In architecture, the roof shape of a structure will have a big impact on the overall design. Above you can see six basic roof shapes, but for the purposes of this concise article we are only going to discuss the following: 1). Gable Roof, 2). Gambrel Roof, 3). Hipped Roof, and 4). Flat Roof.
Remember there are advantages and disadvantages to every roof shape, but most importantly you should choose the shape that best fits the visual aesthetic of your entire Tiny House RV design.
When you ask a child to draw a house, what do they usually draw? Answer: A gable roof shape with two windows, a door and perhaps a chimney. The gable roof shape is classic, sophisticated and summons an emotional connection of "home".
Here is what the interior of a Tiny House RV with a gable roof looks like:
The gambrel roof shape is a staple for the traditional American "country home". As you travel through the rural areas of the United States, you will see many examples of the gambrel roof used on farmhouses and barns. You might also see this roof shape used in a few colonial residences around New England.
Here is what the interior of a Tiny House RV with a gambrel roof looks like:
The gambrel roof provides more interior ceiling space than the gable, while also providing a decent slope for snow and rain runoff. That being said, this roof shape is more difficult to construct and will be heavier than a traditional gable.
The hipped roof, seen here on a Tumbleweed Cypress, is our most popular Tiny House RV design. A visual charmer, hipped roof shapes can be seen all over the country in residential architecture. The design resonates will many home owners, which has lead to its overwhelming popularity.
Here is what the interior of a Tiny House RV with a hipped roof looks like:
The hipped roof, as seen above in the small loft above the door, slants inward but still provides ample space for storage or a display.
The term "flat roof" is a bit of a misnomer. This roof shape is not completely flat, but actuality has a slight slant for rain runoff. Flat roofs are an ancient form of architecture, but the design is still used all over the world today. For example, most green roofs (roofs used for growing vegetation) are flat roofs.
Here is what the interior of a Tiny House RV with a hipped roof looks like:
So which of these roof shapes would you choose for your Tiny House RV? Comment below!
Let’s do a fun spacial exercise to help you design the interior layout of your Tiny House RV. WARNING: MATH IS REQUIRED!
Consider your Tiny House RV as a pie chart. Your space could (and maybe should) be divided based on the amount of usage each room receives per day. Rooms common in most Tiny House RV’s are the: 1). Bedroom, 2). Bathroom, 3). Great Room, 4). Kitchen 5). Storage / Closet.
Here is an example.
First of all, as a Tiny House RV owner, let’s assume you’ll be spending time outdoors, exploring or perhaps at work. For this example, we’ll be subtracting 8 hours from your 24 hour day as time spent outside your RV on a daily basis. The below percentages were calculated from the remaining 16 hours you’ll be spending inside your Tiny House RV.
Bedroom. Let’s say you spend 8 hours a day in your bedroom. That would average 50% of your interior usage.
Bathroom. Let’s say you take a 10 minute shower every day. For easy math, let’s also say that your primping and other bathroom visits might take up another 50 minutes of the day. That’s 1 hour total or 6.25% of your interior usage.
Great Room (or Living Room / Dining Room combination). Let’s assume you spend on average about 4 hours in your great room. This space will encompass all lounging and dining. Of course, if you work from home, this number will increase as we can assume your office will be part of this space as well. 4 hours = 25% of your interior usage.
Kitchen. Let’s say you love to cook and will be preparing most of your meals in your Tiny House RV. On average, let’s estimate your cooking and clean up for three meals per day can take approximately 2 hours each day, or about 12.5%.
Storage Closet. The major variable here will be the space (probably divided in multiple closets) you’ll be using to store your belongings. Let’s assume this space, when combined, is equivalent to the size of your bathroom space: 6.25%.
If you look at this data, you can begin to divide your space based on usage in a pie graph. Now think about each of those slices as the approximate size of each room based on your usage. Do you really want half of your house to be a bedroom? How much space do you need to sleep? Maybe you can size that down and redistribute that space to another room. Another option is to consider a murphy bed or lofted bedroom. The loft, such as in the Elm, Cypress or Linden, is NOT included in the total square footage. This is why many Tiny House RVs have a lofted bedroom.
