Sketching our tiny house


I've been drawing house plans since I was a kid. I dream about houses regularly. And whether I'm camping, van-tripping, or on the playa at Burning Man, I'm happiest when I have a clear home base to come back to. It's just the way I am – obsessed with dwellings.

Perhaps this is why I've been pouring myself into designing our new space whenever nerves creep in about the move. It helps to imagine the structure that is our destination.


Our actual destination for the next few years is an island where Isaac grew up, 5 hours by ferry or 30 mins by plane off the coast of Auckland. About a thousand people live there, most of the island is national parkland, and the stars at night blow your mind. When you arrive on the plane you land in a grassy field next to the beach. It all feels pretty surreal. But it also feels a little like home already. We have been going there annually for the past seven years to visit my in-laws, who still live on the sprawling piece of ridge-line property they raised Isaac on. We picked out a spot for tiny house there with them years back, and thankfully there's plenty of room in their spacious old family house (above) for us to move in while we build. I took a picture of the site last time I was there, but honestly it doesn't show much but a ton of trees. We'll literally be starting from the ground up for this project – clearing forest, digging a foundation, and all the rest. People ask if we have the skills to do this. Our answer is "yep!" I know it'll be tough, we'll probably make some mistakes, but we are up for the challenge and there are plenty of homesteaders on the island to give us advice. The island doesn't have a power, water, or sewer system. You gotta figure it out yourself, and locals all do so quite creatively. There's a lot of rainwater collection, solar power, and of course long-drop or composting toilets. Isaac is a mechanical engineer and can't wait to work on our battery and power plan; I'm most excited about our composting toilet system (but I'll get into that in a later post!).

And of course, I am stoked about our house.

The idea for the house has evolved over time, and as of now we've settled on a plan that looks a lot like most tiny houses on wheels – long and narrow like a train car. It's roughly 3 meters by 10 meters (about 300 square feet), with one side of the house opening to a big deck that looks out at the view. We plan to live there a few years, and then it may become a vacation home for us or any of Isaac's brothers when they return home to visit. With that, here are a few other things I thought about in the design. Easy access to outdoor space

I imagine us spending most of our time outside, so we wanted the house to open at multiple places to the deck. Think big glass french doors that swing wide open for an indoor-outdoor vibe. Parents and kids at opposite ends of the house Our current apartment has us sleeping with a baby in our adjacent walk-in closet, and a toddler in a "bedroom" that opens right into the kitchen. Suffice it to say that naptime at our house is quiet time for everyone. And we have to watch movies with headphone on after the kids go to bed so we don't wake them up. I wanted the luxury of some space between our side of the house and the kids. Oh, and I wanted to fit our king sized bed in. Separate sleeping nooks for each kid I hope our kids can share a room someday, but with different bedtimes and a baby who likes to make noise at night, I want the kids to have some space. Plus, two small sleeping nooks makes it more flexible for future guests who might use the house. We designed one end of the house to have a lower room that fits a twin bed, with storage stairs that go up to a private sleeping loft above it.

A full-sized tub

We have kids, enough said. I also have dreams of an outdoor shower, but that's low on the priority list. Flexible sleeping arrangements

I wanted the space to work for a variety of configurations, and even sleep up to two families if more of Isaac's family need a place to crash when visiting the grandparents. We put a storage loft that fits a twin bed in the master bedroom for that reason. The lower kids sleeping loft could fit bunks, and the upper loft could fit a double. We're pretty set on this design, I've even picked out and sketched in appliances already. I've gotta measure up the windows so we can get those ordered, and I'm trying to decide if we want to do timber framing or order SIPs (pre-cut structural insulated panels) to save time. Lots of decisions to make! It's a work in progress.



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