Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith’s tiny house documentary TINY: A story about living small, has been a top documentary download on iTunes and one of the most watched on Netflix as well. Chances are you’ve already seen it, but if not, we’re giving you a chance to win a copy of this DVD for free!
Read on below to enter…
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Christopher in person, before starting to build my own tiny house. Merete was kind of enough to send me a copy of this film to review, and I’d like to pass on the generosity. I’ve already watched it twice (on Netflix, so the DVD is still unopened). I’d like for this great documentary to find a new viewer who’d not otherwise have the chance to see it.
Entering this giveaway is super simple.
First, make sure you’re signed up for our mailing list below:
If you’ve signed up in the past, you don’t need to sign up again.
Second, you must comment on this post…
In your comment, please include a brief description of your favorite thing about what The Tiny Project has to offer. Complete transparency:What we’re really asking for is a good testimonial about our plans for sale, our photo book, or something else about the Tiny Project website you find helpful.
Show us some love, and maybe you’ll win a great DVD for free!
Selecting a winner
On Monday, August 11th, one winner will be randomly picked from all those who have met both of the above requirements. I will contact the winner via email, and once I get a current address, will ship the DVD to that lucky person right away.
About TINY: A story about living small
After a decade of travel, Christopher Smith approaches his 30th birthday and decides it’s time to plant some roots. He impulsively buys a 5-acre plot of land in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home in the mountains of Colorado. With the support of his girlfriend, Merete, he sets out to build a Tiny House from scratch despite having no construction experience.
From 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled. Yet in recent years, many are redefining their American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. These self-proclaimed “Tiny Housers” live in homes smaller than the average parking space, often built on wheels to bypass building codes and zoning laws. TINY takes us inside six of these homes stripped to their essentials, exploring the owners’ stories and the design innovations that make them work.
When Christopher decides to build his own Tiny House, he dives into the tension between settling down and staying adrift, between preserving a parcel of land that he loves and developing it. Merete begins to ask her own questions about settling down, and both walk away with unexpected lessons about the meaning of home, the importance of place, and the personal impact of sticking with a project that became bigger than they’d ever imagined.
TINY is a coming-of-age story for a generation that is more connected, yet less tied-down than ever, and for a society redefining its priorities in the face of a changing financial and environmental climate. More than anything, TINY invites its viewers to dream big and imagine living small.
When looking for insurance, owning (and moving) a tiny house creates some unique challenges. Let’s talk about the 2 kinds of insurance most tiny housers will need.
Insurance for Towing
Let’s say you’ve just finished building your house and now you need to tow it to its final location (assuming it was built somewhere other than it’s final resting place).
Hire a towing company?
Some people choose to hire a professional towing company (many now have experience with tiny houses), which can be a great option. It helps put your mind at ease knowing someone with lots of towing experience will be behind the wheel of the tow vehicle, and, maybe best of all, all towing companies should be fully insured against any loss (check to make sure they are!). By hiring a professional towing company, you can skip the insurance difficulties altogether, and let others take care of that part for you, knowing your house is covered while getting from point A to point B. But this all comes at a cost – potentially thousands of dollars for a longer, multi-state move like we did.
Here’s us on our self-towing journey – Arizona rest stop
If you already have full-sized truck (more about what kind of truck you’ll need), you can easily do the towing yourself. But be aware, if you do this, any time your house is on the road it won’t be covered by your regular auto insurance. If someone was to rear-end you and smash your house, you most likely not receive a dime for damage to house, without a very specific insurance that covers it. That being said, it is possible to insure a tiny house while towing.
We towed our house over 2300 miles from Iowa to Northern California (taking the far southern route in winter). And yes, we had auto insurance that covered the house fully while on the road. It wasn’t easy to get, but here’s how I did it:
Tricks of the Trade
First off, you’ll need an insurance agent. There is no chance I’d have pulled this off on my own. I needed someone who had a relationship with the underwriting company, who knew all the lingo, and who knew what NOT to say, to keep the insurance company from getting the wrong idea.
At first I was naive enough to think that I could do this myself by telling the insurance company that it was simply a load on a trailer that I wanted insured. But of course they’d ask what the load was, and unless I flat out lied, any answer I gave would lead to a bad place in their mind. So do not attempt to negotiate this with your insurance company on your own.
With a great insurance agent helping us (Neil Gritz, owner of the Insurance Resource Center in Fairfield, IA), here’s what we ended up getting. We had the house categorized as a modular home, insured as part of a commercial trucking policy. The technical name for the type of towing we were doing was referred to as a “mobile totor.” But it get’s more complicated.
Complications (well, insanity, really!)
