Home Interior Design

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Mini Kitchen Unit - by Ron Czecholinski

Ron Czecholinski saw my recent post on Complete Mini Kitchens and shared one that he built from some antique furniture. The only thing missing in the main unit is a mini-refrigerator, but as you can see below, that’s because a larger one was desired.

If you like the idea of repurposing old furniture and prefer an eclectic style, this may be another route to go. You may still be able to save a bit of carpentry time since the cabinets are already built, and making modifications wouldn’t necessarily be that tough depending on the original cabinets. For example, I’m not sure a mini-fridge would fit in the lower cabinet in Ron’s kitchen, those doors look a bit on the small side. So by selecting that specific cabinet you’d also be choosing another route for the refrigerator.

Some of your room placement choices would be a bit more limited than going the custom route too, since the size and shape of the cabinet would need to be factored-in. You’d probably want to acquire the cabinets first and design them into the space from the start, avoiding regrettable compromises later.

Thanks for sending this our way Ron! That center piece looks like it was built as a kitchen from the start – nicely done.

Also stay tuned for more projects from Ron. Here’s what he told me:

“The community project in Asheville, NC moving forward and will be building 10 houses, 400 sq. ft and up. I am designing the houses to also be available as a custom kit using SIPs.”

You can follow Ron’s small home community progress and news of these future kit homes at Habitat Re-Imagined and  DIY Home Building.

Mini Kitchen - by Ron Czecholinski

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YesterTec Complete Mini Kitchen

Building a tiny house kitchen can be time consuming depending on your carpentry skills and what you choose to put into it. Costs can skyrocket if you have expensive tastes and hire professionals to help. One option is to get a complete prebuilt kitchen unit – although even these range in price from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

For example the Kitchen Armoire pictured here costs about $8,000, and it’s probably a best in class example. When not in use it hides away behind elegant cabinetry and contains a sink, refrigerator, convection oven/microwave, and ceramic cooktop. The cooktop and oven are also setup to shut down when the cabinet doors are closed as a safety precaution. As you scroll down the page you’ll find less expensive options.

The benefit of an all-in-one kitchen for a tiny house is that your cost is fixed and the time to install is shorter. The disadvantage is that you won’t have as many choices as a kitchen you build yourself. At the end of the day it is something to consider designing into your tiny house project.

YesterTec Complete Mini Kitchen - open 2


Above: YesterTec Kitchen Armoire


gallery kitchen design micro kitchen


Above: Micro Modular Kitchen

Johns Strand Hideaway Kitchen


Above: Hideaway Kitchen

Avanti Compact Kitchen

Above: Avanti Compact Kitchen

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Tiny House Bathroom

One of the bigger tiny space design challenges tiny house owner-builders face are bathrooms. A typical small residential bathroom will measure 5′ x 9′, or 45 square feet. That’s too much space to use when the house is just 120 square foot tiny house.

In a tiny house you’ll find normal flush toilets, RV toilets, commercial composting toilets, incinerating toilets, and lots of Lovable Loos (sawdust toilets). Sometimes the shower shares the same space with the toilet – a wet bath – other times it’s curtained-off. Sinks seem to be optional when folks are comfortable using the kitchen sink – but others prefer a tiny dedicated sink in the bathroom.

If you’d like to play with your own bathroom layout ideas give our free Print & Cut Worksheet a try. Just print it out and cut out the shapes.

See more tiny house bathroom designs on Pinterest. Read more about toilet options.

Portland Remodel

Bathroom above from a Portland remodel - a wet bath in a 3′ x 3′ space.

tall mans tiny house bathroom

Above is a lovable loo (sawdust toilet) tucked into a closet in the Tall Man’s Tiny House.

tub shower

Shower in the Tiny Tack House.


Toilet in the Moschata Rolling Bungalow. See more tiny house bathroom designs on Pinterest.

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Pinterest is a great tool for creating photo collections. I’ve made some topic specific boards for things like bedrooms, bathrooms, and interiors. When noodling through future design ideas it’s nice to be able to see what other people have done. You can find all my Tiny House Design boards on Pinterest.

If you’d like to play with your own floor plan layout ideas give my free Print & Cut Worksheet a try. You just print it out with your own printer or have it printed at Kinkos on cardstock like I did. Then cut out the shapes and play with floor plan ideas.

Top photo by Ziggy from Small-Scale.net. Below are more examples from the tiny house kitchens board on Pinterest.

shabby chic tiny retreat

Photo above by Shabby Chic Tiny Retreat.

Tennessee Tiny Homes Pawaws Cabin

Photo above by Tennessee Tiny Homes. This might win the award for the smallest kitchen.

