Small Bathroom Design Tip: Showers

A popular small space shower design is an “open shower”. This design involves no shower walls or curtain – just the fixtures and a drain on the floor. It is a great space saver! Having used showers like these before, I feel it is important to note some serious drawbacks. Everything in the bathroom can now potentially get wet – your towel, your clothes and, my least favorite, the toilet seat. Safe, dry storage becomes nearly impossible. Successful open shower designs are possible, but most that avoid the above mentioned issues are in much larger spaces than those of our Cottage bathrooms.


If the goal is to keep the shower space from breaking up your already small space there are other solutions. Glass shower walls or curtains with ties that pull them back to the wall allow the eye to travel the full length of the room.


A glass shower wall inside a Tarleton
See more images of Will's Tarleton

Read our tips on baths and toilets

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — December 28, 2012

Filed under: bathroom   design   home design   tips  

J.T. Answers Your Questions!

Recently, we posted an article about J.T.'s modified Walden. It started a great conversation- blog readers responded with over 160 comments! J.T. has done his best to answer some of the questions you asked. 

J.T. in Chair


Waste water:

Alexis asked: When the septic tank gets full, is there somewhere to empty it or does it go to one of those sewage processing plants?

J.T. says: Black water is collected in an 18 gallon waste water tank by Thetford. They make a lot of RV supplies. The tank is on wheels and sits directly below the toilet under the trailer. This can be dumped at any RV park that offers a sewer dump station. For the grey water  I use a separate waste-line which collects and drains daily onto topsoil/mulch pit and vegetation.

Rain Water:

Peatstack asked: Can the house harvest rainwater, does it have a tank/filter, does it generate electricity or use a battery system with solar/ propane generator? Can it accomodate a composting toilet that the house needs no septic system? I would like a house that can sit on open agricultural land without any systems connections, the occasional propane tank and grey water drain accepted.

J.T. says: The roof's surface area is quite small, but you could divert rainwater into a collection tank for irrigation: a standard rain barrel would be overkill, but a 10 gallon tank would work. I have a 25 gallon drinking water tank onboard with a water pump. I can also hook up to a 3/4 inch garden hose. Make sure you put an RV/Marine drinking water hose or your water supply will have an off plastic odor. Water heater and pump are powered by 12v batter. 120v comes from a 20 amp extension cord into a 30 amp circuit breaker box using around .5 to 1kw per day.

Solar Power:

Annette asked: This looks like it would be the PERFECT portable office for our mounted drill team. I do have a question regarding using solar power as an energy source. Has anyone installed a solar set up and if so, what did they use and how is it working to help out with their energy usage? 

J.T. says: A Solman Action Packer System could run this house easily. A plug and play system is the solution for a tiny house- something for sure in the near future. I am considering A. 2 fixed panels on the roof of the tiny house. Orientation to the sun could be limited when a new location is found. The Solman Action Packer could easily fit in the loft area above the front door or B. 2 fixed panels on the top of my truck with the Solman system in the back of my truck. It could be parked daily in different spots to optimize sunlight, then plugged into my house daily to charge on board batteries. 

Stove and Oven:

Erica Gott asked: In mine, I want a full stove, with range AND oven, even if it's small. I love cooking and need one. I can't wait to have my own tiny home.

J.T. says: I have a 2 burner propane stove by Suburban. No oven, though a typical RV oven would fit in nicely. I use a 20 gallon propane tank under the trailer, which runs about $6 a month.

Refrigerator:

Libertymen asked: Is the refrigerator too small? 

J.T. says: I have a 3.1 cubic foot fridge under standard counter height. A 9.9 cubic foot fridge takes up the same foot print and stands around 50 inches high. You would lose useable counter space, but gain storage space

Packing Up:

Bethany asked: How does he keep things from falling off the shelves when he is moving? As well as the furniture sliding around? 

J.T. says: It takes about 10 minutes to pack everything up, and it all goes in a box! 

Front Addition: 

Jan Dregalla asked: Love the customization, especially the up-lighting  towel window shades, kitchen shelving and Ikea shelving. I'm curious, does the 2' addition on the front affect towing?

J.T. says: The extra 2 ft and added weight is on the rear, actually distributing the weight more evenly. The standard design has a lot of the weight on the towing hitch


Thanks for your great questions! 

