Things to Think About

Di has been responding with a lot of comments on the Tiny House Blog and I thought she had some great ideas of things to think about when looking into downsizing or designing a tiny house. I asked Di to do a guest post and following are her suggestions and ideas.

DIMENSION:

  • Think of the present and future. Try a one-story building.
  • Adjust the height, width and length of a building. An 8′ ceiling may be sufficient.
  • Measure and rearrange interior items. It’s easy to edit a floor plan in MS Paint.
  • A twin bed is 3′ x 6.25′. A double bed is 4′ x 6.25′.
  • Most under-counter appliances are 2′ x 2′.
  • Some stoves/fridges are more narrow.
  • Some fridges/dishwashers are small enough to fit under a kitchen sink.
  • Rather than a porch/deck, store a portable screenhouse and lawn chair in the trunk of your car.

Photo Credits: ProtoHaus

LIGHTING:

  • Rather than rely on lighting, provide adequate daylight.
  • Try windows east, west, north and south.
  • For longer-lasting daylight, try skylights.
  • Use windows/skylights where needed, such as over the bathroom, kitchen counter, bed/couch.
  • For spaciousness, try recessed lighting and deep window sills.
  • Rather than drapes, try a small curtain at the top of a window.
  • For curtains, recycle your favorite fabrics – they’re easy to make, clean and change.
  • Mini blinds are more versatile than shades.

COMBINATION BEDROOM / LIVING ROOM:

  • Try a slightly elevated daybed or futon couch.
  • To eliminate closets and shelving, use underbed pull-out storage boxes/baskets.
  • Store extra blankets in decorative pillowcases on the bed/couch.
  • To limit wardrobe, recombine and layer several two-piece outfits.
  • Rather than use a hanger, iron your outfit and wear it.
  • Store one pair of boots, shoes and sneakers.
  • Acquire a new wardrobe as needed.
  • Use a hooded jacket rather than a hat or umbrella.
  • Add a coat hook near the entry door.
  • Use a computer notebook for all media. Eliminate a tv, stereo, books, etc.

KITCHEN EXAMPLES:

  • With under-counter appliances, add windows/skylights across the entire counter area.
  • Try a tall fridge on an inside wall, then a carousel cabinet in a lower corner, then an under-counter combination washer/dryer, single-bowl kitchen sink, dishwasher and stove.
  • A double-layered, corner carousel cupboard may be all that is needed – to stack a set of dishes, pans and dry goods.
  • Store a set of decorative dishes and glasses vertically on narrow wall shelves. Add mug hooks beneath the lowest shelf.
  • A portable stovetop can be stored when not in use. Try one-pot recipes.
  • One pot, a bowl, mug, spoon, fork and large knife may be all that is needed.
  • Use a pot as a mixing bowl, spoon or mug to measure, fork to whisk, mug as a ladle.
  • Rather than cupboard doors, try a set of small curtains. Use a small, spring-loaded curtain rod supported by mug hooks.
  • To limit food storage, try a simple diet. Plain oatmeal for breakfast. Peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Grains, legumes and vegetables for supper. Drink only water.
  • Rather than a dining room set, eat/entertain with your plate in your lap.
  • Rather than a dish rack, dry dishes on a towel.
  • Dry dish towels on hooks under the kitchen sink.
  • Recycle a jar to store utensils, wildflowers or food as needed.

ADDITIONAL COUNTER SPACE:

  • Try a pull-out cutting board or a large cutting board over the entire sink/stove.
  • Rather than a counter top, try a large cutting board over any under-counter appliance.
  • Use a cutting board as a lapdesk, to dine/serve or as an ironing board.

BATHROOM:

  • With a wetbath, waterproof the lower half of the walls and use a shower curtain.
  • Try a small 12-inch-depth corner sink.
  • Rather than a vanity or medicine chest, try open shelving over the toilet – to store towels/cosmetics.
  • Store small items in decorative boxes/baskets/jars on the shelving.
  • Rather than a towel rack, use towel/clothing hooks.
  • Try a full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door – usually, they’re less expensive.

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et - August 27, 2010 Reply

An alternative to skylights: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_tube

    Tim - August 27, 2010 Reply

    That is very cool, I have never seen those until now, thanks for posting this, very interesting and something to think about. T

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - August 27, 2010 Reply

Nice list, and some good suggestions. I’d still need books, though…but of course using the library is very space-efficient.