Mendy's Tiny House Kitchen

Photo above by Tennessee Tiny Homes.


tiny texas

Photo above of a kitchen by Tiny Texas Houses. Photo credit to Mother Earth Living.


Photo above of an Airsteam kitchen.


Photo above of a small house kitchen in Berkeley. Love the ships ladder.

ikea kitchen

Photo above is an IKEA inspired kitchen.

See more examples from the tiny house kitchens board on Pinterest.


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crib bunk

I got an email the other day from a reader named Whitfield. Whitfield has two children, aged 3 months and 1 1/2 years, and was wondering how might a family of four with two young children find a way to live in a tiny house. Here’s part of what Whitfield asked:

“Most tiny home designs I’ve seen do not incorporate a whole lot of space for washers and dryers, and I NEVER see any with space for one crib, let alone two.  I was wondering if you knew of anyone else facing similar challenges, and how they’ve overcome them?”

The design challenge immediately grabbed my attention and I turned to my book thinking I’d already drawn a floor plan that might work – and found nothing. So I got to drawing.

Cribs are about 30″ x 60″ so I first placed two rectangles on the page and started playing with ideas and found that something new, a crib bunk, had to be drawn. A quick internet search proved that this is not a new idea at all, but that crib bunks are commercially available. Based on the basic required dimensions and safe slat spacing (less than 2 3/8″) I drew a sketch of built-in crib bunk. That’s the image at the top.

In one floor plan, the 24-foot house, you’ll see a separate room with two normal cribs. In the other two you’ll see the crib bunk placed in a space between the bathroom and main room. One of Whitfield’s other requirements was for a washer & dryer because they use cloth diapers, so you’ll also notice this in each design. I also wanted to be able to give the children a door so they could sleep for naps and earlier bed times.

Since space is tight I show two comfy chairs at the table for the parents since there are few opportunities for additional seating. You’ll also see two high chairs. These take up a bit of space so it seemed sensible to include them in the room. Ideally some kind of folding space-saving high chairs would be used, but I wanted to show that the bulkier ones could fit too.

Thanks again for the interesting challenge Whitfield – and good luck with you future project!

20-Foot Tiny House

8x20 family

24-Foot Tiny House

8x24 family

28-Foot Tiny House

8x28 family


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Photo credit to Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

HGTV had the brilliant idea of using Tumbleweed tiny houses for a design challenge on their show HGTV Design Star – for that I applaud them; but sadly my applause ends there.

I think the show producers had a great opportunity to introduce some important ideas to the main stream public – and in typical television style – glossed over them like a thick coat of pixelated bedazzlement.

To recap the show – if you missed it – felt like 30 minutes of commercials and 30 minutes of sound bites on speed (not sure what the actual split was). Few useful space efficiency strategies were conveyed, except for bits and pieces. The four that stood out to me were:

  • Avoid accessories that just add visual noise and clutter. Instead decorate with things that also provide function.
  • Include items that provide multiple functions.
  • Tie small spaces together with colors and consistency – avoid bold and high contrast colors.
  • Use plants to soften and enrich space while providing real edible and aesthetic value.

A few other small space interior design tidbits they could have also surfaced are:

  • Use vertical space to draw the eye up and provide more function (if possible).
  • Organize carefully – everything should have its place.
  • Avoid clutter, leaving some wall and counter space clean and clear.
  • Use built-ins that hide clutter while disappearing into the woodwork themselves.
  • Create built-ins that transform functionally, like seating that becomes a bed, or a desk that becomes a dining table for four.
  • Use digital devices to enable going paperless and wireless.
  • Reduce the number of digital devices by replacing them small multi-functional devices (like laptops).
  • Eliminate possessions and create invisible long-term storage spaces.
  • Keep must-have and high-use possessions easy to access.
  • Use mirrors to open spaces up.
  • Enhance the visual progression through a space by using strategic lighting, doorways, and windows to help the eye look beyond the current space.
  • Provide ample air flow and avoid creating strong odors.
  • Choose materials and furnishings that wear well since you’ll be looking at things up close and personal.
  • Choose materials and furnishings that are easy to clean and require little cleaning.

All these strategies can be implemented by anyone, at any time, in their current homes, no matter the size. These kinds of useful tidbits packed into an hour-long show would have made this show much more useful and entertaining. Sadly HGTV chose to bedazzle us with fast-paced sizzle instead of delivering more bites of steak.

This trend might also explain why television seems to be loosing more and more ground to the internet. Even amateur YouTube channels have learned to focus on providing real value and expert advice, not just entertainment.