Written by Nara Williams — December 11, 2012

Filed under: appliances   floor plans   home design   plans   small house   structure   Tumbleweed   walden  

The "Benefits" of Big House Living

Kendra Pierre-Louis is a writer, researcher, environmental strategist, and author of the 2012 book Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet. Kendra  wishes more people would hop on the small house bandwagon if not for the planet, than at least to cut down on housekeeping time. She can be found online and on Twittter

Despite my strong sustainability credentials, I sometimes feel unqualified to speak out on the evils of big houses.  There is no priest nearby, so it is to you that I make this confession: although I eviscerate the big house trend in my book Green Washed I have never lived in a big house.

My current home, a studio apartment in the New York City borough of Queens spans a spacious 220 square feet, somewhere in between the Popomo and the Bodega. My childhood home – which quite comfortably housed my mother, father and older sister – clocks in at a mere 1,120 square feet. This was totally normal square footage for 1955 when the house was built (though still some 246 square feet larger than the largest of the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, but positively Lilliputian by modern standards. In 2010 median house size spanned some 2,169 square feet (and that’s after three years of house size deflation).

Kendra's Favorite HouseA view from Kendra’s favorite small house ever – a century old, single story house in rural Vermont

Did I mention these bigger houses also house fewer people?

I confess this fact of my limited exposure to larger homes because it’s easy for us of the small house clan to rest on the intellectual superiority of our position. The science shows that smaller houses require fewer materials to build, require less energy to heat and to cool, and better coexist with the population densities that have been linked to environmentally and socially sustainable lifestyles. And though, a well-designed small house may cost more per square foot to build, they’re cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain.

Check and mate, right?

And yet, lots of people love big houses. As a relatively eco-aware friend once told me, “I grew up in a 4,000 square foot home and it was gorgeous – one day I’ll have a similarly sized home.”

Why yes, we’re still talking.

Maybe, just maybe there’s something we denizens of small abodes are missing.  

Like the experience of being able to talk to our family via intercom like one acquaintance I know who was raised in a large sprawling home in suburban, New Jersey.

In contrast, when my mother wanted me for something she was more old school – she hollered; imagine how much her vocal cords could have been saved by a comprehensive intercom system necessitated by big house living?

Here’s another benefit to big houses– you can host a lot of people.

When a friend needed to host a wide number of friends and family because of a family emergency, a family friend was able to roll out the red carpet courtesy of not one, not two, but of four guest bedrooms.

You never know when you’ll have to host an entire basketball team on a moment’s notice.

Finally, let’s not forget the absolute best thing that large homes afford us: the opportunity to ignore our family members by never, ever, existing within the same space. 

In grad school I lived in a ramshackle cottage with questionable heat and plenty of personality with two other roommates, and it was the first time I noticed this curious trend. Namely, the less house per occupant – uniformly inhabited by strangers who had agreed to live with each other sight unseen courtesy of my grad school’s e-mail list serve – the closer the roommates became over time, even when on the surface they shared nothing in common (i.e. bacon loving, pot smoking, alcohol drinking atheists sharing a place with extremely devout, hijab wearing Muslims).  Small spaces are intimate spaces and force us to get along or go our separate ways.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to have these things in a big house.

It’s just harder.

And that, I think is the most compelling argument for tiny houses isn’t an environmental one – but a social one. 

Written by Guest Blogger — December 08, 2012

Filed under: big houses   bodega   Books   Downsizing   Green Washing   home design   popomo  

Jonathan Black: Tiny House Builder, Grandson Extraordinaire

I try really hard to be a loving granddaughter: I visit my grandma as much as possible, take her out to lunch as often as she'll allow, and occasionally even help clean out her basement. So naturally, I've always had reason to believe I was the model grandchild.

That is, until I met Jonathan Black at the Tumbleweed workshop in LA.

 Jonathan Black Jonathan Black 

A former CalPoly student, 26 year old Jonathan chose to seek a different educational path after several unsatisfying years of school. He currently works as a server at a restaurant in San Luis Obispo, and says he's much happier dealing with "life stress" than "school stress." Now, he's setting out on a whole new meaningful adventure: tiny house building for a cause.

Jonathan's grandpa has stenosis, and is trying to plan ahead for the unfortunate possibility of needing to use a wheelchair. His house in Morgan Hill, however, is not wheelchair accessible. To solve this problem, the family has hatched a brilliant plan: Jonathan will build a wheelchair accessible wing on his grandparents' house.

