On roofs and beds: a fashion parade of tiny house styles

Ready for some tiny house eye candy? First you must endure a short lesson and then you’ll get your reward… 🙂

One of the first decisions you need to consider when designing your tiny house is what architectural style you want.

Unlike their land-tied, foundation-built cousins, which can be made into virtually any shape from any material, tiny houses on trailers have certain limitations that need to be negotiated in their design. These involve road legal limits for height and width; weight of materials; and structural stability to withstand vibrations, torquing, wind shear and other road-related stresses. There are also aerodynamic considerations to make the houses easier and cheaper to tow.

For now, we’ll keep it simple and just look at 1) roof shape and 2) whether or not there is a loft. These two elements are surprisingly crucial to designing a tiny house that’s right for you well into the future.

“But how does your roof make you feel…?”


Some of the many styles of roofs to choose from.

There are practical and structural reasons to choose a particular roof style, such as whether it needs to bear the weight of snow or avoid ponding rain. But equally importantly, each shape of roof is going to create a different psychological impression. We generally have particular associations with a certain shape, which will influence whether we want to live in it – or not. The classic gable roof is what most Westerners think of when they think of “house”. Other shapes create a more modern feel, or a rural or spiritual space, or even a womblike one. Some convey a feeling of mobility, like a caravan, others can make a house feel more rooted to the ground.

You need to think not only about the look of the exterior roofline, but particularly the feeling of the interior since that’s where you’ll be affected by it most. It’s good to visit a tiny house that has a roof style you’re considering to see what it really feels like to be inside it. When you’re living in such a small space, these kinds of psychological or kinesthetic reactions can have a huge impact on your longterm happiness – so choose carefully!

Upstairs/downstairs: Deciding where to sleep

Jay in loft

Jay Shafer in one of his original Tumbleweed lofts.

The other big decision people grapple with at this stage of their planning is whether or not to have a sleeping loft. Because of the 13.5′ height restriction, and the fact that the trailer is already a couple feet off the ground, lofts generally can’t be more than about 4′ high, depending on how much headroom you want below. So you can sit up in them but not stand. You also will likely be using a ladder (though some other options exist), which may rule a loft out for many people, or yourself as you age.

Some tiny house styles have a bedroom on the first floor or make use of convertible sofas or murphy beds in the living room. Like with roofs, it may make a difference to you psychologically whether your bedroom is separate from you main living area or not. Think about what will work best for you over time.

Alright, end of lecture…time to let the various tiny house styles strut their stuff! This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the wild and wonderful tiny house variations out there but hopefully it will give you some food for thought.

To learn more about a particular house, click on the photo.


Tiny Tack House

TINY TACK HOUSE: Gable roof with side entrance and loft dormer windows.

Tiny Tack House

TINY TACK HOUSE: High, unimpeded peaked roof above the main room, further lightened by use of the skylight. Loft is above the kitchen behind the camera.

Bayside Bungalow

THE BAYSIDE BUNGALOW: Gable roof without dormer windows.

Bayside Bungalow

THE BAYSIDE BUNGALOW: The skylight in the loft opens that space up (compare to Jay’s loft above) and makes a close connection with the outside. Note that this tiny house is available to rent in Olympia, WA. Click on photo for details.


PROTOHAUS: Gable roof, end entrance, loft dormer windows.


PROTOHAUS: Dormer windows in loft create a roomier feeling.

Tiny Home Builders

TINY RETIREMENT: Tiny Home Builders offers a gable roof style, side entrance, single floor house.

Tiny Home Builders

TINY RETIREMENT: The sofa converts to a bed. The dormers are over the kitchen and dining area. Bathroom is across the end behind the camera.


My Tiny Abode

MY TINY ABODE: Whidbey Island, WA teen Celina is currently working on her gambrel-style house she’s designed. She wants it to feel like a French country kitchen.

My Tiny Abode

MY TINY ABODE: The gambrel shape creates a more spacious loft (her house is also 10′ wide and 14′ high, slightly wider and taller than most).



MINIMOTIVES: Macy is currently building her tiny house based on her own design. The shed roof gives it a modern feeling.


MINIMOTIVES: Current state of construction. She’s using a gooseneck trailer (far end) with the sleeping area above the gooseneck itself.


MINIMOTIVES: The interior showing the sleeping area just past the main room.

Leaf House

LEAF HOUSE: This shed-style house is oriented lengthwise, which makes it one of the more aerodynamically-designed tiny houses.

