The popularity of the Tiny Home social movement
driven by Americans downsizing their living spaces and housing costs in search
of freedom and efficiency; has created a nascent industry poised for further
interior design evolvement.
In actuality the term Tiny Home encompasses a
continuum of living forms under 400 square feet. In decades past the same human
desires were fulfilled by mobile homes and hitch campers as Americans sought
affordability and other mobility freedoms. Today there are all different forms of
luxury RV’s and converted campers on the market for glamorous glamping trips;
as Tiny Houses come in all different forms, sizes, shapes and construction
On the east coast old semi-truck trailers are
the most popular form, while on the west coast old shipping containers are more
frequently converted into Tiny Houses. The mid-west has seen a boom in
converted buses, while the rest of the country is beginning to explore all
imaginable DIY ideas for building trailers or any other base that can be easily
converted and hauled.
While the demand of Americans downsizing is
apparent; the primary industry component missing is a plentiful supply of
qualified and knowledgeable designers and retailers specializing in turning
Tiny Home interior DIY dreams into interior design realities.
Tiny Home Transportation:
Before beginning your Tiny Home dream project
you must determine what your goals are with the overall frequency of
transportation. Is it something that you plan to never move from a piece of
land you own or will you be moving it through multiple states over the course
of a few years?
This distinction is vital because of the
differences in state laws and local ordinances governing size, weight and
height limits on the transportation of your Tiny home. Your personal ability to
hitch it to the back of your powerful pick-up truck or the requirement to
outsource your Tiny Home transportation to an all-service hauling company on
each move is another vital consideration.
While most people only end-up moving their Tiny
home 2-3 times over the lifetime of their ownership, deciding on your ultimate
method of transportation is the starting point driving all other interior
design decisions since it will correlate with the overall size and shell type
of your Tiny Home.
For starters remember that most mobile Tiny
Homes will typically be classified as an RV. Thus, laws applying to sanitary
discharge and even zoning allowances will apply like the unit is an RV, unless
cities have passed more specific or restrictive ordinances addressing Tiny Home
variances which many more jurisdictions are starting to pass. You can research
US state towing laws depending on the direction of your overall design as any
of these trailers will be regulated by the department of transportation.
In general since many Tiny Homes will be
regulated like an RV it should generally be able to fit within the 8-6’’ width
length of most major freeways. It should be less than 13-6’’ in height to clear
major overpasses, and the total length cannot be more than 40-feet long, with a
maximum of 65-feet maximum including the tow vehicle being used. Speed limits
will vary, however a Tiny Home in California meeting these requirements would
be able to drive at 55 MPH. The larger the Tiny Homes height and weight, the
bigger the hauling trucks engine obviously must be.
Generally a Tiny Home less than 20 feet could be
towed by a half ton truck like a Toyota Tundra or Ford f-150. However, any Tiny
home much bigger or heavier is going to require the next step-up in engine size
to a one ton pickup like a Ford F-350, GMC Sierra 3500, or Dodge Ram 3500. Some
of the larger one ton pickups can also come as a dually with four wheels in
back which allows the towing tongue to handle larger Tiny Homes above 28 feet
nicely. If you plan to tow it yourself you can pretty much customize anything
imaginable falling into these requirements until it reaches 26,001 pounds at
which point it would require a separate commercial license in order to tow.
When looking at different state laws and DOT
requirements keep in mind some of the following information.
Dry weight refers
to the structure and trailer combined weight. GVWR or gross vehicle weight
rating refers to maximum allowable weight of the combined Tiny House RV,
trailer and your personal belongings.
Tongue weight refers to weight carried by
the hitch rather than the wheels of the trailer. Insufficient tongue weight is
the primary reason it’s difficult for 1/2 ton trucks to tow many Tiny homes.
There are many companies renting out vehicles
suitable for your Tiny Home’s transportation or you can outsource the entire
move altogether to a professional. Once you decide on your game plan for moving
frequency and transportation of your Tiny Home, then you can proceed to the
more eccentric interior design decisions.
Tiny Home Shell Stage:
If you’re going to convert something like an old
bus you’ll already have the general exterior design plan and Tiny Home
transportation plan in place. Someone building a custom tiny home structure on
top of a flat trailer haul could design nearly anything feasible. A 20 ft.
shipping container can provide you with many options, especially when 2
containers (towed separately) can be combined and off-set for a more luxurious
feel. After deciding on the type of container you will be purchasing or
building, you still have many decisions to make on the stage of your Tiny Home
shell you will be starting out from.
Ready Made – While many people prefer the idea
of adding value to their Tiny homes, a ready made unit will allow you an
immediate way to have a complete unit shipped out to you that is move in ready.
Ready Made Shell – Some people would prefer a
ready-made shell framed on a trailer and delivered out to just add all interior
and exterior finish work. This option will allow you to avoid some of the
difficult framing and exterior decisions, while still being able to add your
own designer touches and finishes.
