Tiny Houses without Lofts

There has been a lot of requests lately for tiny houses on wheels that don’t have lofts. Older people do not wish to deal with this issue and it is an idea that should be taken seriously.

Most of the designs we see out there resort to the loft for a bed. This saves precious floor space for living. However, this is not ideal for everyone. Unfortunately, at this time I only know of a few designs that take an alternative route to the loft – so I thought I would do a post to highlight these houses. My goal is to inspire others to design more homes with alternative sleeping quarters other than a loft.

The oldest version of a tiny home on wheels that I am aware of is the vardo or gypsy wagon. These homes were designed with a bed that sits up high and has storage below. You still need to crawl up a little to get in, but it is nothing like climbing a ladder. There are not many plans out there for this type of home. The only one I know that is available the “Don Vardo” by Portland Alternative Dwellings. While it is not a complete house I think the plans could be extended to make it into one with a kitchen and bathroom. Dee Williams from Portland Alternative Dwellings and I once talked about this revision and she may have even completed the plans by now. You can get an idea by looking at the picture of the Don Vardo here and a vardo picture I have included above in this post.

(Dee just sent word that she has the 12 foot vardo available which features a bathroom and kitchen. The plans are now available here for only $30. They are in the process of having one built out in Florida and I will share photos, etc. as soon as it is completed.)

12 foot Don Vardo Floor Plan

Another home not using a loft is Dan Louche’s house plans. He designed his home for his mother and she did not want a loft. She uses a futon in the living area as a bed and it is working great for her. You can view Dan’s plans here and check out his blog of the construction of the home here.

Jay Shafer is popular for his loft based tiny homes on wheels the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. Jay has pretty much stuck with this type of plan except for his most affordable plan – the Popomo. You receive this plan free if you purchase his book or you can buy it alone for $16.95. This is a very modern home, in fact they have just completed building the first one and I had a chance to see it a couple of weeks ago. If modern is not your style, don’t worry, the exterior can be customized to suit your tastes. Here is a picture of the Popomo that Tumbleweed Tiny House Company recently completed. You can see more pictures at their website. Click here to see them.

Tumbleweed Popomo

If you are aware of any other homes on wheels that have not used the loft bedroom please share them with me and the other readers below. Let’s get some new ideas and plans out there for those who need or want this option.

Popomo Interior via Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

56 Comments Tiny Houses without Lofts

  1. Marta Townsend

    While the house design in this link from Tiny Texas Houses is a 12×30, it does have an interesting downstairs bed as well as the upstairs loft. I was thinking that a Murphy bed, or one that folds up against the wall would be just the thing for me. Leaving the upstairs loft free for visitors to use. When I went to visit Tiny Texas Houses, they were in the middle of designing this very one! http://tinytexashouses.com/?portfolio=ellinger-house
    There are some pictures toward the end of the album that detail the downstairs bed. Enjoy!

    Reply
  2. Laura

    I love the idea of a loft-less tiny house, and I have actually been looking at AirStreams and other RV type houses for inspiration on that as they are usually not going to have any kind of loft. I think a Vardo may be the way to go, but all the plans I have seen have a cloth or canvas top on them… how do you deal with bears if you are in a bear-prone area? I would hate to cook food with nothing between me and a bear some treated canvas. I saw what was left of a car in a national park after a bear tried to get in after some leftover Cheetos…

    Marta Townsend: I could not see the stove in the pictures of the Ellinger house… is there not stovetop/oven?

    Reply
    1. Marta Townsend

      Laura – I didn’t see this one in the final stages, but I am sure there is some sort of stove top or apartment sized oven. All of Brad’s houses that I have seen are fully functional kitchen and bathrooms

      Reply
    2. munin_and_hugin

      Laura, you’ve probably only seen the Bowtop Caravan types, or maybe an Open Lot if there was a curtain fitted between two poles instead of a framed in door. There are many types of Vardos/Caravans. There’s the Reading, one of the most popular styles besides the Bowtop, that is pictured at the top of the page. There also the Ledge type, that is similar to the reading, but has slightly less floor space and bumps out over the wheels to expand the walls (hence, Ledge.) The Burton, or Showman’s wagon looks very much like a Reading as well, but has straight sides, instead of gradually expanding towards the roof. It also sat higher above the wheels instead of between, since it was strictly a city creature, and was not meant for the country or ill maintained roads. Then there’s the pot cart and brush wagons, but we don’t see much of those, to be honest.

      I really love the Reading and Burton types. Definitely want one, since I don’t much like lofts myself. Too much hassle!

