Tiny Modern Design

tiny modern glass house

by Cory Hagen

Good evening,

I want to start by thanking you for laboriously keeping me up to speed on the tiny house movement ever since I started reading your blog in 2008. Yours was the first tiny house resource I found, and I’ve been a loyal follower ever since!

A bit about me: My name is Cory Hagen. I’ve been designing houses since I was very young, and I’ve been designing tiny houses since 2008. My husband and I are both Iowa natives and currently reside near Iowa City, Iowa – the unofficial cradle of the tiny house movement. While I definitely see the romantic appeal of small, rustic structures and simple living, I know there are many couples out there who want to downsize, but aren’t ready to give up the conveniences of modern living.

The Tiny Glass House is my response to those who want a simple, modern house that is compact and portable, but not lacking in amenities. I sought to include:

  • A full kitchen with residential refrigerator/freezer, dishwasher, oven, cooktop, pantry and abundant prep space.
  • Kitchen cabinetry and storage that is primarily made from off-the shelf components.
  • Full-size washer and dryer.
  • Main floor bedroom with full access around the bed.
  • Guest sleeping accommodations.
  • Bathroom w/ full-sized facilities (larger shower, flush toilet, etc.).
  • Open plan design that allows for passive heating/cooling and abundant natural light.
  • Flexible design that can be easily adapted to suit.

The Tiny Glass House is 8ft 6in wide by 38ft long, and can be permanently attached to a trailer or transported via semi and lifted into place. The flexible layout allows one side of the house to remain open to views and nature, and the glazed side of the house can be positioned to take advantage of passive heating/cooling. Modern homes are not everyone’s cup of tea, but this layout could easily be incorporated into a traditional style. I hope you will be able to post the attached photos on tinyhouseblog.com. It would be a great honor to contribute to something that has brought me a new way of looking at the world!

All the best,
Cory Hagen

P.S. I also included a few photos of a swedish modern cabin design that is a reinterpretation of the Dwelle.ings prefab system in the UK.

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ET - August 29, 2012 Reply

People put a lot of work into their designs and many are very nice and well thought out.

I wonder if this and other small (not tiny) houses posted recently (Home in a Box and others) meet building codes with regards to minimum space, materials etc.

Em - August 29, 2012 Reply

Nice work. Can we see some floor plans for that black one?

SmallHouseBliss - August 29, 2012 Reply

It looks good and the layout seems very functional. Are you planning to build it for yourself, manufacture them for others, or sell the plans?

Steve - August 29, 2012 Reply

I could definitely live in this. I too want to downsize to a smaller than normal home, but still want full sized appliances and not a TINY house. I just want a small house without a bunch of wasted space.

gavin - August 29, 2012 Reply

Nice work. Get this design HUD approved so it can be built in California.

Kat - August 29, 2012 Reply

I love this design except for one thing – I wouldn’t put the washer/dryer next to the fridge. I think the heat from the washer/dryer would make the fridge need to work harder to cool and use more energy.

    Cory Hagen - August 30, 2012 Reply

    A keen observation. Has anyone ever had issues with this??

      Joe3 - August 30, 2012 Reply

      I wouldn’t have an issue with the closeness, I’d heavily insulate the wall between them. I have built a superinsulated home in WI, I really don’t see this as a problem.

      Gayle - September 1, 2012 Reply

      I have not had experience with a washer and dryer next to a refrigerator. But I have had experience with a freezer being used out of a 120 degree temperature garage in the desert. I asked a appliance person if the heat would effect the performance of the freezer and he said no way would it bother it. They are insulated so well that the soaring temperatures in a closed garage in the desert had no effect.

Cory Hagen - August 30, 2012 Reply

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! It’s hard to believe this house is only 275 sq.ft. I’m trying to bridge the gap between not-so-big houses and tiny homes. Rest assured there is more to come!

    Joe3 - August 30, 2012 Reply

    Cory, I like your design, for me, I’d make a few changes. I’m currently living in ~500ft2 and happy with it, but I feel I could go to ~300 and be more comfortable with a better design. Your design @275 is great. I think your on the right track finding a floor plan between the tiny homes and larger ones. I find I can get along nicely with a dorm sized refrigerator and a two burner stove.

