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):
The Academy of Career Education (a.k.a “ACE” high school) in Reno, Nevada is not only embracing tiny homes as an alternative housing option but also as an educational tool for their students. Being a tuition-free charter school focusing on construction and engineering, each student at ACE becomes OSHA certified and is offered a variety of courses with hands-on training in home building.
“We were looking for new projects,” ACE instructor Tony Clark explains, “and we happened to see a news story on a boy that built his own tiny home instead of a fort. After that, we did some research and found Tumbleweed.” After pitching the project to Tumbleweed President Steve Weissmann, Mr. Clark and his students were donated a set of Cypress 20 plans. Clark also attended a workshop last fall and purchased three Tumbleweed trailers. In January 2014, ACE students began building three tiny homes.
“We have about 45-50 students taking the course, between the ages of 15-18 years old,” explains Clark. “All the traditional techniques for building a home are covered, and then some! There are more codes to follow when building a tiny home, as well as weight, propane and movement to consider. I think the biggest benefit is that it makes the kids better problem solvers.”
Justin Moore, a student taking the course, believes building a tiny home will make anyone a better carpenter. "Tiny homes are a growing trend, and learning to build off-grid housing is extremely beneficial."
One of Clark’s favorite teaching moments was when two of his award winning carpentry students installed the shower insert. “They triple checked their work, but they forgot to make sure the trailer was level.” Clark chuckled, remembering. “They had to do the work all over again. It’s not something you would encounter in a regular home, and so it was an excellent learning experience for them.”
Before summer break, the students were sheathing the roof and had started on electricity and insulation. They’ll pick back up when schools begins in September, with the goal of being finished by December 2014.
“We have some interested buyers for two of the tiny homes, and we’ll keep the third on display.” Mr. Clark went on to say that all the money made from the sale will go straight back into funding the program. “I want to continue building tiny homes at ACE. The students have really embraced it.”
Justin (Clark's student) agrees, "I think tiny homes are very very cool. I could see myself living in one, but I would customize it to fit my lifestyle."
*All photos provided by ACE High School
*For more information on the ACE High School Tiny House project, click here.
Jenna Spesard is currently building a Tumbleweed Cypress with her partner, Guillaume, who is a professional photographer and Tumbleweed Workshop Host. After the build is complete, they plan to travel around North America in their tiny house blogging and photographing their adventure. More on their tiny house and giant journey here.