Component Parts – While sourcing all of the different
component parts from different places and deciding what material your core base
will be made from is the most difficult option to pursue, it is also can be the
most cost effective and can also be the most rewarding decision you ultimately
Exterior Design Decisions:
After deciding on your Tiny Home transportation
and shell type, it’s time to make some decisions on the overall exterior design
plan for your Tiny home.
Windows – The starting point to your
exterior design decisions starts with the overall functionality, budget and
plan for your Tiny Home’s windows. Your total Tiny Home budget will drive the
appropriate amount to invest in windows, since they’re crucial for opening up
your tiny space and lessening any potential feelings of claustrophobia. The
simplest and cheapest option will often be something like picture windows,
however they won’t open and frequently increasing airflow and generating a nice
breeze can often increase the overall utility of your Tiny Home space. Thus,
unless you’re working with a limited budget, it’s recommended to invest in your
windows if you can afford it. Options can include a casement window which is
attached to its frame by one or more hinges which are hinged on the side. While
windows hinged at the top are referred to as awning windows, and windows hinged
at the bottom are called hoppers.
Keep in mind that by placing two casement
windows opposite each other you’ll have the opportunity to increase airflow
with a stronger breeze which can be crucial in hotter climates or on hot days
given the limited air circulation. Alternatively, awning windows can be left partially
open during times when it’s raining.
Whatever you decide correct placement of your
Tiny Home windows is essential, and you can always have different types of
windows for different parts of your Tiny home like bay windows for your
kitchen, awning windows for your loft and casement windows for higher inaccessible
Once you decide on the overall window design,
you’ll also want to keep in mind the differences in types of windows since
there can be great variations based on materials. Moisture issues can become
magnified in tiny spaces, so you’ll want to research the differences in window
types. Aluminum windows are often the cheapest, however are more prone to
condensation. Conversely, vinyl windows are the most resistant to moisture, but
will typically not be as visually aesthetic. Wood frame windows look great,
however will be expensive and are the hardest to maintain. Aluminum clad and
Fiberglass windows are often going to look the most fashionable, but can also be
the most expensive depending on the specific brand and window type desired.
In terms of ideal window insulation value for
your Tiny Home you’ll most likely want to avoid single pane windows. In most
cases low-e double pane windows should provide enough insulation value for what
you’re looking for, while only extreme weather conditions would justify the increased
cost of triple pane windows. Also, since your Tiny Home will be on the road at
least once, you’ll want to make sure the glass is tempered. It is also highly
recommended that shutters can be closed on the tongue side of the trailer if
installed before transportation. Otherwise you may want to cover them with
plywood or other durable material when transporting your Tiny Home to insure
there is no damage.
if you are not planning to move your Tiny House, you can purchase windows that
are rated for the altitude in which you are located. Otherwise if you are
planning on traveling with your Tiny home or are not sure of its final
destination, you’ll want to purchase windows with a high altitude rating. If
you do not purchase windows with a high altitude rating and you travel to an
area located at a high altitude, there is a significant chance that the seal
will be broken from the changes in pressure.
Roof – Will your Tiny Home have a gabled
roof and what type of material will it be made from? Typically you’ll want to
keep in mind that the roofs pitch should be at a 45 degree angle in order to
meet requirements of 8’ walls and height limits. There are many options on the
type of roof you can choose from. Simply keep in mind that one of your goals
should be to make your ceilings as high as possible to open up the room. Also,
keep in mind that one of the best roof options could ultimately allow you to
use the roof as a sundeck when maximizing overall utility.
Once you decide on the style of your roof, you
will need to decide on the pros and cons of different roof material options.
Below are some things to consider as provided by Tinyhouseroof.com.
