We wanted to build a home around our lifestyle and which allows us to live more of the lifestyle we’re designing.
For us, building a tiny home was all about financial freedom, flexibility of time, and less stress. However, like any project, the process of building a tiny home does not come without challenges. Answering such questions as how much space are you really willing to sacrifice or when tiny is too tiny are a personal decision. And, as with any build, not everything worked in principle. And we had to either tweak ideas and in some instances abandon them altogether, but above all compromise.
We had three main motivations for building a tiny home. Firstly, so that we could downsize from a four-bedroomed house instead of selling it and buying another property. Secondly, to create a source of passive income by renting the house to tenants. And thirdly, to transition from a larger space (and learn to cohabit peacefully in a tiny home) to a campervan for prolonged periods. We eventually purchased the campervan in August 2020 and plan to spend as many post-lockdown periods of time in it as we can in 2021.
Tiny house vs. tiny home – what’s the difference?
For us, there’s a clear distinction between tiny home and tiny house. To us, the latter suggests a purpose built, freestanding building. As our home is essentially an annexe, calling it a tiny house would be inaccurate. And, had we been building a tiny house we would be a whole lot more sustainable. A tiny house is a future project for the land we eventually buy in either the south of France or Spain.
Realised that the house could become an asset instead of a liability. And extra rental income from renting/Airbnbing the tiny home out while we’re travelling in our campervan (which we’re hoping to do in 2021). In turn, this enables us to continue on the path to self-reliance and radical personal responsibility.
So what is a tiny home?
The best description I have seen is “a scaled-down version of a standard home primed with all the goodies and amenities you’re used to“.
The dimensions of our tiny home are 13.55m x 2.5m (which is just over 33m²), so it’s narrow and long like a houseboat. One of the nice things is that it isn’t visible from the front of the house. All you see is the single-storey extension. The window the arrows points to would have been our front door but we decided against this in the end.
When we first bought our house back in August 2016, our original plan was to extend at the back and have an l-shaped open-plan living space. Oh, how times have changed! Fast-forward four years and we’ve built a tiny home for a little over 50% of what the extension to the house would have cost.
What follows is a rundown of the build…
The Bedroom (4.5m x 2.5m – 11.25m²)
Our original plan for the bedroom was to convert the window into a front door with a small porch
This resolved the issue of opening the front door straight into our bedroom and removing muddy shoes and boots (we have a large dog). But this never happened due to planning regulations and permission not being granted by our local council for two front doors on our property. It had been suggested that we could knock the door through after everything had been signed off. But we weren’t ultimately comfortable with doing that. Not after all the love, blood, sweat and tears that went into creating our tiny home. Getting on the wrong side of the planning department and worst case scenario being forced to tear it down, just wasn’t worth the risk.
In the end, we decided to use the original bedroom door into the house as our front door
…and leave the window as it was. This meant sharing the main entrance to the house. Luckily for us, we now have some really great tenants living in the house. And they’re also happy for us to share the porch where we can leave said muddy boots and shoes and the dog’s towel.
We had less wall space in the bedroom because of the door, but it’s worked out fine and we’ve just adapted. And anyway, it meant we had a little more floor space (0.5m) to work with. The area was still small and we needed to fit in some good-sized wardrobes as there wasn’t space for floor-standing units.
When it came to our bed, in my head we would build a platform on which our bed from the house could sit. But it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t work without enough room for our all-important wardrobes, our main storage area. I’d thought of every which way to crowbar in my beloved sleigh bed. But I eventually got over myself and asked my brother Robert to build us a bed base instead.
I was inspired by a YouTube video I’d come across about a tiny house in which they had a pull-out lounge area underneath their bedroom. If something similar could work in our bedroom, we could incorporate storage for lesser-used or seasonal items and shelving at the front instead of floor standing drawers or cupboards. In fact, the two small drawers we do have sit inside the wardrobe.
So Robert built a base consisting of three sizeable (deep and high) drawers with a storage area at the back. He repurposed some old cupboard doors and offcuts from his job as a kitchen and bedroom fitter. He was also able to repurpose a cupboard door for a hidden section at the end of the bed where we store laptops and other equipment.
There was no way we were going to leave our amazing Sealy PosturePedic mattress in the house for our future tenants. So we bought some cheap timber to create slats and placed our mattress from the sleigh bed on top. The tenants have the sleigh bed frame with a cheaper but still comfortable mattress. As far as we know, that is – we haven’t had any complaints about it so far.
When we want to retrieve anything from the underbed storage, it’s really easy. We simply lift off the mattress, unscrew the middle slats, retrieve what we need and put it back together again
We now have more than enough storage space and a year in, it’s still working well. You just need to be organised and think ahead. For example, twice a year we’ll swap over our summer and winter clothes. In the drawers we can fit all our underwear and socks, t-shirts and jumpers, leggings, etc. And we have a wardrobe with a double rail for everything else.
I also asked my brother to build a bespoke headboard with cubby holes in the side, which we repurposed an old scaffold plank for.