So let's consider a Cypress 24, which has 172 square feet of interior living space, NOT including the lofted bedroom. If you eliminate the bedroom, and redo your calculations based on the remaining 8 hours of interior space usage (because in your 24 hour day we assume you'll be in the lofted bedroom for 8 hours and outside for 8 hours), your chart looks something like this:
Now we can divide up the 172 square feet of the Cypress 24 to calculate the spacial usage of each room.
Bathroom: 12.5% / 21.5 square feet
Great Room: 50% / 86 square feet
Kitchen: 25% / 43 square feet
Storage Closet: 12.5% / 21.5 square feet
*Not included in 172 square feet: Lofted bedroom
Now the fun part starts! Once you have your approximate room square footages, based on your daily usage, you can begin to draw your layout or manipulate one of our standard layouts. Get creative! Can you move some of you storage into the loft? Can you add a murphy bed that would combine your great room with your bedroom? Do you have room for an office or small downstairs bedroom? Perhaps you’ll learn something about yourself and your space!
Check out our standard layouts, and decide which Tiny House RV design works best for you, based on this exercise!
I've been traveling around in my tiny house RV for six months now. I'm very comfortable inside the small space, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few challenges along the way. Once or twice I’ve cried out in frustration, “it’s too small!” Other times I’ve been thankful for having less space to clean and maintain, and for the freedom it has provided.
Below are FIVE unexpected lessons my tiny house RV has taught me in the past six months:
1). I CARE MORE ABOUT CONSUMPTION
I know how much water I use on a daily basis- approximately 15 gallons when I take navy showers. I know how often I need to dump the urine container on my composting toilet - every 3 days. I know how much propane I use per month - about 15 pounds. I have to physically empty my grey water tank, fill my fresh water tank, refill my propane tanks, dump my toilet, etc.
I take navy showers and use the Nature's Head to conserve water and propane.
Measuring my consumption in physical labor has made me more conscious of my waste. There’s a HUGE difference between seeing decimals and graphs on your monthly bill and having to physically refill your tanks. I use less. I waste less. I save more money.
2). I THINK BEFORE I PURCHASE
I have nightmares about clutter. In a tiny traveling house, clutter can mean the difference between owning three mugs or four. I don’t shop often, but when I do I have to know: 1). What purpose will the new item serve? 2). Can it replace something else and/or increase the functionality of my daily life? 3). Where will it be stored? If I can’t answer those three questions, I DON'T NEED IT!
I try to keep my kitchen counters empty. Everything tucks away and has a place.
3). I APPRECIATE THE IMPERFECTIONS
As I travel around, I've had the opportunity to tour many other tiny house RVs. Sometimes I swoon over a great space saving idea or an innovative layout. I call it "tiny-envy." I have to remind myself that my partner and I had zero construction experience before building our tiny abode. It's not perfect, but my house is still pretty darn cool. And it's mine! When we were building I was so meticulous about everything. If something wasn't perfect, I wanted to redo it. Now those imperfections that once made me cringe, don’t bother me at all. In fact, I kind of like them! Each nick, scratch and hole was a lesson and a memory.
4). "IF YOU BUILD IT, YOU WILL FILL IT"
This is sound advice from my friend and fellow tiny house RVer - Art Cormier. Guillaume and I recently modified our staircase to have a few extra storage compartments. And now they're full! Uh oh…the clutter monster is knocking at our door! We’re going to have to think twice before adding any new shelving or storage spaces in the future. If there's no place to put new stuff, I don't need it! (See lesson #2).
My kitchen cabinet. I own three mugs, two cups, two wine glasses and a bunch of spices. It's full!
5). I'M LESS NEEDY
Perhaps my partner would argue, but I'm going to make an assumption that I'm less needy now than I've ever been before. I have less, but I want and need less as well. When I think about all the stuff I used to own and purchase, I feel overwhelmed. This small space has challenged me to unburden myself. I like the new care-free me!
Just for fun, here are a few more ways my life has changed from traveling in a tiny house RV:
I clean less. I shop less. I cook more. I consume less. I primp less. I dress better. I eat better. I sleep more. I read more. I watch TV less. I drive less. I play with my dog more. I hike more. I go to the gym less. I travel WAY more.