    Thomas - August 30, 2012 Reply

    Cory,
    Great design. I have a suggestion, though. Why not add 2ft to the length and you can use a shipping container as the structural base for this home?

      Cory - September 2, 2012 Reply

      Hey Thomas,
      Believe me, I tried! The narrower shipping container wreaked havoc on the layout of the bedroom. You could do it if you don’t mind having the bed pushed sideways against a wall.

    Gayle - September 1, 2012 Reply

    Cory, I too love a more contempory look but I and I think with living in a smaller space, if you have sleeker lines it doesn’t feel as cluttered. But I do like the idea of a loft. Any plans on something along those line?
    Thanks

ducmnstr - August 30, 2012 Reply

I love the floorspace plan. I have been waiting patiently to see something that I would be able to build on my own and that would suit me as well. I work in Austin and own rural property about 50 miles out. I would definitely love to come home to this and also enjoy the peacefulness of my residence. The dimensions mentioned, are they inside dimensions and what is the height.

ducmnstr - August 30, 2012 Reply

As far as the location of appliances, Kat may be right but I lived in new apartments that had fridge located next to stoves and had no issues. Also, being a single person, I would not really need full size appliances but the floorplan does give you an idea of what can be done in a small space. I would definitely buy plans to this Tiny Modern Design.

Bob H - August 30, 2012 Reply

So nice to see something larger. I would add a couple of bump outs.

Kim - August 31, 2012 Reply

Cory,
This is much the floor plan that I am looking for! I am not ready to take the plunge yet, but it is nice to know that what I am looking for can easily be accommodated in under 400 sqft. Best of luck with your ventures!

Dale - August 31, 2012 Reply

Brilliant! How soon can this be mass produced? Also, I would appreciate viewing a collaspable gable roof to ship with finished house and in a flat-pak system and would be errected on site/delivery. This roofline would house water heater/attic/AC compressor & ducting system and the entire roof in solar panels – for total off-grid living. Please let me know when plans are available or when/who will manufacture this model for under $ 50K. Thanks Cory – beautiful design bar none!

tracy - September 1, 2012 Reply

If you switch the fridge with the tall cabinet to the right you would solve the problem. Wouldn’t be a side by side fridge, but a two person household can get by with a narrower fridge, no problem. Great layout, by the way. I love these long floorplan with windows that let in a lot of light. Great when you’re in a beautiful natural setting.

Gina - September 1, 2012 Reply

Love, love this design with the bedroom on the main floor. The kitchen with full size appliances and efficient bathroom are great. I also love the long
windows that let in lots of natural light.
Great design!! Thank you.

Louise Normandin - September 1, 2012 Reply

Very interesting, Cory! Do you have a website for The Tiny Glass House?

Brian Ramsey - September 2, 2012 Reply

Brilliant! I have a shed I want to convert that will have similar dimensions. If I build it, I will be sure to give your design the credit!

kimk - September 2, 2012 Reply

This is a nice design. I really like the glazing and doors on one side to absorb the sunshine for heat and/or offer the alternative of a nice outside room (screened in porch in my area.)

Engineer Guy - September 3, 2012 Reply

Very nice, and well thought through… Note that an 8′-wide Shipping Container – not a bad idea – would reduce total square footage from the 8.5′-wide Plan above.

My two cents input would be to move the Bath adjacent to the Bedroom, and have it be a 2 Door [Pocket Door] walk through. This would isolate the Bedroom from other activity, and put the Water-using points of Kitchen and Bath adjacent. This would minimize Hot Water Plumbing runs, and energy losses. I used Pocket Doors in our Super-Insulated Retirement House. They don’t waste the opening arc space of ‘regular’ Doors, allowing Furniture placement there. This Bath layout would make access easy for Homeowner and Guests.

Another trick is to install a Bath Sink ‘just’ big enough to wash up, and skip an unnecessarily-large Vanity. Install Wall-hung Cabinets instead, or Shelves, for storage. This ‘smaller’ Sink trick is used in many European B&Bs.

I also ran my Sink Plumbing straight back from right under the Sink, and tucked it against the back Wall. This maximized under-Sink storage, and allows pull-out Storage Baskets under all Sinks.