Leaf House

LEAF HOUSE: Looking toward the tall end, there are both stairs and a short ladder to a loft above the living room.


Tumbleweed Popomo

POPOMO: Tumbleweed’s version of a shipping container tiny house offers a separate bedroom on the main floor. While the roof appears flat, there is a slight gradient to keep rain from pooling.


POPOMO: View into the separate bedroom.


Traditional shepherd's wagon

There are many varieties of vardo or shepherd’s wagon. Here is one of the more elaborate traditional styles (source unknown).

Traditional shepherd's wagon interior

Traditional interior (source unknown).

Dutch roulotte

LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: Dutch handcrafted roulotte-style caravan.

Dutch roulotte

LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: Interior with nice lighting from the clerestory windows. Note the feeling of a train car. In general, the caravan/vardo styles feel much more like a house made for traveling than some of the other roof types.

Dutch roulotte

LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: This one has a traditional-style raised bed.

Dutch roulotte

LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: This one has a separate bedroom at the end.

Hornby Island Caravans

VORIZO: Hornby Island Caravans in British Columbia crafted this modern-day caravan.

Hornby Island Caravans

VORIZO: The sleeping area incorporates a sitting and storage area, which also serve as the step up to it. Note the feel of the curved roof.

Zyl Vardos

AZAVELA: Zyl Vardos out of Olympia, WA makes some of the most whimsical vardo variations.

Zyl Vardos

AZAVELA: There is a lower-than-normal loft, which is over a galvanized steel bathtub. Again, note the feeling of the curved roof.


Clothesline Tiny Homes

CLOTHESLINE TINY HOMES: This architect/builder duo built their own home which is a modified gable-style. There is a cross gable across the far end.

Clothesline Tiny Homes

CLOTHESLINE TINY HOMES: Like MiniMotives, this house is built on a gooseneck trailer. Here you can see the cross gable. Also note how it angles in. Both of these features help with aerodynamics as well as give it a more modern feel.

Clothesline Tiny Homes

CLOTHESLINE TINY HOMES: View of the sleeping area above the gooseneck with storage underneath. I believe there are steps on each side just inside the door.

Tall Man's Tiny House

TALL MAN’S TINY HOUSE: This design incorporates a saltbox-style on each end with a shed roof above the loft in the middle.

Tall Man's Tiny House

TALL MAN’S TINY HOUSE: Built by two brothers, each 6’7″ in height, for those who are “vertically blessed”. The loft is above the 6’8″ entryway with high ceilings above the living room and kitchen.

Tall Man's Tiny House

TALL MAN’S TINY HOUSE: Here is the shed roof loft. Because the builders gave priority to headroom downstairs, the highest point is 3.5′ high, sloping steeply down. It’s all a tradeoff!

Zyl Vardos

THE FORTUNE COOKIE: Another Zyl Vardos creation, it’s a wonderful hybrid of a caravan and gable style.

Zyl Vardos

THE FORTUNE COOKIE: Interior has a rather sacred yet fantastical feeling to it.

Zyl Vardos

THE FORTUNE COOKIE: Opposite end showing the loft space.

For those of you wanting more information on tiny houses, I’ve added a Resources section at the top of the blog. These are the sites that have been the most useful to me in planning my tiny house.

Coming up in my next post, I’ll walk through the evolution of my own tiny house design thinking – my shifts in style and loft choice, changes in length, and what is important to me in a floor plan. ‘Til then, hope you enjoyed the feast!

Categories: design, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “On roofs and beds: a fashion parade of tiny house styles

  1. Pia

    I love the loft bed under a gable roof, the warm woodsy train interior of the Les Roulottes Du Travers, the modern clean lines of Tall Man’s Tiny House exterior and the artistic feel and craftsmanship of the Vardos’ fortune cookie interior.
    Your blog is inspiring! My list of things I want to build is getting longer…..

    • I know, right? I’m already thinking ahead a few projects but first things first. Coming from a luthier, your comment about the Fortune Cookie made me see it in a whole new light: it strikes the sweet notes of living inside an oud!

  2. anat

    Great blog! So inspiring and what great photos you have collected to share. Thanks! Can’t wait to see your tiny home.

  3. Hi Anat! Thanks so much. You may have to wait awhile to see it since it’ll probably be next year before I’m done but at least you can follow the progress. I’ll post some designs later this week. Hope you’re doing well.