      A picture of the six main types can be seen here: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_D8VwTKAphks/Ry5EZXQxLII/AAAAAAAAHGg/wBZiw7kGJL4/s1600-h/vardo-basics-docuFX.jpg

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. My husband and I aren’t getting any younger, and are planning on having a tiny house built soon. Climbing up ladders would be a bad idea for us. I was excited by Dan’s house he built for his mother, it’s very cute. The futon couch idea was what we finally came to ourselves. There just isn’t room for a permanent downstairs bed and still have elbow room for two. The only way to have a permanent bed is to have a really long trailer, like Bill at Tortoiseshellhomes has in his 28′ model with a downstairs bedroom. We came really close to being the first ones to buy one, then realized we want a smaller trailer so it’s easier to tow. We also liked how Dan had the door on the side, not on the end like most of the plans. I know having the door on the end has to do with the wheel-wells, but Dan managed to figure out a way around that.
    A few weeks ago we met a new up and coming tiny-house guy in Santa Cruz. We are leaning towards him at the moment, his work is wonderful. The house he has for sale right now isn’t right for us since it has two large sleeping lofts, and is too expensive (he used redwood). But he said he can build one for half the price if he uses another material, and gets rid of the big porch and the lofts. You can see photos on the Tiny House Listings website, it’s the house that says ‘Tiny House, Two Loft Bedrooms’.

    Reply
    1. Lisa

      Leslie,

      I think Michael Janzen uses a Murphy bed in his tiny solar house design. Also, Tortoiseshellhomes uses them in their smaller models. We thought about it for awhile, but decided against it because it takes up a whole wall while up, so there can’t be a window there. With a futon couch we can have three windows surrounding the living area.

      Reply
      1. Karen

        I’m building a 12×16 cottage in my back yard. I have a loft, but I don’t think I always want to be upstairs to sleep as I get older. So, I’m thinking of incorporating a Murphy Bed as the wall separating the living area from the bathroom area. It will create the wall and not use up precious wall space where windows could be. Wallbeds Northwest has a design that has a table attached to the cabinet that can be used as a dining table or desk when the bed is up.

        Reply
        1. Carey Huffman

          Karen,

          I am currently researching/planning a 12×16 cottage for my property as well but have not come across anything I like. Would you mind posting which plan you are using and the website from which you ordered it or if you are using a design you drew up yourself?

          Thanks,

          Carey

          Reply
  4. william carlisle

    I’ve been homebuilder all of my life .I have built the mega homes and many small homes . Our market is returning to sanity at long last . We are now designing homes that will be Elder Friendly and under a thousand sq ft . I know these are not considered Tiny by most of your readership ,But smaller homes, more affordable from initial cost to long term utility bills and maintenance are the wave of the future . Brad Carlisle ABC Design Build

    Reply
    1. Joe3

      It’s been interesting to see what has happened in the market. Yes, it’s about time the builders have listened to buyers, but I believe this too will be short lived, when the money/economy returns, I’m thinking builders will go back to the same old thing…bigger homes – more profits, and the American public will buy into it also.
      We’ll see what happens….from the guy that fought city hall and built a 800 ft2 house in 1985.

      Reply
      1. william carlisle

        Joe,as rule builders are market driven We do not set the trends We follow them . I actually make a higher profit percentage wise on smaller homes Profits are good ,we use those to expand and provide jobs. The enemy of the small home movement is Big Government, smaller homes pay less taxes ,allow their owners more control over their lives . Look at city zoning codes and building codes and you’ll find who your enemy is.

        Reply
        1. Michael

          William, Perhaps you might know … Is there a list compiled of minimum square footage requirements by city, state, etc., ??? Or do I have to just do individual searches/questioning for each one? I want to build as close to Los Angeles as possible. I found an area where I can build 850 square feet. I’d like to go less. About 640. If anyone else knows how I can find areas (unincorporated probably) that allow a permanent foundation home,to be built less than 850 square feet, please let me know. Thanks a lot.

          Reply
  5. Bunny Henningsen

    While they are not on wheels, I just found another tiny house company called “Reclaimed Space” All their houses have downstairs beds. Houses are as small as just under 400sq and my favorite is just over 500 sq ft. The interiors are very rustic and the houses are made with salvaged materials.
    http://www.reclaimedspace.com. To see the house plans go to the gallery and down to modular designs.

    Reply
  6. Hal

    Don’t forget my garage door murphy bed! I have a loft as well to sleep a third person but it struck me from the beginning as absurd that a bed had to eat all of your space when not in use. My solution lets the bed become other things, or nothing at all. Have a peek:
    http://vimeo.com/23527235

    Reply
    1. alice

      That garage door bed is genius! The whole place is full of innovative ideas and I love, love, love that little patch of lawn!

      Reply
    2. Bryn

      WHOA that garage bed it genius, as is a lot of the tiny house. Lots of things I have not seen. I am in love with that roof too! Brilliant!

