Category Archives: Design

SketchUp Tiny House Components

In the same vein as the last post, I have put together some basic tiny house SketchUp components you can download and use to 3D model your own tiny house design.  This file has all the appliances, to scale, that I have in my MiniMotives tiny house.  There are a fair amount of components available in the SketchUp Component Library for your use but I had a hard time finding tiny house specific sized appliances and what not so I thought I would put together a file for your use, if that is something that would save you time in planning your own custom tiny house.


Designing your own home should not HAVE to entail learning all there is to know about a piece of software on top of all the things you’re already learning in order to accomplish your tiny home.  If having these components would be useful for you please feel free to download them and use them at will HERE!

If you have any other helpful SketchUp tools, resources, tutorials, classes, plug-ins that you have found for helping you navigate your way through the design process we would love to have you share in the comments below!  

For other helpful tiny house resources put together for please visit our resource page.  If you find the information helpful please consider chipping in, even a dollar to help PlanningTiny continue to provide assistance and resources for those on their path to a tiny house, check back for more often!


Tiny House Cut-Outs

A great place to start when considering it a tiny house could be a good solution for you and your situation is to wrap your head around what it is you need/want and see if realistically it can all fit together in a way that seems workable.   One of the easiest and fastest ways to do this is, once you have your list of ‘must haves’ is to take some graph paper and make some paper cut-outs that are to a scale.  You can cut out all the components you want/need and quickly rearrange and reorganize them until you find an arrangement that makes sense for you.

I have taken a little time and put together some of the more common tiny house fixtures and necessities on some graph paper which you can use if it makes things easier for you. If you’d like to, feel free to download them HERE.  There are some blank sheets for you to draw your own custom objects as well.

After you have a good idea of a layout, it’s always a good idea to either build a physical model (legos can be fun! or foam core, bass wood or even cardboard) and/or a digital model ( is free and simple to learn).  The cutouts are great for helping you work things out in plan but you need to consider window locations, ceiling heights and roof styles in elevation too!



Some things to consider when designing:

  • Think of ways that space can be used more than once, i.e.
    • A pull out bed beneath a kitchen/bathroom/living space bed-rochester-retreat
    • A loft space above a kitchen/bathroom/living space                51bd1e2adbd0cb1e9300181a._w.540_s.fit_
  • An office/living/craft room in one                               06-tinyhouse-greatrm
  • Lesser used furniture that folds/hides away when not in use mirror-table-designrulz-cover-copy
  •  Raised or alternative beds                                                        ceiling-hammock-sleeping-loft-for-tiny-houses
  • Hidden storage space                                            beautiful-tiny-house-3
  • Storage up high (this can make a space feel smaller if not done well) fy_nyth_grande

For more design help see Design Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

How To Design A Tiny House – Part 3


What is important? (for you)

Tiny houses are not about sacrifice, it is hard sometimes to think of it that way when you are used to much more space.   To successfully live tiny for any amount of time though your house HAS to fit you.  There are no limitations to a tiny house too great… well unless you require a bowling alley in your home, that would be tough to do in a tiny.  When thinking about your design though it is best not to have to start with a blank slate, give yourself some parameters to work with.  Make a list of at least ten things that you require for your home, ten things you won’t live without.

For most people they struggle to think of ten, for others they can list 20 before they take a breath, at a minimum shoot for ten of the very most important things to you at this point in your life.  It is easy to try to plan your retirement but live in the present, what is important now and in the next 5 years or so?  Things can always change and adjust over time but your house has to function now.

Here is a sample list of things that may be on that list:

  • I must have an oven for baking
  • I must have stairs so that my cat can get into bed
  • I must have a wall to display my family photos
  • I must have a king sized bed
  • I must have a bath tub
  • I must have at least 3 burners on the stove
  • I must have a place for books
  • I must have lots of light/windows
  • I must have a spare bed for guests
  • I must have room for two adults to sit comfortably
  • I must have a place to quilt and store all of my quilting supplies
  • I must build with clean/healthy materials
  • I must have a double basin kitchen sink
  • I must have storage for all of my shoes and a place to hang my winter coat
  • I must have a sleeping space for each of my pets
  • I must incorporate my great grandmas vase that was handed down
  • etc.

Your list will be completely unique but spend some time thinking about the most valuable parts of your day and the things that make you smile and make your home, home.  Once you have your list of important items write it down, think of how you can incorporate those.  Some might not be apparent, some might take special/extra considerations.  If you need to store a kayak is there a way you can do that?  A separate out building, a over the wheels trailer with a locking skirted undercarriage?  Once you have your list of priorities you can start to problem solve and use those to help you make decisions along the way.  Do not compromise on those items, you can design them all in, I promise!  