Entertainment value and a level of professional polish is key to any successful delivery (online, offline, in-person, etc) but when all you have is sizzle and no steak you’re going to disappoint – and be disappointed. I’m not sure why the opposite trend seems to be the current thinking driving main stream television but you’d think they’d get a clue.

So if you get an opportunity to watch a commercial-free recording of the show on your DVR or other source I’d recommend watching. But if you’re looking for ways to declutter and downsize don’t waste your time with the television – just keep digging online and experimenting in your own home.

P.S. I typically like to stay positive and avoid ‘dissing‘ on anyone. This critique is really just that, an expression of disappointment followed by some constructive criticism. I hope the folks at HGTV are open enough to hear it and improve the work they do.

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The three final designers of this season’s television show HGTV Design Star will be competing to create the interiors of three Tumbleweed Box Bungalow tiny houses. The base house is the Beavan, a 7-foot by 16-foot tiny house with a 2-foot porch.

As you can imagine designing for small spaces can be much more challenging than designing for larger homes. The details of the show and what these designers will be asked to do is still shrouded in secrecy at HGTV – but I’m personally hoping that they’ll be challenged to create fully functional living spaces that include a bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, storage, work-at-home space, and living space.

In other words I hope the producers at HGTV have them solve the very same interior space design challenge that real people work to solve every day when they choose to downsize their lifestyles.

The designer of the Box Bungalows is Jay Shafer, founder of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. The plans for these tiny structures are just $49 and you’ll actually find a download code for the Zinn plans free inside his new DIY Tiny House Book which costs $19.95.

I’ve not had an opportunity to review the book yet but so far it sounds like a good deal… printed book + house plan download for $20. (just fyi: the free plans are for the Zinn not the Beavan pictured above.)

Below is the basic floor plan of the Beavan, and a close-up of the porch. The show airs for the first time on Labor Day, Monday September 5, 2010 at 9/8c and again on September 6 at 12 am. If you miss the live broadcast the show will also be posted on Hulu on September 9th.

If you’d like to take part in a chat on Twitter during the show the folks at Tumbleweed will be hosting via hashtag #DSTumbleweed.

If the idea of tiny houses and extreme downsizing are new to you, learn more by reading:

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Speaking of pallets… here’s a clever reuse of shipping pallets as posh office furniture. I personally prefer a more rustic aesthetic, but this slick office space in Amsterdam sure has made an inviting recycled workspace. A total of 270 pallets were saved from the landfill by this design.

Read more about this pallet furnished office at Jetson Green.

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This is a guest post by interior designer Annie Pauza.

Growing up in Minnesota I have always dreamed of having a cozy cabin someday. Every summer my family would drive from Minneapolis and visit my Grandmother at a small cabin up north. Square footage was not important to us in order to have fun. We would pile 4 or 5 families into 500 sq ft or less and have a blast. When I was invited to guest blog on how to design a tiny cabin interior I jumped at the chance.

The Decorator in a Box 10 Steps to Creating a Cozy Cabin

1. Find your Inspiration – Inspiration comes from many different places. I began searching for inspiration in the cabin architecture style. I thought a modular home would be the best way to go. While researching modular home builders I came across a company called Reclaimed Space. I was immediately inspired by Reclaimed Spaces style of home and their environmental responsibility. The gallery of interiors on their site inspired me to create a rustic interior with a modern twist. I selected the 392 sq foot space.

2. Set the Budget – This is likely a secondary home so the budget should be financially savvy. I like to use 10% of the total home cost as a rule of thumb for a cost effective budget. This will include furniture, art, accessories, bedding, lighting and window treatments. The Reclaimed Space 392 sq ft home is a total cost of $45,080 I set the budget at $4500. Keep in mind you do not need to make all purchases at once. You can purchase items over time at you own pace. You may even be incorporating furniture or accessories pieces you already own.

3. Create a Furniture Plan – Use an architect’s scale and create a Furniture Plan. I printed a plan off the Reclaimed Space site and enlarged to ¼” = 1’- 0” scale. Then I began to scale in furniture on the plan. This gives me a basis for what items will fit in the space and need to be purchased. Creating a furniture plan can also be done very quickly on programs like AutoCad.

Plan from Reclaimed Space Site

Decorator in a Box Furniture Plan

4. Don’t Forget the Windows – Search for affordable window treatments like the selections below on Etsy.com. Affordable and stylish window treatments can also be found at Bed Bath and Beyond, JcPenny and West Elm.