Our truck (and trailer) had to be insured as part of the commercial trucking policy, and — here’s the kicker — in order to insure the house (or anything we towed, for that matter) WE COULD NOT OWN IT. This type of commercial policy is meant for towing other peoples’ stuff for pay. So in order for the insurance company to go along with it, I had to assure them that I did not in fact own the house.
BUT I DID own it! So how was I to make this work? Simply put, I pretended to sell it to my parents. Technically, I did sell it to my parents.
Sample Bill of Sale
I had an experienced builder perform an appraisal, wrote out a detailed sales agreement, had it signed and even notarized, and I had my parents make a down-payment — all this with conditions laid out for the remainder of the cost to be paid on delivery to California. One we got to CA we simply agreed to cancel the sale, and I returned the down-payment made. But during that part of our journey, they were the legal owners of the house, so it could be fully covered under my commercial trucking policy.
It was a lot of hassle to get this type of tiny-house-covering auto insurance, but given the length of our trip, there was no way we were going to do it uninsured. I can’t say for certain what would have happened had we needed to file a claim (would the company honor our policy or find fault with the way it was set up?), but in the end we were lucky enough not to need it.
This worked for us, but I’m sure others have found other ways to insure their tiny houses while towing. Please share your experienced, as I’d be interested in learning about other options.
Once your house is sitting somewhere long enough for you to start living in it, then of course the goal would be to have it insured by a homeowners policy, just as would be done with a normal house.
To start, it’s quite simple (and hassle free) to get a renters policy. This will cover your possessions in the house (but not the house itself) were anything to be damaged or stolen. I recommend getting such a policy to be at least partially covered while you search for a more comprehensive homeowner’s policy. Many auto insurance companies do renter’s insurance too, so you can just combine it with an existing policy (maybe even at a discount).
Like several other tiny house owners have done before (hOMe, PAD), we were finally able to get homeowners insurance through Darrell Grenz of of Darrell Grenz Insurance in Portland, OR. In certain states (Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Colorado and Nevada), he has an underwriter willing to offer a homeowners policy specifically for tiny houses. The premiums come to about $500/year (or more, depending on coverage amounts). There is no legal gray area and no house-classification-fudging needed to make this work, but there are a few requirements:
Have your electrical work done by a licensed (and insured) electrician
You will need to provide the name of a licensed and insured electrician who did the electrical work on your house. If you did it yourself (or your electrician was not licensed) then an electrical inspection (which you must pay for) is required in order to get insurance. A general inspection is also required, though I hear it’s not too intimidating (they have not done this yet as we are just signing the policy papers now).
For those living in the aforementioned states, this is a really a great new development. With all the tiny houses out there now (or soon to be built), I think more and more companies will step up and start to offer something similar. There is a lot of money to be made (and tons of social, word of mouth advertising to be gained) by the first company to offer this type of insurance nationally. I’m surprised it is not available already, but with the new Tiny House reality TV shows and other national attention, that tiny houses are getting, I think it soon will be.
But do I need insurance at all?
Dee Williams, author of “The Big Tiny”
Another thing worth mentioning is this: What about opting out of the insurance system altogether? Why not take a risk and live without insurance? Isn’t tiny house living about breaking out of the current housing paradigm? Well yes, and for some, this is a completely valid line of thinking. I’d be very tempted to go uninsured myself, but I did spend a considerable amount (of time and money) on my house, and am not yet at a place where I feel comfortable leaving it unprotected.
I know Dee Williams did not have her house insured for the longest time (and may not still). Her reasoning was that with all the money saved over the years on rent, that savings WAS her insurance policy. This is true (or could be for those able to build up a savings), but many may seek more of a safety net, and for you, I hope you found this post helpful.
After just completing my tiny home build, I felt I’d be happy never building anything again! I’d had enough construction for quite a while. Recently, 7 months later, that began to change. I got the itch to build something new — a perfect opportunity to add the deck that was part of my original plans. I had decided to wait and add the deck after the long-distance towing was far behind us, and once I was sure I’d be settled in one spot for a while. With an opportunity to borrow a neighbor’s truck, now was the time!
(click smaller images throughout to view full-size)
Miter saw set up and ready to go!
Hinge and spacer block detail
deck leveled and held in place by scissor jacks
I decided to use redwood for the deck framing and deck surface. The deck frame doesn’t make ground contact, so treated lumber was not really necessary, and I wanted to use more natural (chemical free) materials where possible.
Redwood heartwood also has some very desirable characteristics, similar to cedar. It’s naturally decay and pest resistant, shrinks and warps less than standard pine or fir, and is also lighter in weight. Most California redwood is also sustainably logged, making its use much better for the environment. Though more expensive, these qualities make it really beautiful and a lasting investment for your home. More on redwood sustainability and benefits.
