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

This entry was posted in Blog, Design on by .

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!

9 thoughts on “How To Design A Tiny House – Part 1

  1. Thea Tapson

    I think my ten things would be, large windows, a cozy place to curl up and read a book or knit/crochet something, a wood burning stove, wood floors, a deck to enjoy my morning coffee, a view either of my own garden, or some spectacular nature, a table to play cards at with my husband and friends, internet! and a place to put our hiking gear!

  2. Cheryl Spelts

    My ten things are subject to change, since I’m a ways off from building, but currently they are….

    1. clawfoot bathtub
    2. real front porch
    3. separate bedroom and living room
    4. a real sense of style – and balance – I may be okay starting out a little rough, but the eventual design has to be really special, or I’m not interested in even starting
    5. my own design – I want my home to be my ultimate piece of art, every inch designed by me
    6. wood windows, wood doors, and wood floors
    7. a good sized desk and room for a few key pieces of antique furniture I love
    8. lots of windows and natural light
    9. a perforated radiant barrier and wool insulation for a breathable house that works well in sunny Southern California
    10. Vintage hardware!

  3. Mandi

    We’re still in the early, early stages of tiny house planning. I can’t come up with a full top 10 yet. Probably because I don’t think to count the obvious (to me) like a fridge, cooktop, and small oven. Everything else is all design, customized, etc.

    1. Space for my pets (this is by far the most important and complicated part of living tiny)
    2. Headroom for tall husband (he is 6’6″)
    3. Stairs not ladder (can bypass this with a gooseneck)
    4. An additional sleeping space for planned child
    5. Lots of light to create feeling of openness

  4. JanneZack

    My tiny home will probably not be on a trailer. I’m thinking more in the area of 400 sf range. But I have a few must haves.

    1. An antique buffet (we use this for an entertainment center but it has storage so it is super practical.

    2. An antique baking center type Hoosier. It has a rather deep counter and bins for storage. This would be in lieu of some kitchen space. It makes for a great desk as well.

    3. An antique sewing machine. This serves as a corner table for sofa or as a night stand.

    4. My operational sewing marine. Can’t live without it.

    5. Keyboard, several guitars, a couple fiddles, upright bass and a drum kit. These will be the hardest to fit. Because they simply take up space.

    6. My husband’s pasta pot. It’s kind of big. He’s Italian.

    7. If I expect the hubby to come with me, then he will want a big screen TV affixed to a wall would be fine.

    8. Books. I have hundreds and this would require lots of culling but I would still want books in my life.

    9. Music storage (sheet music and books).

    10. Kitty. I put this last, not because it is least important but because they really don’t need much space (because they take YOUR space). Just a nice space under the stairs for a poop box and a kitty door going outside (I saw a tiny house a long time ago where the kitty box was in a bench in the porch and there was a kitty door leading to it from inside the TH. This made the stink stay outside and the kitty was happy.

  5. Beth @ Hooked on Health

    I used to want aTH in the area of 400 Sq Ft but now I know I can do with less. My ten things are
    Window over kitchen sink
    Big windows
    Front porch
    Well-designed outside area with a grill
    Fenced outside area for my dogs (right now I have two, a blind since birth chihuahua that I got from a rescue, a foster chihuahua and when I get moved I want a rescue pit bull.
    Wood floors
    Internet cause I am a blogger
    Washer and maybe a clothesline
    Nice, fully equipped kitchen because I cook a lot (no microwave)

  6. Christie McIntyre

    My ten things would be…

    many, large windows
    wood throughout
    integrated into nature
    creative space uses (bed under floor, fold & hang table, shelves on hinges/wheels that hide other spaces)
    nice tiled shower
    flushing toilet
    practical for 3 small dogs
    2-3 bedrooms
    does not have to be on a trailer

  7. Cam

    I am still just starting the planning but for now my ten:
    fold up porch so I can travel as wanted
    skylight that opens over my bed
    dormers in my sleep loft
    area and storage for my art/sewing stuff
    oven that bakes bread (I am a serious bread baker)
    sink with window and lots of light via windows everywhere
    tub/half wine barrel/trough with round shower curtain/shower
    window seat or area to read/knit/sew
    open plan as much as possible
    storage steps to loft

  8. Philip Khaled Brennan

    Ten most important things?

    1 camera gear
    2 books / lego / bass guitar storage / display space
    3 decent kitchen
    4 separate bedroom/bed loft
    5 lounging space
    6 wetroom shower (sod baths)
    7 can be plumbed and wired into all services – water/waste, ‘leccy, gas, internet.
    8 conforms to UK laws (this is a whole separate area of research as there are very few tiny homes in the UK)
    9 own two acres of land
    10 preferably beside a river or a stream

  9. Jarett oke

    I would want my ps4, my framed OMHA championship madel and jersey, a fan for in the summer when it gets really hot out, a heater for winter and when it gets very cold, WIFI, a rockin chair on a porch for me, a flatscreen tv, cable/satellite, a couch, cabinets


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