Tiny Home Packs a Lot in 280 Square Feet

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter

But where do you put it?

True North Tiny Homes brought two models to a Toronto home show recently, and it was fascinating to tour them, to see what's changed in the last 15 years or so years since they first were on the radar. Daniel and JoAnna write on their website that tiny homes are affordable: "Tiny homes on trailers such as our model, The Millennial, cost under $100,000." Versatile: "Tiny homes accommodate the people who struggle most to own, first time buyers and seniors." And sustainable: "Tiny homes make the world a better place. In addition to easing the housing crunch, True North Tiny Homes can exist off the grid. Tiny homes that tap into existing infrastructure add density and diversity to a neighbourhood."

kitchen and living millennial tiny home

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0Their Millennial model was the traditional tiny house width of 8'-6", which theoretically makes it a Recreational Vehicle and not subject to building codes or zoning bylaws. However, it's tight. It makes a great kitchen dimension, and the Millennial has a very generous kitchen with a tall but narrow fridge, four burner gas range, dishwasher and oven. But what's left is a tiny sitting area and no dining area at all as shown here.

Stairs to loft

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The Millennial can't quite decide whether what it wants to be; it's got batteries and inverters and a wind turbine, but it also has an electric fridge and a minisplit air conditioning system, because those loft bedrooms can become intolerably hot. So it's sort of designed to go off-grid but it's outfitted to be plugged in.

Gas range

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

It also has a four-burner gas range and what appears to be an exhaust fan mounted above, but given what we have learned about the dangers of gas stoves, I certainly would have preferred to see induction. Nobody should be cooking with gas in such a small space; if designed to be truly off grid then there are not a lot of options, but it's right on top of a microwave.

stair to loft

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The stair up to the loft is a mix of a winder at the bottom and a ladder at the top, with a proper handrail on one side. There is a clever little door from the loft to a small roof deck, which is a nice touch.

Separett toilet in bathroom

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The bathroom is generous, the full width of the home, with a shower, vanity and Separett composting toilet. The Separett is an interesting choice; it is a urine-separating toilet where men have to sit down to pee. But it does smell less than other composters and can be vented out the side wall instead of through the roof.

On their website, Daniel and JoAnna note that "as it stands now, the building code doesn't allow a single family home to be less than 800 square feet... And then you also have all the by-laws in most of the municipalities that don't allow two dwelling buildings on the same property." Whether it is 8'6" wide or 10' wide makes no difference, they are still illegal in most places; but these laws are changing and it is likely that accessory dwellings and back lane housing will be permitted in many cities soon.

Bigger tiny house

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

When it is, I suspect that most tiny houses will be like the other model they showed, all on one level without headbanger lofts up steep stairs, 10 feet wide so that you have room to swing a cat, and big enough to have a place to sit down and eat dinner. But it seems that everyone has to go through this learning curve.