With both a deep mattress (28cm) and deep drawers, we’re nearly a metre off of the ground. When we’re lying in bed staring out of the skylight directly above us, it feels like we’re in a campervan or on a houseboat, which is awesome. Who needs a sleigh bed anyway?!
The wardrobes were also leftover from my brother’s bedroom furniture fitting and were designed specifically for our needs. The left-hand section that you can see in this photo houses a ‘cupboard office’. Box files with house documents and Dave’s business accounts, stationery in plastic storage boxes, and so on. It’s also used for Dave’s work clothes (which get very dirty as he’s a tradesman and need to be kept separate).
The middle wardrobe is even more of a mishmash but incredibly useful space. It houses our wireless printer, paper shredder, bedding and towels, jewellery and cosmetics. There are also two small drawers for our bits and pieces. And even a purpose built section for our ironing board and step.
The main wardrobe contains two rails with a shelf in between, so space for shoes and whatever else we need to keep there. The hairdryer plugs into a double socket inside the wardrobe, which also powers our printer and electric toothbrush charger.
The Bathroom (2.15m x 2.5m – 5.38m²)
As bathrooms go this isn’t tiny. But it houses a washing machine and tumble dryer (albeit stacked), shower, toilet, sink with vanity unit and towel rail. This doesn’t leave a great deal of room.
Hanging your coats and storing your shoes in a tiny home
Our bathroom is also our hallway and we keep all of our coats and shoes in there.
Dave constructed a coat rack from a couple of pieces of scaffold plank and some coat hooks. These were originally under the stairs in our house and no longer needed as we boxed in the staircase when we renovated. This was another great way to repurpose materials and it cost a fraction of the ‘rustic’ coat racks I’d seen online. I also repurposed some collapsible metal shelves which are designed for tight kitchen cupboard spaces. But as most of our stuff is stored on open-plan shelves, I no longer needed them for that purpose and they work just as well for our shoes.
We kept the original doorway between the bedroom and the bathroom. But we had to knock through the back wall of the extension to create a doorway into the rest of our tiny home. This meant that the bathroom divided the flat in two and so we opted for Jack & Jill doors. The rule is that if the bathroom door is closed, somebody’s in there. It’s worked fine so far too with visiting friends and family!
The downside being we can’t stop the dog from going into the bedroom when we’re out and sleeping on the bed. He can open the doors and go back and forth between the lounge and the bedroom at his leisure. But I don’t mind too much when he looks as adorable as this.
In this room, we had to compromise on the layout. Until we built the place, the plan had been to have a wetroom. Unfortunately the plumbing set-up wouldn’t allow for this so instead we have a dividing wall and it works really well.
Washing your clothes in a tiny home
Until August 2020 we didn’t have any laundry facilities and just used the washing machine in the main house. During the warmer months we could hang washing outside to dry. And in wetter, colder months we used the spare bedroom in the house where there’s a heated airer. And when we didn’t have any Airbnb guests due to the pandemic we could also dry clothes. But that changed in August when our first tenants moved in.
Luckily we’d future-proofed for this and incorporated plumbing and sockets for a washing machine and tumble drier the other side of the dividing wall.
I’d been really reluctant to buy a tumble dryer. Having never owned one up until this point, my perception was that they eat your electricity. But I guess that’s partly down to how you use them and how energy efficient the model you buy is. But as the weather got colder and wetter, I didn’t really relish trips to the launderette to dry our clothes. And there’s no space inside to do dry them in the winter. Besides, it’s not very healthy, particularly when I work from home. So we relented and bought both a washing machine and a tumble drier.
You can also buy some really efficient models these days that don’t make a massive amount of noise. Both the washing machine and tumble dryer have lower decibels, so much so that I sometimes forget they’re on.
As our bathroom is internal (no windows) we don’t have an external vent, only a non-opening rooflight. So we opted for a condenser tumble dryer which doesn’t use a vent hose and should turn all the steam into water. But we can also leave the doors open when the dryer is on so that the hot air can circulate. Having a quieter appliance definitely helps with this!
Quieter white goods in a tiny home:
Russell Hobbs Luna Fast Boil Electric Kettle 24280
Swan SDW2011W Slimline Dishwasher
Beko WTL84121W 8Kg Washing Machine 1400 rpm
Beko DTLCE70051W 7Kg Condenser Tumble Dryer
Manrose QF100T Bathroom Extractor fan
This is compact and space-saving. It pops up and folds flat in seconds and is big enough for a machine load of washing. It’s also more sustainable being made of hard-wearing, galvanised metal. Rather than all our previous plastic laundry baskets which cracked and split and weren’t as environmentally friendly.
The Kitchen (3.7m x 2.5m – 9.25m²)
Throughout our tiny home we’ve tried to repurpose materials where possible and the kitchen is no exception. The wooden worktops you see in the photos were originally the shelves in my home office in the main house. This has now been converted into a laundry room for our tenants.
We opted for off-white gloss cupboard fronts to reflect the light and create the illusion of space. And as a nice contrast, we created shelves from old scaffold planks some of which still had paint on them. The alcove housing shelves of jars and other containers was once the back door of the house which we boarded up.
