Regardless of the size of our homes, we all feel like we could use more space. If you start to look around with the eye of a tiny house builder, you’ll start to see available space all over. Here are some good things to keep in mind when designing for maximum function in small homes.
Making a small home work for multiple people
The smaller the space, the more important it becomes to have a layout that facilitates positive interaction and harmony among the occupants. You want to think about the activities in the home that need to happen simultaneously and work to predict where friction may occur. Can more than one person get dressed at a time? Is it possible for two people to work in the kitchen together? How much privacy is required for the bedroom? Are work and sleeping schedules aligned? Finding ways that allow people to conduct their daily routines without being impeded by one another is important for any well-designed home. In a tiny house, it becomes more of a top priority.
Some elements of a home are meant to serve the needs of all humans. Bathrooms, kitchens, dining areas and bedrooms are all elements I believe belong in any home and typically we design for these elements first. Then we shift attention to the more individual needs for the space. How many people will there be, what are the cooking habits, storage requirements, ADA needs, guest beds, is it movable, etc… When designing for tiny homes, I prefer to go about the process in reverse. Placing the individual needs first and then go about fitting the utilities around the edges. It’s just a simple alteration of thought process but it makes it easy to escape the restraints of convention, develop truly individualized designs and more accurately portray the identity of the homeowner.
Advice for new tiny home builders
Remember the function of aesthetics. It is no secret that small homes are not always welcomed into many neighborhoods. Being welcomed or resented by the community has a real impact on your ability to enjoy life. So, it’s even more important when building small homes to think about where you intend to live and the impact your home will have on the neighbors. You have to do everything you can to make it a positive addition to the community. If you make the home adorable enough, it’s really hard for anyone to argue against it and with a Tiny Home, adding some custom touches to the exterior shouldn’t blow out your budget. It’s also a fantastic incentive to become a great neighbor. A beautiful exterior appearance goes a long way towards opening acceptance. But you may also want to bake some cookies!
Tiny house strategy in a large home
There are lots of ways to use tiny home strategy to maximize storage in a large home, but a good one is to utilize space inside your furniture. Couches, chairs, beds and tables can all be built like cabinets. Every home needs to be furnished and how furniture items are positioned around the home also makes them particularly useful for storing things that are needed nearby. A chair is a weird place to store stuff, but if you store office supplies in a chair, you can turn a basic dining table into a desk. The hard to reach space under a bed is a perfect place for “off-season” clothing and you don’t have to take things far from the dresser. A couch is a great place for yoga supplies, exercise equipment, games, or anything you use in the living room. Storing things close to where you need them is an efficient strategy for life and furniture often provides a great opportunity to do this.
Tips to make the downsizing transition easier
Divide your things into categories based on the frequency that you use them. Then when you start building storage into the home, actually place the essential items into your design. Provide the most accessible storage for the items you use the most. Then, put the items you use least into the harder to reach areas. Repeat the process until you run out of storage options. By that time, you will hopefully be trying to store some things you don’t really need… and then you can think about creative ways to fit them in or if they are even truly necessary.
Eliminate clutter in a tiny home
In my tool belt, I know where every tool goes and it’s really important for my effectiveness as a carpenter. In your home, the tools you need every day for life, like keys, phone, computer bag, water bottle, work boots, or whatever it is.. can all have specifically designed storage locations with easy access. It’s a great way to bring more efficiency into your life at the same time as limiting clutter. Designating space for instruments and hobbies into the design can also help encourage healthy participation in those activities and serve as a statement about the owner's identity.
Tips for when you run out of storage in a tiny house
Get a storage shed. Tiny homeowners try to fight it, but many items simply do not need to be kept indoors. Space in a storage shed is much less expensive than the climate-controlled space in your home. So if something does not require those conditions, go ahead and think about another option. Many appliances that clog up a kitchen are only used once in a while. Cleaning supplies and sports equipment are also good examples of things that don’t always need to live in your home. This option is smart both environmentally as well as economically and results in a less cluttered home. A tuff shed is kind of like a garage for a tiny house.
Create more space in a tiny home
Make the beds disappear. A bed is the perfect example of the type of item that is only used sometimes and takes up a lot of floor space. Freeing up that space can turn a bedroom into an exercise area, an office, or a playroom and it can really make a small home work. If you have something that you don’t use all the time, make it go away! Murphy beds, trundle beds, and futons are all good ways of achieving this for the bedroom, but my favorite is lifting the bed into the ceiling! Tables, chairs, prep stations are also good examples of things that can stow out of the way.
Developing multi-purpose solutions
Look for things that can overlap. Can you expand the kitchen into the living room for cooking and then can the dining room occupy some of the kitchen while eating? Can the shower be used for storage while not being used? Once you can see a way for a space to transition, try and just go for it!
Identifying unused space
Things like couches, staircases, coffee tables, bed frames, and kitchen islands are all big things that provide great hiding spaces for stuff. If you have the luxury of new construction, many types of solutions can be custom-built into the framing of the home, but if you are already living in the space it can be the most cost-effective to simply modify the furniture or closet space. Another good option for storage is the over-head space, however with any storage solution the issue is always access. I really enjoy building storage that moves, and building lift systems that haul things up high is a great solution. Bikes, a hang glider, beds, ladders, tables, are all things I’ve lifted into the ceiling for storage. If you have good mechanisms for accessing the hard to reach areas of your home it can open up a lot of options.