From time to time I daydream about taking my family on an extended road trip in a tiny house. So just for fun, I drew this tiny house design and got a little carried away in the details. I suspect more than a few folks will appreciate some of the ideas here, so I thought I’d share what I’ve drawn into this one.
I wanted this tiny house to be easy to tow, so it had to be aerodynamic and lightweight. I wanted it to be able to sleep a family of 4 and have a flexible-use interior. It needed to be off-grid but still have an air conditioner and complete kitchen.
To keep weight down I designed it to fit on a 16-foot tiny house trailer, but I used two tricks to get a little more space.
- I used some of the space over the tongue. I show something like a bay window bump-out. When you build over the trailer tongue you have to keep the house out of the way of the turning tow vehicle – so I angled the walls in a similar direction as the trailer tongue. This also helps make the house more aerodynamic.
- I also extended the house over the back of the trailer. I show a 45-degree diagonal bump-out that adds 2-feet to the house without causing the house to hit the ground when on steep driveways.
I don’t think either of these tricks add too much weight to the house, since extension out back is mostly hollow. The other advantage of using a 16-foot trailer is lower cost.
To further keep things light I’d also use metal framing, which can save 40% to 60% compared to wood. Typically tiny houses weight a lot more than travel trailers because tiny houses are built like houses.
I’d also use lightweight siding, like galvanized roofing material. I think the metal siding also compliments the aerodynamic shape.
Wedge shaped tiny houses (where the shed roof slope goes from front-to-back instead of side-to-side) help air flow up and over the house. To maximize the ceiling height in the loft while still staying below 13′ 6″ (maximum allowed trailer height) I used something like a saltbox roof design. The roof pitch shown here is 3/12. The eave on the trailer tongue side is also much shorter to avoid catching air.
The interior is designed to maximize space while providing a ton of function. But before we go inside, let me show you the ramp and tiny porch.
The floor below the porch and the ramp would have a perforated metal surface and galvanized steel structure. The ramp would be hinged and would fold up against the house when on the road. This style would go well with the modern feel of the house and it would help knock sand and dirt off shoes before entering the house – which would be especially great for folks with kids & dogs.
The small inset porch is also lower than the interior floor, which will help keep rainwater out of the house. I’ve noticed many tiny homes don’t plan for this; the porch will be built on the same framing as the floor inside – which can lead to water problems. So even it you use wood on your porch, be sure to attach it to the trailer frame, which would keep it lower than the floor inside.
The entry is on the side to allow more function on end of the house. The bathroom and kitchen are on the trailer tongue side of the house. The multi-mode living room on the other side.
The front door is angled toward the living room to make guests feel welcomed into the home. The door swings in like any normal home – and unlike a travel trailer. Some folks think that tiny house doors should also open outwards, like so many RVs, because it somehow saves interior space. It does not.
You see the space inside any door is path space… space dedicated for passing through. Unless you’re barricading the door (ha ha) this space will always be free of objects – so the swinging of the door is never in the way.
An inward opening door is also more welcoming to visitors, easier to enter in the rain and wind, and is not dangerously slammed on the exterior of the house by the wind on a blustery day. The only advantage I can think of for an outward opening door is if you plan to leave it open for extended periods of time. But in that case you could simply get a door with an screened opening window instead.
Right across from the main entry is the sliding pocket door to the bathroom and the ladder to the kid’s sleeping loft. Behind the opened front door is the kitchen. Also just inside the front door is a small shoe box for leaving shoes at the door.
Looking down at the living room in sofa mode. That’s a TV on the wall on the right, on a swinging arm mount.
The living rom has several modes. There are two flip-up tables that flank the pull out sofa bed. A futon or pair of long cushions could be used for the sofa bed. Shown here is what a futon might look like. Below you can see what bedroom mode looks like.
But there are several other modes for this multi-functional room. The table on the left is just large enough for four to have a meal.
There’s even a washer-dryer unit hidden in the closet. More storage is located in the large drawer under the sofa and in a narrow compartment behind the sofa.
Since extended road trips might include some homeschooling, the two flip-up tables could also be setup as desks. On the left are bookshelves behind the closet and a whiteboard for homeschool mode. We might need a desk lamp on each side too.
There’s quite a bit of desk space actually… enough for 5 computer workstations – although I can’t image anyone using it like this, but it shows the various seating options nicely.
Those folding chairs hang in the kitchen when not in use.
The kitchen is simple. It has a sink, induction stove top, microwave, under-counter refrigerator, and a Berkey Water Filter on the left side of the sink Shown is the Travel Berkey – the one we can buy here in California – but also perfect for tiny houses.
There are cabinets above and below and three small (24″ x 18″) opening windows between the countertop and upper cabinets – more for natural light than the view.
I’ve often wished for a small faucet above my Berkey for easy refilling, so in this design I drew one in.
The bathroom is a typical tiny house bathroom. Shown here is a 32-inch square shower, small wall mounted sink, and Nature’s Head composting toilet. There’s also a cabinet above the toilet for essentials.
The loft is shown with two twin mattresses but a queen size mattress would also fit. The loft is open at both ends to allow air to flow around the house nicely. This would also provide a great view outside and lots of natural light for small children to play up there.
The only disadvantage of this design is that the parents sleeping below wouldn’t have privacy – so to increase privacy a solid wall or a wall that almost touches the ceiling could be used.
In the corner behind the kitchen & bathroom is a utility closet with an upper and lower compartment that are accessible from outside the house.
- The upper compartment could also house all the utility bits & pieces like the solar system, batteries, and water heater.
- The lower compartment could house a propane tank or extra batteries.
In many cases you want a space for utility items like this that is outside the living space. It can reduce the risk of dangers from gas leaks or gasses from unsealed or damaged batteries.
The mini split air conditioner compressor would be housed over the trailer tongue and just clear bumping into the tow vehicle. The other half of the mini split is located just above the kitchen and points toward the loft and living room.
Either compartment could have double doors too, in case you wanted to store something you preferred to have venter when parked.
When on the road the outer door could be shut to prevent the utility closet becoming a wind scoop.
I think a house like this could be built to weight less than 7,000 pounds, which would put it in the range of many large SUV tow vehicles, like the GMC Yukon XL (Chevy Suburban) pictured here. It would also put it in the range of entry level pickups like the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra, and Ram 1500.
But not everyone wants to sacrifice size for mobility. Many people want larger tiny houses (24-foot and larger) and just plan to stay put for a while.
In any case I hope some of the ideas I’ve shown here are useful to you. Let me know if you’d like to see me turn this concept into plans. Also feel free to post questions and comments below.