Hinge / framing detail
Deck hardware detail
Use of reclaimed posts
As I began creating the simple framing of the deck, I leveled it carefully with a pair of scissor jacks. Each step along the way, the framing was kept level (and square) to prevent problems later on.
A tiny house deck is not your average deck
This deck was build with some unique considerations and special features. First, it is hinged to fold up against the house when the house is being towed. 7 heavy-duty door hinges secure the deck framing to a ledger board previously added to the house for this specific purpose. I used small spacer blocks to extend the deck just a bit farther from the house, so it would not run into the trailer fender box when folded up. Later I will add some sort of locking system to hold it firmly in its upright position during travel.
The deck also had to be broken up into two sections, so each was not too large and heavy to be lifted into its upright position. Another consideration was to make sure the deck was strong enough to support weight even over the trailer fender box, where it could not be attached to the house for support. An extra, temporary “leg” was added here, so there is no flex/bounce in that area.
Deck framing complete!
One half decking in place
Redwood decking detail
Though technically the house now exceeds the 8.5′ max width (even with the deck folded up), I still wanted to create a deck frame as narrow as possible to keep the total width to a minimum. So I chose to frame this with 2x4s and to hang joists from this simple rectangular 2×4 frame, keeping all the framing within 3.5 inch height. I used screws and joist hanger hardware to secure the joists.
I also added hardware (which can be easily removed) to attached reclaimed 4×4 posts as the “legs” of the deck. These will be discarded whenever we decide to relocate.
Completed fold-up deck
More outdoor living space!
More room for plants and herbs too!
I can already tell that having this additional outdoor living space will increase our quality of life. It create a separate “room” of sorts, giving us more freedom and opportunity to find privacy and quiet when needed. It will also be great if we ever entertain larger parties, or just want a place to sit and enjoy the sunset! I strongly suggest all tiny house owners to consider their how to maximize their surroundings to create a great sense of usable space in and out of the house itself.
For a completely non-tiny house related matter (a casual folk concert in a yurt!), I found myself at Slide Ranch this past weekend. The little ranch blew me away with it’s charm and the wonderful teachers and people who work and live there. While taking a quick tour of the place, I was surprised to see a whole slew of tiny houses!
The ranch is public property (part of Muir Woods), and serves as an educational center for children and young adults. It provides day or overnight field trip learning opportunities for classes and groups of all types and sizes, often focusing on low-income groups and the disadvantaged. Instructors at the ranch teach general outdoor stewardship, and through a variety of activities, show what life is like on an actual working ranch. Their work help kids form a much greater connection to their food, learning to work in harmony with the plants and animals around them. More info here.
The tiny houses are where ranch staff and teachers live. Apparently most all were built at different times, by various longer-term inhabitants at the ranch. Rumor has it a member of the Grateful Dead was responsible for one of the more creative (but shoddily built) little homes. None of them are on trailer, so not mobile, but they are all unique and cute as can be! Though fairly simple shed-like structures, many feature interesting slanted roofs and even walls, incorporating some fun geometric shapes.
We only had the quickest of peeks into on of the structures, but as far as I can tell, most (or all) do not have plumbing. They are quite small and simple, augmented, I’m sure, by communal bathrooms/showers and a larger community kitchen.
Go check them out and explore a little. They are open year around.
From their website:
Slide Ranch has a spectacular coastal location and can be found on Highway 1 (Shoreline Highway), just 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge, 1.5 miles from Muir Beach Overlook.
As a Park Partner of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Slide Ranch’s 134 acres are open to the public from dawn to dusk for hiking, picnicking and tide pooling.
You are welcome to explore this beautiful farm, but we ask that you refrain from entering all animal areas unless a staff member is present and available to accompany you. Our organic garden is both a teaching tool for programs and a food source for the 15 staff members who live on the Ranch (so although it looks very appetizing, please don’t harvest). We have miles of trails and picnic areas throughout the site and two public outhouse facilities with hand washing stations nearby – it’s a wonderful place for a walk and picnic overlooking the ocean!
Our open house this past Sunday was a huge success! Over 35 people attended, not including a few kids and a dog. Every one was very excited about the house (and tiny houses in general) and full of questions and enthusiasm. Many were planning to build their own tiny house soon, and a few were already living in a tiny house.
Thank You, Jay!
On top of that, we had a special guest: Jay Shafer, father of the tiny house movement, brought his entire family (wife and two kids) to the open house. He stayed the entire time, and answered many of the tough questions that people asked (about zoning, codes, etc.) Jay — I can’t thank you enough for being there. It was a lot of fun, and I’m sure it made the event far better for the attendees to have access to such a precious resource like yourself. Thank you, Jay!
Our dog felt she needed to help me answer questions!
