design

Naj Haus: evolution of a tiny house design

Trailer

The original vision…

If you’re up for a glimpse into the tangled workings of my mind, I thought I’d share the convoluted way I got to my final design for Naj Haus. It all started last summer at a music festival. Camping next to a woman who had a fiberglass “egg” trailer similar to the one above, I found myself obsessed with the idea of getting one. At first it was just for camping and tootling around, but I was also looking ahead to splitting my time between Oregon and California and the idea of living in one started to grow. Turns out if you get one that is about 17′ they come with a tiny kitchen and bathroom. My first serious thoughts of tiny living started to sprout.
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Categories: design, PAD, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

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…?”

Roof-Types-Diagram2

Some of the many styles of roofs to choose from.

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Designing sparefully – a manifesto of sorts

red fox

Red fox in front of a Swedish house. Credit: Jonn Leffmann

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

~ William Morris

Tiny house design forces you to consider every square inch. If you’re going to live in something smaller than a parking space, each structural element and object needs to be there for a reason. There’s not a lot of room for that broken vacuum cleaner gathering dust in the basement, that unused dining room, or that guilt-producing Wii fitness program that seemed like a good idea at the time.

As I’ve embarked on the design for my tiny house, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of spare.  It’s an awesome word, one of those rare cases where it means both one thing as well as its opposite. Scant, frugal, economical, minimal, but also: being in excess of present need, to give or to lend without inconvenience or loss, such as “spare change” or “spare time”.

All of these meanings apply to tiny housers who downsize to small, simple dwellings, often built on very tight budgets. At the same time, without soul-crushing mortgages and high monthly utility bills, they have more time and money to pursue the lives and careers they really love, to connect with those they care about.

Even better is the obsolete word spareful. Last spotted in the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, it means prudent and restrained in the use of resources. Many tiny housers are motivated by a desire to leave a smaller footprint on the earth. Much thought is given to building highly efficient tiny green homes to reduce energy consumption and carbon production. Materials are selected based on the least chemicals and lowest environmental impact in their manufacture. Roadsides and salvage stores are scoured for siding, windows and other items that can be reused.

Let’s dust the cobwebs off spareful and give it the honor it deserves! Breaking it down into its component parts, spare + full, gives a glimpse of just how meaningful the word can be. The pop phrase “Less is More” is similar, but what does it really mean and how can it guide us in our design choices? Let’s plumb the depths a little. Continue reading

Categories: design, PAD, thoughts on tiny | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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