How To Design A Tiny House – Part 1

Macy M3 comments7975 views

Things to consider:

  • What size house would you like?
  • What style house would you like?
  • What layout works best?
  • What are your 10 things?

What size is right?

Most tiny houses are on wheels to bypass building codes.  If you go this route your house will never be viewed as a permanent structure and thus permitting skips the building department and goes through a different agency (DMV) for inspection and permitting.

When going through the transportation department you are limited on width (by state) to about 8′-6″ max width and 13′-6″ in height (length varies) before having to get special permitting to tow your home.  For this reason MOST tiny houses are confined to the 8′-6″ width and vary in length.  The most common trailer sizes that you see tiny houses on is between 16′-0″ and 24′-0″.  There are plenty of shorter and longer examples out there but in general they lay in that range.

In order to start to understand the what length would work best for you I would suggest looking up other examples of  tiny houses and see which look the most appealing and the most feasible to you and then find out the length.  That will give you a good starting point to go from.   I would recommend sticking with something on a 4′-0″ increment (16′, 20′ or 24′) as it will save you time in construction because sheet goods (plywood, OSB, Drywall, etc.) typically come in 4’x8′ sizes and so it will make for less cuts and easier assembly to stay on a 4′ increment overall and will produce less waste.

What Style Do You Like?


Natural materials, lower pitched roofs, built in furnishings, high detail, comfy, cozy grandpas porch in the city.


Log Home/Cabin

Simple, comfortable, cozy, warm, inviting, rustic.



Ornate, detailed, whimsical, asymmetrical, complex and beautiful.



Clean lines, flat planes, interesting materials, intersecting geometries, clean, crisp and enlightening.



Formal, proportionate, symmetrical, detailed, strict, strong.

Google Image (no source)


Practical, inviting, functional, varied.


Something completely different!

While there are ‘styles’ there are no limits!

fortune cookie 2 - 055
Fortune Cookie from Zyl Vardos,

What Layout Works Best?

Again, I would encourage you to look at as many other examples as you can from others and just think of how YOU would use the space.  If you see a kitchen that seems hard to work in it is probably not the best layout for you.  Think about adjacencies and how you would feel if the kitchen were next to the bathroom, would that bother you?  What if the bedroom was in the loft only?  Would it work better with a ground floor bedroom?  Or maybe just stairs instead of a ladder is a good compromise?  Look at as many houses as you can and keep notes of what would work best for you, start a Pinterest board of your favorite tiny house features, or just keep a little book around for all your favorite tidbits.

What are your 10 things?

There is NOTHING that can’t be included in a tiny house, nothing.  It’s just a matter of how.  The goal of a tiny house is not to limit your lifestyle or possessions, quite the opposite, it is to limit the things that have no meaning so that those with meaning can become more active influences in your life.  Once someone gets serious about choosing to go smaller with their lifestyle I always encourage them to think of at least ten things that are a ‘must have’ in their house.

What ten things would make your house a home?  Do you need wall space to hang all of those family photos?  Do you have a pet with special requirements?  Do you need a double basin sink?  A flush toilet?  Room to sew and hold your supplies?  Maybe you have a kayak that needs a place to call home too?  Whatever it is you can fit it in, but only if you identify those things that are most important first!

In the comments I would love it if you could leave your list of ten things that YOU need your tiny house to accommodate so that you may inspire others!



  1. 10 things for us older folks: 1) country style-24 ft, 2) Off-grid, 3) large windows, 4) very minimal kitchen, 5) open walkways, 6) ground floor couch/bed, 7) smallest possible walk-in tub, 8) private office space for hubby’s business, 9) pantry, 10) creative spaces for books,

  2. My 10 must haves with as far as I’ve thought the whole thing through:
    Full size bathroom
    Tub and shower combo
    French door/double glass door
    Max headroom in loft (low pitch gable roof)
    Skylight in main loft
    Open layout
    Accommodations for my cats and dogs (litter boxes, food dishes, climby things for cats, pet beds)
    Wood stove

  3. A space for sewing. I also have lots of material.
    A private bedroom away from kids.
    A full size bathroom.
    A completely adequate kitchen.
    Adequate storage.
    Adequate seating.
    Open layout.
    lots of light.
    big glass doors.

Leave a Response