in a tiny house, vertical space is prime property!

Kitchen

Since I eat a fairly restricted diet (gluten free and as dairy and sugar free as possible) and like to cook most of my own meals, I knew that I wanted all the kitchen appliances – stove, range, refrigerator and dishwasher.  No hot plate and dorm-size fridge for me.  So of course, that affected the design of the kitchen because I had to allow space for all of them, which meant less cabinet space.

But my builder came up with a unique design where the washer/dryer and a small pantry would be built in to the counter, creating a small “breakfast bar” spot to eat at. 

Bathroom

When designing the bathroom, I knew from the beginning that a bathtub was also a deal breaker.  Not even because I like to sit and lounge in a bath.  But I wanted to be able to have the ability to wash the pups at home so that meant I needed a tiny bathtub.  I also knew that I wanted a sink and a decent amount of storage space, so my builder and I incorporated a medicine cabinet, a shelf above the toilet and this sink with a storage cabinet underneath.

Loft/Bedroom

When I was thinking about how to design my bedroom space in the loft, I had one major need – HEAD ROOM.  Again, since I am tall, I wanted to be sure that I could get up there comfortably without hitting my head but I also did NOT want to feel claustrophobic when I was sitting on or laying in my bed.  In order to accomplish this, we designed the loft with dormers to increase the ceiling height in the back part of the house.

Since I needed additional storage space for small items like socks, underwear, hats and purses, we also designed the loft to have small storage bays built into the floor.  One other point that was important to me was making sure the doggies didn’t fall off the loft in the middle of the night.  So we designed a “half wall” that would keep them safely in the loft but still allow me to look down over into the main living space while I’m up there.

Outdoor Space

Last but not least, one of the main parts of tiny house design that a lot of people may forget to consider, is outdoor space.  After all, for a lot of us tiny house dwellers, the whole point is to actually spend less time at home and more time out in the world.  Plus, when you’re living in just 144 square feet, you will want to get outside once and awhile for some fresh air!

For me, I designed two outdoor spaces – a small front porch and a rooftop deck that can be accessed through a skylight in my loft.  This way, I can sit outside with the dogs in the front yard or have a more private spot for sipping coffee, doing devotions or enjoying wine with a friend up on the roof. 

All of these design aspects where things that I wanted or needed in my life.  But you have to decide what is right for you.  Designing a house that’s uniquely yours is one of the best parts of tiny living!  So have fun with it!  Take your time and be honest with yourself but don’t be afraid to use your creativity too!

Ready to start planning?