Tiny Home + Interior Design Advice
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 stages.
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 make.
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 areas.
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.
Lastly, 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 available
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 protrusions
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 from condensation
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 airspace
Cons: Costly, relatively new and unproven, weak warranties, fairly high weight, require installation expertise, not fully interlocking
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 distance).
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 unloading.
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 moving frequently).
Stained glass to bring in light while adding artistic elements.
Curtains to provide privacy when needed and open up room when required.
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 needs.
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.