The answer is bigger than ‘tiny’ suggests. Looking back through time, people lived and still live on barges, small mud-brick homes, and log cabins made for weekend getaways and fishing trips. These days, there are so many variations on a tiny home out there (such as micro houses, trailer homes, mobile tiny sheds, or cabins on wheels), and we shall delve deeper into the options below, but firstly we need to look into the basics.
How big can my tiny house be?
There is no definitive size limit, however the average size ranges from just 60 square feet to 500 square feet. Perhaps you want one a little larger – around 700 square feet, but once you start to go over this, it no longer belongs to the Tiny Home you had imagined to begin with. Think about what type of Tiny Home you think would work best for your lifestyle and those inhabiting it. Again, you have to take into consideration whether you want a loft or a foldaway frontage that expands the footprint when fully flat. Also think about whether the tiny home will be on wheels, on a foundation, or on the water. Keep in mind what your tiny home will accommodate in regards to possessions – what is essential and what you can do without.
What types of tiny homes are there?
Try a Bus…Conversion
If you think about it, there is a lot of space in a bus, and a lot of natural light coming in through a multitude of windows. After you take out all the seating, there’s a ton of room, and the walls, windows and roof are already installed. This gives you a great starting point when renovating because the essential framework has already been done and the windows and doors are in (weather tight) – some call it the ‘lockup’ stage. Some have split level flooring and some buses have two levels (double decker) with stairs already in place. Tour coaches have plenty of external access storage while others are much longer. So you’ll want to research the different types and how you want your bus to look. Do you want a double decker so you can have the bedrooms upstairs, or do you want a long single level bus to add a sunroof to? Do you want to take out some of the windows for privacy, or do you want to install one-way mirrors so you can see out, but people can’t see in? Or would you want to replace some of the windows for ones that open out to let the air in? Would you go for a classic retro style bus or a more slimline modern type? This can also influence your design choices. And on the topic of design, you don’t have to choose a single colour for the exterior, you can do whatever you like – graffiti, a landscape painting, an abstract composition, camouflage, or a faux replication of stone or brick work. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. But first off is whether you can practically fit everything you need into one of these road warriors. Think laterally about storage, perhaps taking inspiration from buses featured in road trip films, other people’s transformations uploaded online, and Pinterest.
Going to the Chapel and we’re…
How about taking on a converted chapel or renovating one yourself? It would certainly be a talking point amongst your friends. With the wooden or stone shell already in place, all that’s left to do is design the interior and decide if you want to add on a skylight, an entertainment deck, or put it on a tint house trailer to move around with you (if it’s wooden). Think of what you could add to make it home – would you enhance the original features and sympathetically restore, or modernise for a unique twist.
You see your Gypsy…Vardo Tiny Homes
Remember the old Gypsy Caravan, otherwise known as a Vardo? These homes were traditionally horse-drawn wagons, featured a rounded framework, large wheels and were creatively decorated using paint, carving, and gilding on both the inside and outside. The rounded frame design aided in combatting strong winds as well as giving the owner a wider middle section for beds. These days, they are similar to a trailer tiny home. They have been designed for a vehicle to tow them around with more appropriate wheels and suspension. You can adapt these wagons to suit your needs in today’s society with an array of materials, window choices, and sizes. You can have skylights installed or have both ends fitted out with glass so you have a double aspect view. Or you could have one end as a huge opening verandah/porch when the weather is just so.
Train of Thought
Have you secretly dreamt of owning an historic train carriage or caboose? Not as bountiful as shipping containers to find and pick one up, but they have a lot of charm, history and character, and look great in a countryside setting surrounded by lush wild gardens. If you can get a double carriage, you have the option then of making a hallway (perhaps glass) or adding another section to the train for instance. As per buses, these sturdy passenger vessels house a lot of seats which can be taken out to free up space for your design flair to come in and make it a home, and they also have an abundance of windows for all that natural light to come flooding in. You could restore it on the outside to its original colours and look, or turn it into something imaginative and unique to your style. Even if you don’t get or can’t find a train carriage, you can have a bespoke one made in a similar style to what you are wanting.
Awww… A Cob House
There are a variety of cob homes or designs to choose from. Anything from round to curved to hexagonal and rectangle in shape so use your imagination if building. Basically made from earth’s natural materials of clay, straw, and sand, a cob house is very durable, with some examples having lasted more than five centuries. The trick to such longevity is having watertight roofing that doesn’t allow rain and moisture to creep in, which could be anything from natural straw thatch to shingles. Coating the exterior walls with weather resistant paint also helps. Again, you may have to think hard about how your furniture would fit into a curved, round, or hexagonal space if you go down this route.
All aboard the…Houseboat
Do you love the water and being part of it? Then this is the answer for you. An ideal way of finding out if a floating home is for you, spend a week on a rental and live the life. They come in all different shapes and sizes, some are permanently docked, others travel the magnificent waters experiencing nature’s wonderful bounty. And if you love fishing, snorkeling, or swimming, you can do it all literally from your front door step! And if you have an upstairs deck, you can utilise that for all manner of ideas from sunbathing to hosting alfresco dinner parties. When purchasing, you do need the boat to undergo a thorough haul-out inspection which inspects the hull for sturdiness, for rust and leaks, as well as the interior structure of the vessel. This helps determine the value, and helps when it comes to insuring it. You will also need to think about dock/mooring rental fees. There’s a lot of detailed information available online and through ‘Houseboat’ magazine. There are even articles on where the best spots are around the world to have one, including The Netherlands, America, Canada, and even Australia – whether on lakes, canals, or other waterways.