Batt or Foam Insulation in an interior Wall or two – which also reduces noise, BTW – would isolate W/D-produced heat from the Fridge. This is extremely easy to achieve. I also insulated the Interior Walls of our 2 Bedrooms from other areas.

A W/D single ‘Box’, dual function unit, as made by LG and others, would allow a Dorm-sized Fridge to reside above the W/D. Thermally isolating those 2 Appliances is VERY easy with a bit of Insulation. Although the 120 Volt Electric Dryer function of these combo units is somewhat slower, it simplifies Wiring and reduces cost a bit because no 240 Volt Service is required for that Appliance.

I have installed and used a 240 VAC ‘Demand’ Water Heater, as used Worldwide. Properly set-up and valved, they work well. This Shoebox-sized Heater needs no venting or Propane, and can install to Code under a Kitchen or Bath Sink. Because Front-loading Washers, as we have, use much less Water, a Demand or ‘Flash’ Heater works fine for them, too.

Engineer Guy - September 3, 2012 Reply

It was my error – full stop – when viewing the Bath layout above on a small Screen Portable Cellular Device in the hinterlands of rural Colorado. I retract that Bath observation. I’d like expand on some other ideas, for those who’ve not actually designed and/or built yet… I agreed from the get-go: the deeper Footprint above is better than 8′ deep.

Everything, ideally, should be to Code, just as the Poster above hopes for HUD House Approval. I don’t have the magic answer re: House square footage minimums. All our Sinks have Traps, of course. All I did rethink that requirement from ‘the way it’s always been done’. I put 90 degree Elbows immediately under the Sink, and got the Plumbing back to the rear Wall immediately ‘up high’. I then put the Code-required Trap parallel to the rear Wall. It connected to in-Wall Waste Plumbing stubbed in well off center from the Sink Drain. I would never consider skipping the Waste Trap. There are also Traps with built-in Cleanouts at the lowest point; very handy. I just re-thought Trap location, and it was Code-approved at our Inspection. The benefit: more under-Sink storage. I ‘created’ the saying ‘Never confuse Code with Logic’. All my Inspections went well by following Codes, however senseless they seemed.

What I learned/observed in Japan, and elsewhere, is to rethink space. So, I don’t believe in sacrificing anything, or doing without. Just start with a clean Design slate as to how to fulfill any given function. In the case of items around an optional, smaller Sink, Bath items can sit on one or two Glass Shelves on Walls, as seen at Renovator-type Design Stores. Recycling a Retro-style ‘Medicine’ Cabinet is kewl, too. When Floor space is freed up, by rethinking what size ‘American’ Sink/Vanity is actually needed, space for something else is created. That could be anything from a Litter Box to a Clothes Hamper to a tall Shelving Unit on the Floor. This exercise is identical to rethinking the need for a full size Refrigerator. Perhaps one is not req’d? I suggest this Design exercise be applied to House Design rigorously. We also went ‘up’ in our Stick-Built Solar House Design. All Closets have Shelving high up for Seasonal Clothing, etc.. 9′ Ceilings allow vertical storage; an important ‘stretching’ of ‘expensive’ Floor space when each square foot costs ‘x’.

Given the cumulative Appliance Load, I simply assumed this wonderful House would be Grid-tied. Code, as I know it, will require a Hot Water connection to the Washer [and Dishwasher]. We have new Appliances that internally heat Water, but cold-only Water connections are not allowed for hygienic reasons; technical justifications aside. One should not try to be ‘smarter’ than Code IMO; the rework can be painful. Change Water connections later if you like, but Code signoff will be req’d for fixed location House hookups. Also, once that ideal bit of Land is acquired, building to Code up front will allow House set-down permanently w/o reworking things.

In the ~18 Countries I visited on Worldwide High Tech Biz Travel over Decades, we’re about the only Country to heat and store Water. THE WORLD flash heats Water, literally. Plenty of Literature is out there re: the much-greater efficiency of heating Water once, when needed. I have no idea how Demand Heaters are considered energy hogs. The Jury is in on that discussion, and Demand Heating won. Also, it frees up Floor square footage a conventional Water Heater would consume. Every bit counts… 10 or 12 Gallon ‘Batch’ RV Water Heaters are an option, too. They’re outside Wall-mounted Propane Units. Some also have Electrical heating for when an RV is at a Campground with AC Power.