I also have to thank my partner, Anjali, for being so helpful and supportive during the event. Not only did she make tea and popcorn for everyone, but she answered a lot of tough questions about how tiny house living can affect a relationship, and things to think of when living with your partner in such a small space. (More on this topic here). Even our dog, Anya, participated. We tried to lock her in our our host’s larger house, but she escaped several times. She wanted to be a part of the action, and wouldn’t take no for an answer!
I was so busy answering questions and giving tours that I did not have time to take a single photo or video. Luckily, several of our guests took photos and videos for me! First I’d like to thank Isha for creating this fantastic tiny house video tour. He captured a walk-through of the interior of the house, plus nearly the entire Q&A session outside. For anyone who missed this event, this video is a great recap.
Tiny House Tour + Q&A Video
Many people have also shared photos which they took during the open house. A bunch of them can be found below, and more may be available at the event meetup page, as people continue to share them. Thank you to Chrystie, Deborah, Pauline, Michael, Sheri and Tim for sharing all these great photos.
While it’s not likely we’ll have another open house any time soon, I am planning to create regular tiny house meetups (monthly, perhaps) where anyone interested can come and discuss things like tiny house communities, zoning and codes, building techniques, etc. To be informed of these events, please join this Tiny House Meetup Group.
Even though your home may be smaller, it still needs to be safe. Safety precautions may help you save your property and maybe even your life!
Editor’s Note: This post has been provided by our friend Gary Bute of Tiny House Systems. Gary has decades of building experience, and has personally lived in small dwellings on and off throughout his life. He’s an expert at electrical design and offers all kinds of tiny house design services. Thank you, Gary!
I’ve added my own photos and captions to help illustrate some of Gary’s important tips.
Major safety features/specs are listed as part of the Tiny Project house plans
When considering how to build a tiny house, safety is never something to overlook. Those of you building a tiny house may wish to consider these safety features and preparations.
1. Smoke Detector
This is a basic item that has saved lives for decades — one that must be installed in every home. Install a smoke detector in the location(s) according to the manufactures directions. Smoke detectors have a life span of 8 to 10 years according to the manufactures, so replace the entire unit accordingly.
Just below the peak of our roof is a combo smoke/CO detector
2. Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector
With the tight construction of small dwellings to save energy, CO poisoning becomes an even bigger threat. Install a detector with alarm according to the manufactures directions. Combo smoke/CO detectors can be used to cover these two major requirements in one unit.
3. Propane Gas Detector
Propane is an explosive gas that is heavier than air. If leaking, it accumulates at the floor level and then fills the room. If a spark occurs the gas will explode, just like natural gas. A propane detector will alert you at the first sign of propane buildup. The detector should be installed near floor level, according the manufactures instructions.
4. Automatic Controls
A system could be installed to turn of the gas at the tank source if the smoke, CO and /or gas detectors are triggered. This same systems could also turn off the electrical power and send you a text notification of this situation.
5. Fire Extinguisher
Have a hand held bottle of sufficient size and rating to respond quickly to a fire. This is excellent low cost self-insurance. Keep the extinguisher in visible sight for others to use without looking to find the bottle. You may want another extinguisher outside for the campfire or vehicle fires.
6. Fire Resistant Wood Treatment
This is an organic fluid that may be applied to unfinished wood surfaces to reduce flame spread.
7. Fire Sprinkler System
This is a system that will emit an organic fluid to extinguish a fire after detecting the heat. It’s not just water and is used for computer server rooms.
Our large loft window provides a quick escape route in an emergency
8. Loft Egress
Provide a window to escape your tiny home if your door is not accessible. When sleeping in the loft, this means having a large enough window (or skylight) that you can escape from very quickly during a house fire. Consider an exterior ladder to get down from the loft window in the event of an emergency.
9. Indoor Air Quality
Monitoring the oxygen level in your tiny house is very important since most small home are very air tight. Open a window when any exhaust fan is operating to provide a fresh air source to be exhausted.
10. Exhaust Fan
An exhaust fan is an important component to maintaining good indoor air quality. It also helps alleviate moisture buildup, protecting your house from mold/mildew and rot. Always run an exhaust fan when cooking on a propane stove, or during the burning of any combustible gas.
Our exhaust fan is located in the bathroom, but is also used to pull out cooking fumes when using our propane range.
11. Gas/Propane Venting
Do not vent a gas/propane water heater unit below an operating window. Vent your waist water piping and storage tanks, if any, to above the roof as these may be explosive gasses.
12. Exit Access
Provide the proper landing and stairs to depart your tiny home quickly even in the dark. Stairways should have uniform stair tread heights.
13. First Aid Kit
Have basic medical products available for quick emergency procedures.
