We have a very special Tiny House RV story to share with you this week. Introducing Brian and Skyler's custom Fifth Wheel Tiny House RV!
Brian & Skyler's "Fifth Wheel" Tiny House RV
The fifth wheel design is a popular concept in the tiny house movement that hardly ever sees fruition. What's so great about a fifth wheel tiny house RV? You get extra space for an elevated bedroom over the gooseneck! Also, fifth wheel trailers are designed for heavier loads than regular utility trailers.
Brian and Skyler decided to on a fifth wheel trailer because they didn't want to climb into a loft, especially because Brian is very tall. They also intend on keeping their tiny for many years. The hope is that the design will fit their lifestyle throughout the decades.
"A big focus of ours was a space for EVERYTHING. We listed all our possessions and designed the space around storage options." - Brian
The young couple was inspired to go tiny for financial freedom and to pursue their dream of moving out west. Both Skyler and Brian have a bachelor's degree in building construction. Their fifth wheel design is 100% custom and something they are very proud of achieving.
"Even with extensive construction experience, building a house on a trailer is no easy feat!" -Skyler
Specs on Brian & Skyler's Fifth Wheel Tiny House RV:
Material Cost: $35,000 (which does not include labor)
Construction Timeline: 8 months, finished in December 2015.
Build location: Skyler's father owns a manufacturing company in Columbus, Mississippi, and was kind enough to allow them to build in his warehouse.
Square Footage: 255 square feet
Weight: 20,000 lbs (approximate)
Brian & Skyler's Space Saver Ideas
The unique shape of Brian and Skyler's tiny is not the only surprise this couple dreamed up! Check out the below list of "space savers" they incorporated into their design:
Hidden dog house – Their dog (Sadie) has a hidden bed built into the staircase!
Jewelry Storage – Brian built doors that open a hollow space inside the bathroom wall for small storage. Skyler hangs her jewelry in this space on a pegboard.
Tool Closet Underneath Gooseneck – Because Brian and Skyler have a significant amount of tools, they built a tool closet underneath the gooseneck.
Stair Drawers – The stairs have pull out drawers for extra storage.
Closet – Brian and Skyler made trailer modifications so that the load of their bedroom was properly supported. In doing so, they also built a closet underneath their bed.
A Tiny Business on Wheels
Skyler runs her own small business making homemade headbands. She will be running this business, called SugarSky, out of her Tiny House RV! How cool is that?
"I will be working from home and running this business out of our tiny house!" Skyler explains."It’s an exciting adventure that will continue to make SugarSky a lean, organized company"
Today we are going to discuss three design elements you should consider for the windows in your Tiny House RV: PROPORTION, BALANCE and SYMMETRY.
Proper PROPORTION can make all the difference
Consider the photo above of a Tumbleweed Cypress. The windows are in correct proportion to each other, the size of the structure, and the front door. It's pleasing to the eye.
As you can see, we've now changed the proportion of the windows. The result is less pleasant.
The front bay windows are very small and odd looking. The side windows are large, creating improper proportion to the front door and the overall structure. Making your windows too large can also compromise the structural integrity of the RV and decrease your R-Value.
Create BALANCE in your Window Design
It's important to be consistent with proportion, the amount of windows and their symmetry to create balance in your window design.
Windows attract the eye, so it's important to distribute them evenly. In the above example, the balance of window versus open space is inconsistent. You don't want to have five windows on the left side of your Tumbleweed and only two windows on the right side.
Can you guess why the next example is NOT as well balanced as the original?
The bay windows are centered in the above photo, yet the effect is not quite as charming as the original Tumbleweed Cypress. Why? It has to do with the front door. The front door in this design has a window, so it should be counted in the overall window design. The bay windows have too much open space on either side in comparison to the space around the door window. Therefore, the balance is imperfect.
Don't Forget Symmetry!
To achieve symmetry in your window design, draw an imaginary line down the center axis of your Tiny House RV. As you can see in the above photo of a Tumbleweed Elm, the windows on either side of the center line are a mirror image of each other. The windows are completely symmetrical.
