Compact Cabins Book Preview

Recently I was contacted by Michelle from Storey Publishing asking me to preview a book that is coming out in December.

The book is called Compact Cabins and subtitled Simple Living in 1,000 Square Feet or Less. It is written by Gerald Rowan has taught art, ceramics, architecture, and graphic design for more than 30 years. He is currently a visiting professor in the art and architecture department at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He has a strong personal interest in “building small,” and he lives in Pennsylvania.


Okay this is one neat book and really covers a lot. Besides having 50 unique designs that will inspire you, the book is full of useful construction information and the book is divided into three sizes of cabins. Micro, below 300 square feet, mini 300 to 500 square feet and compact from 500 to 1000 square feet.

  • It covers ways to include RV materials into your small cabin to make it more efficient.
  • The book has a section on using shipping containers in your cabin construction.
  • Another section on living off the grid and cabins/houses designed to take advantage of off the grid design.

“Most of us dream of having a small place on a lake, in the mountains, on the shore, in the woods, or even in our back yard. Some dream of a place for privacy and solitude.”

Below are a couple of examples of the cabins and artwork in the book. Floor plans for each cabin are included. You can also pre-order the book from Amazon and will be available December 6, 2009. There timing is perfect for a gift for the tiny house lovers library. Pre-order here: Compact Cabins: Simple Living in 1000 Square Feet or Less; 62 Plans for Camps, Cottages, Lake Houses, and Other Getaways


This tiny cabin is based on ideas gleaned from the travel trailer industry to utilize space very efficiently. In a cabin this small, electric space heat makes sense. This is a 162 square foot Micro Cabin.


380 Square Foot Round House Cabin. A round cabin – how unique! Curved cement blocks are available for building cisterns and farm silos and adapt well to building round cabins. This design calls for a custom-built curved sofa and fold-up table to make the most of the interior space.


Off-The Grid Passive Solar Cabin A

This cabin is only 322 square feet, but the loft ceiling height makes it feel much larger. The passive solar feature is a large glass window opening into the living space. Space heating is provided by a wood-burning stove.

Reprinted with permission from Compact Cabins, published by Storey Publishing, LLC., December 2009.

by Kent Griswold (Tiny House Blog)

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Bill - September 17, 2009 Reply

This looks like an interesting book. I am looking forward to its release.

Mo Skba - September 17, 2009 Reply

Looks like a great book. Thanks for the heads up. Looking forward to the December release.

Kieran - September 17, 2009 Reply

I put it on my Amazon wishlist =) I like the last cabin photograph that you included: it looks like it has a shed attached on the back, which I’d convert to a root cellar, most likely.

jeff - September 18, 2009 Reply

Ordered it yesterday for delivery whenever it prints.

    Kent Griswold - September 18, 2009 Reply

    Hi Jeff, I think you will really like it, lots of great ideas and information…Kent

justin - September 18, 2009 Reply

i odered it as well… love the fact it will include info on utilizing rv appliances… i have a converted school bus/camper that has great efficent appliances… got the bus and all the gear for it free on Craigs list.

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Randy - December 22, 2009 Reply

I pre-ordered my copy of this book (from Storey Publications) months ago via Amazon. I have been notified of three different delivery delays. I finally wrote Storey but they never commented. It seems [this week] the book will be shipping the first week of January, 2010! The book appears to have some really cool little houses that I can’t wait to see … hope it lives up to the expectation. Merry Christmas everyone and may your dreams of a tiny house come true in 2010!

    Kent Griswold - December 22, 2009 Reply

    Sorry to here it has been delayed! I received a very rough draft of the book long before to let people know about it and I am really impressed. I think you will find it well worth your wait.

      Randy - January 7, 2010 Reply

      Morning Kent … when I scanned my email this morning I found another notice from Amazon telling me this book, rescheduled for the 4th time to ship 01/05, has been delayed again and this time the ship day is indefinite. You should email whomever sent you that draft and tell them the natives are getting very restless and you can’t hold them off much longer! 🙂 So frustrating, but I’m still on the list! Randy

      Carol - January 20, 2010 Reply

      I just pre-ordered a copy from and was told it will be shipped on March 3, 2010. I hope there are no more delays.

      ginmar - November 13, 2010 Reply

      I got this book! You can also get it on the Kindle, which–by the way–for everybody living small is a great way to digitize their book collections. I also have a Sony E-reader, which can take PDFs, so whatever the Kindle can’t take, I get it on the Sony.

Tom - February 19, 2010 Reply

I ordered this back in September. Finally received yesterday from Amazon. Worth the wait 🙂

Brian - February 26, 2012 Reply

While this book does have some content that will inspire you, it has a lot of redundant and basic information (ex. including a note on every design sketch that a pitched roof will allow for solar panels, windows will allow light in the structure, etc…). I think it is worthwhile for a breeze, but the designs could include more details and the book overall could provide more in-depth aspects.

Alexis - August 14, 2016 Reply

I have this book in my book collection. It is interesting reading. The only issue I have with this book is this, it has a floor plan sketch with each cabin, unfortuantely it does not tell you where you can purchase the floor plan, nor does it give you a list of what or how much you will need of materials you will need to build it. for example: How much lumber will I need to have to build this cabin, just basic questions like that.
I want to build the “Open – Living Mini Cabin” on pg. 46 but of course I have never built anything in my life. I have alot of questions and no answers. The book should at least provide a few more answers. Other than that the book is wonderful and full of simple ideas and thats all!!

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