Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Life is full of trade-offs. Roads taken--or not. Designing and building a house is no exception. In fact, it could be the poster child for trade-offs. The process involves a seemingly endless series of decisions and choices. Once one decision gets made, it narrows the options for future decisions. For example, once I decide to build a home on a trailer, a home that I intend to be roadworthy without a special permit, I have committed to build a home that is no more than 8.5 feet wide and will stand no more than 13.5 feet high off the ground. All other decisions have to work within those size constraints. (And not just building decisions. There are huge lifestyle choices constrained by that decision as well.) Same goes for cost. When I decide that my house cannot cost more than $X, all other decisions have to work within that financial constraint.

Is this a problem? I don't think so. I find it empowering. I am enjoying defining the way I live, and the ways I want to live, and how they relate to the space I live in. I enjoy reading all the stories that can be found online about how others have navigated this process for themselves. There are as many unique housing solutions/configurations as there are people on the planet. Or more, since our needs shift through time. The choices I am making today about my tiny home are certainly different from what they would have been during earlier phases of my life (when I was younger, when I was partnered, when I was childrearing, etc.).

I find myself shaking my head sometimes--when I read a story online in which someone shares some of the decisions they've made or some of the features they've incorporated into their tiny home in such a way as to make it sound like they have THE answer and all other tiny homes built differently are wrong. Ah, no. Your home may be beautiful and adorable. (Most of them are, aren't they? :-) Congratulations; you've found the answer for you (and maybe part of the answer for others with similar needs). I can guarantee you, though, that you haven't found the answer for everyone. That's just the nature of things.

So, here's the fine print for the whole rest of my blog: If, in my enthusiasm for some discovery or decision I've made about my home, my tone sounds at all like I think other ways of doing things are wrong, I sincerely apologize. That's not my intent at all. I'm merely leaping for joy at finding a workable solution for me--just me.

Here are some of the trade-off home decisions I've made already:
- I may be ready for my home to be constrained to 8.5 feet wide and 13.5 feet high, but I've purchased a longer-than-typical trailer. My home will be 26 feet long. Well, even longer than that because each end of my home will have a small bumpout as well. Given how I live, I just could not imagine my life working in less space than this.
- In order for my tiny home to work in my life, I need to: 1) downsize. I've been selling and giving things away on Craigslist and Uncle Henry's. This is turning out to be unexpectedly fun! I'll do a separate post about this soon. 2) figure out some storage solutions outside my tiny home. I'm a project person. Consequently, I have tools and materials to support my sewing, knitting, crocheting, drafting, and woodworking projects. I have no plans to divest myself of my tools, and I know they will not all fit in my tiny home. Thus, my need for outside storage.
- Table. Most tiny homes I've seen either devote significant space to a table or have a table that can be folded against a wall when not in use. If I was not living alone, I would need a table like that, too. What I've discovered living alone is that I only use a table when I have people visiting. Never in my life have I worked at a desk. I work in my lap. Even more so now, with my laptop computer. I don't eat at a table either--unless I have company. Since I do have people over to dinner on a regular basis, I do need to be able to turn my home's living area completely into a dining area on occasion. My tiny house will have a folding table and chairs that are slid into a narrow closet until needed. This round table is 28" in diameter, but I can expand it to 48" with an extender board that can be opened up on top of it.
- Bathroom sink. I went around and around about this. Seems a little redundant to have both a bathroom and a kitchen sink--within a few feet of one another. The thought of guests coming out of the bathroom and using my kitchen sink while I'm preparing dinner was enough for me to decide that my home would have a bathroom sink--although a tiny one.
- Bed on the first floor. I decided I want a queen-sized bed on the first floor of my tiny home--one that I don't have to set up every time I want to use it. I have to give up a lot of floor space to make this happen. I'm hoping all the underbed storage space and the possibility of using the bed for overflow living-room sitting space might make up for some of the downside.
- Shower vs. tub. I love baths. Given all my other priorities, however, I've let go of having a tub in my tiny home. Since making that decision, I've figured out that I can easily set up a tub outside for use during the warmer months. (See previous Bathroom Fixtures post.)
- Full-sized stove, oven, kitchen sink, and refrigerator. I love camping--truly. I know myself well enough to know, though, that I would not find it fun to face the challenges of camp cooking and cleanup every day. I would cope by rarely cooking anything. My stove/oven has the added benefit of having a 40,000 btu heater in its side--which will provide heat for my home. When I purchased a new refrigerator a year ago, my top priority was to find the most energy efficient model I could find. I thought I would get a smallish one. Imagine my surprise/disgust to discover that the smaller refrigerators use more energy than the really efficient larger ones. I did buy the most energy efficient model I found. It's of moderate--not huge--size. When I host a big event--a holiday gathering, for example--I supplement by using a cooler to store some things.
- Small living room. Given all the items/spaces I feel I need in my home, my living room will be quite small. Sometimes I see floor plans for a tiny home that makes me re-think my plans. "How come they have such a large living room?" I wonder. After I look closely and realize that that home has no storage space and no kitchen, etc., I end up thinking my plans are really a better fit for me.
- Little head room in loft. My home will have two lofts. The larger loft--over the kitchen and bathroom--will probably be only for storage since it won't have much headroom. The smaller loft--over the bed--will be a good spot for reading or for a guest to sleep. It will have a lot of headroom because, being over the bed, the joists for it will be much lower than the joists for the other loft.

And the decision-making about trade-offs continues...

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