The Modern Tiny

There are many, many examples of tiny houses if you look online. Curated below are a couple of examples of modern style tiny houses. There are some interesting and unique design features of these, including: lightweight and inexpensive materials, industrial fixtures, and sometimes minimalist furnishings. These are inspiring to me. I hope you find them fun and interesting idea generators, regardless of the style you want for your own space.

As I am compiling my list of inspiring designs, there’s something I notice; many of tiny homes don’t have names. I’m not sure why not, or why I felt compelled to name my design before it’s even built. I’m calling out three specific examples, and will try to describe them as best I can.

Miller House, near Boise, Idaho


Macy Miller, perhaps one of the more well-known and well published tiny house owners, has created an inspiring project. I’m surprised I haven’t written about it before now.

Macy is an architectural designer, and was able to build this fantastic project for only $11,000 USD. The gooseneck trailer provides a nice sleeping platform, adding to the living space significantly over the more typical designs. The exterior is clad in repurposed shipping pallet slats, and adds a very pleasant texture. I like that the whole trailer bed wasn’t used for living space, and a cozy porch on the tail provides a place of transition before entering the house.

The interior is decidedly modern and the lines are kept clean. There’s some great use of color for accent pieces, like the hand-blown glass lampshades. Many folks I’ve talked to about tiny houses have made comments about the appropriateness for families. Here, a family of three, plus a Great Dane, shows that it can and does work.

Here’s a great interview with Macy on NPR from December of 2013. There’s a great amount of info on her site: 

220 SF Tiny House, Western Massachusetts

selman-tiny-house-2011-croppedThis house, build by students from the Warren, Vermont based Yestermorrow Design/Build School, is ground bound—sitting on foundation piers and not wheels. At 3650mm (12′-0″) x 5790mm (19′-0″), it’s still pretty tiny. The polycarbonate cabinet doors look great, and would help reduce weight, important in a wheeled design. As you might be starting to notice, I really like shed roofs. The straw bale hot water heater, feature in the video, is brilliant and another great way to save money and reduce carbon footprint. I also like that it has the same vanity sink I purchased for my project earlier this year.

Minim House

Minim House - 03

The Minim House, designed by Foundry Architects in Washington, DC, is a bit wider than typical trailer homes, meaning a permit and most likely a professional crew would be needed to move  it. However, as I’ve described tiny homes to many new to the idea: they are moveable, however aren’t necessary meant for moving often like a travel trailer. This balance between fixed and wheeled, allows for a well-cared for and high-quality tiny house to become a family heirloom and can help its owners respond to changing jobs and the desire to live in new places without giving up a home. More info available at Minim Micro Homes.


One Night of Tiny House Bliss

Monday night, I tried on my first Tiny House for size. That’s right, I went to the store, picked one out my size and went into the fitting room. OK, actually spent the night at the Caravan Tiny House Hotel in the Northwest area of Portland, Oregon.

Tiny Vacation

It was wonderful. I stayed at the Kangablue, which is the newest arrival. At only 15 SM (160 Square Feet) plus a sleeping loft, it was just right. Surprisingly roomy. I will write-up a more comprehensive review soon, as I seemed to have caught a flu-like thing… I always want to see too much of a new city, and invariably exhaust myself. I wish I had planned a week or two in this hotel, and I could have tried them all. Below is a sampling of pictures for your enjoyment. You can read more about the six tiny houses available to stay in part of the Caravan here:

The pop out now takes on the role of breakfast nook/seating area.

