Digital Fabrication Meets the Tiny House With the Bunkie

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

A bunkie is an Ontario cottage tradition, a separate building without a kitchen where guests can stay if there isn't enough room in the cottage. Less traditionally, there as been an explosion of interest in sheds, as home offices or studios, since they can often be built without permits if they are less than a specified area, usually about a hundred square feet.

The Bunkie is a response to the demand for "a prefabricated space that offers the perfect sanctuary along life's journey." I passed on covering it when it launched late last year. That fake chimney shape! It made the whole thing look like it was designed by a four-year-old. Form follows function may be a cliché, but this just isn't done. Then there's that huge amount of glass that turned it into a see-through. What about privacy? Comfort and thermal control?

bunkie approach

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

However when I first walked up to it at the Cottage Life Show in Toronto, I realized the genius of it; that it is a form that just makes you smile, that has so many associations and memories. That archetypal shape just makes you feel at home. It defines home. Inside, those two glass walls make it dramatic and feel a lot more spacious than an 8'6 wide room normally would.

Murphy Bed

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Inside, the Bunkie is seriously practical and clever. A murphy bed pulls down from one wall;


Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

But the other wall is magical. Flat folding chairs and a table clip on to storage units, completely disappearing; a surprising amount of storage surrounds the ethanol fireplace, which cranks out enough heat to keep the place comfy.

chair closeup

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Here's a closeup of that disappearing folding chair. Designer Evan Bare is an old hand at this kind of stuff; at 608|Design he describes how he does it:

Computer controlled machines generate repeatedly accurate parts that assemble with ease. 3D software is used in the design and engineering process which provides amazing control. Each design created is optimized for ultimate durability and efficiency in material use, thus doing more with less.

That skill with digital fabrication is displayed in the design and construction of the entire unit, as you can see in this video. The walls and roof are assembled from plywood cassettes that are easy to ship and carry,made from plywood cut on a CNC router, in a fashion similar to FACIT system shown on TreeHugger before.

alternate designs

© Bunkie

I am clearly not alone in having reservations about the chimney thing; they have to explain in the FAQ section that it has been engineered to take the snow loads and to ensure proper runoff. But Nathan Buhler and his team are anything but doctrinaire; they offer other versions without the chimney, a solid wall on one side and another, and another that has a lot less glass, and costs less too. And I must admit, the chimney is not devoid of function; it adds a lot of space for storage and does make the interior more dramatic.

bunkie office

© Bunkie

They are not missing out on the shedworking crowd either, noting that this would work very well as a home office.

Nathan Buhler

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Nathan Buhler, who collaborated with Evan Bare in the Bunkie project, pointed out so many interesting and well-thought out design and construction details. This is a well-designed and beautifully put together unit that will be comfortable as a bunkie or an office, with or without that chimney. Starting at C$ 21,900. More at