How To Design A Tiny House – Part 4 – Working in Plan

Macy M2 comments

Lets talk about the general thoughts and considerations that go into defining your floor plan.  Something fun to get away from all those Style, Size , and Priorities stuff.

Once you know your priorities that can start to inform your design decisions.  You can map out the spaces you want and start to work with how they all fit together, in plan.  Is it important to you that the bathroom not be right next to the kitchen?  Let that set the boundary.  Do you want a bath tub or will a shower be ok?  Or maybe you want both.  Do you have pets that need their own space to lay down?

Setting a Scale:

I suggest starting out with some sort of general scale and start laying the pieces together.  Unless you have other reasons a good scale to start designing at is 1/2″=1′-0″.  On paper this would make an 8.5’x18′ house be about 4″x9″.

The best ways to apply a scale are:

  • The easiest way for me is some simple graph paper.  Rather than drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing (because it will happen a lot) I suggest making some scale drawings of your necessary items then cut them out.  That way you can just freely rearrange as needed.  If you want a head start on that here are some cutouts you can download to get you started
  • 3D model, SketchUp offers a free download and there are some great tutorials out there on YouTube.  I hear TinyNest has some great ones [affiliate].
  • Or there is always the option of a physical model.  This is usually the most time consuming and doesn’t let you quickly make decisions but for some people it is how their brain works through design.  This can be as simple as cutting up some old cereal boxes or it can involve some fine woodworking skills, the choice is yours, the most important thing is just to model things to scale.  This also tend to be a holistic approach, working in plan and elevation at once, which can be more daunting for some.

Some examples:

Here are a few examples of ways that a 16′, 20′ and 24′ trailer can be arranged.  These are just general space ideas.  Imagine that the yellow spaces are the bathroom, the green tones are the kitchen, the orange/browns are the living areas, red is a dedicated bed space and the light blues are loft orientation options that could be for each lower plan option.  (I will continue to use these as I go through these steps, getting into more detail over time, for now we are just looking at general plans)


As you can see the general spaces are the bathroom, the kitchen and the living area.  The living area may or may not combine the sleeping space and the sitting space.  You are never obligated to have a loft.  There are plenty of examples of sofa/sleepers (futon, pull-out couch, murphy bed, etc) to use one space for both.  Because the width and length are often limited more than the height many people choose to have a loft space.

…So lets look through some examples…

For the purposes of these examples:

  • A sleeping loft is full width and 8′ deep.
  • A storage loft is full width and 4′ deep..
  • Bathrooms are shades of yellow.
  • Kitchens are shades of green.
  • Living areas (with or without sleeping areas) are shades of orange/brown.
  • Dedicated bedrooms are red.
  • rooms of the same shade are identical in size throughout.

A 16′ Trailer:

The simplest example we can make is in the case of a short trailer, this is the 16′ general options.  (**Note the bigger a trailer gets the more options you have and the easier it is to get caught up in having too many options, and the fear of ‘picking wrong’).

General options you have the kitchen and the bathroom next to each other and the living area beside them (middle option).  Or you have to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom from the living room (right option).  You could just as easily have to walk through the bathroom to get to the kitchen but functionally that doesn’t work out well… if someone has to poop you may get trapped in (or out of) the kitchen…  Lastly, you could split the bathroom and the kitchen and separate them via the living area.

With each of these layouts you could choose to have no loft, a sleeping loft, a storage loft, two different storage lofts or a sleeping and storage loft.  I have seen some people try to do a whole second floor but because of the DOT height restrictions they are often hard to navigate, due to low height.

A 20′ Trailer:

So looking at the next size up you have some more flexibility, you could choose to increase a room or two in size and that complicates the variations available.  The color ranges signify the same type of space.   These are not the entire range of options but should give you some ideas.

For the extra 4′ it gains you the ability to have the same loft scenarios but in addition you can choose to have two sleeping lofts.  (Though in my design opinion it can get a little close).

A 24′ Trailer:

Extend things a few more feet and the options expand even further.  Because of this, often smaller trailers can be easier to plan, there are less options which makes it so much simpler!  However tiny houses have grown in size with the trend.   (**A word of note, I have heard of many tiny house dwellers who wish they had built smaller. Not many who wish for bigger.  Smaller spaces are easier to construct, take less material and less time, converting to more savings and a faster occupancy) 

In this instance you have the same options for a loft space.


This post is intended to get you thinking through your design in plan only. As we move through the Planning Tiny design posts we will work through elevation and ‘the whole space’.  In future posts we will go through weight distribution, room to room considerations in plan (horizontal), working in elevation (vertical), picking the right trailer – including different types of trailers.  I’ll cover some basic design rules and eventually we will get into material choices and limitations.

As always, this is a collaborative site, please, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!

Macy M
I am an artist, a steward, a minimalist at heart... I love being out in the sunshine... I love animals of nearly every kind, at least the furry ones, I am trying to be a gardener... I believe people are good at the core but are also capable of very bad things when they aren't intentional about their actions... I love my family, my passions and my life... I am just me :)


  1. Hi Macy M,
    I am somewhat of a newbie to internet marketing and blogging. So with that being said, I am very glad that I found this blog post. I’ve heard talk of “HOW TO DESIGN A TINY HOUSE” but never really knew what it was all about, however, I can say that I understand a lot better now. I plan to stay connected to your blog. Can’t wait to see what you’re going to write next. Thanks.

Leave a Response