Tiny House Essentials:
How to Scale Down in Comfort and Style

Contributed by: Angela-Parker

So you have decided to go smaller. Depending on your age, you have probably shocked your parents or your children (or if you are a true rebel — maybe both generations in one dramatic swoop!)

Now that you have committed yourself to more sustainable living and a more enjoyable existence with less worry, less responsibility and less “stuff” — you want to determine how to scale back comfortably and fit your desired lifestyle into a tiny home.

I have a few tips that may help ease your transition and create a living space that you simply adore!Smaller does not mean less interesting, it usually means just the opposite. You will get more impact with fewer furnishings and your personal style will shine through. Your tiny house should fit your life while keeping you safe, happy, organized and unfettered. It should be designed to tremendously reduce the time, energy and money required to repair, maintain, clean and finance your living quarters so you can spend more of your personal resources enjoying your life.

What is a Tiny Home?

Tiny homes may be stand alone dwellings. They may be (like mine) a tiny cabin with a huge private outdoor space. Yours may be a small condo with a huge semi-private, shared outdoor space (like a private beach or a gated community with plentiful amenities).Perhaps yours is a town house purchased to spend time near your children, grandchildren or your parents — without sacrificing your privacy (they live in one half, you live in the other). Maybe you are an entrepreneur (or small business owner) who has decided that having a leased store front and a leased apartment is a wasteful duplication of resources and you have decided to replace these two separate spaces with a nicer, “all in one” working/dwelling space with the convenience of a downtown location and the ability to utilize more economical modes of public transportation.

The first step to Living Joyfully in a Tiny House

Whatever your situation, during the transition the time will come when you are sitting in the middle of all your “stuff” wondering how you are going to make this tiny house idea work. The Key is to Eliminate Your Excess Stuff. (I’ll be creating a series of articles on the process of observing voluntary simplicity on my WickedBlog, if you need a few tips.) I’ll help you to organize and discard, evaluate and eliminate the treasure trove that you currently call “mine.”Tiny houses encourage you to delve into your life, pamper yourself and spend more time doing what YOU want to do: enjoying more time with family and friends, volunteering for worthy causes, pursuing your creative endeavors, meditating, reading, or whatever you enjoy most.

How to Evaluate, Select or Improve a Tiny House for Full-time Living

  1. Determine Your Minimum and Your Optimum Space Requirements. Consider your current and future requirements. If you work from home and do not live alone, for instance, you will probably need a separate room for work. If you have children, you will need a bedroom area for them. If you live alone, you may be able to be happy in a studio style flat with an “office nook” and if you have a 17-year-old child who is headed for college in a few months, a single bedroom “tiny house” with a large living area that has a pull out couch may get you by in a pinch. Determine where you are now and where you will be in the near future and make your decisions with the long-term in mind.
  2. Assess Your Potential Tiny House for Essential Features. If you are a gourmet cook, a tiny kitchen will not make you happy. You should consider an open layout so that even a small kitchen has adequate counter and storage space (including a pantry) and the airy feel afforded by a living-area/kitchen combo. If you need to rework the kitchen to make it larger, do so. Conversely, if you seldom eat at home but require a studio for your art or an office for your work, a small simple kitchen will suit your needs perfectly and will mean you have more space for your office/studio.
  3. Plan for You, Not for Others. Do not outfit your tiny house with an eye toward resale. You should mold the living space to best suit your needs. Forget about what anyone else thinks. Create a space that is your personal retreat where you are comfortable and happy.
  4. Watch wasted space. Although some people want bigger bedrooms, you may want to consider how large the bedroom needs to be. A bedroom should be a serene area that is uncluttered, soothing and conducive to sleep. Keep the television and other distractions in the living area. Your bedroom should be a place to rest, rejuvenate and retire in peace and quiet. It does not need to be huge, it merely needs to be private. Do be sure that you don’t create a bedroom so small that it’s difficult to maneuver around to make your bed or access your closet. Consider a feng shui approach to your sleeping quarters.
  5. Consider Outdoor Living Spaces. If you like to entertain, it may be important that you have a larger outdoor patio or screened porch to entertain. You don’t need to maintain indoor space all year round for a few parties you throw during the temperate months. Take the party outside!

You want a space small enough that your life is as uncomplicated as possible, and large enough that you don’t feel smothered. Loving life in a tiny house is accomplished through light, enticing features, abundant storage space, planned organization, and thoughtful, free-flowing floor plans in the space you have.

Live in the Light

No house seems inviting if it is too dark. Be sure your tiny house has an abundance of natural light and has tastefully incorporated artificial light.

