How tiny is too tiny? …An Excerpt from Tiny House Decisions [Book Giveaway Has Ended]

The following is a guest post by Ethan Waldman and an excerpt from the guide Tiny House Decisions: Everything I Wish I Knew When I Built My Tiny House, by Ethan Waldman.

If you are interested in building your own tiny home, this guide will walk you through each and every process, step by step, and ultimately help you build the tiny house that’s right for you.

Make sure you read until the end to find out how you can win a copy of Ethan’s new book.


What should the overall size be?

A lot can be said about the overall size of your tiny house. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this: The smaller it is, the harder it’s going to be to live there. I know, that’s a bold statement, but think of it this way:

When you build a tiny house that you intend to live in, there’s no question that you are going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff. Most or all of your furniture will definitely have to go. Giant wardrobe? Forget it. Large specialized appliances? Find a different home for them.

Regardless of how big or small your tiny house is, you’re going to need to downsize. However, you don’t have to go as micro as possible. You can have a tiny house that’s still livable. A foot or two might not make much difference in a traditional house, but in a tiny house, it can be huge. Having a slightly larger 22-foot tiny house could mean the difference between you being able to have a kitchen sink of a usable size or not. Or it could mean the difference between being able to have a guest sleep in your “great room” or not.

You’re downsizing either way, so why not make your house as livable as possible?

In the end, this is just another one of those trade-offs we talked about back in the Introduction.

Pros of a Bigger Tiny House

The bigger your tiny house is, the more storage space it has.

When it comes to tiny houses, you may be required to put quotes around the word “storage.” However, you’d be amazed at how many creative ways you can sneak storage into a small space.

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For instance, my main seating in the tiny house is a long structure that we called “the bench” during construction. Because my house is long, the couch is long — over 8 feet — and big enough for a guest to sleep on. And what’s underneath? “Storage” space! I have baskets with felt pads on the bottoms so they easily slide in and out under the couch.

Here’s another example: I like to cook, so I made storage space and functionality in the kitchen a priority. Despite the fact that I’ve been living in my house for over a year, I still have not filled up all the drawers and cabinets in my kitchen.

Some may consider empty unused space in a tiny house to be a bad thing, but I do not. The process of moving into the house and living there has never really felt limiting to me. I know that my house has room for me to expand into it.

Your house is more “livable.”

My tiny house is definitely on the larger side of the average tiny house on wheels. However, the 21 feet of interior space enabled me to include things like:

  • a bathroom with a separate shower and toilet (no wet bath)
  • a double kitchen sink and ample cabinet and counter space
  • a 3-burner propane range (including an oven)
  • an 11-foot loft with two closets and room for a queen-size mattress

I’ve seen other tiny houses that include such luxuries as a washer/dryer combo and even a tiny bathtub.

Cons of a Bigger Tiny House

You’ll need a bigger (and more expensive) trailer.

As I said earlier, my trailer was over $4,000. Trailers have weight capacities; most are 7,500 pounds. When you move up to the 10,000-pound capacity trailers, you add at least $1,000 because they require completely different (bigger) axles, more powerful brakes, and a heavier-duty hitch.

It’s more difficult to tow.

Tumbleweed estimates that its 89-square-foot Epu weighs just 4,700 pounds when empty. That is towable by most medium to large pickup trucks and large SUVs. However, a tiny house in my size range weighs close to 10,000 pounds, which is towable by only the largest pickup trucks on the road — trucks which would be highly inefficient and impractical to own.

You’ll spend more on materials.

It takes more materials to build a bigger house, and materials cost money. For instance, consider how many windows you’re going to want. My house has 12 windows. If it were half the size, I could probably have gotten away with four or five windows total.

On the flip side, building a very tiny house — one less than 120 square feet, in my mind — will yield you the opposite of the pro/con list above. Such a house will be easier to tow, need fewer building materials, and require a less expensive trailer. However, you’ll end up with a less “livable” space with less storage.

My Decision

Despite the fact that it is heavy and difficult to tow, I would not make my tiny house any smaller. I’m so happy every time I use the kitchen, and every time I move around the house without bumping into anything. I definitely wouldn’t change that. For me, the trade-offs of a slightly larger tiny house are worth it.


That was one small excerpt from over 180 pages of Tiny House Decisions. Waldman’s guide presents all of the choices you’ll need to make in order to go tiny, along with the pros and cons for each. This is truly a valuable resource!

Enter to Win the Complete Digital Edition

Ethan is giving away one copy of the complete digital edition of Tiny House Decisions to one of our readers. This includes the book, 2 hours of interviews with tiny house experts, and 12 video system tours from Ethan’s tiny house.

To enter the contest simply leave a comment below and tell Ethan why Tiny House Decisions is the perfect resource to help you go tiny. One comment will be chosen by Ethan at random on November 24, 2014.

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Simple Luxury in a Tiny Shepherd’s Hut

This tiny shepherd’s hut is a vacation rental in the UK, but it’s filled with ideas for simple luxury. You can learn more about the Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts. You can also find it at Canopy & Stars. The images are screen shots from the Canopy & Stars video filmed by Gavin Repton. You can also follow Hesleyside Huts on Facebook and Twitter.

Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts - Full Interior

Inside the hut you’ll find an open space flanked by the kitchen & bath on one side and a lofted nook bed on the other. Under the bed is what looks like a set of rustic cupboards, but upon inspection you’ll see that the doors and drawers hide away a bed, seating, and dining table.

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Transforming Dining Space - Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts

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Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts - Bed

Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts - Kitchen

The kitchen is incredibly small but was treated with equal attention to the rest of the hut. The farmhouse sink tucked into the cabinet was an excellent choice. The wood stove probably easily heats the space and provides a needed place for cooking and heating water.

Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts - Stove

Window - Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts

Bracken Hut at Hesleyside Huts - Exterior

5 Tiny House Design Tips (That You Can Use No Matter Where You Live)

This is a guest post from Mariah Coz from COMET Camper.

I’m Mariah Coz, and I live in a 100 square foot vintage trailer that I renovated and re-designed. I teach the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course, which is now open for enrollment for the session about to begin on October 5th. I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned from my experience designing and living in such small spaces!

Whether you live in 10 sq. ft. or 1500 sq. ft., I think it’s a great idea to incorporate “tiny” design features to create more room and less clutter in your space.

My tiny home on wheels, the COMET camper, has some pretty nifty features you might never notice if I didn’t point them out! Everyone who visits my tiny home is surprised at how much function I have in such a small area. I want to show you how I do that.

Today I have 5 tiny house design tips that you can implement no matter where you live!

COMET Camper - Worm Compost

 

1. Create a vermi-compost or “Worm-bin” system under a bench for indoor, odorless composting!

Most people living in tiny homes don’t “own” the land they live and park on, and so are limited in their composting options. And if you live in the city or in an urban area, you might not have your own yard to create a big, open compost pile. But that’s what worms are for! In the COMET, I have a vermiculture (composting with worms) set-up underneath the front dinette bench near the door. The worms are red wigglers (I got mine on Amazon) and they are tiny BEASTS let me tell you. They eat ALL of my food scraps, including eggs shells and coffee grounds. The worms live in a “rubbermaid” type bin, you just throw your green and brown scraps in, and they make short work of it. This system is tiny and odorless, perfect for apartments and tiny houses or mobile campers and RVs.

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2. Fold-Down desks save on space

I love my little fold-down desk. I made it out of an old hunk of plywood and some vintage Formica tabletop that I salvaged from a table that was mostly damaged but had this one good piece that was stuff re-usable. The fold down desk was really simple to make, just a few hinges and a slide lock to hold it up and out of the way. It’s nice to have the space in the back of the trailer so convertible – it’s a couch/relaxing area, a work area during the day, and when I fold the desk up it becomes my bed area at night. It’s only big enough to fit my laptop, but that’s all I need in a desk at the moment!

COMET Camper - Kitchen

3. Use the vertical wall space

My kitchen counter is about 2 sq. ft. total, when you take out the space for the sink and cooktop (that’s why I added a fold-up counter extension for when I need it!). In order to keep the counter clear, I use all of the vertical space around the kitchen area for storing kitchen items such as spatulas, soap, sponges, and more. I got a few small things from ikea that help me keep everything organized in the tiny kitchen. I recommend getting lots of hooks and small shelves, and getting as much stuff OFF of horizontal spaces as possible. It makes the whole place feel much bigger, and there’s no clutter on the tables, counters, etc.

COMET Camper - Transforming Beds

4. Your spaces should serve multiple purposes.

“Multi-function” or “stacking functions” is a term I use a lot in reference to permaculture, but it applies so perfectly to small space design. I have a few examples of this in action in the COMET camper. The back area, which is my couch and convertible workspace/desk area during the day, is also my bed at night when it folds down. That same area of maybe 15 sq. ft. total is my living room, home office, and bedroom. And in the front of the camper, the dinette (kitchen table) doubles as a “guest” bed when folded down. Technically my camper could sleep 6 people, but we’ve never tried that!

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5. The less crap you have, the easier it is to design your space.

This is where the downsizing comes in. The honest truth is that it’s much easier to design your living space when you have less crap, and hold onto  just a few things that you totally love. Giving your beloved items the space they need to shine is what this whole tiny house thing is all about! You don’t need to be a complete minimalist either, I’m certainly not. I love tchotchke’s and weird knick knacks, so I have a small shelf devoted to those things. Once you downsize your stuff, you’ll see how everything falls into place around it in your tiny house.

If you need help, support, and the motivation to start downsizing in preparation for a smaller life, the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course can kick-start you into gear. When you join the class, you get 8 weeks of downsizing bootcamp (lessons, tasks, challenges, reading and writing prompts) and lifetime access to the private class-only forum, so you can meet and connect with others on the same journey as you.

The class will not only get your house, mind, and life decluttered and cleared out, but it will help you change your relationship with stuff. If you feel like your stuff owns you instead of the other way around, I hope you’ll join us in the next session of Tiny Transition + Downsizing, which begins on October 5th 2014. You can find out more and register here.