I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a fan of the tiny house idea at first. Travis saw the potential and the way that a tiny house could fit our goals long before I did. But when I did start researching them, I was hooked. I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. All it took was seeing a couple designs that I could picture myself living in. Those two were hOMe and Minim House. Once it dawned on me that we could build a comfortable, affordable home with money we already had set aside, then save the amount we were currently paying in rent every month to buy our own land, I was beyond excited.
I still wanted to see inside one to make sure. Fortunately, we were living in Portland, OR, which is a hub of tiny house activity at the moment. There is even a tiny house hotel (Caravan), which has several tiny houses on a lot in NE Portland. You can stay in one to see how the space feels and imagine what tiny living will be like. We stayed one night and the next day we looked at each other, big grins beaming and knew it was going to happen. We were going to build our own tiny house.
Initial Tiny House Planning
Making the decision was great, but where to start? Talking. We did a lot of talking over the next several days. In fact, we still talk about it every day and it’s been 2 months since we made our decision. But to start, we discussed what exactly we need in a house, how to effectively use space, what we’ve seen that we like about the plans and pictures online, and of course, we talked about money.
Space was my initial concern with tiny houses. I am crafty and I like to cook, both of which take up some space. Travis asked me to really think about how much space I need to do what I want in the kitchen and craft table. I didn’t know how to answer that. So we talked about how exactly we were going to figure that out, not just for cooking and crafting, but for all the typical activities for which we use a living space.
First, we made a list of activities. We tried to think of everything we, and the cats, do in our space. Then we combined activities that go together, or can occur in the same space at different times. For example, the dining table can also be used for sewing and computer use. We spent at least an hour discussing how we use our space. Next, we got out the tape measure and started measuring the space required for each of the activities on our list. The idea was not to measure rooms, but to measure the space we actually use. Once we took out all the area we just walk through most of the time or use inefficiently, we discovered we actually only NEEDED 185 square feet. I was shocked. I thought we must have measured incorrectly. We crunched the numbers again and came out the same. That gave us a baseline to work with.
Next we discussed items we were both set on having. He really wanted to have a wood stove. He’s pretty firm on that. I really wanted to make sure I have a decent sized kitchen, also firm on that. He didn’t like the gabled style roof. I wanted a way for visitors to sleep on the ground level. He wanted a composting toilet, I wanted dedicated, out of the way space for the kitty litter box. Luckily none of our wants conflicted, so that was a fairly easy step.
We both wanted to use as much reclaimed or repurposed material as possible while still sticking to a reasonable timeframe. However, this somewhat limits how much we can talk about aesthetics. The look we end up with will be a more organic process depending on what we find. This makes me a little nervous, but it will be a good exercise in creativity and faith. Also, it will ultimately make our house unique and full of character.
Having discussed all of this, we began drawing up sketches of floor plans. We included all the elements we had discussed and the things we liked about different floor plans we had seen or visited. It was a fun process and very challenging, like a puzzle. I would come up with a sketch and Travis would say, “but what about the window?” The biggest challenge for me was drawing two dimensional plans while trying to think three dimensionally. Luckily, we learned about a free modeling program, Google SketchUp, which is a fantastic resource. (I highly recommend the tutorials provided on the SketchUp website to get the most out of the program.) Once we had a good 2D sketch, we were able to make a wonderfully helpful working 3D model.
This whole process took about a month and a half of discussion, research, and drawing up plans in our spare time. So far, we are very happy with our results and quite proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with the limited experience we have. We are still tweaking the model here and there as we learn new things, but we love what we have so far. Having similar goals and principles makes the whole process fairly smooth for us. Also, we’ve had 10 years to work on communication, which is very helpful!