Is the open road calling your name? The Tiny House Blog is here to help you start your journey the right way with these top 10 design ideas for small mobile homes.
10. Use a composting toilet
The most expensive components of a mobile home, just like a home with a foundation, are the plumbing and related fixtures associated with kitchens and bathrooms.
By using a composting toilet, you can remove this expensive infrastructure from your plans altogether – along with the ongoing chores and maintenance that come with them. (If you need help choosing a model, consider these options from Sun Mar.)
At Dancing Rabbit Eco-village, we’ve been using the humanure method to handle our business, and it works perfectly. It’s easy, inexpensive, and much better for the environment than traditional flush toilets or chemical-based alternatives. If you want to visit our village of over a dozen different tiny houses and learn more about our sustainable lifestyle, check out our website to schedule a visit.
9. Balance the load
Remember what it was like driving over a speed bump in high school, with nineteen of your friends piled in the backseat? Well, imagine that experience, except with several thousand pounds of house behind you instead.
You don’t necessarily need to count the ounces, but it is vital for the longevity of your tiny mobile home that the weight of the roof and other heavy infrastructure be distributed as evenly as possible. Otherwise, structural damage could develop over years of use and cause your tiny house on wheels to break down on the side of the road. (And I don’t think Triple-A can help much with a splintered roof beam…)
8. Consider aerodynamics
I’ve never heard of a tiny mobile home racing league, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start one. An aerodynamic envelope design for your structure, (meaning the overall contour of your walls and roof,) will go a long way to ensure you get first place at the winner’s circle. You will also save big money on fuel costs, because less wind resistance = better gas mileage.
7. Install latches on everything
Traveling from coast to coast is going to mean traversing hills and mountains, winding your way through hairpin curves and driving over THOUSANDS of potholes. The last thing you want is for your grandmother’s heirloom Wedgewood china to bounce out of the cupboard and smashing on the floor.
The solution is simple – put a latch on all your cupboard doors, and keep everything you can inside of an independent container. Make sure the lids are tight on your leftovers in the fridge. Stow that Ming vase in a safe place until you pull over for a while. Seriously, otherwise your tiny home will look like the set of a poltergeist movie.
6. No unitaskers allowed
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s time to finally let go of that battery powered battery charger that’s only good for recharging its own batteries. I know your auntie gave it to you as a graduation present twenty years ago, but I’m sure she’ll understand. When you live in a tiny home and you’re pulling everything you own along behind you with sheer horsepower, you can only to take the things that are actually serving you.
Far be it from me to tell you what to prioritize, but if you’ve grown accumulated a lot of stuff over the years, you might want to take an inventory now and start evaluating what you really need to keep. Give it away to someone who will make use of it and value it in their lives. You’ll be glad you did, and so will they.
5. Collapsible furniture is your friend
Get a murphy bed, a desk that hangs from the wall on hinges, and a coffee table that rolls underneath a bench. You’ll have plenty of space to play marbles on the floor with the grandkids, or, you know, walk from one end of your home to the other without skinning your knees. Think Russian dolls.
4. Make use of your vertical space and headroom
Those of us who have become accustomed to plenty of elbow room in our homes tend to take wall space for granted. Don’t get me wrong… I love a painting of dogs playing poker as much as anyone, but in a tiny home, your walls are the perfect place to install cabinets and shelving
If you have a little extra headroom, you can even build a sleeping loft as a second half-story of your mobile tiny house. This will radically increase the square footage inside your space, and you won’t have to get rid of your vinyl record collection.
3. Get the highest quality windows you can afford
There are limitations on how wide a mobile home can be, so the design of your walls will necessarily be as thin as possible. Consequently, your insulation will be thin as well, and you don’t want to hemorrhage your conditioned air all year long because of chintzy glazing.
An excellent technique for improving the thermal qualities of a thin wall is something called a Trombe wall – it’s essentially a layer of sheathing separated from the exterior façade by a few inches. This sheathing creates an air gap, which will prevent the hot summer sun from invading your home while delaying the outflow of the heat you want to keep indoors during the winter months. Daniel Weddle’s house, Snails Away, is a great example of how this application can be put to use in a mobile tiny home.
2. Use curtains instead of partition walls
Privacy comes at a premium in a tiny house, especially if you’re living with a romantic partner and/or your children. The problem is, permanent interior dividing walls take up a lot of space and are visually obstructive, leading to the perception that a space is smaller than it really is.
One solution you can implement is to install sliding curtains wherever you want to divide a space. They’ll add a lot of decorative flair to your home, while allowing you to block out unwanted light while you’re sleeping, or ensure you have a space to change your clothes without everyone else in the family counting your freckles for the hundredth time. When you don’t need separation anymore, you simply draw back the curtain.
1. Make sure your home is road worthy
Can you imagine a worse nightmare in a mobile home than getting pulled over by the highway patrol in rural Wyoming, only to have your house impounded for violating some obscure traffic ordinance? Getting slapped with a ticket is bad enough, but scrambling to pull together thousands of dollars in order to get all your stuff out of the clink, while the price rises by a hundred bucks a day, isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.
Sure, I’m using some hyperbole here, but the reality is that if you’re going to take your home with you on the road, you need to ensure that your tiny house on wheels conforms to roadworthiness standards in the USA, or wherever it is you plan to live.
Unfortunately, “street-legal” means different things in different states, so there aren’t many comprehensive and trustworthy guides available on the web. Your best bet is to have your design evaluated by a qualified vehicle inspection station. They’ll consider everything from carbon emissions to tire pressure and give you some targeted advice about your particular project.
If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like living in a tiny home, or you’re considering relocating to a community of likeminded folks, please take some time to check out Dancing Rabbit Eco-village. We have a plethora of different small houses in forms and styles, all together within a short walking distance of one another. We would love to host you for a visit sometime soon.