How to Pack a Whole Lot of Living Into 221 Square Feet

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Tiny House living

One of the key limitations in the design of many tiny houses is the fact that they have to be built on trailer chassis. Many zoning bylaws have minimum building sizes to keep the riffraff out and the property taxes up; many building codes have minimum room sizes and other rules that make it very hard to build small. By having wheels, it becomes a recreational vehicle and it can sneak under a lot of radars. But it's really tough to design a decent space in an 8'-6" wide (exterior dimensions!) space.

exterior of tiny house

© Tiny House Build

Andrew and Gabriella Morrison have pulled it off in their 221 square foot home and write about it (and how they live in it) on the Tiny House Blog. In many tiny houses, designers compromise on something, be it kitchen or bathroom. Gabriella writes:

To our surprise we have not felt, at any point, that we have had to make any compromises or sacrifices in our self designed and built home. Not once have we felt that our space was too small, that our needs weren’t luxuriously met, or that we didn’t have enough space to run our home business, entertain, cook, bathe, watch movies, play guitar, wrestle with our dog, or store our clothes and belongings. Not once have we been uncomfortable, hurt our backs in the lofts, struggled on our stairs, felt like our fridge or kitchen sink was too small, or felt that we didn’t have enough space for an item.
view from kitchen

© Tiny House Build

By putting the kitchen at one end and the bathroom at the other, they are able to use the full width of the trailer and make them generous. In fact, they have a full size five burner range, an 18 cubic foot fridge and more cabinet space than they can fill. Gabriella says " We know we CAN cook in a tiny kitchen with two burners, wash dishes in a tiny sink, and cram all of our food into a dorm sized fridge, but we don’t WANT to."

bathroom composting toilet

© Tiny House Build

The bathroom is also generous, which you need if you are going to use a big Sun-Mar composting toilet (and the bigger, the better. This is the same model that my friend Laurence has used for almost 20 years)

seating and dining

© Tiny House Build

What's really different here is the central area, with that built in sofa and eating counter/ home office. I think a flip-top on the office might have been nice, so that it could be bigger when you have company, but otherwise it is a clever way to deal with dining, just like sitting at a bar with a nice view. It is a bit counter-intuitive to build permanent seating into such a narrow space, but it seems to work here.

storage stair

© Tiny House Build

Then there is the storage stair, (that everyone is complaining about in comments because of the lack of a handrail) which is a whole lot nicer in the middle of the night than a ladder. It leads up to a very generous loft, with another ladder-accessible loft over the bathroom at the other end.

Living in a small space is as much about lifestyle as it is about architecture, you have to think about everything you own. On their own website, Gabriella describes how they went totally paperless in their office, using a Scansnap scanner and Evernote so that all of their documents are in the cloud, not their filing cabinets. This is a smart move; I have tried to do the same thing, but using my iphone as a scanner. It is slow; I am going to upgrade to the real thing.

In her conclusion, Gabriella nails the reasons that tiny house living is so seductive to so many people, even if it is an impossible dream for most.

Because we chose to build tiny rather than a larger house, we were able to pay for the materials in cash and now have the security of knowing that we will always have a place on this planet that we can live for free. And being that it’s off grid, we aren’t bound to utility bills and the system.

It's not for everyone, but it is an attractive vision. More at the Tiny House Blog and Tiny House Build.