5. Make the Most of Storage Space – Making the most of 392 sq ft is crucial. You do this by creating multi use furniture that acts as storage. I created extra storage by designing a bed with storage baskets that slide into cubbies underneath. I also achieved this in a custom banquette in the Kitchen with similar baskets. In addition this creates optimal seating for the family and guests. If you are handy you can build these pieces yourself or have Reclaimed Space build this for you from reclaimed material. There are also similar designs you can find from retailers online.

6. Create a Shopping List – I create a shopping list by going room by room from the furniture plan. When you find all the key pieces for one room simply move onto the next. This can be done very easily by using online shopping. In order to reuse pieces search for items on Ebay.com, Craigslist, local flea markets and garage sales. It is always rewarding to find that unique piece at a great value while helping the environment. I searched Westelm.com and Ikea.com to find items that have that modern twist. These stores also have great value and that natural/organic style. My favorite place to find handmade pillows and art is on Etsy.com. Don’t be afraid to mix fun prints together like this West Elm sofa with the red deer accent pillows.

Lettered Shopping List Plan

7. Total and View – Once you have created your shopping list total all items to be sure you stayed within the set budget. My total budget ended at $4446.00 just under our $4500 goal. View photos of all the items selected side by side and visualize. Look at the color palette style and feel of the space and make sure there is a common flow.

Design Board for Bedroom and Living

Design Board for Kitchen and Bath

Budget Breakdown in Decorator in a Box Shopping List Book

8. Purchase – After reviewing selections and budget go ahead and place orders online or purchase at stores to save on shipping. Keep in mind stores are constantly changing merchandise, so if you really like a certain item you should purchase it right away. Bedding is an item that should be ordered right away, as well as items on Ebay.com or Etsy.com.

9. Install – After placing orders you should have an idea of arrival dates for everything to set an estimated installation date. Schedule a moving truck or delivery service if necessary. You can also plan a fun weekend cabin getaway with friends and family to help you move in.

10. Enjoy your Cozy Cabin!

Below is the cozy cabin completed design. If you would like a custom design without the custom prices contact Decorator in a Box. We create online custom designs in the most financially savvy way. A La Carte options are also available if you only need design help with a portion of you project.

Happy Tiny Space Designing!

All the Best,

Annie Pauza
Decorator in a Box

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14x20 Cabin

One of my readers, Ana, found a 14′ by 20′ house shell for sale and posted a photo of it on the Tiny House Design Facebook page. She asked me if I had any ideas about how one might turn this size structure into a comfortable home for two people.

Below are some drawings I threw together to show what I was thinking. I started with a fairly normal sized bathroom (7′ by 5′) and a small kitchen. Because this could be a small home for two people, and everyone needs their space from time-to-time, a separate room seemed like a good addition, but with 280 square feet that’s tough to add.

My solution was to add a floor-to-ceiling cabinet that serves as a room divider. The back room could serve two functions this way, as a bedroom and den. It could also allow one of the inhabitants to sleep while the other putters-around in the main living room.

If the two people needed separate beds, the cabinet design could reworked by adding a murphy bed that opens into the living room. The murphy bed pictured here could also be pushed to one side of the bedroom so that only one opening to the back room is needed.

But like with all small home designs, downsizing possessions is really the first step to making a small space work. Luckily all of us, no matter what size home we live in now, can begin to benefit from that sort of downsizing immediately.

14x20 Cabin - Murphy Bed Up 14x20 Cabin - Murphy Bed Down 14x20 Cabin - Interior 14x20 Cabin - Front Elevation 14x20 Cabin - Bathroom

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of everything DIY; in fact I’d describe myself as a do-it-yourselfer to a fault. In other words, I’m one of those people that won’t admit that I sometimes bite-off too much and should have considered calling in a pro in the first place.

This video of space saving furniture, sent to be by Dan, reminded me of this personality defect (strength?) of mine. When I see stuff like this I think… hey I could do that! But then after watching the whole thing I think… holy cow this stuff is amazing… how do they do that!?

I suspect that this Italian designed furniture, available from Resource Furniture in New York, is very expensive. I hope I’m wrong but something cool with a New York showroom is most likely very expensive. But what you get for your money appears to be some amazingly designed and engineered space saving furniture. At the very least it’s great food for thought and might inspire some folks to explore some extreme space saving ideas on their own.

Thanks again Dan!

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Architect Gary Chang created this tiny apartment in Hong Kong that literally transforms into many different usable spaces. The total square footage is only 344 square feet but he’s increased the usable space by adding tall moving wall cabinets that change the function of the room depending on which side is exposed. I want to thank my readers Tom and Lloyd for sending me links to this video recently.