window seat

Smaller Than a Breadbox: Creative Tiny House Storage Solutions

The other day as I was showing my tiny house to some folks who plan to build one this summer, I pointed out some of the multifunctional objects, space-saving tricks, and storage solutions that make this 121 square foot space so livable and lovely. Here they are, in no particular order: Microwave = Smaller Than a Bread Box

  • Microwave = Breadbox: I didn’t grow up with a breadbox but I recently discovered that my microwave is a perfectly good place to store bread. No reason my microwave should only be useful when it's cooking food, right?
  • Pencil Holder = Sound System: A handy little wall-mounted cup was probably intended for pencils, scissors, etc., but a friend showed me that it also makes a great stereo system. The hyperbolic shape amplifies the sound when I put my cell phone into the cup, eliminating the need for a separate stereo system. Audio nerds might protest, but it’s worked just fine for my dance parties!
  • Desk = Dining Table

    Desk = Dining Table: Most of my furniture is built-in, including my window seat and sleeping loft.However, my desk is a free-standing table with leaves on either side that pull out from underneath. When I have friends over for a meal I shift the table over to the window seat so that one of us can use it as a chair.

  • The Slim Version: Of course, having the svelte version of something that would otherwise be bulky is a major space-saver, too. A smart phone, a refurbished MacBook Air, and a Kindle keep my electronic files organized and portable. (To learn which books I consider essential enough to keep in my little collection, check out By Hook or By Kindle.) My Envi wall-mounted electric heater has a space-efficient and energy-efficient design, which you can learn more about here: How Many Lightbulbs Does it Take to Heat a Tiny House?
  • wine rack tucked between loft joists

    Wine Bottle & Glasses Holders: My wine bottle holder is tucked between the storage loft joists over the window seat. My wine glasses are suspended from a holder in the kitchen between the joists of the sleeping loft. These were Brittany’s ideas and my guests appreciate them as much as I do. (Especially when I’m cooking dinner in the wee kitchen and invite them to pick a bottle to go with our meal!)

  • Baskets: Two laundry baskets slide under my window seat nook to provide storage for my hammock, backpacks, shoulder bags, and the set of sheets that aren’t on my bed right now.  A basket on my desk, which provides storage for office supplies like tape, rulers, and sticky notes, can be quickly and easily moved to my loft when I want to use the desk as a dining table.
  • hooks & shelves keep counters clear

    Hooks: I have a set of coat hooks behind my door, which I use for jackets and another set which I use for scarves. Several people have asked why I don’t put my scarves in a drawer. I explain that I think they’re pretty and I like using them as decorations when they’re not decorating me. A couple more hooks in the bathroom keep my necklaces and earrings organized. Hooks under the kitchen shelf are just right for mugs. Hooks on the kitchen wall are perfect for hanging reusable grocery bags and my apron. A piece of string suspended from two hooks between two loft joists is a functional paper towel holder. My dish rack is suspended from hooks so that water drains into the dishpan. My silverware stays in the little cup rather than having a separate drawer.

  • Shelves: Strategically placed shelves keep my dishes and pantry items within reach and within sight. All this use of vertical space keeps my countertops clear for food preparation. A magnetic knife strip below one of the shelves keeps my knives close at hand but safely out of the way. Storing knives on a knife strip seems to keep them sharper than putting them into a drawer or butcher block.
  • Storage Loft = Extra Bed

    : My two dressers stacked one on top of the other other provide plenty of storage space for my clothing, craft supplies, tools, and paperwork. I haven’t yet gone paperless with all my LPOIP (Little Pieces of Important Paper), but it’s a project for a long rainy day. Two plastic drawers in the kitchen provide ample space for kitchen gadgets.

  • Storage Loft: With all this storage conveniently located in strategic and useful places, I don’t end up with much need for a storage loft. My storage loft is the spot I stash away a suitcase of off-season clothing, my camping pad, and a couple empty boxes I used for moving. I’ve also slept up here when I’ve had company, offering my bed to my guests. I imagine anyone taller than 5’2” would find it uncomfortable, but it works fine for me, so my Tiny House Sleeps 5 Comfortably.

Tiny House Floorplan Considerations

Tiny House Program For months I have been discussing the merits of various tiny house layouts with my friend Jane who is designing and building a tiny house this spring. So it's no surprise that when we sat down with paper and markers earlier this week the draft floorplan for her tiny house developed rather quickly. It was fun for me to ask prompting questions and witness the emergence of a plan.

We began by identifying what functions the tiny house would serve and which would fall to the host house. Jane decided that she wanted her tiny house to enable someone to sleep, eat, cook, and lounge. She considered whether bathing was a necessary element of the tiny house and decided she wants the tiny house to be as self-contained as possible, so she will include an RV-sized shower. But laundry facilities would be overkill in a tiny house and she wanted to avoid the bugaboo of the tiny house world (dealing with a blackwater system), so the host house will accommodate the needs for laundry and a toilet.

I asked Jane to identify what she likes about Brittany's house and other tiny houses she's seen, as well as what she would do differently. She said that she loves the sleeping loft and the window seat, so she'll include both in her tiny house. She would like a little more headroom in the loft and since we can't go any taller than 13'6" we'll go wider by adding a couple of dormer windows. She thinks (and I agree) that a window seat that runs the full width of the house would be a more comfortable place to lounge, so we'll claim the space that accommodates a tiny front porch in Britt's Bungalow and stretch the windowseat longer and wider.

Lofts & Elevations

In Britt's Bungalow the kitchen and bathroom are side-by-side underneath the sleeping loft. It works pretty well to have the shower and closet underneath the sleeping loft because it provides a ceiling for these two spaces. Having the kitchen under the sleeping loft works well, too, because the ceiling provides another surface from which one can hang a wine bottle rack, a wine glass holder, a fruit basket, and a roll of paper towels. However, Jane will put the shower and closet at the back and a galley kitchen towards the front of the sleeping loft. This layout will open up the space under the loft to the rest of the house.

As we considered the floor plan, we also talked about the vertical space. I asked Jane where she imagined the windows: where she would like the light to be coming from and which views she wants to capture. She wants to create privacy from the next door neighbors, so she's limiting windows on the east side to two small ones. Having more windows on the west side of the house will also provide a passive heating assist. She likes having the window seat facing the garden so she wants big picture windows there. She also likes the idea of a sliding glass door which will let more light into the house. She'd like to have a porch off of the sliding door to provide outdoor space and connection with the host house.

Drafting up plans is a project for this week, but I can already envision the space in my mind. I've been playing with window layouts on exterior elevations and basic massing in Sketch Up today. It was fun to show these rudimentary visuals to Jane and see her excitement.

Having a sense of the layout enabled us to create a list of used materials to hunt for: five operable windows, four fixed windows, a sliding door, and an RV shower. Time to start scouting Craigslist!