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Designing Your Tiny Home

And now the fun part, let’s talk about design.

Feel free to listen to this blog in podcast form here 🙂

I’v got a whole treasure trove of tips and tricks for you to delve into. Now is the time to get creative! My top recommendation in stage one of your design process is to make a list. Jot down your must haves, your wants, and the things you are flexible on

Here’s a list of questions for you to consider:

  • Do you want your foundation to be on a trailer or on a skid platform without wheels? 
  • Is your house going to be permanent or short term solution?
  • How many people will live in it and what’s their relationship? (ie single, couple, family, friends)
  • Will it be located in a bushfire prone area? This will require additional construction measures
  • Will it be located in one particular climate or will it moved around across multiple?
  • Are there any height restrictions to consider?
  • Will it be supplied with off grid power and water?
  • Will any of the people living in the home have additional conditions to consider such as low mobility, old age, disability or dementia?
  • Will you have enough space for your hobbies?  If you work from home, do you need a space?
  • Do you love to cook and need a fair amount of kitchen storage?

Leaving and arriving home

Some good advice given to me when I was starting out was to think about if your home supports you in the last five minutes before you leave and the first five minutes when you arrive home. A place to put your keys and daily belongings, a place to shower and change, or enough clear bench space to put your groceries are all examples of a well planned space.

Living in a small space requires sufficient and well designed storage. Here are some other questions to consider:

  • Have you got a place for your seasonal items? 
  • Have you got a place for everything you frequently use? 
  • Have you got enough outside storage for items that don’t need protection from seasonal change?  

Considering these questions in advance will help alleviate stress and generate less clutter. A personal touch on your decor will often give you that instant sense of inner calm and serenity when arriving home.  

Outside your Tiny House

Another great factor to consider is how you wish to use your outdoor areas. Are they going to be undercover, out in the open, or under a tree for shade? Do you want a deck or a paved area for relaxing on? My number one suggestion would be to create a mood board on Pinterest to help you brainstorm the environment you wish to create. 

Depending on your lifestyle, you may decide that the space you have is optimal and you don’t see the need for a washing machine, and choose to use the local laundromat or arrange to do your washing at a friend’s home in return for making dinner, or looking after their veggie patch. 

Using your space wisely

Let’s have a look at the use of the space in your tiny house. There is a bit to get your head around, so we’ve created a downloadable document outlining our top design pointers you can grab from our website: www.tinyhousesolutions.com.au 

Your Tiny House bathroom

There are a number of important points to consider when it comes to designing your bathroom. Working through these will give you a good understanding and what you want it to look like:

  •  Do you see the need to have a bath with a shower in it? And if so will you install handrails for extra stability? Unfortunately getting in and out of the bath results in many falls in the home, so consider putting in place fittings that can help reduce this risk. 
  • Do you think that you will be able to discharge toilet waste to a sewer or are you going to incorporate a composting toilet? If so, where will you place the dedicated worm farms? Don’t forget the compost generated from the humanure can eventually be used in the garden.
  • Where will greywater from the shower and vanity be directed too? Can it run into a subsurface irrigation system and be contained within your site? Can you avoid using harmful chemicals during washing, showering and cleaning? 

Your Tiny House Kitchen

Here are some good topics to consider when designing your kitchen:

  • If you are a big cook and baker, you may require storage of bottled produce and cookware. Consider finding cookware that can provide multiple uses to maximise on storage space
  • How large a fridge and freezer do you require?. This will normally depend on the number of occupants in the house. 
  • What about your cooking system and your appliances? Do you need an oven, or perhaps only a stove, microwave, kettle and toaster?
  • Are you okay with a good sized single sink and to use a dish tray for draining? 
  • How much bench space do you need for food preparation? 
  • How many cupboards or drawers will you need?

Your Tiny House Bedroom

We all need a good sleep, so how you design your sleeping quarters is going to have a huge impact on your lifestyle. First and foremost, how you design it depends on how long you see yourself living in the house for. It will also depend on how agile you are. Depending on your agility, you may wish to look at bedding options such as a loft you can climb up into or you may with to avoid ladders and stairs.  

As the name suggests, the loft bed is located in the loft space of the tiny house, perhaps a few metres off the ground and is accessible by either stairs or ladder. Some of the challenges with sleeping lofts include lack of head height for standing up to get changed, crawling around to make the bed, climbing up and down, and the potential heat of the ceiling space. 

For those not wanting to regularly climb up and down stairs there are quite a few options available. A murphy bed is a bed that pulls down from the wall at night time. You need to consider having room around the bed when it’s down to strip the bed and make it. When no longer required it can be pushed back up against the wall and secured into position. Some people insert gas struts, whilst others use springs to assist in folding it away. When in position against the wall, you might create a fold down table that you can use and also consider what the bedframe will rest on.

Elevator or lift beds require a winch or power switch to raise the bed when not in use, and lower the bed when required. Some of the benefits of this style are that it takes up minimal space as the bed is close to the ceiling when not in use and you can use the area underneath it. You can also leave the bed made while not in use. The use of an automatic winch will require power and if you are off grid then this will be another demand to consider. 

Have you heard of the reverse loft bed? This style of bed is close to, or raised just off the ground, allowing good head space and might allow a sitting space above which is accessible by only a few stairs.

Alternatively, you might consider a pull out bed from underneath the floor, serving as a kitchen or bathroom, or lounge and eating area. You will need to allow for enough floor space to pull it out. Again the bed could be left made during the day and it’s easy to make. This bed is a little hard to visualise so maybe have a search online.  A consideration for this style of bed may be the impact of plumbing pipes. 

Lastly, you might want to take a look at a couch bed, where the couch forms either the bed base or the base is pulled out and a mattress lays on top. While it can be a convenient use of space, it might mean that you cannot leave the bed made all the time. 

Other things to consider include where you store your clothes and shoes and how to create a barrier to avoid falling from the loft, as well as your window placement to create good air circulation.  

Although it is a little complex, as you can see there is a solution for everyone’s sleeping preferences, so take some time to consider what might suit you best.

Natural light and ventilation

As your tiny house will most likely be open plan, natural light will generally be able to penetrate into most parts of the tiny house, so consider the efficient placement of windows in your construction. Your climate will also be a key factor and will influence the type of windows you select. If you are located in a hotter part of Australia, single glazed windows with a tint could be desirable to help to reduce the heat gain from the sun, but you will need to be under shade all year round. In cooler climates, consider placing the tiny house under the shade of trees to prevent it getting too hot in summer, but position the tiny house to allow the lower winter sun to come in through the windows too. 

If you are in a cooler part of Australia then you might want to consider double glazing to keep the home warmer in winter, but again it should be shaded for summer to avoid overheating. Sizing, style and placement of windows will all help to bring in cooling breezes, allow for air circulation and open up the indoor/outdoor experience. French doors, glazed doors, bifold or sliding doors can also help achieve this. 

Apart from opening windows to provide air circulation, you can also use reverse cycle ceiling fans in both winter and summer to circulate air. 
SO! You have a lot to consider in starting the design of your home. Go through these questions carefully, and if you have any of your own, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at janine@tinyhousesolutions.com.au