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 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: Gable roof with side entrance and loft dormer windows.
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.
THE BAYSIDE BUNGALOW: Gable roof without dormer windows.
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 RETIREMENT: Tiny Home Builders offers a gable roof style, side entrance, single floor house.
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.
GAMBREL / BARN
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: 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: This shed-style house is oriented lengthwise, which makes it one of the more aerodynamically-designed tiny houses.
LEAF HOUSE: Looking toward the tall end, there are both stairs and a short ladder to a loft above the living room.
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.
VARDO / SHEPHERD’S WAGON / ROULOTTE / CARAVAN
There are many varieties of vardo or shepherd’s wagon. Here is one of the more elaborate traditional styles (source unknown).
Traditional interior (source unknown).
LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: Dutch handcrafted roulotte-style caravan.
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.
LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: This one has a traditional-style raised bed.
LES ROULOTTES DU TRAVERS: This one has a separate bedroom at the end.
VORIZO: Hornby Island Caravans in British Columbia crafted this modern-day caravan.
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.
AZAVELA: Zyl Vardos out of Olympia, WA makes some of the most whimsical vardo variations.
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: 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: 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: 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: This design incorporates a saltbox-style on each end with a shed roof above the loft in the middle.
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: 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!
THE FORTUNE COOKIE: Another Zyl Vardos creation, it’s a wonderful hybrid of a caravan and gable style.
THE FORTUNE COOKIE: Interior has a rather sacred yet fantastical feeling to it.
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!