Meet Derek and his backyard Tiny House RV located in the heart of New Orleans!
Derek's modified Cypress 18 was originally used for a living space close to work, but recently he purchased a big house in town and has parked his tiny abode in the backyard. His Tumbleweed is now used for recreation and occasional overnights.
For Derek, the build was a learning experience and a labor of love. "I would have a hard time parting with it (the tiny house)," he admits. Watch the below video tour where Derek openly shares the mistakes he made during construction and offers tips for future tiny house builders.
A highlight of Derek's tiny house RV is his transforming couch design. While the couch can act as a comfortable sitting area, it also transforms into a dinning area for four AND a full size bed!
Derek's couch and storage bench / sitting area
Derek's inspiration for this design came from the boating world. "And it was pretty simple to make," he explains. A hidden hinged piece of wood seamlessly latches the couch to the storage bench, creating a downstairs sleep space for two! The back rest of the storage bench in turn becomes the footboard of the bed. Cushions from the bench and couch are rearranged to create the mattress. Every item has two purposes!
Derek's transforming couch as a dinning area for four
A hidden hinged piece of wood connects with a lip to the storage bench for a bed
The cushions are used as a mattress for the bed.
As for the exterior, Derek chose to go with traditional cedar siding, red trim and a red metal roof. Other features include a mini-split air conditioner, aluminum clad windows and a loft skylight.
His galley kitchen acts as the centerpiece of the small space with an apartment sized refrigerator, hot plates (that tuck away), toaster over, large farmhouse sink and plenty of counter space!
Derek's tiny bathroom features a unique alternative to the fiberglass shower stall. He chose to construct his own shower walls from a metal roofing material, creating an industrial aesthetic. His bathroom also features a flush toilet and a pocket door.
Derek's shower stall is a standard size - 32" x 32"
For more information on Derek's customized Cypress, follow him on Instagram @noladerek
Ladder vs. Staircase. This is a huge topic in the Tiny House RV world. How will I access my loft? A staircase will take up room, but a ladder seems difficult and dangerous to climb. How can I decide? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Let’s look at some photo examples and discuss the pros and cons of each.
Space Saving. A ladder will save you valuable floorspace.
Tuck it Away. Tuck your ladder behind a bookshelf or into a hidden slot. You could also use a rope ladder, which can be rolled up when not in use.
Versatility. Ladders can be used in any tiny home. Stairs are not possible is all tiny homes, especially those without dormers.
Lightweight. Ladders are usually very lightweight, unlike stairs.
Mobility. Simply move your ladder to access your front storage loft.
Can be used on a slope. You can build your ladder to function on a slight slope instead of straight up and down. This will make it easier to climb and more secure. Use flat footed rungs. Rounded rungs can be uncomfortable underfoot, avoid these.
Easy to climb. This is the biggest “pro” of stairs.
Can be used for storage. You can also hide utilities within a staircase, such as a water tank, water heater, etc.
Tumbleweed Cypress with storage staircase to the loft. Notice the loft has a cutout passage for staircase access.
There’s no way around it: stairs take up space. This is a big “con.” Of course, if you utilize the inside of your staircase as storage, this space could be functional.
Heavy. Adding stairs to your Tiny House RV means that you are undoubtedly adding weight. You might need to compensate for the poundage elsewhere.
Cannot be used in all Tiny House RVs. Stairs require a certain amount of headroom, at least for the top step. You will need to plan a-head for stairs (pun intended). Extend your dormers past the loft flooring, or create a cut out for staircase entrance to the loft.
Mobility. You cannot move your staircase. You will still need a ladder to access the front storage loft.
Spiral staircase in Francis Camosse's Tiny House RV. Photo credit: telegram.com.
A normal staircase would not be possible in this Tiny House RV unless a portion of the loft floor was cut out for entrance, or the staircase was placed in the center. A spiral staircase is a great way around this obstacle.
Is there another way? Of course! One of the most appealing ideologies behind Tiny House RV design is that you have the freedom to be creative. Use a rock climbing wall, a climbing rope or a pole vault to access your loft! Use alternating tread or a half staircase / half ladder. Use a slide or a fireman's pole to get down. Or how about an elevator??
So what are you leaning towards: LADDER or STAIRS? Comment below.