What are the driving forces? (for you)

Everyone has different priorities and there are infinite ways and reasons to make decisions.  There is not ‘one point’ to a tiny house, there is your point.  Define your main considerations in order of importance and use those considerations when making each decision.   Here are some of the common considerations when thinking about tiny houses:

  • Budget – what are you working with, this can be high or low, for some people this is less of a concern and much more flexible.
  • Weight – the fact of the matter is if you are building on a trailer you have a limitation of weight, each trailer has a limit, are you easily going to fit in that specific limit or do you have to be a little more careful and deliberate about material choices and building styles because of your weight limit and house size?
  • Environment – Are you sensitive to chemicals?  Perhaps you are ok spending a little more in order to get materials that are processed in an environmentally friendly way?
  • Timeline – Maybe you have a five year plan, maybe a two year plan, maybe you need to be in your tiny house in three months, this factor could definitely impact your decisions along the way.
  • Aesthetics – Are you willing to pay more and wait longer to get the thing that is ‘just right’ for your vision of home?

Everyone has different priorities and different considerations, if you know your considerations in order of priority you can meet each decision with a set of standards to measure it against.  If budget over rules timeline maybe you choose to forgo hiring a plumber and opt to save some money by taking the time to learn to do the task yourself.  If environmental concerns outweigh budget maybe you spend a little extra on a ‘legit’ composting toilet to divert waste from the reclamation site.  If you want a ‘really cool looking’ wood stove maybe you place that importance above the budget.  Every decision will require it’s own analysis but defining priorities should clarify the process.

The big decisions you’ll need to answer eventually:

The big questions along the design process you’ll eventually need to answer (you can start to answer these by which fit in your budget, weight limitations, timeline, environmental concerns and views of ‘pretty’):

  • What type of trailer do I need?  New, used, bumper pull, goose-neck, above deck, drop axle, etc.
  • What roof line will give me the best functioning tiny house?
  • What is the best layout for my lifestyle?  How big is it?
  • Do I want a loft?  For storage? Sleeping? Guest/kid area?
  • What do I want in my kitchen?  What appliances are important? How much storage do I need for food?
  • What do I want in my bathroom?  Is a bath necessary, a sink? should it be far away from the kitchen?
  • What is required in the living area? A desk/work space, a full couch, a fire place?
  • Is there a separate bed area? ground floor?  Loft? Stairs/ladder?
  • How many windows do I want?  Where are they most important to be located?  Do I want a view from my couch? My bed?  My bathroom?
  • Where is the best location for the door?  Do I want two doors?  A sliding door?
  • How pretty is the outside of your house?  (this one is often an afterthought but can be very important in being able to find a location to park)
  • Where will I park (I leave this last because it is often the last thing worked out and not always apparent until the end)

Do you have any thoughts you’d like to add?  What are your driving forces?

You can also read Designing A Tiny House – Part 1,and Designing A  Tiny House – Part 2

This is a collaborative site, please, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!

How To Design A Tiny House – Part 2

Choose Size

The most common sizes tend to be 16′, 20′ and 24′.  There are of course variations but these sizes are also very convenient because most sheet goods (plywood, OSB, drywall, etc.) generally come in 4’x8′ increments.  Working in a 4′ increment decreases your labor and cutting, especially on those critical structural portions of the build.

Choose Style

Get a feel for the type of style of house you like best.  You can read more on that in Part 1.  My suggestion for this is the fun stuff, look at other tiny houses!  Pinterest, Google, Bing, get a book, whatever you like best, check things out, you will gravitate to a certain style.  Even if it is only that for you, form follows function, you’ll find things that would function well for you.

Choose Roof

It’s not all about style, a big component of a tiny house is the roof!  It defines a style but also can provide a lot of function.



Gable Roof

The classic gable roof provides a pitched roof, the actual pitch can vary in slope from a very slight angle to a steeper angle.  This can provide a high head area for a loft, vertical storage to sling a bike above head, and a feeling of spaciousness.  It can run either direction, when running the longer direction it can help with aerodynamics if planning on driving often.  The side that is not sloped is called the rake (ie ‘the rake end’)



Hip Roof

I hip is the same as a gable roof but all ends are pitched as well, there is no rake wall.  This gives it a more horizontal feel from the exterior and may take away from interior storage space, depending on the layout.

Seattle TH

Shed Roof

A shed roof makes for easy construction and a simple structure.  It too can run either direction, if sloping up from the hitch end it can reduce drag making it easier and more economical to pull.  This can generally be at any slope, large or small (check with your roofing material specs, many require at least a 2:12 (2″ rise for every 12″ run) slope or more for warranty).  This is also a simple way to take advantage of rain harvesting as it can be collected in one location easier than being split on opposite sides of the home.




This can also go either direction and offers a unique roof line which can enhance your space and also offer opportunities for upper windows to let light in the space and views from a loft (and ventilation!).  This is a great way to be able to incorporate some overhangs and passive design strategies if that is what you’re after.