Artificial Lighting Techniques

  • Consider using light, rather than walls, to separate living areas. (For instance, create bright workspace light in the kitchen area and softer light in the living areas.)
  • Use lighted cabinets with glass fronts to push the walls back and make the space seem larger visually and to keep your cabinet contents in easy-to-find, organized groups.
  • If you don’t want your cabinet contents showing, you can achieve a similar effect with frosted glass door fronts and lights on the top of cabinets (to push the ceiling up).
  • Decorate and accent with light. Showcase a plant or your favorite work of art with directional lighting.
  • Check for any “dark corners” even in the closets and/or storage and utility areas and brighten them up with task lighting.
  • Consider using full-spectrum bulbs for a more pleasant option to florescent or incandescent bulbs.

Natural Light

  • Bring in the outdoors with large, expansive windows.
  • Consider tambor-style windows that will allow your the privacy of shades or curtains on the lower panes and natural light above eye-level.
  • Consider architectural changes to improve natural light. A bay window in a tiny house is more impactful than the same window in a larger home.
  • Skylights can offer more natural light while expanding your ceilings into the clouds.
  • Make sure window treatments offer privacy (if needed) without blocking natural light.

Go for Luxury

When making changes in your tiny house, buy the best you can afford. The joy of owning a smaller dwelling is that it’s easier to afford those features you have always wanted. Scaling back means these items will have more impact and it will cost less and bring you the joy of these luxuries.With only a single bathroom, you may be able to afford the footed tub you couldn’t justify when you had to maintain a home with three and a half baths. Now, you can install the granite you always wanted for little more than it would have cost to install laminate counter tops in a much larger kitchen. A single object of fine art will carry more weight than a veritable gallery of art would in a McMansion (and there’s less to dust!)Bookshelves should be built in and should feature glass fronts. The built in feature means that less floorspace is required for this storage space and glass fronts give you the opportunity to keep your treasures dust and maintenance free. You can also place gallery lighting inside to help “push back” the walls in the storage areas for a lighter, brighter, and more spacious feeling room.Vault the ceilings in the living areas. Want special woodwork and trim? Go for it! In a tiny house there are less doors, less square footage and it is more affordable to incorporate such luxuries.

Storage Space

Enjoying life in a tiny house requires an abundance of storage space. Even if you have eliminated the majority of your “stuff” before moving in, having a place for everything to “live” inside your home will reduce your stress. Planning for and organizing adequate storage in a smaller home is essential.

  • Storage space is the antidote to the one true enemy of the tiny house… clutter.
  • Your storage areas should be well-organized and designed to have the things you need stored where you most often use them.
  • Divide rooms with closets, built in bookcases, shelves, entertainment centers and other storage meccas.
  • Use glass and light to expand the walls past the back of the storage units.
  • Use mirrored doors on closets to provide full-length mirrors for getting dressed, to visually expand rooms and to amplify light.
  • Keep your storage space organized, always.
  • Use labels, beautiful and/or transparent storage containers, and thoughtful placement to ensure that your closets, cabinets and utility areas stay pleasantly clutter-free.

A properly designed tiny house will offer you all the advantages of gracious living without any of the disadvantages. It’s not an undertaking for an individual who abhors planning, but it can be a wonderful option for those who seek more meaningful pursuits in life, less debt and more comfort and joy. A spectacular tiny house will take into consideration the economies of features, motion, space and style to create an home that welcomes and nurtures its owners.

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5 Comments Tiny House Essentials:
How to Scale Down in Comfort and Style

  1. monique

    thanks for a cool blog. We are thinking about building a log home, a small one :) Could you post more pictures of your tiny house?
    Monique

    Reply
  2. Mark van Roojen

    The comment on making it for you and not for someone else seems deeply right. One only has so many years on this planet and thinking of your house just as an investment rather than as a place where you will spend (hopefully) enjoyable time may well be wasting some of it.

    As for bedroom space free of distractions, I think the idea is right, but how to impliment it might depend on whether you share the space. I’ve found that the sleeping loft in the cabin is just right and one of its virtues is that it opens onto the whole living area. Because my wife and I are readers and not TV watchers we don’t need to screen it off from the rest of the space to get some rest. Were our habits different, or were we sharing it with others who did watch tv (assuming we could even get reception) we might well want a physical barrier between us and the main areas at night.

    FWIW.

    best, Mark

    Reply
  3. sharon sedeen

    I am curious about all details of tiny house living.
    I am particularly interested in the picture of the home on the far left of your
    header which makes use of glass to the max.

    Reply

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