14. Emergency Medical Center
Know where the closest emergency room services are located and the number to call if you need them to come to you. Know the location of your home to inform first responders in the event of any emergency. Have the location of your home clearly marked for emergency personal to find you quickly.
Our tiny house is built on a heavy-duty flatbed trailer, rated to tow 10,000 lbs.
15. Trailer Brakes
If you are building a tiny house on a trailer, you are required to have electric brakes on the trailer. These brakes are activated if the trailer becomes detached from the tow vehicle. This is required in every state, however, the gross weight of the trailer requiring brakes varies. Test the brakes before moving the trailer.
16. Trailer Size
Select a trailer, including the tires, with the proper load rating. Make sure that the tow vehicle is also rated to tow the trailer weight.
17. Construction Procedures
Learn construction safety and instruct casual helpers to work with the proper personal protection. Watch your helpers to avoid disasters especially when operating power tools and on ladders.
18. Construction Products
Install framing, electrical, plumbing, gas distribution, heating, air cooling and ventilating products according to applicable codes. Just because there is not a government agency regulating your home building that doesn’t mean you should skip these code requirements.
We built an outdoor deck to hold our two 40lbs propane tanks
19. Utility Supplies
Safety for power and water starts at the source so verify what you are connecting your home to before issues are discovered by accident.
20. Propane Storage Tank
Never store propane inside of any closed area. Exterior enclosures for tanks must be open on the bottom to allow propane gas to be vented down.
Safety in not an accident — always make safety #1 during and after construction!
Gary Bute with Tiny House Systems has over 40 years of experience in home construction. He has been professionally trained in building construction and safety operations. He provides design and construction consulting for alternative dwellings of any size and type in any location nationwide. Contact him at: TinyHouseSystems.biz
Come and get a much closer look at each and every detail of our house
I know it’s last-minute, but we’re hosting an open house this Sunday afternoon. Anyone who wishes to make the trip to Sonoma County is welcome to come. Bring a guest, your entire family — anyone you think may enjoy seeing a first-hand example of the tiny house lifestyle.
All the event details (time, place, carpooling, etc) can be found here:
For those of you who don’t already know, Macy Miller is a an up-and-coming star in the tiny house world. Her “MiniMotives” house (as well as her personal story) has been all over the press, soon to appear in Time Magazine and Dwell! She’s created a fantastic set of plans for her house (she’s an architect, so they are VERY well done!), and now has a brand new eBook out that gives a ton of details about her entire tiny house process.
I’ve had the pleasure or reading MiniMotives: A Tiny House Story and I was surprised by how much amazing detail it contains. Macy condensed her entire design and building process (over 300 blog posts, plus some “extras” not found on the blog) into one clearly laid out explanation of what she did, why she did it, and in many cases, how she did it too! Having this insight into the thought processes, planning and problem solving strategies of another tiny house builder is extremely helpful as a jumping-off point for your own tiny house adventure.
I liked hearing her express a very similar sentiment to what I first thought, as I started my research and planning:
Macy in her house, during construction.
One night in the midst of life I had a dream that I lived in a very very small house (it was almost the identical layout as my final home). I woke up wondering why more people don’t do that. I nearly wrote it off as ‘there must be a reason that you can’t live like that legally or more people would do that, it makes too much sense.’ Instead of writing it off though I started looking into it. I figured that people live on house boats, that was a good place to start my research but since I hate the water that wasn’t the right option for me. I was researching boat appliances though when a picture of Jay Shafer’s house popped up and I had the reassurance that I needed to move forward, knowing that others DO live in these! From there I went down the rabbit hole that is the tiny house concept, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it suites my family and I very well!
That is just the beginning. In the other 49 pages, she goes into detail about how to she went about designing her space (make a top-10 list!), why she chose some special sustainability features, details about her rainscreen system, radiant heating, composting toilet and graywater system, finishing (with many salvaged materials!), and a whole lot more! She talks about doing her own electrical work, dealing with troublesome products and suppliers, and navigating codes. Not only that, but she shares some of her personal experience from over a year living in her tiny house (with a dog and baby, no less).
Example page from the eBook
For the cost of just a few cups of coffee, it’s a very worthwhile read for anyone with interest in the ins-and-outs of tiny house design and building. What I love most is Macy’s willingness to share her personal story and the true reasons behind many of her choices. She’s bold and determined, and I find the whole story very inspiring!
Living in a tiny house makes a lot of sense for a single individual. Tiny houses can provide all the basic necessities in one compact package – with just enough square footage to feel at peace and at home in your space. Those who choose to live in tiny houses often live with their pets as well, which can bring up its own set of challenges. We’ve written about this too.
