News Home & Design Holistic Tiny House Prototype Is Adapted for Cold Climates This tiny house is designed with a systems thinking approach. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published September 12, 2022 02:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Exploring Alternatives News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Tiny homes have come a long way in the last decade, outgrowing their stylistic roots as somewhat charmingly rustic, gable-roofed affairs. We are now seeing a wide range of tiny house styles that range from being crisply modern, or to ones that magically transform their interiors, or are inspired by Scandinavian or mid-century modernist design. This evolutionary variety is heartening to see as tiny houses—and small space living in general—becomes more mainstream. For Ontario, Canada-based tiny house company Instead, the motivating factor is designing with systems thinking in mind—a more holistic approach that tries to see wholes, and the interrelationships and patterns between parts of the whole, rather than at each part individually. Houses are indeed systems, and as we can see from this great Exploring Alternatives tour of Instead co-founder Lee Loewen and his wife Rebecca, the design of their own off-grid tiny home does indeed strive to balance forward-thinking design with some of those ideas about how systems can work in harmony with one another in a colder climate. Check it out: The couple's home is designed to weather the extreme temperature fluctuations that come with living in a colder climate. Thus, as one might expect, it is well insulated throughout its black metal-clad exterior. In addition, it has been designed in a way to ensure that the water pipes don't freeze in the winter, by elevating the bathroom on top of a platform and running the plumbing through that warmer underfloor space. The interior has been carefully fashioned in a way that makes it feel open, airy, and light, thanks to the use of high-quality pine plywood panels that cover the walls, floor, and ceiling, and in combination with judiciously placed large picture windows and clerestory windows. There is deliberate ease of circulation flow throughout the entire house, with the main corridor linking up the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom like a connective spine. Exploring Alternatives Modularity and efficient use of space were key to making the small footprint of this 32-foot-long (9.7 meters) tiny house. For instance, in the living room, there is storage built into the bench along the window, and into the movable bench piece under the multifunctional desk. These are the spots where shoes and coats can be stored out of the way. There are also storage crates under the sofa, which reuses cushions from the couple's last apartment back in Toronto. Exploring Alternatives Beside the couch, we have a minimalist ladder leading up to the loft, integrated with some extra storage shelving behind it. The ladder has been constructed so that it takes up less space than a typical staircase, and also makes it feel sturdier and easier to climb than a typical ladder. Exploring Alternatives The galley-style kitchen is beautifully done and has been laid out in a split configuration that includes durable metal countertops, black cabinetry, open shelving, an integrated wine rack, and a full-sized refrigerator, oven, and two-burner stovetop. There are also extra storage drawers hidden in the kickplate area underneath. Exploring Alternatives Above the kitchen is the couple's sleeping loft, which admittedly does not have a lot of headroom. A skylight was installed to make it feel more open and bright. Exploring Alternatives Back downstairs, past the sliding pocket door and into the bathroom area, we see that it's been made to feel quite luxurious, thanks to the inclusion of a full-sized shower that evokes a spa-like atmosphere. Nevertheless, the fixtures chosen are very water-efficient, cutting water use by almost 40%, as the house isn't connected to a well, nor a municipal water supply. Exploring Alternatives Past the bathroom, and through yet another space-saving pocket door, there is an enclosed bedroom, which is now being used by the Loewen's toddler, Max. Exploring Alternatives There is a mini-crib here, in addition to a full-sized wardrobe for the couple's clothes. As Rebecca says, the tiny home has enough space for raising a little one: "We moved into the house when Max was about four months old. I can play with Max in these spaces; we've learned to make little hacks, like our ability to put up a Jolly Jumper right now. I've never felt like the space was too small for us. I appreciate living in a space where we can say, 'your dad built this, and this was actually designed with you in mind'. " Exploring Alternatives The couple also built an insulated solar shed beside their off-grid tiny home, in order to mount their array of solar panels, totaling 4,000 watts. The home's 2,000-gallon water tank is also hidden inside. Exploring Alternatives In total, the couple spent about $143,000 on the construction of the home and solar shed. While it's not exactly on the cheap on the spectrum of tiny home costs, it's nevertheless one of the more finessed tiny homes we've seen. To see more, visit Instead and their Instagram.