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Life in 120 Square Feet: How to Build Outdoor Space for Tiny Houses

So I thought I might continue on our little tour of our tiny house, our construction choices, and the outcome.

Since I am currently enjoying some beautiful summer days I thought I might talk a little about our outdoor living space.

The first outdoor space we built was our front porch and since we used plans to build our post and pier foundation based on deck plans, no front porch was in the original design. We always planned to build one but we needed to have the house built first.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Our front porch may be the smallest deck ever constructed. It is essentially a free-standing structure using just four deck blocks for stability. It is attached to the house by the porch overhang. It provides a small covered spot to take off our muddy shoes before going inside.

I encourage you to read more and see our photos of the process below.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

While we like being out on the porch we wanted to build more outdoor spaces to be able to enjoy our mountain all the time. Since our land is pretty sloped we needed to build a deck so we could sit comfortably outside without being at an angle. We also wanted a space to prepare food outdoors using our Camp Chef Camp Oven and a small smoker.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

The next building project was an outdoor “kitchen.” When we said we were building an outdoor kitchen I think people had an idea that we were going to do a pretty ornate set up, but really we just wanted a flat surface to cook on. So we decided to build a small table with one storage shelf.

We decided to use EZ Spikes which are sold at big home improvement stores and typically used for mail boxes or fence posts. They require a lot of brute force to pound them into the ground and they are really stable. We added 4X4 posts and leveled them in place. We added braces and a bottom shelf which is where we store our aquatainers of spring water, our camp oven, and other various outdoor cooking tools. We secured a sturdy board across the top to be the counter and painted it. We even gave the table a very slight slope toward the back so water wouldn’t collect on the surface after rain.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Because of the slope of the land the height of the table varies depending on where you’re standing. We can put the camp oven on the lower side making it easy to access and prepare in the middle of the counter which is exactly the right height. We can put a water filter with spigot on the highest point which makes washing dishes easier.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Once the table was done, we started work on our “back yard” deck. We built a 12X12 deck and, if you’re keeping score, it is actually bigger than our house. We used deck block and 4X4s for the structure and 2X6s for the deck itself. The best part was that we could buy 12 foot lumber and not have to cut anything but the posts – which was kind of a relief after building our house. The deck went up in a matter of days.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

We refer to the deck as the Folk N’ Ale – a clever play on words for anyone willing to sound it out. The first party we had after moving in featured music on the deck while the rest of us sat on blankets on the ground.

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

When we decided to build a 120 square foot house we never intended to be confined to it. I love being inside my house, but I also really love the Smoky Mountains and I want to enjoy the natural setting as much as possible. We have a lot of future plans for building near the tiny house like a perfect tree house which I would love to turn into a bar. I don’t actually imagine a time when we’ll stop building things.

What kind of outdoor living spaces do you want in your life?

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Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.
{ 5 comments… add one }
  • john June 18, 2013, 1:45 pm

    What we really need to be, and feel, secure in an indoor space is tiny, a bedroom, a bathroom, and someplace to spend time when the weather is bad, when the weather is good everything can be done in much less expensive outdoor spaces.

    In 2012 the average US home cost about 100 dollars a square foot to build…not including indoor fixtures like floors, furniture, fittings like sinks and toilettes, AC and heat, etc…add those costs and you have a cost to build per sq. ft. of around 200 dollars.

    Outdoor space, for me, is a covered wooden deck with an insulated roof, and screens to keep insects out. The cost to have it built is between 25 and 50 dollars per sq. ft….half that if you build it yourself.

    A tiny home should give you the basics, security, insulation from bad weather, privacy…etc. For most that’s a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and a multi function space to use during bad weather. It doesn’t have to be confining, or feel tiny. If outdoor spaces are built right…it can feel outright expansive, palatial even.

    For some reason human psychology requires we define ‘living spaces’ with walls, floors, and ceilings. It’s why i like decks that have a roof, though some prefer just the deck and being open to the sky is no issue.

    I guess what i’m saying is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money or use a lot of resources to live very large. You just need to think, be clever, and choose how you spend the money you do have to build a home that suits both your budget, and yourself.

    A home, and living spaces need not be defined, or contained, by a single building…it’s a waste of land. Most people could be living larger without constructing more, or larger buildings, but instead using the land they already have in a smarter way.

  • Erik Markus June 18, 2013, 3:42 pm

    Laura, your deck is just perfect. A stable perch in a beautiful setting.

    That mountainous terrain reminds me of a wonderful summer I spent in Vermont.

  • alice h June 18, 2013, 6:29 pm

    I’m with you on needing flat spots, my land slopes a lot too. My 10×12 deck is next to my Boler and overlooks a 12′ dropoff so it’s like being in a treehouse. There’s a 4 x10 covered area next to the trailer with an outdoor kitchen and a 4′ awning made of pvc pipe covered with a translucent tarp, making 8′ of covered space which is handy in my rainy climate. The awning drops down over the outdoor kitchen when I’m away or if the weather is really bad. The next outdoor space might be a cob fireplace with heated benches and a little roof over it all. There are also plans for an observation platform in the tree next to the deck with a suspension bridge to a larger tree and another platform that will give glimpses of an ocean view.

  • Andrew June 19, 2013, 9:35 am

    Folk N’ Ale! I love it!

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