April - August 27, 2010 Reply

I posted these comments on FB, but I thought i would here, too, since some people might not use FB.

one thing i disagree with in this is about the porch/deck. this says you shouldn’t have or don’t need one, but I think the opposite is true. our deck is small, but it’s almost 25% more living space we can use most of the year and it gives you a place to be alone if you want… i am definitely in the pro-porch camp! 🙂

another thing to think about, speaking from experience, is make sure your windows, when open, will create a draft that moves the air through your house. just having openings is not as effective as making sure a breeze can go through the whole house if you need/want it.

    di - April 19, 2011 Reply

    Porches also increase property tax. We enjoy our yard without the extra expense and use of resources…

      Molly - July 10, 2011 Reply

      Not always. In many areas they are only taxed if they are inclosed. In others, only if they are heated.

Charlene - August 27, 2010 Reply

Built-in bookshelves on outside walls can help with insulation and mean you don’t have to give up your books. The spines of books also add interest to the room, and course they could function as storage for other things, as well; perhaps put cabinets underneath, with a space cut to place a chair and use that area as a desk.

    di - August 7, 2013 Reply

    Deep window sills are also good storage areas – without the expense or use of additional resources.

alice - August 27, 2010 Reply

Lots of good advice there but no need to allow 3’x6.25′ for a single bed, depending on your size and sleep habits. I’m short and very round and manage quite comfortably with a 2’x6′ foam mattress. If you plan to sell you need to take common measurements into consideration but if you just want something for yourself you can make exactly what you need. I’m firmly in the pro-porch camp too, at least a covered space to sit and a shelter while rummaging for keys or whatnot. Also a good spot to leave muddy outdoor things. A screen shelter makes a good dining room though. If you don’t want a permanent table you can always use one of those small folding ones we used to call TV tables. There are some nice wooden ones. One of my favourite junk store finds is a school music department metal folding chair with small table attached – good for writing and snacking. If you only have a set of dishes for each person you won’t need a dishwasher. And make sure your food storage is bug and mouseproof even if you’re absolutely certain there isn’t a tiny crack they could possibly get in. Rain ponchos (especially those little silnylon ones)over your jacket keep it dry better than any umbrella and keep your hands free. Soggy jackets drying in small spaces are not a nice thing.

Grant Wagner - August 27, 2010 Reply

One thing I disagree with is your statement out lighting and adding skylights and four wall windows. I this this is a poor idea, as you’re trading poorly controlled, expensive heat for cheap and easy light.

All windows are a weak point in your insulation, and will cause heat to move a lot faster than a solid wall, independent if it is manufactured heat during winter day leaving or the hot summer heat entering. Windows should be placed carefully to insure that your interior is as comfortable as possible.

North windows will never let in direct sunlight and always be a heat sink. Avoid if at all possible. East and West windows let in the most sun during the summer when you want as little extra heat in your home as possible. Skylights too let in the most direct sun during the noon hours of summer, when you want as little as possible.

Only South facing windows can let in the low rays of the sun during winter, which will help heat your home when you need it the most.

For window trimmings, use insulated curtains if at all possible. Old blankets make for great insulated curtains and some magnets sewn into the edges can help them seal tightly.

The only really good way to get rid of heat is air conditioning (or in some locations, swamp coolers), and that takes a lot of energy. Creating heat is easier, but still a massive use of energy. By comparison, light by 13W CFLs, 2W leds or even candles is extremely cheap and efficient, and can be done with the smallest of solar systems.

    Tim - August 27, 2010 Reply

    I have to agree with Grant here about the lighting and windows, in Maine a lot of folks use quilted curtains in the winter to help retain the heat in their homes at night, and also at times during the day when it is very cold out.

    di - April 19, 2011 Reply

    We live in New England.

    We have windows on four sides of the house, but the largest windows face south.

    We have skylights to vent the heat in the summer.

Parrot whisperer - August 27, 2010 Reply

hey, Kent,

This has nothing to do with this post, but I tried to leave it on tinyhouse blog’s facebook page wall, but facebook wasn’t letting me.

Very interesting doc :http://www.cj-network.org/cjsouthwood/taking_out_southwoods_trash.doc

Osric - August 27, 2010 Reply

Warning: Tiny amounts of sarcasm ahead!

“# To limit wardrobe, recombine and layer several two-piece outfits.
# Rather than use a hanger, iron your outfit and wear it.
# Store one pair of boots, shoes and sneakers.”

Your monastic garb is for everyday use. The Order will replace it when you wear it out.

# To limit food storage, try a simple diet. Plain oatmeal for breakfast. Peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Grains, legumes and vegetables for supper. Drink only water.

