are tiny houses too tiny? final design of the the not-too-tiny minim house
After several months of deliberation and design the excellent plans from Foundry Architects are basically complete. Minim House design stands on the shoulders of others: House 227 from the great folks at Yestermorrow, the hidden platform bed from Front Studios, the not-so-tiny homes from Stephen Marshall at Little House on a Trailer, the Solo designs from MiniHome, plans from Wheelhaus, and Idea Box’s MiniBox. Yet the design integrates some of the best elements from these plans, adds its’ own unique elements, and responds to my perceptions of the current state of small house-on-wheels design and use:
a) tiny houses are…too tiny. The average size of an American prison cell is 50-80 square feet, with no kitchen or bath. A FEMA trailer averages 240 square feet. Most tiny homes on wheels average 65-130 square feet. It is well and good to minimize certain material things (clothes, unused items, etc), but I sense that having to dispense with beloved long rows of books, a piano & guitar, bowl mixer and pasta maker, and a freezer that can handle a bucket of ice cream might start to chip away at my ability to live a cultured, full life at home. The mini-1 has exterior dimensions of 10’8”x22′, with approximately 210 feet of interior space. Among other elements this includes room for a 10′ galley kitchen with full sink and 8 cu ft refrigerator freezer, washer/dryer, enough space for a seated dinner party of 6, a 5′ clothes/utility closet, 75+mason jars of food, 75+ books, a full size keyboard, and guest sleeping on the 6.5′ couch.
b) tiny houses don’t move all that much. Every situation is different, but my sense is that most tiny homes may move 1-2x a year at most. This being the case, there is little reason to keep them at a legal width of 8’6”. Going up to 11′ wide off a standard trailer bed (with proper structural engineering review) greatly increases the usability of the space, and wide load permits are easily available with a few hours of advance planning. Compared to the many hours to be spent in the structure, this seems a small price to pay for a far more functional and comfortable space.
c) tiny houses often feel cramped. Any surface waist-level or higher decreases the perception of space. Yet most house-on wheel designs greet the visitor with rather small traditional windows, multiple interior walls separating rooms, overhanging kitchen cabinets, and often one or two lofts at face height. Yet even small spaces may feel wide and open when designed well. Thus Minum House does away with nearly all walls, keeps the bed at floor height (rolled under an elevated platform when not in use), uses broad wide windows, and avoids all deep elevated cabinetry. Interior heights will vary from 7’6” (by the walls) to 9’8” (at ceiling center), all while keeping the total structure height under 13’7”.
d) tiny houses can live in a modern age. Tumbleweed homes look great largely due to their strict adherence to classical proportions. Yet while classical proportions are lovely to behold at any scale, I sense they tend to work better for living in at larger sizes 500 square feet and up. Meanwhile, in an effort to increase light and space, a host of traditionally styled wood-clad tiny homes are being built that entirely ignore classical proportions, and do so at their aesthetic peril (exhibit A, exhibit B). Fully modern designs, stripped of these requirements, can allow more light and flexibility of window and door placement, while still presenting a unified, integrated appearance. Nevertheless Minim House will keep a classically styled gabled roof, executed in a clean minimalist form. On the interior, exposed, homogeneously-toned wood can be all order, with no complexity– compare the all-pine interior of a typical tiny home with the lovely finish of the ProtoHaus. While interior and exterior finish are always a matter of taste, this structure will be equally at home in an urban alley space as it is on a farmland or in the woods.
Thanks to the great folks at Foundry Architects for the design work, which now will focus on final finish details. Full construction plans for Minim House will be available at Minim Homes.
©2012 Brian Levy