      Reply
  7. Nicole Marie

    Thank you for posting about this subject! I had always planned to build one of Jay’s mini loft Tumbleweeds for myself, as I find them just lovely, but the loft proved a problem for me as well. I don’t think of myself as being claustrophobic but after taking two pieces of plywood and arranging them to look like the 3 feet 8 inch high loft in a regular Tumbleweed I knew I would have to change plans. I already own the Popomo plan but I thank you for mentioning Don Louche and Portland Alternative Dwellings in this article! The extra resources are really appreciated! I hope more people write in on this subject in order to provide a larger volume of resources for everyone. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Nerida

      Nicole,

      I found the same problem with the lofts. However, if you extend the height of the walls a foot or two above the loft floor and put a gently curved roof on the Tumbleweeds in the stle of the vardo) you get a lot more space to move up there.

      This ashould allow just enough room for a push out window running the length of the loft that you could roll out of in the case of an emergency such as a fire or break in.

      Reply
      1. Nicole Marie

        Thank you for the suggestion Nerida. After surfing the Daphne’s Caravans site I thought about something similar (great minds think alike :-))but I think I need to figure out how to create a mock up to see if it would work. Choices, choices. I agree with you about climbing a ladder every night, too.

        Reply
  8. Nerida

    A good link to gypsy vardos many with solid roofs

    http://gypsywaggons.co.uk/index.htm

    and then there is http://www.jimtolpin.com/woodwork.html

    I had what I thought a just too beautiful loft design but having serously considered the issues of clambering into a loftevery night I figured I would spend more nights on the lounge than in bed. I have found if I follow the basics of a traditional vardo design I can actually get the same amount of stuff in the same space its just a different layout. Storage space bcomes horizontal as opposed to virtical in the new design.

    The Popomo has come up a treat.

    Reply
    1. alice

      The only problem with that is if you have trouble climbing a ladder to a loft you’ll probably also have trouble getting up from the floor or even low chairs.

      Reply
  9. freespirit

    I’m getting closer to having someone draw up some plans for a design that will work for me. I will have a longer house (25-27′) due to a need to have a large 8×12 main room for workspace if I need to see clients at home, or use the house for a studio in the future.

    I figured the loft would be better for storage than sleeping. I’m not one of these people who has to get down to 100 belongings, but rather want to be mindful of having things around that I use often and enough room for extra food storage.

    My idea is to have a 5×7 back “bedroom,” which if used as a bedroom would be more of a sleeping nook, similar to Jay’s Popomo. I would use it for a nice big closet, however, for storage of cleaning stuff, possible washer/dryer, hanging clothes, seasonal clothes, sports equipment, etc. Then, at about 5′, above the closet space, I would have sections that fold down to make a low loft bed that could be accessed by a small kitchen step stool. Just adjacent to the bedroom is the bathroom with overhead storage above it for suitcases, etc. (This could be accessed through the closet, with easier access if the bed is folded down to stand on, so you could lift things up without standing on the ladder. I wouldn’t use the loft everyday, but it could be additional sleeping area for when guests come. Or, if the house was used occasionally by a family, the whole room could become a bunk room. If you wanted to just use the above bathroom space for closet storage you could use the area as a sleeping nook at regular height with storage underneath.

    Then, the main room could have whatever you choose to sleep on regularly (murphy bed, futon, etc.. I’m shooting for a hanging bed design (in my mind) that would hang from the ceiling when in use and then raised to the ceiling rafters during the day. (It would be light enough in weight to do this easily-sort of a cross between a hammock and a bed.) As my imagination continued, I thought of even building a raised floor and storing the bed underneath the walking space and bring it out at night. If there are cathedral ceilings, it wouldn’t be too much of an issue to do this. One could even put a pop-up trundle below the floor and just open the floor and raise the trundle when you go to bed.

    I see so many options if you want to be creative. You have even more options if you don’t need to keep the main floor fairly clear during the day as I do.

    Reply
  10. Donald B. Beams

    I have a mobile cottage 8′ x 24′ called the Eco~Smart~I currently under construction on a 26′ frame. It has 4″ thick insulated walls, ceiling and floors, mylar space blanket interior lining, R-13 insulation, Tyvek building wrap, wood siding, duo pane windows, in-floor hot water heating, Ikea cabinets, a full bed and a daybed. and NO loft. I will sell, rent or live in it next year.

    Also have plans & sections drawn for the Eco~Smart~2 that features one lower bedroom and a sleeping loft on a 30′ frame, and a fold-out greenhouse room, bringing it to 337 sq. ft. New website not built yet but photos and drawings are on my Facebook page, photos section. Hope to have production facility secured next year.

    Reply
      1. Donald B. Beams

        Hi Joe,

        Look under my name, Donald B. Beams on FB, in my Photos Albums. I haven’t started a Facebook page under the name Eco~Smart Dwellings as yet, but will do that and also create a website as soon as I can work it into my schedule.

