How a talented architect squeezes big things into a tiny package

traveler exterior long view
© Escape Traveler

Designing tiny homes and recreational vehicles is a real challenge; value judgements have to be made about the importance of each function. How much do you give to sleeping? Kitchen? Bathroom or living? There is only so much to go around. That's why I have been impressed with the work of architect Kelly Davis, working with George Dobrowolski to show How a talented architect makes an RV look like a charming cabin in the woods and how a Talented architect tackles the tiny house and comes up with a mini gem. Now they are at it again with a slightly larger version, the Traveler XL, which raises some interesting questions about design, space planning and the choices we make.

bathroom© Escape Traveler Bathroom

It still has the lavish bathroom that you can party in, with a big vanity and washer/dryer, and full size tub/shower combination. It's the most generous I have seen in any tiny house or RV.

Traveler plan© Escape Traveler XL plan

However at the other end, which was the living area in the original Traveler, they have added a comfortably sized master bedroom with a built in Queen size bed. The whole XL is six feet longer than the original to accommodate this. In a lot of ways this is a great thing; most tiny homes have sleeping lofts, which are simply not that good for the older crowd that is looking to downsize into a tiny home or RV. The ladders and steep stairs are awkward at night (your average boomer goes to the loo at night more often than your average millennial). And lofts can be uncomfortably hot and painful when you bonk your head.

bedroom© Escape Traveler

And it is really a gorgeous bedroom, with lots of windows and storage. I know that queen size has become the American standard but I still happily share a traditional double and I hope it's an option for tiny people in tiny houses- a little extra room around the bed would be nice.

traveler living area© Escape Traveler

The problem with the bedroom at the end is that the living area is now in the middle, and is definitely not as gracious or comfortable as it was in the original Traveler. It feels compromised.

traveler bedroom© Escape Traveler

And in fact, perhaps the most beautiful part of the whole Traveler XL unit is the bedroom, with its clerestory windows and great views. It almost seems a shame to give the space away for sleeping at night. But what are the alternatives if you don't want a loft?

HTML5 Icon

Maybe this is the place to take advantage of those fancy beds that rise up to the ceiling like in the Yo! apartments so that one can use the space for living in the daytime and for sleeping at night without having to climb up to a loft. It doesn't have to be this complicated or expensive, either.

Minim open© Minim Micro Homes

Maybe it's a bed in a drawer like the Minim Micro Home, with a raised living room above. The problem with these is that you have to move everything out of the way to make room for the pulled out bed. I can't help wondering if the bedroom shouldn't just be at the other end, with people walking through it to get to the bathroom.

Traveler kitchen© Escape Traveler

Then there is the kitchen and dining area. In European apartments three times this size people have 24" fridges and ranges. Full American sized appliances are nice, but are they a necessity in a tiny house? It seems that they are dominating the space. But that's part of the plan: Dan and Kelly write on the about page:

Traveler does things in a big way. Full-size kitchen and bathroom, large dining or work table, living area with fireplace and big screen TV, soaring windows, on-demand hot water, even a washer/dryer.

This is the problem with the design of tiny houses- in the boat and RV world, people expected seriously tiny bathrooms and prided themselves on turning out big meals on two burner stoves. Many tiny houses, and the Traveler series in particular, are designed to give all the comforts of a traditional house (big bedroom and bath, full kitchen) in a small space. This model does that extremely well, giving people what they have said that they want. But when you finally see it, I think it begs the question of whether it is what you really need.

traveler exterior© Escape Traveler

I really love the work that Kelly Davis and Dan George Dobrowolski are doing; I love the way they are challenging the dogma of Tiny Houses, their attention to detail, the whole look. I love how Sarah Susanka's Creating the Not So Big House is on the shelf in the bedroom. But I think some of the choices in this design could also be Not So Big.

Learn more at their website here.

Tags: Less Is More | Living With Less | Small Spaces


treehugger slideshows