On the road again…RVs and Camper Vans
They’ve been around for decades, when most people used them for vacations. However, if you think about it, the original house on wheels concept also needs no construction as it’s house is built into the vehicle. So you already have a ready-to-go option. If you want a new model, you will be spending more than a trailer tiny house built from scratch in a lot of cases, but it would include a new all-in-one vehicle ready to go. If you go down the used RV route, you have the opportunity to renovate and make the interior space to your liking. This maybe a good choice as these campervans are made for mild seasonal weather, not so insulated for cold winter weather conditions, so you’d need to make adjustments necessary to live year round. Another aspect is that you can tow a vehicle behind it if you want to drive something smaller for parking purposes when in cities, or if you just want to duck down to the supermarket.
A+ for ‘A’ Frame Cabins
Usually made from wood, A-Frame cabins have a triangular geometric shape that allows for foliage, rain, and snow to just slide off resulting in less maintenance. They also are more resilient at buffeting strong winds and tend to sit in harmony with nature. The unique architectural design also gives great strength for supporting second level lofts and the external wall design allows for an extended frontage for an undercover entertaining area. A-Frame homes need more consideration when contemplating the roof, as it is an integral, visual part of the overall design. You can add flat or dormer windows, or would it even have a whole side that opens up, and think about the materials you want to use – will it be shingles, tiles, corrugated iron, or copper? There are free designs and plenty of inspiration on the internet, so why not check them out.
Hitch it up to the Trailer Tiny Homes
Trailer tiny homes are tiny houses that have been specifically constructed straight onto a purposefully designed trailer mobile ready. One of the most recognisable tiny homes, the tiny trailer home is designed for towing around the country and is only limited by your imagination when it comes to parking it up for the night. Most frames are built from cost-effective timber, and because it’s built on a trailer, these tiny homes can have additional exterior storage at either end, or extendable walls that push out when you’re parked up. The world’s your oyster when it comes to design – you could draw up a mini Art Deco style house, a spaceship, or create an architectural wonder. These types of tiny houses have the most floor plans available, and usually fall into regulated guidelines for transportation. It’s always a good idea however to research the outer limits you can go up to when planning your own tiny trailer home, and also the strength and type of truck, ute, or van you will be using to tow it with. There are certain ways to go about building on a trailer, as well as attention to provide and meet the required health and safety regulations, so make sure if you get someone to build, that they have the necessary experience and knowledge. Check for feedback or references. Make sure everything is written down in a contract signed by both parties, and that your new home comes with a guarantee/warranty.
When your Shipping Container comes in
You just know that a shipping container is built to last – it’s sturdy, able to withstand stormy weather, weight, and is also fireproof! They have a basic shell with which to work with and come in various sizes from the commonly used 20 and 40 feet containers, up to 48 feet for extra length. These can also be cut down in size to whatever size you want, and are also an economical option when considering a metal framed base for your home, studio, home office or even lockup garage. Just because it’s a shipping container, doesn’t mean it’s a cheap housing solution. It can be a luxury container home with architectural tweeks here and there to make it pop! Designing the layout once you have the measurements makes it easier to imagine all those shipping container ideas, decide where the spaces will be cut out for windows and doors, even a skylight or two, or if you want to add an extension off to one side or elongate the length. You can stack them in line with each other or angled to receive daylight from different angles. The possibilities are endless, and are only limited by your imagination.
The Beach bum… Beach Huts
If you have your own little slice of heaven right on the waterfront, you could transport or built your own beach hut or chalet to fit in with the lifestyle. Similar in build to a Tiny House, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to decorating both the interior and exterior. However, you must make sure they are sturdy enough to cope with strong winds and salty water sea spray, and have the right type of protection to repel the damaging effects salty water can have depending where you are located. Imagine stepping out your front door straight onto the sandy beach. Alternatively, you could set one down in the middle of a forest looking out over the mountains or by a river.
Go climb a Tree House
Craving for a spectacular view? Building an unconventional tree house could be your answer. Just like Tiny Houses, and traditionally something kids liked to build (albeit basic playtime structures), they tend to be small in size, but with the added bonus of being raised up high to enjoy the isolation and wondrous views from above. Dependant on the tree or trees supporting, you could even have a swing or bridge connecting different parts like separate rooms or toilet. I have seen guest accommodation tree houses available, so challenge yourself and experience the lifestyle first hand.
That’s Yurt…not yogurt
Be at one with nature. A definite step up from your basic tent camping holiday, the yurt has taken the world by storm with many people wanting to experience what was once how the Mongolian nomads used to live. A yurt is round in it’s structure, and the modern yurt has a closed off bathroom and a fully-functioning kitchen, or add a fireplace and loft if you want. There is a method to the madness of making a yurt round. High windy climates don’t have to push against a flat wall, as the wind is dispersed and passes round the outside or over the domed top. Yurts also have a round opening at the top, that when opened let hot air rise out causing a vacuum for cool air to enter through other openings in the structure. Traditionally, walls were built with wooden framework and covered with animal skins or felt. Generally made as a temporary home, you can put them up and take them down and move around the country erecting it up at a yurt friendly park or on the land of someone you know. Once you have one built, which is a really short time compared to any other tiny homes, you may want to use the structure as a guide for building a more permanent home using more durable materials such as cob, stone, or brick on a more solid foundation. You may even have one built on stilts with a walkway running onto the side of a hill instead of on the ground. Remember though, you will have to think about housing laws if taking this route. You will also have to think laterally when furnishing a yurt, as it is round, so curved furniture or curved modular furniture pieces will go a long way.