I nabbed 6 free Solar Water Collectors, and need about 2 of them to heat our entire Tap and Radiant Floor Water load. But, that’s for the more advanced Tinkerer on a House likely set down only once. Avoiding the ‘2nd Fuel’ of Propane [besides Electricity] really simplifies House Design UNLESS the House will be off-Grid. Then, the higher BTU content of Propane vs. Electricity for some functions is a no brainer. Also, through-Wall Heater Vents are avoided. Some folks are simply ‘scared’ of Propane, and I respect that. It’s like fear of Flying, I suppose… Off-peak Electrical Billing schemes make Electrical BTUs, or Therms, cheaper than identical quantity Propane BTUs.

Some ~40 years ago, I first starting studying ‘all things Solar’ and re-thinking Home Building. Given the interest, on this wonderful Forum, of bringing in a nice House at a decent price point, it’s germane to recycle prior thinking. For example, skipping any additional 240 Volt Wire and Breaker costs incrementally does make a difference. Some folks back in the ’70s used only Light Fixtures with pull Chains on them. Why? It saves the incremental cost of Wall Switches and Romex Wire runs. We sprung for a few Motion Detecting internal Light Switches where appropriate. Stores now use them on Glass Door Freezers to illuminate Freezers only when Customers walk by. They’ve been used in Commercial Bathrooms a long time. Sounds silly, but – again – it’s that Japanese-style of rethinking how best to fulfill a req’d function. Shaving ~$500- off a House saves $500-! Futons, and Murphy Beds, allow ‘recycling’ valuable Floor Space, as do fold up/down Chairs and half Tables hinged to the Kitchen Wall.

Folks who’ve not done so should Google in for new ideas.

I hope the ‘Geezer’ experience of me and my Friends helps out folks here in some way.

Engineer Guy - September 3, 2012 Reply

Forum Software removed the words above ‘Google in space saving Furniture’.

Angelique - September 4, 2012 Reply

This is amazing! I’ve searched all over to find a design like this and haven’t seen anything like this sold in America. Do you have a website and do you plan on selling these prefab? Finally a tiny modern tiny house that does’t require you to use a ladder to get into bed. That was always a big drawback for someone who at an early age has bad knees and has to get up to pee in the night. Brilliant! Hope to see more!

Cory Hagen - September 5, 2012 Reply

Wow… I can’t believe all the responses! I will do my best to prepare a more detailed plan drawing that could be used to build the Tiny Glass House. I’m sure some modifications would need to be made to ensure structural integrity. Any specific questions, please feel free to email me at cory.redesignyourself@gmail.com.

More designs to come!

Ilana - September 7, 2012 Reply

I live in an 8′ x 32′ “vintage” trailer (1955). The floorplan is very similar to this, but without the modern amenities. Thanks for sharing. I thought the only way to make my home more comfortable was to get something wider. I now have a few ideas for working with the space I have 🙂

Mina - October 4, 2012 Reply

Appologies if my comment offended you, just thought you might want to change the design for legal reasons.

Dale Barnhart - January 20, 2014 Reply

Hi Cory,
The answer to my dreams! Is that a fold down deck I view in the preliminary drawing? Fantastic! I agree with the other poster here who suggested that a flat pack gable roof with 6″-8″ overhangs be sent with the house to protect water damage from the walls & leaks/mold growth. Should the roof remain flat in future… why not incorporate a commercial grade roof-mounted skylight like one sees in foyers of office buildings mezzanines? Over all Cory this suits me to a tee buddy & in my area of the country & mid- Atlantic, HUD code = 650 square feet; however, if mounted to a trailer as mentioned, screw the code people it must pass only for the ANSI code regulating RV’s. Please let me know when your plans are ready, I for one absolutely love this design. Finally, would love to see this exterior cladding made to receive Dryvit exterior coating. Over all, a fantastic and much needed design for the aging senior citizen. Kudos!

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