It is April and winter is quickly slipping away, closing the gap between the research phase, and the build phase. It’s been a while since I last wrote a post, so many things have happened and/or changed since then. The biggest thing was that I was laid off from my crazy adult corporate job. This was a big relief, and great timing. I was unhappy working the 9-5 cube lifestyle (as are most people looking to go Tiny), and it was a real catalyst to stop and say ‘hey. this is really happening now. we’re doing this, because the universe is setting everything up for maximum convenience and opportunity’.
We’ve really amped up our time spent reading about tiny houses and design, and making tough decisions. We also began ‘The Great Purge’ which has been a gradual and sometimes overwhelming process. Only 2 years have passed since I moved back home from Halifax, and I’m not a materialistic shopping enthusiast, but we have somehow managed to accumulate a lot of STUFF all the same. Having my days free to do with as I please, I’ve had lots of time to itemize and organize, which is really the harder part of the process. Getting rid of things you don’t want, haven’t used in over a year, or are no longer useful- that’s straight forward. And very liberating! But it’s the stuff that ends up in the ‘keep pile’ that causes stress. Inevitably, everything in the keep pile won’t fit in the Tiny House. Or at least I’m being led to believe by the sensationalized episodes of Tiny House Nation, aired by FYI… I think in reality, the storage space in our Tiny House will be even greater than what is currently in our apartment, simply due to smart design and no wasted space.
I want to talk about the evolution of our floor plan now, and discuss why we put things where we put them. Our ideas are based mainly on intuition and some of our favourite Tiny Homes from around the world, so there will likely be small tweaks, in practice, in order to make things fit with Newfoundland Building Codes. I think based on the level of research we’ve done, these changes will be minor.
Initially, we were going to follow closely the plan of Shaye and Tom from New Zealand. Here’s their webpage, and their Facebook page. But we decided in the end that splitting the width of the space lengthwise would just be too narrow to cook comfortably in. To see what I mean, here is a sketch I made ages ago of our first plan:
First off, the drawing is to scale, and the rectangle on the left is the main floor. The two squares on the right are the loft spaces, that would fit directly above the main floor space on their immediate left. As you can see on the main floor, the bathroom is running tandem to the kitchen at the back of the house, splitting the space into two roughly 4-foot halves, which is fine, but it creates a few problems. First, the requirement of the dreaded CORNER CUPBOARD. I hate these with a passion. They contain a myriad of things that are impossible to get out without banging a wall, cupboard door, head, fingers.. etc. The other major problem would be clearance for drawers and the oven door. With a drawer open, or the oven door down, no one would be able to walk by, or enter the bathroom, respectively. We felt this was too limiting. So we changed our plan to this: *excuse the messy white out job – we ran out!
This new plan (drawn by Tim this time) places the bathroom at the back of the house spanning the entire width of the space, and the kitchen directly in front of it. This solves both problems. With a galley-style kitchen, we no longer have corner cupboards. And, there is ample room for movement in the full, nearly 8-foot wide space. Some other things to notice that have changed- the fold out table with chairs is gone. We thought about this long and hard, and realized that we likely wouldn’t use a table like that. We have a table right now, and we don’t eat at it. A better solution for us is a coffee table with a telescoping pedestal enabling it to change heights. That way, we can use the couch as seating during meals, and place chairs opposite it when guests are over. This idea is a marine-inspired one, and there are some cool space-saving furniture companies that are focused on these sorts of designs. We have to figure out if we’re going to buy it, or make it custom, which is why the dimensions aren’t on the drawing yet. It would be great if it could have a leaf or two as well. A great example of another tiny house employing this strategy is Brian Levy’s ‘The Minum House’. If you’re short on time, skip ahead to the 7:00 minute mark.
Overall, the features to take note of for our Tiny House plan are as follows:
- Full sectional couch, approximately 7.5 ft x 9 ft, which will be custom built with storage underneath to accommodate our camping gear and seasonal things.
- Full set of stairs leading up to main loft, with storage all underneath, composed of a series of drawers and cupboards. This will accommodate our coat closet, shoe and boot storage, and any other frequently used things.
- A full size fridge in the kitchen at the back right corner.
- A combination washer/dryer (one machine does double duty) adjacent to it, with a utilities cupboard and electrical panel above it. Check out this link for the combo units by LG.
- 10 foot long counter space on the left side of the kitchen, which will have a full sized sink at one end, and a 3-burner cooktop and oven at the other end, forming the magic triangle between fridge, stove and sink, that kitchen ergonomics suggests.
- A full sized enclosed shower ( 4 x 2.5 ft ) in the bathroom, with the composting toilet placed adjacent, and a bathroom sink with floor to ceiling storage cupboard on the right hand side. This accommodates towels, linens, etc. Just like a normal bathroom.
- The dotted lines at about 1/3 and 2/3 of the length of the tiny house indicate the edges of the loft spaces at either end. The centre section will be open from floor to ceiling, approximately 10.5 feet high.
I should explain why I’m using imperial measurements. Initially, I started out all metric, like you would, but it very quickly became impossible. In North America, building materials and appliance specs are usually all in imperial, likely because of the dominance of the United States, and the need for congruence. There’s probably a connection also to not wanting to make things too complicated for the generation of workers that grew up using the imperial system. That’s my hunch anyway. Perhaps after a certain amount of time has passed since Canada switched to metric (1970), they will make it a complete switch for all the trades as well. It’s frustrating during the time being for someone like me who thinks in metric, but it’s a necessary adjustment to operate in the building world.
What is even better than the above hand drawn sketch are the following screen shots from our model in google sketch-up. Tim is completely responsible for this and spent many days, weeks, probably months learning how to use this program and putting together a 3D version of our plan that is to scale. All of the furnishings and appliances, really everything for that matter, are representative only. Tim found them in a bank of 3D images available for google sketch up, and so they’re just used as place holders, more or less. The bed in the guest loft will hopefully be ‘in-laid’, so the top of the mattress is flush with the floor surface.
This will allow for smugglers hatches all around it, where we can have in-floor storage! These look like trap doors that lift up on a hinge. We haven’t decided yet if we want to put a window on the wall opposite the tv/media bookshelf. The more windows the better, but we don’t want to sacrifice structural integrity or insulation too much. It will be a question I’ll have for someone more experienced, very soon. We haven’t put walls up around the lofts yet as they would strongly impede the view into the house. But if you remember those long narrow windows oriented horizontally from hOMe (an image is on my first blog post), we will be having the same ones in the lofts on both sides.
Let me know what you think! Have we missed something or could we use the space in better ways?