Whilst the Durabase construction is brand new, we’ve mixed old and new in the space. For example, new kitchen units flanked by scaffold plank shelving. And the worktops from our old office in the house as kitchen worktops. We also purchased a base unit to which we added wheels and a worktop to form a kitchen island. When we have dinner guests, we can move it out of the way and move the dining table out into the middle of the room.
Functionality is obviously the watchword of tiny home living, but I did also want to incorporate as much colour as possible. I’m a strong believer in not keeping things for best. And having much-loved crockery and other items on display. Not shoved away in a cupboard out of sight, out of mind. So I was always going to have open-plan shelves somewhere in the kitchen for this purpose.
I’m pleased with what we managed to achieve with the shelving above the sink. It’s is completely out of the way of anything else and doesn’t make the kitchen look cluttered. And we use the bowls and dishes up there way more than we would have done if they’d been in cupboards where they’d also risk getting chipped. Our everyday plates, bowls, pots and pans are stored in deep drawers underneath the hob.
We don’t have much space under the sink and there wasn’t any floor space for our bins. As we recycle everything we can and also use a food waste bin religiously, it was a bit of a challenge finding a small enough bin that catered to all three.
Inspired by something similar in his Mum and Dad’s kitchen, Dave found this swing bin with triple waste separation. One section for recycling, one for food waste and another for everything else.
- It does need emptying regularly but this isn’t a bad thing as you don’t have kitchen smells lingering in a larger bin in a small space. And if nothing else, it makes you more mindful of your household waste production.
- We have the added challenge of needing lockable bins so the dog doesn’t pull everything out of them, but as they’re under the sink, this is no longer a problem.
- It houses three inner plastic bins with double handles which makes it super easy to carry them to the outside bins.
- What’s also great about it is that there’s enough space on top for the cleaning caddy, all-purpose cleaner and dishwasher tablets (both eco-friendly, of course). There’s even space behind it where I keep 5L containers of white distilled vinegar and washing up liquid. And to the side, where I keep laundry liquid, fabric conditioner and other items.
We also have a caddy for household cleaning which folds completely flat when not in use.
The Lounge/Diner (3.2m x 2.5m – 8m²)
We have a table in the lounge/kitchen which doubles up as my office space during the day as I work remotely. We bought the table secondhand on eBay for less than $50 to fit next to the fridge freezer which creates a nice barrier between the kitchen and lounge/diner. It’s a drop leaf table and has sides which extend out when we have dinner guests. And we keep two collapsible chairs behind the sofa.
I mainly use a Macbook, second screen and HDMI cable which are neatly tidied away in our blanket box at the end of each working day. I also have the option of using our TV (which is mounted on a wall bracket to save space) as a second screen.
The mount also allows us to pull the TV right out into the middle of the room, which is handy if you want to watch it while you’re cooking. Or even if you’re outside (and I’ve yet to try this) and participating in a yoga or pilates class on Zoom.
We opted for Sonos speakers (two of which are wall-mounted to save space) and a Sonos Connect Amp. We have one in our bedroom which we also use as an alarm clock so we don’t need to keep our phones in the bedroom overnight. There are another two in the kitchen area and lounge/diner.
All Sonos speakers and components connect over WiFi so you can build the system you want. Put on a podcast in the bedroom while someone else watches TV in the living room, or group all your speakers to play music in sync.
Compromise/privacy/personal space/noise reduction:
We’ve combined this with JBL Live 650 BTNC Wireless Over-Ear Noise-Cancelling Headphones. This means that one of us can listen to music while somebody else watches TV. Or one us can watch TV if the other doesn’t want to and would like to read a book or listen to an audio book
Whilst we do use Spotify regularly, Dave and I are 80’s kids and old school with our CD collection. But to compromise on space, we bought a mini CD player which is connected to our Sonos system. At 19.5cm wide, it takes up hardly any room at all and sits snugly on the scaffold plank alongside our 18cm wide Sonos Connect Amp.
It’s compatible with all current CD formats (including home-made MP3 files) and also features digital optical and regular line-outputs. We purchased ours from a local hi-fi/home cinema/TV specialist, but you can also buy them online.
The Outside Space
We have French doors which each open up fully onto 3.5m of decking which we plan to extend to 4.5m in the Spring. This has the effect of elongating the space and bringing the outside in. We’ve also divided the house into two gardens, a smaller but perfectly ample space for our tenants and a larger square garden for us and our dog. The garden is now a project for 2021.
In closing, we feel so grateful that we built our tiny home in 2019. If we’d pushed it back to 2020, not only would the build be affected but we would have had to continue to live in the house. This would have meant a lack of much needed income from Airbnb guests or international language students.
12 months into our tiny home venture, we’ve adapted/moulded to the space so much now that it doesn’t feel narrow or short. We feel that our tiny home reflects or values, our personalities and how we’ve built, shaped and fitted it out.
Have you built a home around your lifestyle, which allows you to live more of the lifestyle you’re designing? Or is this something you’d like to do? Either way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below…
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