Take only photos. Leave only footprints.

Remember your vows of poverty, chastity & obedience!

# Rather than a dining room set, eat/entertain with your plate in your lap.

Sorry, not *this* slob… 🙁

    Katie - April 28, 2012 Reply

    I was kind of thinking the same way… lol… I love some of and will use some of the suggestions.

    But, I started thinking. Man, If I had to live by all of these rules… I would feel like I was in prison.

    Then I read the comments and giggled that you wrote sort of what I thought.

    No offense is meant to anyone… I know these were not meant as a guide to follow… they are multiple suggestions that may help a person find simple solutions. I get it…. I just kind of got a chuckle out of it as well.

Dayle Ann Stratton - August 28, 2010 Reply

Well, the list is titled “Something to think about”. I don’t think that means “Do it this way”. I think each of us can look at these suggestions and use them to make decisions about which might work for our own situation.

Some of the comments make worthwhile suggestions and/or observations. But some kind of miss the mark a bit.

South-facing windows, especially with an narrow overhang (such as a gallery that won’t block winter sun) or shade tree in summer are good. The largest portion of glazing should face south (unless you are in the southern hemisphere). But smaller windows east and west are important too, both for mental health and for cross-ventilation in warmer climates. Otherwise, it can become a stuffy claustrophobic space to be in. I agree about no north windows if possible; though tiny windows can preserve a view, and add a fanciful touch (and necessary ventilation). A friend of mine made her own double glazed tiny windows that peek north, with hinged “shutters” made out of picture frames.

I have not known a house that did not have problems with skylights. Leaking is the big one, especially in cold climates where sealing is often broken by ice, and sunny where it deteriates rapidly. They lose heat in winter as well as gain heat in summer. I love the way they look, but will not have one.

A porch, even a tiny one, makes a house a home. It says welcome both to the owner and to visitors, is useful for shelter while preparing to enter the home, provides a place to set things down while you open the door, a place to set things that don’t need to be in the house, a place to shelter plants, a place to just set and enjoy the view or visiting. I think a porch is one thing no home should be without, even if it is two posts on concrete blocks, paved with old bricks, roofed with scavenged 2x4s and sheet metal.

Personally, I can’t stand mini-blinds. Give me roller shades anytime, or simple curtains. A couple of thrift store sheets and an old blanket make insulated curtains. In old houses, we always had a “door quilt” too, with a permanently mounted rod over the door. The quilt could be pulled aside and in summer would be put away.

Dan - August 28, 2010 Reply

A double bed is 4? x 6.25?.
=========

Actaully that is a 3/4 bed size a double is 54″ or 4.5’wide, a 3/4 bed is 48″ wide. 🙂

Benjamin - August 28, 2010 Reply

Here are some comments I have on Di’s comments:

Unless you are pretty tall, you can get by with a 7′ ceiling. I myself, being 5’4″, have been doing fine for years under my 6’8″ ceiling. (Part of my home has a high ceiling which is nice when I want to stretch.)

Another good way to plan furniture arrangement is the good old low tech method of drawing a room plan to scale and making little cutouts to scale to arrange on the room layout.

You have the bed lengths right but a twin bed is 3.25′ and a double is 4.5′ wide.

I think you meant some fridges/dishwashers fit under a kitchen *counter* – they would bump the drain and plumbing under the sink.

I agree with others that you at least need a bit of shelter at exterior doors to shield you from the elements while you unlock the door.

I think windows (double paned) on any side are fine if you are in an area with a relatively mild climate. I recommend exterior roll-down shades for sunny windows in the summer, instead of heat blocking coatings because you want that warmth to come through in the winter.

Mirrors are also good for spaciousness.

I prefer a short fridge because I can put a microwave or toaster oven on top of it.

A small dish rack doesn’t really take up much space and things dry faster than they would on a towel. Also it can serve as a place to store the dishes, etc that you use repeatedly every day.

A towel rack is much better for a towel than a hook. Spread out on a rack it will dry much quicker -before it has a chance to get smelly.

I hope you find my comments helpful and welcome comments on my comments!

Chandra - August 28, 2010 Reply

Just curious, where did the first two pictures come from? Its one of the prettiest tiny houses I’ve seen. Thanks!

Brady - August 29, 2010 Reply

Wow, that’s a lot of organized thought and ideas!