But what about sharing a tiny house with your significant other? What’s the difference between a tiny house designed for a single person and one designed for a couple? What special needs arise and what compromises need to be made when a couple lives in such tight quarters? It turns out there can be a lot of additional needs for a couple that must be considered, even prior to building. Additional functionality and consideration of the space must be planned for ahead of time, and designed into the home, for daily tiny house life to run smoothly for a couple. Read on for specific details.
Let’s start by stating the major challenges. All of these stem from fact that the house is…well… tiny. What this means is: There are no truly separate rooms, no doors (aside from the bathroom), no complete silence or privacy for one of us while the other is at home. Moving around the house, working, prepping meals; all these activities are done while nearly touching, or within very close proximity.
These compromises are not easy to make. For some people it works, but for others it doesn’t. There can be a big difference between the charming idea of tiny house living and actual daily life in a tiny house.
Examples of success and failure.
Shane and Carrie in front of their “Clothesline Tiny House”
Tammy and Logan are a great example of a couple that has made it work, in a smaller house than ours, no less. Though they have plumbing in their home, they live a beautifully simple life and decided they’d utilize Logan’s parent’s house, their gym/yoga studio, or an outdoor setup (in the warmer months) for their daily showers. They seem to have the flexibility to make this pretty unusual living situation work for both of them.
So what did we do—and what are we currently doing—to make it work?
Example of the “his” closet in the loft
Knowing we’d be sharing the space as we were designing the house, we added many features absent in most other tiny house designs (often designed with only one occupant in mind).
We included generous “his” and “hers” closet spaces in loft.
We included an extra closet nook downstairs with long “hanging space” for clothing items requiring greater length (such as a dress or two)
We added an extra fold-down workstation, so both of us could work at home at the same time (and not have our backs touching with Anjali seated at the kitchen table).
Fold-down standing desk provides a second workstation
We designed the kitchen in a way that two people could pass relatively easily (it’s not a typical galley kitchen with all items to one side and walkway though the middle – ours is an L shape of sorts, which creates a little more standing space and much easier access to the bathroom when someone is cooking.)
We included a queen bed in loft, still leaving plenty of storage space (we accomplished this by cantilevering the loft out 18 inches form the footprint of the house, adding that much more loft space).
We also added extra shelving, wrapping all around the perimeter of the living space, giving us a considerable amount of space for books, Anjali’s violin, etc.
Working from home
It seems that those who choose tiny house living are often self-employed (writers, online marketers, or web designers/developers, like myself). This brings up additional challenges since it means potentially a lot more time spent at home. But what if you AND your partner are self-employed? Anjali also works from home most of the time and many afternoons we both use the house as our home office, working a few feet apart. How do we maintain sanity, given so many hours in such close proximity? We’re not saying we’re totally sane all the time, but for the sake of this article, Here’s how.
Taylor Maid Farms in Sebastopol
I work half of each day out of the house. I quickly became a regular at my favorite coffee shop here in Sebastopol (an amazing local roaster called Taylor Maid Farms). I chose to start doing this long before I started living in a tiny house, simply because my life as a whole felt much more balanced when I did not spend all day at home. Plus, even though I do not interact with others all that much (I need to keep my head down and focused on my work for the most part), working around other people provides me with a much greater sense of community than I’d get if at home all day.
Most importantly, though, this gives Ani the house all to herself in the morning, so she can go about her morning routine, focus on her own work, or even prep lunch without having to share the small kitchen – this helps her gain some of the peace of mind and life energy that comes from being alone (we are both introverts, so this is important to us).
As previously mentioned, there are stretches of time in the afternoon when we both work in the house. This is not a huge issue since we designed the space to accommodate two workstations (I have a fixed desk, and she almost exclusively uses the standing, fold-down desk). She then often leaves later in the afternoon for a yoga class or what have you, and I finish the day with a couple of hours of alone time to focus. This routine has proven to be a nice balance, and is one that was created very intentionally as a way to both share the space and allow us to get good work done throughout the day, without too much distraction.
Getting other needs met
When living in a tiny house, your yoga studio may become your new favorite place to find silence and balance
Obviously in a tiny house, floor space is minimal, so any needs that require physical space (yoga, dancing, large creative work projects) might require regular trips out to town, and might require investing in a membership of some kind or relying on your greater community to find the space you need. You may need to join a gym or yoga studio to get your sweat on outside of the house, even if that was an activity you were free to do at home in the past.
Psychological space, separation, silence
But what about the needs that are specific to couples? We all know the space is small, and can be limiting in the physical sense, but there is also a psychological need for space, silence and alone time. These qualities are essential to happy life as a couple in a tiny house.
