Every week I get hundreds of emails from people interested in our tiny homes from around the world. The level of interest swings rather wildly. There are those who have become swiftly convinced that living smaller is better, to those who like the concept but just can’t see themselves living in such a small space. After speaking to many from both ends of the spectrum, its become apparent to me that for many, the two biggest obstacles to living in a tiny home is a) the size of the home and b) where in the world will you put all your stuff. In this post, we’ll talk about the first one.
Space is relative I won’t try to kid you: moving from what most people call a normal-sized home to a tiny or small home is definitely a reduction of square footage. But is it really a reduction of livable space? Let’s define livable space as the area you need to take care of life’s necessities. With that definition in mind, look around your current location. How much space do you occupy at any given time? When you sit at your desk to travel the world wide web, the rest of your space becomes irrelevant to you. What I mean is this: your kitchen stands empty when you desk chair is full. What about the distance it takes to get from desk to kitchen? Outside of wall space to hang some artwork or photos, how much wasted space do you see between those two locations? The truth is that you have exactly the same usable space in a tiny home without all the vacuuming. The same is true when it comes to the bedroom. For most of us it serves a primary purpose: sleeping, which most of us readily admit we do not get enough of. When you come home from a long day of work, do you go into your bedroom and run from wall to wall, marveling at the space? Most of us don’t. We see out bedrooms as a simple and rudimentary location. It serves a basic purpose. The same is true with a tiny home, the main difference being that it is out of sight in most of the homes we design. As many tiny house owners will tell you, the small sleeping space works just fine for getting some needed shut-eye.
There is one benefit that a tiny home provides that no mini-mansion can: you begin to see the space outside of your home as another livable, usable space. There are no walls, there’s plenty of room to move about and wonders of wonders, there is so much to do out there! When I read the blogs and emails from happy tiny home owners, I always get the sense that they’ve discovered this simple truth and they are the better for it. When you step into one of our homes, the fear that you’re about to be confined to a claustrophobic space gives way to the overall sense of coziness and surprising openness of the home. That’s because they’ve been designed by someone who is a true craftsman. It’s real, livable space and it might just be all the space you’ll ever need.
Tumbleweed Tiny House Company
This little house journey was probably first inspired by my love of the children's book Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burns.
Andrew was a boy who liked to "build things," but his family often scolded him for taking their things to use as building supplies. So Andrew, goes off to a meadow and builds his own tiny house. Soon every kid in town has joined Andrew and he builds them all houses to suit their personalities. One gets a house built over the creek so he can sail his toy boats; another gets a house in the trees so she can bird watch; another gets an underground house so she can be with her pets who live underground. As a kid, I was amazed. First that anyone could build their own house, and second that you could have a house suited perfectly for you.
When I built this tiny house, my brother gave me the first annual Andrew Henry Award. The tiny house inspired him to follow his own dream of buying the boat he's always wanted. There will be years of renovating before it's seaworthy, but he's calling his Florida Trawler "Andrew Henry."
Interestingly, Doris Burns lived in her own tiny house when she wrote her books.
"According to the blurb accompanying that book, her studio was "a small cabin where she spends the day at work after chopping enough wood to keep the fire going through the day, hauling two buckets of water from the pump for washing brushes and pens and brewing 'a perpetual pot of tea'". In 1965 Waldron Island was without electricity, telephone service, running water or merchants. All of her goods and supplies were brought by boat from the mainland." Wikipedia (Note – since I still own the book, I can verify that this is what the blurb says.)
In any case, reading Andrew Henry's Meadow was life changing. It planted the seed of a tiny house, dozens of books germinated the seed, and Tumbleweed's workshop fertilized it. The plans made all the difference. Without them, I wouldn't have known where to begin. Obviously, Bob St. Cyr and his class did 95% of the hard labour. Sure I paid the bills, and I wielded the odd hammer, but the little house only exists because of Bob, Bob's class (especially Denny and Aaron).
Thanks so much. I'll send a final blog after all the finishing details and decorating are done.
We put the little house to sleep in November – we drained the water and locked the doors. That was pretty much it.
When the roofers came they missed some areas that needed caulking, so we recorded all of these, used some tape to show where the problems were and hopefully it will get fixed asap.
Though the daytime weather was beautiful (13 degree celcius), it was quite cool in the evening. Still we were toasty warm. I guess two people in a tiny space generate a fair bit of heat. We didn't notice this in the summer because the windows were always open, and even in the warmest weather we stayed cool. Conversely, we're staying toasty in lower temperatures. We didn't use a heater, though we had a little ceramic one. We turned it on for about 15 minutes, and then it just wasn't necessary. We've got good sleeping bags so maybe that makes a difference. Someday, I might install propane. For now, this will do. We're not staying there in the winter for more than a night or two so this won't be a problem short term.
I love sleeping under the eaves and hearing the rain fall, it makes me fall asleep with a smile.
The little couch is actually a dog bed that belonged to my Gram. It just fit through the tiny door. We had to take the door off its hinges to fit it in, but it worked. Of course, now I wish the dog bed was a few inches longer so it would butt up right to the walls. The stool is also ancient. I haven't brought anything new into the tiny house for furnishings and that's satisfying. I did buy material for the dog bed cushion and stool, but even that was bought on sale and I did the sewing myself.
We went up a couple of weekends to install the ceiling paneling and the end gables. We got more proficient and by the second weekend we were flying along. We won't be touching anything else until the spring. So all trim work and baseboards will wait until then. Still, the house looks wonderful and it is worth every penny. For inspiration, in the last ten years, I've had a picture on my fridge of a woman reading in her tiny house, now I can replace that house with my house. It's very satisfying.
We've got a queen sized mattress in the loft and it feels quite roomy. I can sit up without knocking my head; however, I'm five feet tall. My husband has to be more careful.
Northwestern Students Design an Off-Grid Tiny House
At the beginning of 2009, a group of six undergraduate engineering students at Northwestern University were introduced to the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and the Small House Movement. Inspired by Tumbleweed’s designs and realizing its potential for promoting environmental sustainability, they began conceptualizing their version of the next generation of tiny homes.
Through the support of Northwestern University, the staff at the Segal Design Institute, and the greater Evanston community, the students combined innovations from various fields of architecture and green design to create plans for an off-grid home that works to balance comfort and sustainability. The tiny house collects its own solar energy and water to reduce its environmental impact. Fitted with a rainwater catchment and solar panel system, the 128ft2 footprint provides enough power and potable water to sustain a single tenant year-round in the Midwest climate.
Notable attributes of the house include a stand-alone photovoltaic system with a battery bank, a water storage system that fits underneath the house, an active solar water heating system, and dual-purpose awnings for both shade and rainwater collection. The house is equipped with additional features to reduce energy and water consumption, such as incorporating DC powered loads, a shower with an efficient, low-flow showerhead, a non-electric composting toilet, and a woodstove to heat the home.
Currently, the team is focused on upcoming construction efforts and generating additional funding. The Northwestern Tiny House Project has received support from the Breed Fund for Design, the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge, as well as private donations. View their website at www.tinyurl.com/nutinyhouse for more detailed information about the project as well as how you can help.