Tiny House Photo

Tiny House Photo

Friday, March 29, 2013


You've heard for years about McMansions and supersizing. Now, I would like you to be open to the thought of just having what is actually a "need" (not a want, or a desire). Look at that list you made of your "Have To's".  Is everything on your list a need?

Do you really need that extra bed for company? How often will it be used? Is it worth giving up the space for something only used occasionally?

Do you really need 15 pair of shoes? When was the last time you wore all of them? You only have 2 feet! Shoes take up valuable real-estate.

What about the 20 pair of jeans? I am betting you have your favorite 3 pair that you wear all the time and the rest hang in the closet.

I do agree that if you still dress for a job you will need to accommodate for more clothes but even work clothes can be paired down the the items you love and fit you well. I was surprised just how many clothes I didn't wear that still took up space in my closet.

Newly built storage shed matching my tiny house.
And you men with your electronic gadgets! You need to minimize as well. A 60" TV will not work in your tiny house. I have seen pictures of one tiny house with a drop down screen but when the screen was down no one could move, as it blocked the kitchen and bathroom.

Same goes for tools. I have built a small shed to house the tools I need on a frequent basis. The rest had to go. You could also use a deck box to house some items that can be stored outside.

Inside of shed with plastic shelving for organization.

Now that you have reassessed your list of "Have To's" you can start to think about your floor plan and how much space needs to be allocated to each function.

Here are a few dimensions that appear to be a standard for a typical "tiny house".

Street legal (in most states) is 8'6" wide, 13'6" tall and up to 40' long. If you build over the wheel wells you can keep the 8'6" width but you will have to give up on some height and the overhang from the roof. If you go to something 30-40' long you end up with a skinny mobile home. If you are willing to give up the wheels you can go wider and build a stationary home on a foundation or perhaps a "park model" which requires a special permit and driver to move. For this conversation we are sticking with the typical 8'6" wide x 13'6" tall and customary 16-24' length. This will give you an finished interior space of 6'10" wide x 19'6" long (for a 20 trailer).

Your next project should be to sketch out several floor plans with your "Have To's" in mind. Remember a typical hallway is 4' (mine is about 3'). Typical depth of a kitchen counter 25 1/2", my closet is 25" (at least 18" to accommodate hangers).

One of my first floor plan drawings. I reworked this many times before the final draft.

Now take some blue painters tape and tape out the parameters of your "tiny house". Hopefully, you can do this within your current location, say in the living room or bedroom. To simulate walls, use 2 of the rooms existing walls as 2 walls of your "tiny house" and perhaps furniture or cardboard for the other 2 walls. Just using tape on the floor does not stop your eye from thinking you have more space.

Tape out where your door opening is and the swing of the door. I have a 28" door in the Ynez which is larger than most "tiny houses". I wanted to make sure that if I needed to get my washer out or bring a comfy chair in, it would fit through the door.

Tape off where you want your windows (don't forget to include 3-4" of trim). Windows are important for light and the feeling of open space. I have 12 and it is nice and bright inside!

Ok, now the fixed items. Tape off the kitchen counter, the shower and toilet, the walls for bathroom and closet. It's getting tight isn't it?

Live with this house fort for a few days and see if you want to make changes to your floor plan. I lived with mine for several months moving pieces around to get just the right configuration.

Because I wanted to leave the living area open as much as possible I choose not to have any built-ins. This allows me to change furniture as my needs change. If I am working on a project that needs a table then the table is put up. If I am having people over I will bring in the chairs from the porch.

By not having built-ins I have more versatility. Say I have the flu and don't want to climb the ladder. I can sleep on the bench or put up a mattress on the floor. If I need something more long term I could bring in a single bed or cot and remove what is currently there. Remember normal chairs and sofas are quite deep. Measure or place these furniture pieces in your house fort to see if they will be too large and inhibit walking through your tiny house. Less is more with a tiny house. Try to leave open space. Open legs on a bench or chair will give the illusion of more space. Chunky or bulky furniture will make it feel claustrophobic. Multi-functional items work the best. A ottoman that stores the extra sheets, a bench that stores folded clothes and blanket. The chair and table that fold and can be stored elsewhere.

My mother's old refinished cedar chest.

Open cedar chest filled with clothes, jewelry & blankets.

Small ottoman foot stool & room heater.

Open ottoman filled with sheets & blanket.
Apothecary chest refurbished for storage.
All food storage for me, my dog & bird.

Next time, let's talk about lofts or no lofts, porches and utility areas.

I would love to hear your comments or questions.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why "tiny"?

I had a lot of opposition when I first started to talk about tiny houses. This was well before they became so popular. In fact, it took me a long time to even convert one person on what a great idea it was! I would watch my friends and family as I told them my plans to live in 136 square feet and see their stunned, dazed look. Some would nervously laugh or their eyes would glaze over and roll back in their heads. It was clear that they ALL thought I was crazy!

Well, I can tell you that I do not regret my decision in any way. Aside from my tiny house being just so darn cute, it's very functional, built great, insurance and utilities are cheap and there is NO mortgage!! I can relocate at any time, I use every square inch of the space (talk about efficiency!) and it's easy to clean and maintain. I am able to work part-time and still live in a great little house in a beautiful location. I now have the simple life I was craving. If it's your dream to live "tiny", have faith in your self and don't listen to the nay-sayer's!

In the above paragraph you can see why I chose to live in a tiny house, but there are many other reasons that people may choose to live smaller. Economic reasons are high on the list. Times are tough for many people in this country and scaling down is a great way to live comfortably while paying the bills. Do we really need a huge house with stuff that we rarely use? Most of us don't realize how much we have accumulated until it's time to move, then it can be quite scary!

Another main reason to downsize your life is environmental. Needless to say, the world's resources are shrinking and the population is growing. Many of us think that it's time to do our part by reducing our waste and water consumption and not being a part of the national consumerism epidemic. Living in a tiny house really keeps a lid on "living large" as many American's have been programmed to do in past generations. What are your reasons for wanting to live in a tiny house?

Well, let's get started.

So...your decision is made. You want a tiny house, what now? In order to be truly happy in your space, it needs to function for you. We are all different. What is important to me, may not be to you. You need to make sure all your "Have To's" are covered. Make a list of these things.

Example: For me, it had to have..
  • a tub
  • a washer/dryer
  • room for my pet
  • a deck
  • a 3 foot closet
  • awning windows
  • a dormer in the loft
  • a screen door

Now it's time to do some homework. What are your "Have To's"? Can you identify what it would take for you to live comfortably in a small space? I hope this helped you understand that making a priority list of what you need is the first step to creating a tiny house you can live in happily.

Next time, let's talk about just how much space is needed for each function, floor plans and furniture verses built-in's.

I would love to hear your comments or questions!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tiny House Life

Welcome to the beginning of my new tiny house life!

My name is Nancy and I've been living happily in my Ynez Cottage now for 9 months. I wanted to share all that I have learned (and continue to learn) with those who are interested in making the transition to living small. It took me about five minutes to decide but two years to plan all of the tiny details that went into this new venture. There are many decisions to be made, the same amount that are needed when building a large house but instead of dealing with square feet you deal in square inches!

In this blog I will be touching on subjects such as: deciding on a floor plan & builder, features to include or exclude, where to place your tiny house, storage or lack there of, logistics of living small and much more. I'm here to help all those who are "tiny house wannabe's" and look forward to connecting with like minded people from around the world!

Next time, I'll get into the basics of why you would want to live in a tiny house - simplicity, economics, environmental concerns or just plain crazy! I hope you will join me for many conversations to come about tiny house living.