  4. Alison R

    I’ve seen most of these photos before, but the way in which you’ve introduced and organized them– focusing just on roof styles and sleeping quarters–helps me identify quite clearly what I like best. The arched ceiling in all of the vardo interiors is so beautiful, and the light coming into the Dutch house from the celestory windows (so that’s what they’re called!) is just gorgeous. I want those windows, and that curved ceiling. I’d never seen that Tall Man’s tiny house before. I like the 3 full-length windows on one side, too. Light, light, and more light. Makes me realize/remember how important it is to for me to have lots of light in my living space. Thanks–most educational. I look forward to seeing your detailed plans.

    • Thanks, A – glad it helped. Light is really important in a tiny house. It’s funny, I almost didn’t include that photo of the Dutch train-like roulotte but clearly it struck in chord. I know it did for me, too, when I first saw it.

  5. Nice examples!!

  6. What a great post! I can’t believe I missed this one! Thanks for including me! 🙂

  7. My pleasure, Macy – yours has come a long way since then! It’s been great following your progress. Best wishes for the new location!

  8. Katherine

    This gave me more of a feeling of what I am getting into with a tiny house. My current idea for sleeping on the first floor is to incorporate a trundle bed that goes half way under storage. Making it a couch during the day and a bed at night. While I might be able to manage a loft right now I doubt I will be able to climb into one for the long haul. Too much recklessness in my youth has ruined my knees.

  9. I went back and forth on this too, for similar reasons. In the end, I did go with the loft but am going to play with some alternative stair/ladder designs to make it easier. I liked the idea of having a separate sleeping/relaxing space. But I’m also planning on putting in a couch with built-in storage around it down below, and which can also pull out to a bed. That way I’ve got that option for the future as I age, when I have guests, or anytime I’m sick or injured and can’t use the loft. Good to be thinking these things through – good luck!

  10. katie

    I want to know how exactly are these things powered-solar power, propane, gas……….please and thankyou

    • Hi Katie – most tiny houses either plug into an on-grid source or use solar for electrical and then either propane, electricity, or wood for heat and cooking. You can follow the link to each of these houses to find out how they set theirs up.

  11. Jan

    I’ve seen a roof style on a RV-type tiny home that slopes upward from the back toward the front. It is a shed roof except the slope is on one of the short sides instead of on one of the long sides. This style provides room for a bedroom loft and headroom for a staircase and plus it saves money on construction costs.

  12. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was
    great. I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉

  13. I love being able to enter a space and not feel like I’m immediately being smashed by a low ceiling. I think for this reason, a side entry would be key, as well as having gabled ends with full extension dormers on either side. One end would be a bedroom loft, and the other, closest to the entry, would be a full width couch/window nook with storage above. We’re book nuts, so plenty of book storage will be necessary. I’ve been going back on forth on whether or not to pull off a full width kitchen, and stick the bathroom under the opposite loft, or keep the kitchen and bathroom together and have the previously mentioned couch/nook. I like the idea of keeping the central space open, as well as keeping 2 potentially crowded areas (bathroom and kitchen) apart. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • If you are planning on having plumbing, then separating the kitchen and bathroom will involve more engineering around getting your fresh and gray water into and out of the two ends of your house. It can be done but think it through well before you commit to it. Generally it’s good to have the sinks and/or shower close to each other. I too am a big book lover and for me I had to have the couch across the end of the trailer – having it along the side wall felt too much like living in an RV. But everyone is different and affected by space differently (see my posts on designing viscerally), so you need to determine what feels right to you!

  14. Wow I just found your blog and am delighted. This piece on roofs and the photos is wonderful.
    Seeing the photos really cleaed up some questions I had. I am wanting to build or have a th
    Built but the biggest problem I have run into is the parking. I have good friends who built a
    Cute tiny house then they had all kinds of problems with the city, zoning and neighbors who
    Felt the neighborhood was being trashed. They are temporarily parked in a friend’s back
    Yard but who knows for how long. Please keep writing. I read everything upto today.
    I wish their was a small house community somewhere close to the SF Bay Area.

    • Thanks, Shawna – you get a gold star for reading everything…a tiny house will be no problem if you have that kind of perseverance! Yes, parking in most cities tends to be problematic for the reasons you mentioned. Outside city limits can be easier, especially if you have good relations with the neighbors, but I know that’s not always possible or desirable for folks with jobs in the city. I hope you can figure something out.

  15. marjan

    I love all these picture ,beautiful+ simple.

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