There's only one problem: to work on the house, Jonathan needs a place to stay. His grandparents owned both a motor home and a shed, but neither was an option. The motor home needed too much work, and grandpa had already converted the shed into an office.

The perfect solution? A Tumbleweed Tiny House for Jonathan.

Jonathan loves the idea of avoiding debt, and is excited to integrate his tiny house into a larger meaningful project for his family. He purchased the Fencl plans before coming to LA. 

Brainstorming at the workshop 

Jonathan played around with many different designs at the workshop, getting input from his mom, Bethany, and other helpful attendees.

He will build the Fencl in January, hoping to use as many found and donated materials as possible. He will be blogging about the process as he goes, as well as checking in with us here.

After he completes his tiny house, he'll begin work on the wing for his grandparents. "My mom doesn't want it to look like a disabled wing," explained Bethany. "We want Jonathan to do something that doesn't look ugly, because it's a sensitive issue." Jonathan will be mentored by a local building inspector who is also an ADA inspector, seeking ways to make the wing both aesthetically pleasing and wheelchair accessible.

By the end of next year, he'll have not only blown me out of the water in the best grandchild competition, but will have completed a little house of his own. Two birds, one stone anyone?

Jonathan with grandparents and mom

Right now, Jonathan is looking for trailers in the Morgan Hill area, so please let us know if you can help!

 

Written by Nara Williams — December 07, 2012

Filed under: Build it yourself   home design   house plan   plans   small house   wheelchair accessible   workshops  

Small Kitchen Design Tips

The Best of Small Kitchen Design - The Little Rock Whidbey

Small kitchen design is unique in its need for both functionality and eye appeal. Lindsey Lewis of Little Rock, Arkansas adapted the kitchen in our Whidbey plans and takes high honors in both!

The small kitchen photos below offer great solutions for solving some of the most common small kitchen design dilemmas with stunning results!

Storage is one of the biggest issues confronting the occupant of a small kitchen. Kitchens, by their very nature, require “stuff” – pots, pans, utensils etc.  Storing these necessary items in a way that does not create visual clutter is key. Lindsey’s stunning banquet is a great option.  Linens, large pots and pans, over-sized serving platters or your Aunt Helen's favorite candle sticks will all fit snuggly and out of site in large, neutral colored baskets beneath the seating. 

An island at the center of the kitchen provides additional workspace and another option for covered storage. It has the added benefit of providing space to place items coming out of the refrigerator or, with the addition of a stool or two, a space to socialize with a glass of your favorite Sonoma wine while the meal is being prepared.

Cabinets with glass doors help make small kitchens look larger. In her Little Rock Whidbey, Lindsey uses frosted glass in her cabinet doors and a brightly colored back wall with stunning results. 

Shelves are another common option for kitchen storage. They keep things open and light but come with a few pitfalls. Most designers suggest choosing which items to place on them with great care to eliminate potential clutter. Stark white plates with cherry red bowls and stew pots make the perfect statement next to this sink. Handy hooks for coffee mugs hang below freeing up more cabinet space.

The flooring helps to create much of the character and dynamic of this custom Whidbey. Extending that flooring from the great room through both the nook and kitchen helps maintain the uniformity of the space.

Lighting is an often over-looked aspect of design.  The natural light in this Whidbey is astounding but Lindsey also took care to provide “task” lighting in key areas. Note the lights above the table, island and sink. Carefully assess how you are going to use your space and locate task lighting according to your needs.

Small kitchens do have several things going for them that their larger brethren do not. There is an inherent efficiency in a well-designed small kitchen that no large kitchen can compete with. Everything you need is at your fingertips.

The other advantage a small kitchen has is cost. Because a smaller kitchen is going to use less square footage of counter space and fewer cabinets you will be saving money. Apply the funds to upgrades. High quality counter tops have great visual appeal and wear better over time. Custom cabinetry with high-end pulls and handles add immense value and character.

Congratulations Lindsey on a stunning adaptation of Tumbleweed's Whidbey! Your kitchen is an inspiration! 

For more tips from the number one name in small house design read The Small House Book.  

 

Written by Bernadette Weissmann — November 13, 2012

Filed under: design   Downsizing   home design   kitchens   Whidbey  
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