Meet Bento

from Wikipedia:
from Wikipedia:

The FORGE system from my earlier post inspired me. I’ve tried to see how much I can push the limits to keep my shipping container looking unmodified when it’s closed up. By basing the design on the use of a side opening configuration, I can have a container that is largely open along one side as well as the short end. Those doors are big and heavy, however with simple finishes, my overall project should still be roadworthy. 20140614-232214-84134780.jpg

So, on to the good stuff. I have spent a few hours reconsidering nearly every part of the layout and removed the traditional tiny house loft. It is instead replaced with a storage/sleeping platform. Nearly everything that is not being used, which doesn’t contain plumbing, could sit its own little compartment. It’s like a Japanese bento box., or maybe a traditional wooden puzzle box. I’ve tried to have elements of the design serve more than a single function, which really will make this feel like a house that is many times larger than the footprint suggests. So, here it is. I’m taking the lid off my design and I hope you enjoy it. I present, Bento: This series of vignettes is modeled on my iPad, using Autodesk FormIt, a free 3D modeling environment. I will take you through the transport mode, to standard living, to food prep, dining, sleep time and ‘party mode’ (where the center floor space opens up). Click on an image to view the gallery as a slide show.

I still need to work out how the pop out breakfast/reading nook will function. That’s one of the pieces I removed so you could see into the great room. Also, there’s opportunities to explore the storage and access to the covered porch off the bedroom. Now, to begin detailing this design, while continuing to complete a deal with a trailer fabricator. I’m down to three options, and I could have more to share very soon. Exciting! I’m really curious to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. Thanks.

Another UnBoxed find: Forge

Since my last update on the models and sketches I’ve been exploring, I decided that my project needs a little simplifying. By maintaining the original enclosure, and removing the loft, I am looking to do more with less. I should have something to share on my own designs again shortly.

I’ve begun exploring Pinterest to look at both tiny houses and shipping container projects, thanks to my good friend and architect Bob. There are so many great projects out there, and I will be updating my ‘pins’ often, so feel free to subscribe. This week, I discovered a site that has developed a flexible system for container studios – very much in line with my new goals for this project. The site is ContainerPlan and they call this system FORGE. I love the tag line -
Dedicated DIY“.
You can download plans and 3D models for a modest fee. There’s some clever design ideas here and even with the doors and a long wall panel removed the design keeps the spirit of the container; while updating the look in a way that would make it welcome in any neighborhood. 20140612-205632-75392817.jpg





To see more details of how these are crafted, see:

Hello, Dolly!

Container DollyWell, here’s an alternative to a trailer that I had not previously considered.  This, dear readers, is what is known as a cargo dolly.  In its former life, this was used by the military to transport equipment and temporary buildings.  This is an intriguing idea, since the container could sit lower than a trailer when transporting to save fuel, and can be set back down and the dolly stowed for future use.  The photo shows it not quite in it’s upright position, which is a little higher than the axle. The seller updated it, added electric brakes, cleaned it up with some shiny paint and it passed inspection with the Texas DOT.  It could be yours, for the right price on eBay. Current bid is USD $2,000. That’s priced significantly less than some other options, which is something to sing about.

First Official Purchase

LILLÅNGENOK, so many would expect the trailer or at least the shipping container as the first thing I would buy. Well, as it turns out the trailer I was looking at buying is a bit more expensive than I was planning, and shipping from the fabricator, located in Florida, would be cost prohibitive as well. I’m now seeking alternatives.

I have been keeping a list of things that I absolutely will include in my design. One of those items, installed in several tiny houses that I admire: the smallest configuration of LILLÅNGEN sink from Ikea. This is a vanity sink which turns the fixture on its side – literally. Since its reversible, I can later decide if I want left or right configuration. I brought this baby home yesterday along with tired feet and a handful of new ideas. I may build a cabinet, use wall brackets or salvage something from the RE Store.

Since I am all about sharing, I’ve modeled this with the optional wall brackets in Revit for your use. It’s a little simplified, however this should help visualize the space required. Please let me know if there are other formats you’d like for these models. I hope you enjoy.

VanitySink_Ikea_LILLÅNGENClick to download the Revit Family:


Tiny Houses with Big Ambitions – Time

Time published an excellent piece today with video on the Tiny House movement. It’s fantastic to see communities to help the homeless developing like Camp Quixote… Go check it out.


