Best Tiny House Interior Design Practices

tiny house interior designCreating a tiny house interior design that best matches your needs is not always easy or simple. Tiny houses are space intensive and since most of us have different lifestyle needs and wants, it can be challenging to create a set up to meet all your immediate and long-term needs.

In this three part series on laying out a tiny house interior design, we begin the discussion with the two primary options: 1) purchasing an existing set of plans, or 2) starting from scratch. Each has its advantages and challenges and it’s important to discern which option is best for you. In the second article, we will cover the process of creating a floor plan, or interior design layout, by hand. The final article will highlight our favorite resources for creating tiny house plans with the aid of computer software.

PURCHASE AN EXISTING SET OF PLANS

tiny house interior design

Look for a set of plans that has already been built (and positively reviewed) by previous customers

Look for a set of plans currently on the market that very closely match your needs and wants. It’s rare to find one that will exactly fit the bill so plan on making some alterations. Look for sets that include not only floor plans but also important construction details. Exterior elevations, construction sections, plumbing and electrical layout, and engineering information are all vital to your success.

Purchase plans which have already been built (and positively reviewed) by previous customers. Click here to see just some of the hOMe versions built by our customers. We also recommend you contact the plans company ahead of time. Gauge how long it takes for them to respond and ask what you can expect in the way of customer service should questions arise during your build. It’s a total buzz kill when you run into an unforeseen issue during your build and it takes the company several weeks to respond.

The Importance of Weight Distribution

One of the biggest challenges in modifying an existing tiny house interior design is that even small changes can have a major impact. What seems like a small alteration can actually create a chain reaction of challenges which may compromise the safety of the tiny house. As an example, weight distribution over the axles is an extremely important and complex consideration in any tiny house on wheels. If the balance isn’t set up properly and the heaviest portion of the house sits either too far forward, to the back, or the side, it can create dangerous sway during transportation.

tiny house interior design

We read in the news that the driver lost control because his trailer wasn’t weighted properly.

Make sure that any changes you make to the tiny home interior design take this safety piece into consideration. For example, if you purchase a set of tiny house plans where the kitchen and bathroom are on opposite ends but then you make design adjustments to place them both at the same end of the trailer, you’ve completely altered the weight distribution of the home.

Standard weight distribution over a trailer is 60% of the total weight between the trailer tongue and the center point of the axles and 40% from that same center point to the back of the trailer. Your tongue weight, the amount of weight that is transferred to the tow vehicle through the tongue hitch, should be between 9% and 15% (ideally 12%) of the gross trailer weight. If you stick with the 60/40 split you’ll most likely end up with that tongue weight ratio. Your side to side loads should also be pretty evenly distributed so that your tiny house on wheels remains properly balanced around sharp corners or during emergency maneuvers. 

CREATE YOUR OWN TINY HOUSE INTERIOR DESIGN

Customizing a tiny house interior design for your personal needs by starting from scratch might be easier than altering an existing set of plans. But where to start? What are some strategies to help you clarify what you want in your tiny home interior? Believe it or not, we actually recommend that you dream big initially. Start by making a list of all the items you’d like to incorporate into your dream tiny house interior. Think about all the activities that will take place inside your new house. Do you love to cook? Is playing games in the evenings a favorite pass-time? Do you work from home? 
 
The intention of this exercise is to help you identify what’s important to you. It will help determine what items, rooms, and functions will make your new tiny house work as a long term residence. You don’t want to regret not having included something in your tiny house design simply because you feared it might not fit. Shoot for the moon and then scale things down to reality based on your findings.

tiny house interior design

While designing, we didn’t imagine being able to fit a full sized range and fridge into our tiny house, but we did!

When we first came up with our own wish list for hOMe, we were apprehensive because there were SO many things on it. We feared that only a small fraction of those items would actually be incorporated into our tiny house interior. What we found though was that by getting creative and hyper-designing our small space, we were able to incorporate every single item on our wish list: full sized kitchen, stairs, tons of storage, home office space for two, comfortably sized bathroom, dining table for 4-6 people, guest loft, lounge area for watching movies/playing guitar, space for our two dogs and cat, and an open/bright modern architectural feel. Keep in mind that at the time we were designing hOMe, there were no tiny houses with full sized appliances or stairs to a loft. We truly were in uncharted territory and didn’t know if those two things were even possible in combination. 

Prioritize

Arrange your wish list so that items with highest priority end up in the top slots and work your way down in descending order. For the next couple weeks don’t revisit the list and instead focus on your day-to-day habits, needs, and wants. Revisit your list after this “cool-off” time and see if it still feels pertinent. You may be surprised (we were!) to see how your wishes change over time, especially when you pay attention to how you really use a space.

It’s important to budget some time for introspection during your design process. It can take a while to see your home and your general space from a fresh vantage point. Keep in mind that we all receive “programing” over our lifetimes that shows us what defines a home. Things that we grew up being told were necessary and essential may turn out to no be so in the end. It can also take some time to identify the difference between what we think we need and what we actually do need.

Take Your Time

Be gentle with yourself and your loved ones through the process of creating your tiny house interior design. Don’t rush this. Even though you may be excited to get building, it is worth the extra time it takes in this process to design the right house for you. After all, it won’t matter how quickly the house gets built in the end. What will matter is whether it feels like home and satisfies your needs. Accurate and thoughtful design are among the foundations of long term success in a tiny house. Enjoy the process and the journey.

In the next article in the series, we will talk about the importance of furniture needing to work on double (if not triple!) duty, visualizing layouts, and how to create your hand drawn layout on paper with a basic architectural ruler.  

4 Responses to Best Tiny House Interior Design Practices

  1. /bob January 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm #

    Excellent ideas here. Can’t wait for Part 2. A lot of this is what we did for our current home. We took inventory about how we were using spaces where we were and rated what spaces were most important to have central in our plans.

  2. Toni January 27, 2017 at 5:25 pm #

    Thank you for this very informative article, Gabrielle. I am hoping that your series will include how to choose a contractor. I have my wish list and tiny house designed, but I will need to have it built to be light weight, as an example. Are certain builders more qualified or interested in making a really custom tiny house? I’m sure your insight would be really helpful…and welcomed!

    • Gabriella
      Gabriella January 31, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion Toni! Unfortunately we’re not the best source of builders. What I recommend for that kind of thing is joining a Facebook group called Tiny House People. There are over 30,000 people in there and I always think it’s best to ask people who are actually getting their tiny houses built. There are so many builders out there right now. Some are excellent. Some are downright crooks. Make certain that you get references and ask around. There are people that have been scammed out of $15-20,000 and are unable to get it back. Super super sad. 🙁

  3. Joyanne Sloan January 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    Toni, I believe that one of the ways to achieve the lightest-weight tiny house is to use a structurally insulated panel or sip panel as it’s commonly known. There are more than one video you can find on YouTube showing examples of tiny homes built using sips

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