Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs Design Concept

Early tiny houses mostly just used ladders to access the sleeping loft because that approach works better with gable roofs. But these days tiny house stairs seem to be more and more common, especially with more folks building houses with shed roofs, gable roofs, and cross gables (as shown above). The higher ceiling along an outer wall is needed for stairs or you’d bump your head at the top.

Another common trait of tiny house stairs is that they often include a lot of storage. When space is limited designing spaces and interior elements to be multi-functional allows the occupant to get more use from the same space. So making storage you can climb adds a lot of usefulness to a single piece of furniture.

This design concept gets its inspiration from Tansu, which is traditional mobile storage cabinetry from Japan. Tansu was first documented from the Genroku era of the Edo Period (1688-1704).

Step Tansu are often built in modules with drawers and doors. They are primarily intended as stationary additions to the buildings they reside but were designed to be moved if necessary. For example, sometimes they were used in houses to permit attic access.

Tansu Inspired Contemporary Design

This stair design is modeled after a Step Tansu, and seems like an ideal approach for accessing the loft in a tiny house.

The overall height is 72 inches making it work well for access to a loft floor that is approximately 82 inches above the main floor.

These stairs are made from separately built plywood cabinets that would be connected together to form steps once installed.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 05490200000

Building this piece of multi-functional furniture as separate cabinets has several advantages:

  • Each element is a fairly simple woodworking project unto itself – making it more approachable for less experienced woodworkers.
  • Each component can be carried more easily than a similarly sized once-piece stair unit.
  • The components can be built in a wood shop or garage. There’s no need for building the until in-place inside the house.
  • The builder can alter the design more easily by simply altering the size and arrangement of components to suit their needs.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 05423400000

Standard Configuration

The standard configuration contains 11 cabinets total. Each step is ~24″ wide, 9″ deep, and 9″ tall.

  • 4 single drawer cabinets – ideal for shoes or off-season items. (9″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 4 small deep cabinets – ideal seldom used items or small items like cell phones and other pocket items. (9″ high, 9″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 1 18″ tall double door cabinet – ideal for books, files, and other stackable items. (18″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 1 36″ tall double door cabinet – ideal for folded clothes on shelves. (35″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 1 54″ tall double door cabinet – ideal for tall items or hanging clothes. (54″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)

The entire unit should be securely anchored to the wall to keep it from tipping over when the tiny house is on the move.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 05522300000

Combination Washer/Dryer Configuration

The configuration is intended to hide away a large appliance like a combination washer/dryer (a unit that washes & drys clothes). This configuration contains 9 cabinets total. Each step is ~24″ wide, 9″ deep, and 9″ tall.

  • 2 single drawer cabinets – ideal for shoes or off-season items. (9″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 4 small deep cabinets – ideal seldom used items or small items like cell phones and other pocket items. (9″ high, 9″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 2 18″ tall double door cabinet – ideal for books, files, and other stackable items. (18″ high, 18″ wide, 24″ deep)
  • 1 45″ tall double door cabinet – ideal for a large appliance. (45″ high, 36″ wide, 24″ deep)

Cabinet Construction

The cabinets and doors should be made from furniture grade 3/4″ plywood for best results. The inside of the drawers are made from 3/8″ square dowels, and 1/2″ and 1/4″ plywood.

These stairs will feel a bit steeper than ‘normal’ stairs and may not be designed to meet normal building codes for stairs. A railing should be added to increase safety.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 05575900000

Joinery

The cabinets are shown to use pocket joinery – a simple yet strong way of connecting wood with screws.

A jig (like those made by Kreg) make it easy to measure and drill diagonal holes at just the right location.

Special pocket hole screws are used ensure that the joinery is strongest. These screws essentially have what amounts to a built-in washer around the screw head which perfectly fills the hole made by the jig’s pocket hole drill bit.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 06025800000

Hardware

Shown in this drawing are generic cup hinges and drawer sliders.  Cup hinges are common cabinet hinges that are inset into a small hole drilled into the cabinet carcass. A mounting plate is then screwed to the inside of the door. The exact location, diameter, and depth of the hole, and the location of the mounting plate will be specific to the hinge brand and model you select.

Step Tansu Tiny House Stairs 2016-05-17 06081500000

Other hidden hinge types can be used too, but cup hinges are adjustable and tend to be easier to install than other types. The ability to adjust them to perfectly level the doors is incredible useful too.

The drawer slides we suggest for these cabinets are 22 inches long, allow for full extension, and use a push-to-open type locking mechanism. This means that the drawers stays shut until you give them a little push before they spring open.

What do you think?

Tell me what you think in the comments below. If this a design you can imagine using? How would you change it?

 

26 Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.