Also, more about the permanent location of this camp, which opened in Olympia, Washington about 6 months ago is here in the Seattle Times:

20140529-212609-77169499.jpg {photo credit – Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times}

Tiny Talk

IMG_0899I enjoy going to lectures and discussions. Typically the venue is quite large, whether a conference, local Seattle “Old Town Hall” lecture, on Giant Steps at the office (our meeting spaces are named after jazz albums) or events hosted by the UW Architecture program. Earlier this month, I went to a Tiny Talk. Not just a small group, it was also a talk about ‘tiny’, as in tiny house living. The meeting area in the bookstore was completely packed and even after the staff brought in extra chairs it was still standing room only.

Dee Williams, an early western pioneer in the tiny house movement in the U.S., has released a book titled “The Big Tiny: A Built-It Myself Memoir”.  The talk she gave at Third Place Books, not a 10 minute bus ride from my house, was fantastic. Dee is such a passionate person about life and living tiny. Her energy and ability to share the experiences of living in a small space with such tactility (I hope I’m not giving too much away) really inspired me to begin putting more energy into my design. Her home was one of the first tiny houses on wheels I discovered and I am really enjoying this book.

Read more about Dee, the book and ongoing tour dates on her company’s site Portland Alternative Dwellings – aka PAD.

Christopher Tack, owner with his wife Malissa of the nearby Tiny Tack House, took some great photographs of the event, such a this one below, which you can find more of on the MeetUp site.

Dee Williams signing her book for tiny house enthusiasts north of Seattle, WA. ~ by Christopher Tack,


If, for some reason you are unable to attend a book event, you should watch Dee at a local TEDx event in Portland, OR. I can’t recommend this enough:

Meet Kimberly

wood_stovesIs it possible to fall in love with a stove? Meet Kimberly. This tiny stainless steel wonder is what’s known as a high-efficiency gasifier stove. I’ve been weighing the options, and while burning anything for heat is going to produce some pollutants, I likely will not have access to the grid all the time. Heating a house this small with solar could get very expensive and the necessary panels would not fit on the roof. Also, this little gem can be moved into storage in the off months. It’s light enough to pick up without breaking your back like traditional cast iron stoves.

So, weighing the obvious options of propane versus wood, I choose wood. Most any hardwood will burn well in this stove. A recycled sawdust ‘presto’ log supposedly burns for 8 hours, and produces up to 42,500 BTU/hour. That’s almost 10 times as much output possible with the little marine heater (found in many tiny homes) I was considering. Most of the tiny home owners I’ve spoken with who have that particular propane heater have complained about comfort. Sure, I could go with a residential sized stove, like this one from Vermont Castings. We installed one years ago in the first house we bought in Rhode Island. It served us well through some very cold winters in a drafty 75 year old house. So, I have nothing against gas per se, however typical residential heating stoves take up a serious amount of space. Space that is precious in a tiny house.

Because of the way the Kimberly stove works, burning the gasses in the upper chamber above the main firebox, it produces well below both the EPA and Washington State emission standards at only 3.2grams of particulate per hour. Plus it’s made in the Pacific Northwest.

One more trick, if you’ve ever seen the BioLite camp stove, the manufacturer of the Kimberly offers an electric generator that sits on top of the stove. It produces enough heat that can be converted to bonus energy to charge a laptop, phone or run a small appliance – electricity, from fire! All of this adds up to a no brainer, and it costs not nearly the three months of rent and utilities I won’t need to be paying during winter, if all goes as planned. Essentially, this stove pays for itself in less than a season. Plus, what’s not to love about curling up in front of an actual fire?

Read more about this beauty at the vendor’s website:

Surf Shack, UnBoxed


The Surf Shack is a project, designed by Hartman Kable, that I’m surprised I am just now finding out about. There’s some seriously amazing and well-executed ideas in this compact project. Completed in 2006, this shipping container beach house project has the inverse of my concept. Raw and untouched on the exterior, the advantages of course being it is vandal and weather resistant while closed up. Personally, I’m not fond of white laminate. It does seem to work well in this case. I especially appreciate the way things neatly fold away into the walls.

Given that this project is on the Washington State coast, I will definitely add this to my list of places to visit. There are so many questions I have to ask the designer.

Watch the video below (starting at about 1:56), then check out more behind the story, here:

Kable’s more recent work can be found here:

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