A flat roof is a great way to maximize space.  You do need to have a little bit of a slope to a planned location so that rainwater doesn’t sit on top (at least 1/4″ for every 1′).  This can be a great way to collect rainwater as well.  It will take some structural calculations to account for any snow loads so your roof doesn’t crash down on you.  This is a much complained about style of roof, if not done correctly it has a tendency to leak and fail over time, if you go this route make certain you follow all rules and do a great job!



The classic barn style roof, this is a great option that offers all the benefits of the gable roof but bumps the sides out to offer more headroom and without the drawbacks you can find with a fully flat roof.  This has a unique ‘look’ to it as well!



Dormers are not a roof style persay but an additional component to any roof style.  They can take on the appearance of any of the styles above but are a miniature ‘bump-out’ in the roof structure that allow you to give more space to a targeted area.  These are often seen in the loft areas but there is no limit to where they can be located and how they can look.  They area a bit more complex when it comes to framing but are certainly simple enough to do!




The vardo style roof is more organic and often takes on a curved form based on its origin of draping cloth over curved wooden frames.  These can be more complicated to build and insulate but create unique and beautiful forms.




There are no limits to the combinations of roofs you can make, this may not seem like a big deal but your roof style gives a LOT of character and style to your tiny house, that style is the only part that most people see.  Interior is important but so is the exterior!  At this point the more beautiful your home is the more flexible you can be with parking options.  Since parking is such a collaborative component of tiny living at this point you can become dependant on your aesthetics to find parking.




This is a collaborative site, please, if you have something to add/correct leave a comment!

You can also read Designing A Tiny House-Part 1,and Designing A Tiny House – Part 3


How To Design A Tiny House – Part 1

Things to consider:

  • What size house would you like?
  • What style house would you like?
  • What layout works best?
  • What are your 10 things?

What size is right?

Most tiny houses are on wheels to bypass building codes.  If you go this route your house will never be viewed as a permanent structure and thus permitting skips the building department and goes through a different agency (DMV) for inspection and permitting.

When going through the transportation department you are limited on width (by state) to about 8′-6″ max width and 13′-6″ in height (length varies) before having to get special permitting to tow your home.  For this reason MOST tiny houses are confined to the 8′-6″ width and vary in length.  The most common trailer sizes that you see tiny houses on is between 16′-0″ and 24′-0″.  There are plenty of shorter and longer examples out there but in general they lay in that range.

In order to start to understand the what length would work best for you I would suggest looking up other examples of  tiny houses and see which look the most appealing and the most feasible to you and then find out the length.  That will give you a good starting point to go from.   I would recommend sticking with something on a 4′-0″ increment (16′, 20′ or 24′) as it will save you time in construction because sheet goods (plywood, OSB, Drywall, etc.) typically come in 4’x8′ sizes and so it will make for less cuts and easier assembly to stay on a 4′ increment overall and will produce less waste.

What Style Do You Like?


Natural materials, lower pitched roofs, built in furnishings, high detail, comfy, cozy grandpas porch in the city.


Log Home/Cabin

Simple, comfortable, cozy, warm, inviting, rustic.



Ornate, detailed, whimsical, asymmetrical, complex and beautiful.



Clean lines, flat planes, interesting materials, intersecting geometries, clean, crisp and enlightening.



Formal, proportionate, symmetrical, detailed, strict, strong.


Google Image (no source)


Practical, inviting, functional, varied.


Something completely different!

While there are ‘styles’ there are no limits!

fortune cookie 2 - 055

Fortune Cookie from Zyl Vardos,

What Layout Works Best?

Again, I would encourage you to look at as many other examples as you can from others and just think of how YOU would use the space.  If you see a kitchen that seems hard to work in it is probably not the best layout for you.  Think about adjacencies and how you would feel if the kitchen were next to the bathroom, would that bother you?  What if the bedroom was in the loft only?  Would it work better with a ground floor bedroom?  Or maybe just stairs instead of a ladder is a good compromise?  Look at as many houses as you can and keep notes of what would work best for you, start a Pinterest board of your favorite tiny house features, or just keep a little book around for all your favorite tidbits.

What are your 10 things?

There is NOTHING that can’t be included in a tiny house, nothing.  It’s just a matter of how.  The goal of a tiny house is not to limit your lifestyle or possessions, quite the opposite, it is to limit the things that have no meaning so that those with meaning can become more active influences in your life.  Once someone gets serious about choosing to go smaller with their lifestyle I always encourage them to think of at least ten things that are a ‘must have’ in their house.

What ten things would make your house a home?  Do you need wall space to hang all of those family photos?  Do you have a pet with special requirements?  Do you need a double basin sink?  A flush toilet?  Room to sew and hold your supplies?  Maybe you have a kayak that needs a place to call home too?  Whatever it is you can fit it in, but only if you identify those things that are most important first!

In the comments I would love it if you could leave your list of ten things that YOU need your tiny house to accommodate so that you may inspire others!

You can also read Designing A Tiny House – Part 2 and Part 3