I imagine that every one of us, being individuals, can find a line or two to flip wig on -for me, I can’t bring myself to use blinds over shades- but that is matter of taste -or opinion? It matters not. The real deal for me is: Thanks for the time, the depth of thought and work going into a list like that…

As far as things not being black & white all the time? While I will never trust the digitizing of fave loved literature/music and not keep other forms of media, be they paper bound or my few but treasured LPs? It does bring to mind thoughtfulness which I appreciate: do I really need to keep the classic books of my youth- or is it time to pass them along? Heck, especially now in these economic times, kids need them more than I do.

Well- thanks for the great blog; my brain needs all the help it can scour.

    Elizabeth Goertz - August 31, 2010 Reply

    I love the way you write, do you speak like that too? you sound like a romantic, but is your attachment to books and LPs just the trappings of a bygone era? Not that that’s a bad thing, Grin.
    I for one need art on the walls, not digital representations, on the other hand, a phonograph takes up a lot of space. Smile.

Dr. Thomas Gregor - August 31, 2010 Reply

Point Of Order: Lighting – Overhead or track type lighting reduces the need for side tables. Mini-blinds may be more versitile but shades are easier to clean, requiring only an old towel on the window shade and a few sprays of water with a few drops of dish detergent, a universal cleaner, window cleaner ( If it cleans a drinking glass why not a window pane)and kills bugs, clogs thier breathing spindles. Windows N>E>W>S consider passive solar then rethink. Rather then Iron why not just hang on over bathroom door hook and steam wrinkle free, why own an iron? As to cooking have you ever examined the collaspable camping cookware, I have a set where 3 pots two frying pans and a steamer fold into the size of a cake. Also check “the wok shop”, one metal handled wok can substitue for a roaster, stockpot, deepfryer makes every thing but spare pizza. Next have favorite books scan and store as jpeg’s I have a two wall library in 4 sd card cases. Sporks! And finally why not use a wallpaper mirror, mylar can be glued to any wall or door and is easier to keep clean.

Elizabeth Goertz - August 31, 2010 Reply

Great post! makes up for the “add” days. Lots to think about.

    Kent Griswold - August 31, 2010 Reply

    Hi Elizabeth, sorry about putting craigslist ads and others up. A lot of the readers like them so unfortunately I can’t please everyone. I will try to get more of this type up too. Kent

Keith - August 31, 2010 Reply

A twin bed is actually 3.25’x6.25′ (39″x75″) and, as Dan noted, a double bed is 4.5’x6.25′ (54″x75″).

di - April 22, 2011 Reply

“Try a tall fridge on an inside wall, then a carousel cabinet in a lower corner, then an under-counter combination washer/dryer, single-bowl kitchen sink, dishwasher and stove.”

This allows for counter space on either side of the kitchen sink – so that you can prepare food in sequence without dripping on the floor. In other words: remove food from the fridge, wash it in the sink, then cook it on the stove.

The dishwasher is handy near the stove – to retrieve clean pans, dishes and utensils as needed.

di - May 8, 2011 Reply

Lighting:

Rather than a table lamp, try a headlamp.

di - May 8, 2011 Reply

Rather than a laptop computer, try a smaller handheld computer.

Replace an alarm clock with an alarm clock app.

di - May 8, 2011 Reply

Rather than an end table or bedstand, try a tote bag on a hook.

di - May 8, 2011 Reply

Rather than an end table or bedstand, store items in a tote bag on a hook.

di - May 9, 2011 Reply

Store bedside items in a basket under the bed.

di - May 9, 2011 Reply

Iron clothes on a large towel over the kitchen counter.

di - May 11, 2011 Reply

To cover a kitchenette:
Suspend curtains or louver doors from the ceiling.

di - May 16, 2011 Reply

Photograph heirlooms.

Use a computer folder of photographs as a screen saver.

di - May 29, 2011 Reply

Here’s a link to various floor plans using these new ideas: http://tinyhouseforum.com/topic.php?id=117&page=2

di - May 31, 2011 Reply

Here’s a link for more tips and tricks for tiny homes: http://tinyhouseforum.com/topic.php?id=25&replies=51

Lindey - July 19, 2012 Reply

Hi, I found just exactly this kind of your designs at pinterest. Just tellin you.I am thinking of a renovations and make over on my little space pad.I love to have an idea on how much this can cost me?Thanks if you can give me an estimated price.

    di - November 7, 2012 Reply

    Price depends on recycled materials.

    Price may range from $100-150 per square foot.

di - February 8, 2015 Reply

Try a portable kitchen. To wash dishes, use a basin and camping shower bag on a hook over the basin. Store everything away when not in use. Use the exact same space for other activities.

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