Home Office and Retreat

Tiny Home Office - Exterior Detail

Update June 2013 – I never found time in 2011 or 2012 to build this home office. We did adopt Reagan and she’s now 3 1/2. A family member also ran into some health issues – so I ended up building a home office/storage room in part of the garage so I could be within earshot if I was needed. But now things are running smoothly again here at the Janzen household, so I’m back to considering my options for tiny home offices – and updating this design concept and plan.

As families grow the need for space changes and tiny house designs like this one might be the perfect fit. I work from home full time and really need a separate office space. I wouldn’t say we need more space – just a space out of the earshot of all the fun. I bet some of you can imagine the challenge of participating on a conference call while the sounds of barking dogs and happy children echo in the background.

We’ve also been wanting to build a truly portable tiny house for weekend getaways, so this design would serve as both a home office and weekend cabin.


I’ve kept the design simple enough to build quickly on a tight budget. I’m hoping to keep the total cost under $4,000 which will include the cost of a 12-foot dual axle trailer.

For the office I’d want both a stand-up and sit-down desk to help get me on my feet more. I’ve been working in front of a computer for almost 14 years now and while the pay is good, the sedentary work has affected my health. Now in 2013, I use a stand-up desk now and rarely sit at work – it’s made a vast improvement!

The desk will also need to serve multiple functions when we use the house as a camping cabin. Theoretically a desk should provide flexible workspace and storage. At some point the house will also need to be fitted with a simple bathroom, composting toilet, small food prep space, and sleeping space. The walls and rough plumbing could be built initially and finished later.

In the mean time a water jug and drain bucket could be used in the food prep area. Dee Williams seemed to make this kind of setup work well for her full time tiny house – so it seems like a good way to go for a camping cabin / home office. I don’t think we need a shower.

Tiny Home Office - Desk Open

Tiny Home Office - Bathroom

Tiny Home Office - Bed

Construction Method

I think I’d try to use a somewhat untested wall and roof assembly method that will reduce the weight while speeding the construction process. I’d sheath the walls on the exterior and interior with 3/8″ plywood (glued and screwed), but only the interior surface will be installed before the walls go up.

Wiring would be installed from the outside before the insulation, house wrap, and exterior sheathing/siding are installed. I know this is backwards but I think it would work well.

The exterior walls would also be trimmed with battens (ripped from 2x4s) to make the house look like it has a board and batten exterior. I’d finish the exterior with a rich dark stain and the interior with a lighter stain.

The doors and windows would be stock JELD-WEN wood-framed units I can pick up at my local home improvement store. I’d be able to paint the the wood frames complimenting colors to the interior and exterior stains. I could save a few bucks by ordering vinyl windows but I’d be stuck with stock colors.

The roof assembly would be the most unusual assembly and should blow the minds of some professional builders – well that is if it works. I’d lay the interior ceiling plywood onto to top of the walls first, and then installing homemade trusses on top. Then I’ll screw the plywood into the trusses from below, insulate, and finally lift up the exterior sheathing and metal roofing.

I suspect this would make it easier and faster for one person to assemble and keep everything straight since the interior plywood itself would act as a guide. I would not try this method on a larger building, but it seems like a good experiment for this tiny house’s roof.

Project Plan


  1. Clear and level space on the side yard.
  2. Buy trailer.
  3. Buy building materials.
  4. Complete rough set of plans.

Stage One

  1. Frame floor, secure to trailer, insulate, sheath.
  2. Frame all four walls on the ground nearby.
  3. Measure and cut the exterior wall plywood.
  4. Measure and cut the roof trusses and plywood.
  5. Rip battens from 2x4s.

Stage Two

  1. Lift walls into place and secure with screws and metal fasteners.
  2. Assemble the roof and insulate.
  3. Install the metal roofing.

Stage Three

  1. Install rough wiring from the exterior.
  2. Insulate walls, install house wrap and exterior sheathing/siding.
  3. Install door and windows.
  4. Finish wiring outlets and switches.
  5. Bring in a desk, chair, and lamp.

Finish Work

At this point the house will be ready to be used as a home office but will still need finish work that can happen slowly over the following weekends.

  1. Install interior and exterior trim.
  2. Install battens.
  3. Stain exterior and interior.
  4. Build porch and steps.
  5. Build loft.
  6. Build interior walls and add interior bathroom door.
  7. Install wood flooring and trim.
  8. Build food prep station, stand-up desk, and bed/bench.
  9. Add a heater.
  10. Add a solar electric system.

Next Steps

Update June 2013 – I definitely need a workspace with windows – so will be spending a bit of time noodling through my options and eventually building a tiny house alternative to my man cave (home office) in the garage.



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