An example of a “good book” to go with a good cup of tea
That could mean the alone time needed for “girls night” (Anjali and our dog, Anya) or just some quiet reading or mediation time. Or what about when I want to watch the dark, scary shows on Netflix when Anjali has no interest?
These are instances that we specifically plan for in our weekly routine. We’ve each made it a point to leave the house some evenings during the week to give the other time and space for whatever he or she may choose. That means I’ll go to the gym one night, giving Anjali space to do self-care. Or I’ll catch up on my favorite TV show while she nannies or goes to an evening event. I might go to a movie or spend time with a men’s group I belong to, while she spends a couple of hours with a cup of tea and a good book.
The particular physical features we designed into the house, along with these very intentional time/space arrangements (and sometimes compromises) are what make sharing such a small space possible.
Anjali admits that she has had more difficulty adjusting to the close quarters, and the repercussions it can have on relationship polarity, and has more she could share on the subject…maybe we can convince her to take a break from paper writing to take another stab at a blog post (other than editing mine).
This is a very important topic and one we feel deserves even more attention. Do you live in a tiny house with your partner? What’s your experience?
Every living space can be sacred, or mundane. Your intention makes all the difference, and as a tiny house lover, you have strong intentions. One of the major elements that attract people to build a tiny house is the opportunity it provides to create living spaces that make our hearts sing, and that are truly an outward expression of our innermost selves.
Editor’s Note: This post is generously provided by the amazing Ryan Harris (all text is Ryan’s, and I added photos taken of the Tiny Project house). Scroll to the end to find out more about Ryan. I think this concept of “sacred space” is in itself the perfect answer to the common question “Why not just buy a used travel trailer?” Thank you Ryan for your many great insights!
What a privilege to spend time consistently in a space that is not only functional and aesthetically pleasing, but that also feels like a special place – perhaps even a “sacred” space!
Given a choice, we all prefer to spend time in a space that feels alive, loving, lighthearted, joyous, and safe. And since “tiny housers” are involved in nearly every aspect of planning and building their homes, the opportunities to create special and sacred spaces are many. To be clear, I define any space as sacred if it raises our vibration, lifts us up, and inspires us to be more of who we really are! We all know that feeling, and we gravitate towards it whenever possible.
You can never go wrong with orchids!
Plants and candles are where it’s at!
A reminder to always keep seeking…
That’s why I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the idea of building a small house from the ground up that it can be filled with items we love, cherish, and which bring us joy. A sacred space is a space that is filled with light, loving energy, and the scents, sounds, and feelings of life energy. And tiny houses are a wonderful opportunity to create sacred spaces in which you live and thrive, so take full advantage of the opportunity!
But where to get started?…
… Right where you are!
Begin, if you can, by adjusting your immediate, current surroundings to uplift you. Even small changes can make a huge difference! And of course, as you build your tiny house or live in it, continuously improve the space so it feels more loving, and sacred to you, based on whatever that means to you!
Follow YOUR standards, because you’re the one who will live there!
So what do people do to create that sense of specialness in their living spaces? Here are a few ideas, not intended to be an exhaustive list, but to prompt ideas within you, and to assist you to share your methods, ideas, and tips on creating your own sacred space, so that others may benefit by reading this post.
20 Ways to Create “Sacred Space” Inside a Tiny House
Homemade linen curtains provided the just the light airy feel we wanted
Use of color – this is a biggie because colors definitely trigger emotions which can be calming and soothing, or energizing. Your color palette is totally up to you, and your options are as wide open as your imagination and sense of adventure, so why not paint your spaces in a way that make you feel fully alive!?
Use of rich textures and fabrics that delight the senses and make you eager to interact with the space.
Creating altars and meditation spaces within your tiny house – perhaps the most overtly “spiritual” practice on the list, you can create an alter or shrine as a physical manifestation of your highest intentions, and they can be very powerful to help you manifest your desires, or simply to express reverence for whatever you hold sacred.
Artwork that delights and brings a smile to your lips, or sets a specific mood: we all know how uplifting or joyous artwork can be, so go ahead and fill your space with pieces that you really connect with. Artwork that incorporates sacred geometry can be powerful too, so give yourself permission to explore that area as well.
Beautiful reminders keep us on track
Our little “alter” and “mediation nook” in the loft
As we enter — “Now begins the study of yoga”
Special objects and treasures that hold cherished memories decorating your space – especially object from travels or key times in your life, to help remind you of peak or special experiences.
Reclaimed /recycled objects that show respect for the Earth and remind you of your relationship to the Earth.
Use of light / crystals / stained glass – nothing helps me feel more uplifted than natural sunlight filling a space, and the size and placement of windows and skylights is a key element in this. The overall size and shape of the space, combined with the space colors, done well, can instantly transport us out of the mundane, and into a sacred space. Using stained glass or crystals can help us see the extraordinary within the ordinary, and lift the spirit.