        Am using this year to transition careers from Architectural and Custom Furniture designer to Designer/Manufacturer of “Not-Quite-Tiny” homes. I believe in the concept and it’s absolute validity and necessity as a market, given the number of foreclosures to come, the damaged credit ratings. I also believe that there are a lot of people intelligent enough to downsize their lifestyle before our economy does it for them.

        The capability to take your home with you to a climate of your choice, to live completely off-grid if you choose, to avoid large mortgage payments, utility bills and real estate taxes, all of these, have got to be attractive in the coming years. The simple truth is, I feel better about myself doing this than designing stuff for really rich people, which is what I have done all of my professional life.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          Donald,

          Your Eco Smart home is brilliant! I’ve been looking at a lot of tiny home designs recently and yours is the only one that has all the features I want. I understand that you plan on offering them for sale soon. Would your Facebook page be the best place to check for updates?

          Reply
  11. Shawn

    Jay, thanks for all your inspiration. I’ve been a big fan for the past 3 years. You’ve inspired my small house project. I have been planning, designing and collecting materials for my small house for the past couple of months. (Actually, I’ve been working on the design for 3 years now). I hope to begin the actual building phase within the next 30 days. You can see my progress as it is posted on my blog. Thanks again, Jay.

    Reply
  12. stpauligirlmn

    http://www.townandcountry.com

    I’ve always liked the Whitehorse plan. I would move the bathroom door and put it next to the sink. I would put a small kitchenette on the wall that currently pictures the bathroom door.

    I believe a small table/chair would fit nicely across from the kitchenette, along the exterior wall. This would also leave room for a small love seat, or a couple of comfy chairs in the space near the front door.

    This would make a bedroom space, where the current kitchen is pictured. I think it would be big enough for a captain’s bed to fit horizontally. This way, you wouldn’t have to shimmy in/out of bed.

    I think this layout would make a very nice home for one, or a nice getaway home for two.

    Reply
    1. Carey Huffman

      Hi,

      I couldn’t find any house plans on the website. It looks like a country general store instead of a plans website. Do you have a link to the specific Whitehorse webpage?

      Carey

      Reply
  13. Linn

    I’d definitively would wanna have the sleeping arrangements somewhere in the floor if I had a gypsy wagon or something like that. Just open the floor up at bedtime & jump right in. ;)

    Reply
    1. Stephen H

      Great idea! i use a conventional matress on the floor now. would only be 10″ lower and a great way to keep my dogs off when i’m not home. lol

      Reply
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  15. Irene

    Someone about mentioned Tortoiseshell Homes as using a Murphy bed, and I also believe that only one of their models has a loft and the others are just one floor.

    Reply
  16. Stephen H

    I’m probably ok with the climbing for now, but worried about how HOT a loft might get. I currently live in a renovated tobacco barn in NC (but plan to downsize again), and the heatwave has made me rethink a few ideas. Thanks to thick walls, downstairs has felt cool without a/c, but upstairs gets miserable. Interested in “single level” plans, but do think its a shame to loose precious “round-the-clock” floor space to a bed. Murphy beds are cool, but way out of my budget. An article on THB has me considering a Brazilian hammock. I may build a tall, narrow cabinet around one of the i-bolts, so i can stow it away during the day. Kind of a “Murphy Hammock”, you could call it.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer Y

      That’s my favorite, too. I keep a photo of the green/pink interior for inspiration and hope someday to create a dwelling that cozy and pleasant.

      Reply
  17. Alfredo

    I wouldn’t mind having a loft bedroom. My concern is that most of them are reached via a ladder, not a proper stair case. I’m not getting any younger and neither is my min-pin.

    Reply
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  19. Carey Huffman

    Hi,

    Murphy beds come in singles, full, queen and king sizes and can be mounted horizontally to allow for window space above the mounting. Also, murphy beds can come with tables that flush mount to the front surface when not in use or when the bed is lowered. Moreover, murphy beds can come with couches attached to the base where the cushions are removed to lower the bed into the sleeping position and then the cushions can be used as backrests for reading in bed if so desired. I don’t make or sell murphy beds, but I am a fan of them and plan to utilize them in my small cottage I am currently planning.

    Also, if you look at the below link, you can turn a ladder into a shelving/stairwell quite easily and use it as a room divider storage device so as to not waste space. Enlarge the third picture to see a ladder turned into a storage shelf with removable baskets.

    http://tinytexashouses.com/?portfolio=ellinger-house

    Reply
  20. Norm

    My current tiny house on wheels (6×10)has a 40″ extension (over the cab of the truck) for a bed. Just one step up and you’re there.

    Nevertheless, back in the 70s I built a tiny house for myself (attached to the main house which I rented out) that had a loft with a ladder up to it.

    I always figured that climbing the ladder in itself automatically qualified your body for climbing it again and again.

    I couldn’t imagine being able to climb up one day and then unable to do so the next.

    Reply
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