"You can also have a near or approximate symmetry in your design. Here there is no mirror image, but the masses placed on one side of the axis are roughly copied on the other side. There may be side extension that is different than its cousin on the other side, but they are of similar shape and size."Source
The Tumbleweed Cypress is an example of approximate symmetry. In order to counteract the asymmetry of the door placement, a hip dormer is centered over the bay windows. Therefore, the window design is not a mirror image along the center axis, but the visual weight is counterbalanced by the doorway and dormer symmetry.
Next we'll discuss window functionality, specifically for Tiny House RVs!
Tiny space design can be challenging. At some point during your build, you may feel overwhelmed. Take this anxious feeling as a signal that it's time to take a break. Visit a museum, go for a hike or watch a classic movie. Inspiration can come from the place you least expect it.
"I'm not like most designers, who have to set sail on an exotic getaway to get inspired. Most of the time, it's on my walk to work, or sitting in the subway and seeing something random or out of context."
"I love the feeling of awe. We’ve all felt it at some point or another in our lives, probably more when we were kids. Feelings of awe seemingly break the shackles off one’s imagination, and open a world of possibilities. Treehouses, to me, embody this world of possibilities, and with each treehouse I build I get to help fulfill someone’s desire to be in wonderment.”
Cypress Valley Canopy Tours, located just outside of Austin, Texas, offers a unique experience for small space enthusiasts - a chance to sleep in a tree! Four treehouse options are available on the property as vacation rentals. I was so impressed with the artistry and craftsmanship when I was there, I asked if we could shoot a few video tours to share with you all (see below).
The Nest Treehouse
If you're a dreamer or adventurist, you'll be gobsmacked by the detail and thought put into "The Nest" treehouse. Inspired by the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, "The Nest" is multi-level treehouse connected by series of suspension bridges and staircases.
Features include: two bedrooms (sleeps four comfortably), a sitting room, a dining room / kitchen, outdoor summer shower, a living roof and a butterfly hatchery (to name a few).
Cypress Valley also offers zip-lining and one tour climaxes at "The Nest" treehouse! Imagine soaring towards your bedroom like a bird coming to perch in a nest... that's pretty dreamy.
The Lofthaven Treehouse
"The Lofthaven" is a romantic yurt-style treehouse located 35 feet off the ground in a bald cypress tree. Will was inspired by being raised in a yurt on the Cypress Valley property, where his family grew their own food, harvested their own electricity and purified water from a spring.
"The Lofthaven" features a suspension bridge, wrap-around patio and a luxurious bath house (located across the bridge on the ground).
One of the most fascinating things about the treehouses at Cypress Valley is that they are supported primarily by the tree itself (no stilts). "The Lofthaven" was even built to move with the tree, which grows through the middle of the yurt. When the trees supporting "The Nest" burnt in a wild fire, Will preserved the trunks and engineered a living canopy that acts as extra support for the treehomes, while giving the trees a second life. Now that's respecting your foundation!
Where can you park a Tiny House RV? There are many different ways to answer this question, but the simple answer is that you can park your tiny abode wherever it is legal to park a regular RV. Laws differ regarding RVs in every county, so you'll need to research your preferred parking location.
If you plan on traveling with your Tiny House RV, you will have the opportunity to park in campgrounds, National Parks, State Parks, overnight parking lots, rest stops, etc. Always read signage to make sure that "RV overnight parking" is allowed before setting up your Tiny House RV. If you are visiting a friend or family member in a county that allows RV parking, you might be parking on private land or in a residential driveway. There are many options out there, just ask any RVer!
You can design your Tiny House RV for "off-grid" or "on-grid" parking. Your future parking location may depend on your choice of utilities. It's a good idea to plan ahead and determine how flexible you'd like to be with parking and utility maintenance.
Ask yourself: Will I always have access to water and electricity? If you'd prefer to have off-grid electricity, you might consider designing your Tiny House RV with propane appliances to limit your electrical needs. If water will not always be available, you'll need to estimate how large of a fresh water tank you will need. The same goes for your grey water and black water tanks.
Ask yourself: How hands on do I want to be with my utilities? Being off-grid might mean emptying your compost toilet, rotating your solar panels and filling your fresh water tank every week. If this does not appeal to you, perhaps a parking spot with full connections is more suitable to your needs.
Watch this video for a full explanation of parking and setting up a Tiny House RV, whether you are off-grid or on-grid:
If you are interested in the products used in this video, here are details (in order of appearance):