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to install, readily
Cons: 2.5 – 4.25 pounds per square foot,
failure-prone sealants, limited wind resistance, can’t be used below 3:12 roof
pitch, life expectancy less than 20 years, prone to streaks and stains
Membrane Roofing such as PVC, TPO, or Rubber
Pros: Create a solid membrane, well suited to
lower pitch roofs, fairly low weight
Cons: Require special installation skills,
unattractive appearance, 15 year life expectancy, difficult to seal around
Steel Standing Seam
Pros: Many color choices, life expectancy of
over 35 years, can be used on lower pitch roofs, reflective pigments available,
interlocking panels, clip fastened varieties allow for thermal movement, good
for collecting clean water
Cons: Can appear industrial or agricultural,
require some installation skill, difficult to ship long distances
Steel Through-Fastened Panels
Pros: Inexpensive metal roof, many color
options, easy to install, high wind resistance, clean water collection
Cons: Life expectancy is limited to about 20 years
by exposed fasteners, no allowance for expansion and contraction, can rely on
sealants, not suggested for less than 3:12 roof pitch
Pros: Reflective pigments available, integral
airspace for a thermal break and energy efficiency, installer-friendly, easily
transported, weigh around 0.80 pounds per square foot, interlocking panels,
painted products resist algae and mildew streaks and are good for water
collection, products available that look like slate, shake, shingles, and tile,
long life expectancy, strong warranties
Cons: 3:12 minimum pitch, more costly than some
options, may require custom made flashings
Aluminum Standing Seam
Pros: Rust resistance makes it ideal for all
climates including salt climates, clip-fastened varieties allow for thermal
movement, Energy Star listed products with reflective pigments available,
interlocking panels, can be used on lower pitch roofs, good for water
collection, life expectancy in excess of 50 years
Cons: More costly than many products, limited
availability, can be costly to transport, requires some installation expertise,
can have a non-residential appearance
Pros: Excellent for salt climates and damp
climates, interlocking panels for wind resistance, low weight option at under
0.50 pounds per square foot, integral airspace for energy efficiency, naturally
algae resistant, easy to install, many attractive designs and colors, good
surface for water collection, very long life expectancy, strong warranties
Cons: More costly than some products, may
require special flashings, 3:12 minimum pitch requirement
Pros: Very long lasting, distinctive beauty,
reasonably low in weight, high wind resistance, some products are suitable for
low pitch roofs, naturally algae resistant, develop patina over time, available
in shingle design with integral airspace for energy efficiency
Cons: Run-off water can streak siding over time,
costly, installation skill required, water collection not advised
Pros: Long lasting, distinctive beauty, reasonably
low in weight, high wind resistance, naturally algae resistant, changes color
over time, available in shingle design for energy efficiency
Cons: Costly, installation skill required, water
collection not advised, not suggested for salt climates, prone to degradation
Pros: Long lasting, uniquely distinctive beauty
Cons: Very heavy, very costly and expensive to
source, requires considerable installation skill, can require repair as it
ages, high thermal mass stores heat
Wood Shakes and Shingles
Pros: Natural beauty, low thermal mass
Cons: Collect and hold moisture, support fungal
growth, short life expectancy, costly, difficult to source, requires
considerable installation expertise, can require repair with age, perform
poorly in damp climates
Composite Slate / Shingle
Pros: Attractive designs and colors, integral
Cons: Costly, relatively new and unproven, weak
warranties, fairly high weight, require installation expertise, not fully
Pros: Provides a distinctive look, offers
protection from external fires
Cons: Very heavy in weight, poses high cave-in
risk in the event of an interior fire, requires installation expertise, prone
to maintenance with age, high thermal mass holds heat and radiates it into the
home even after the sun goes down, weak warranties.
Tiny Home Furniture + Interior Design
After you have made all the critical decisions
on the form and function of your Tiny Home is when the real fun begins.
The limits of design elements, functions and DIY
creativity are limitless; while ingenuity and patience are required. Here are
some more ideas to spark your interior design imagination.
Tucking away and folding functional items into
other furnishings that can be used functionally are the key pieces of the
design puzzle that must be solved to maximize space and efficiency. Expert Tiny
Home designers will combine 3 or 4 elements into one piece of furniture. A
company like SofaOutlet.Com can build you a sofa that folds into a sleeper with
built in storage ottomans that can be moved around to expand sofa dimensions.
Don’t forget about simple ideas like hammocks that can be easily strung up for
additional guests. The shape of your home will ultimately determine the outcome
of your overall sleeping options, however any type of roof pitch can be
justified by putting up loft spaces (which can also be essential for breaking
up Tiny Home into separate spaces for couples occasionally needing some
Multi-Function Murphy / Trundle /Sofa Sleeper Beds are a must.
Expanding Dinner Tables with Leafs.
Mini Yacht that can be converted to go from Sea to Land.
Trundle bed hidden into a platform.
Storage built into stair cases.
Decks or greenhouse elements that can be attached after
Countertops made specifically for Tiny Homes (lighter and
designed not to crack during transportation)
Combining 2 containers and attaching in offset manner.
Rustic Wall Mounted Desk & Shelf.
Kitchen Fireplace that can also be used as a Pizza oven.
Garden Cabin that can function to grow most of your essential
fruits and veggies.
Floor cover for underground hot tub / bath (More feasible if not
Stained glass to bring in light while adding artistic elements.
Curtains to provide privacy when needed and open up room when
Larger rugs and artwork can open up the room, while not
effecting the space.
Pocket doors can be effective for tight spaces.
Have ottomans that can be used for seating and different storage
Hang high curtains to top of wall, even if above and below windows.
Choose lighting that can be attached to wall or hung from ceiling
to save floor space.
Use Sofas with Lower seating levels.
Call or visit the design team from Sofa Outlet
for customized advice and furnishing designed specifically for your Tiny Home.
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