The use of sounds and/or music that uplifts and inspires, or brings joy, is crucial. The use of wind chimes, gongs, running water (fountains), your favorite music playlist, birdsong, laughter, all of these can make a space feel dramatically more ‘natural” and special. And the soundscape can change easily and often if you focus on this area.
Blocking or reducing outside sounds and noises that might create stress, or that heighten our awareness of the outside world when that is not desired.
Even the tiniest of houses has room for a few plants
Smells / scents – the smell of bread, oranges, cinnamon, coffee, or even the scents of sex, can make a space feel like heaven on Earth with just a single whiff, so don’t overlook the importance of scent. Like music, with the use of essential oils and other methods, the “scentscape” can change easily and often if you so desire.
Plants or greenery or other objects from nature help ground us and connect us with other life forms, all of which create a web of life of which we are simply one part – so incorporate plants, trees, flowers, and greenery as much as possible. Plants also create texture, scents, and add oxygen to the air we breathe, helping to detoxify the space.
Lofted spaces / high ceilings / skylights – this goes hand in hand with the use of sunlight. High ceilings can definitely create a sense of spaciousness (and therefore “upliftedness”) which is especially important in a tiny house, so we feel lifted, and not claustrophobic, in our beautiful tiny homes.
Photo and mementos from loved ones /ancestry – like artwork, photographs can be a powerful way to call in certain energies, especially supportive energy from our loved ones.
Sharing the space with friends makes it all the more sacred
Creating “community” in the space by breaking bread with neighbors and friends – few acts are as sacred as breaking bread with friends, neighbors, lovers, and pets in a house to make it feel like a true “home” – a place where the heart is.
Keeping the space free of clutter and junk that blocks the flow of energy. Tiny houses force us to not hoard possessions, and small spaces easily become cluttered. By intentionally simplifying our lives and the number of possessions we own, we keep spaces clear so energy cannot get blocked or stagnate. Give yourself permission to rid yourself of any possession or object that doesn’t bring you joy when you look at it or touch it. Yes, even gifts you’ve received can and should be lovingly re-gifted if they don’t suit your home.
Siting the house in a way that feels harmonious with the location or geography of the site and the available sunlight. Put plenty of thought into the views you’ll get from each room, and how these can be changed by adjusting the angle of your house on the land.
Of course our most special pup makes it feel like home
Sharing our space with animals, who usually convey unconditional love, can be a major mood enhancer, and any time we fill a space with the energy of love, the space becomes sacred.
New spaces free of the energy of others”. One of the most overlooked aspects of building a new tiny house is that it’s new – with no previous occupants’ energy to contaminate or shape the energetic signature of the space.
Space clearing – in the case of a previously occupied space in which we want to remove the energetic imprint of the previous inhabitants, smudging, sound, the setting of a strong intention, and prayer are all useful tools to help clear a space of old or unwanted energy.
Throw open the doors and windows – and let nature in. Blurring the distinction in your tiny house between “indoors” and “outdoors” is an act of self-love! Nature is indeed sacred, so let it in, and benefit from the enhanced feeling in the space!
We chose this beet kill wood to add depth and warmth to the walls and ceiling
Bonus Sacred Space Method: Here’s an idea you can use if your tiny house is not yet built: Allow your friends and loved ones to write well-wishes and positive thoughts on the wood of your house – the framing, subfloor, or walls – anything that will get covered later. You’ll have dozens, even hundreds of positive thoughts literally built right in to your house, so throw a build party – give everyone a Sharpie pen, and let them “sign” your house! Don’t forget to take pictures before you cover it over, and add the best photo as one of the “sacred photos” that you decorate with after you move in!
Any of these “creating sacred space” methods can be done in any kind of home, but they seem to be done more often in tiny homes. How about in yours? What have you done in your homes, past or present, to make them sacred? What would you love to do in the future? Do you have a favorite ways to create sacred space, or perhaps you are inspired to try it now, what ideas have come to mind? Please share with others by posting your ideas, feelings, and thoughts, as a comment, below.
Final thought: give yourself permission to right now make a fast and simple change that improves the energy of your space. Go ahead – go for it!
About the Author
Ryan is relatively recent tiny home convert. He is a marketing coach, a lover of all things sacred, and enjoys standup paddleboarding, hiking, playing guitar, and great books. He lives in Boise, Idaho, and his tiny house blog and build updates (and more helpful articles like this one) can be found at http://ryanstinyhouse.com
Join the Tiny Project mailing list to receive product updates, special subscriber-only offers, events notices, and more!
What Others are Saying
I am absolutely amazed by what you have managed to achieve" – Merryn