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


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About Macy Miller

Macy Miller is a Rocky Mountain native and the creator of As a LEED accredited architectural designer she is a passionate promoter of good design, healthy living, and the tiny lifestyle. In 2011 she started construction on her 196 s.f. tiny house where she has been living with her partner, James, daughter, Hazel, and dog, Denver since June 2013. She and her home have been featured on Yahoo News, Time Magazine, Dwell Magazine, NPR, HGTV’s Extreme Homes and many others!

6 thoughts on “How To Design A Tiny House – Part 2

  1. Blum

    Hi Macy, this is a beautiful idea and i love it so much, my favorite small home design is the Dormers style, looks so classical but perfect. The budget for it better add by you in the next update

  2. Brett Hays

    Hey Macy
    One of the options I have to build a tiny home is a floating home. I own a duck pond and recently obtained for free an old water ski dock from our local lake that the owner wasnt using anymore. It is a 10′ by 20′ dock with 12 plastic 55 gallon barrels for flotation and room for 3 to 4 more if I believe I need to add more. I planned on using 2×3 construction for the walls and try to save weight wherever else I can. The structure would be intended to function more as a guest room than a full time house. So really it would be a bedroom with a toilet shower and a refrigerator and maybe a small cooktop. Sewer would be managed by a “basement toilet pump system” onto shore and into a nearby RV dump station.
    I have not begun construction and the dock just sits there waiting and screaming for me to begin but I have a bad case of “analysis paralysis”!!!! I am concerned that I will overload the dock flotation capabilities, or that 2×3 construction will not be sturdy enough or that it will be top heavy and not float level or blah blah blah……..I could go on and on. My wife said to just launch it and start out by putting up a nice floating wall tent and go from there (I do tend to think to big). My big problem is I don’t have a lot of design experience but enough to know that there are things that need to be considered………..My blood pressure is going up as I write this LOL………I do know that the pond setting and the beautiful back drop of the area I live in here in N.E. Oregon would make for an EPIC build of this type. Where would you start?? Any advice you have would be a great asset me. I do plan to attend at least one of is workshops this summer. Keep up the fight Macy! Thank you so much!!!

    1. Macy Miller Post author

      You’re not the only one with the paralysis! There is a great book called ‘The Paradox of Choice‘, it was awesome for setting things in my head and learning that some choices you just do the best you can and fix it later if need be! He also did a great TED Talk you could probably google, it was a little less ‘entertaining’ but interesting all the same! It sounds like you and your wife are a good match though!! 🙂 My advise is to read or watch that talk and then just pick a direction and start, let it be flexible and change as needed (I know, that’s a hard thing for us planners!). It sounds like an AWESOME project, I would love to see it form!!

  3. Jared Sartee

    Hi Macy,

    My wife and I have been following you blog for about a year now, ever since we got it into our heads that we should be living in one of these things. We’re both mechanical engineers and have spent A LOT of time planning and re-planning our ideal layout and size. We spent a couple of months in a 10′ travel trailer ski-touring the West last year (, and finally settled down in British Columbia north of Whistler.

    As we’ve become more realistic about our space needs, we’ve moved up in square footage…we’re currently very happy with 400 square feet in a 40’x10′ gooseneck trailer layout (33′ deck with 7′ platform). This leaves enough room for a small 2nd bedroom that we could convert to living room space when not in use.

    I would be very interested in getting your feedback, if only your initial gut reaction to our design. Would you consider taking a look if I were to send you the Sketchup model? The inspiration comes mainly from your own layout, with a couple of elements borrowed from Brian Levy’s Minim House.

    Thanks for everything you’ve shared, it’s all been invaluable for us as we go forward with the big plan!


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