I spend a minimum of one day a week working as a mentor and consultant for a local high school as they build a tiny house based on the Elm 20 blueprint. There are two lofts: a sleeping loft and a storage loft. As they started to take shape the question arose among the students, how do we get up there? It’s a good question actually. How do you get up there? Do you build some sort of ladder? Do you try and find old boat stairs that are angled in design? What about something a bit more funky and more artsy? Are steps the answer? They seem simple enough. Let’s do an exercise.
I ask you to think back to the first tiny house photo you remember seeing. I’ll do the same:
What do you notice? They all have ladders. Those first tiny house images I saw back in 2009 and 2010 all had ladders leading to the loft. Perhaps it was because they were easiest to build or perhaps it was because the modern movement was still very much in its infancy. Whatever the case, those ladders had some major drawbacks.
- They make middle-of-the-night tinkles incredibly difficult.
- If not properly lit they can cause major accidents.
- They are impassable for pets and smaller children.
- They don’t give off the “this is my home” vibe very well.
Those same ladders have some unmistakable pros though, as well.
- They are compact and can be stored almost anywhere (against a wall, under a couch, etc).
- They can be moved as needed.
- They don’t weight much and are easy enough for most adults to handle.
Somewhere along the line – 2011, I am thinking – DIYers and tiny housers in general, started realizing the limits to a ladder, most specifically, the lack of storage. In fact, at this same time storage was becoming a major concern and design inspiration. I point specifically to Logan Smith and Tammy Strobel who released photos of their tiny house on wheels showcasing some very cool ideas including under cabinet Ball jars for dry goods and cabinet toe kicks that hide storage drawers.
Some builders (like Brevard Tiny House) even searched for storage in other areas.
It was warranted though and without knowing it, seemed to usher in a new development in tiny houses. The ladder became less and less evident in homes and versions of stairs – yes, stairs! – began to find their way into THOWs. I attribute this to the Tumbleweed Houses redesign in 2015 wherein they announced new plans, some changes in classic plans, larger sleeping spaces, and more!
Among their new offerings were the Tumbleweed Stairs that allowed for a new way to access sleeping lofts, created more storage, and took up about the same floor space as previous ladders. It was the start of something very popular!
And with that, a new precedence was created. A ladder to the loft was so..so, “antiquated”. Stairs were the ultimate answer and for two very valid reasons:
- Stairs are easier to climb.
- Stairs offer more storage options for tiny houses.
Mind you, stairs are heavy, they take up more space in a lot of cases, and they are un-movable. But those are very small cons in a world where every square inch counts.
Today you are hard pressed to find a tiny house with just a ladder. They typically exist in micro houses or “A frame” roof tiny houses where there is not a lot of head room. But by in large, the stairs have replaced the ladder and created yet another way for tiny housers to express themselves artistically and domestically.
What about you? What does your tiny house have? What do you prefer? Let us know in the comment section below.