Tiny houses push the boundaries of the smallest amount of space needed to comfortably live in. You want to “make the most” of this space, but how? In this article, I talk about the pitfalls of adding too much stuff to a tiny house, and propose 7 design tips for making a small space feel more spacious.
If you’re trying to fit your whole life into a tiny house, your first instinct is probably to find space for all the furniture, appliances, devices, and belongings you’ve always needed to be comfortable. And obviously you’ll need to partition out a living room, kitchen, bedroom, reading nook, and office… right?
But before you add too much, consider this: Your house design is tiny already. Why do anything to make it feel more cramped or enclosed? Here are 7 design tips that will help you design an interior that feels spacious, and avoid making your tiny space feel claustrophobic.
7 Spacious Tiny House Design Tips
- Avoid unnecessary partitions. For example, instead of creating separate “living” and “sleeping” rooms, consider ways that one larger space could function as a living area by day and a sleeping area by night. A folding or hideaway bed could help.
- Keep the space uncluttered above waist height. Anything above waist height that projects into the living space will make the space feel that much smaller. That means kitchen base cabinets are not a problem, but upper cabinets might be. Limit cabinets, shelves, or anything else that intrudes into this space.
- Take advantage of vertical space. Whether you choose a gable roof, shed roof, or any other style, make the ceiling as high as you can. High windows can allow additional light into the space, and they’re preferable to skylights for passive solar purposes. (More on roof design, and passive solar techniques, in later posts).
- Use light colors to create a spacious feeling. Light colors make a space seem bigger, while dark colors make a space seem smaller. Choose white or light-colored finishes for the ceiling and walls. (The floor color is less important for this purpose).
- Add a mirror in a strategic spot. Hang a large mirror, and you’ve instantly doubled the visual size of your space. Use your creativity. Make a whole wall a mirror. But don’t place the mirror directly facing the front door, it’s bad feng shui.
- Carefully place windows to provide daylight and views. Light the space from multiple sides if possible. Extra-large windows may look awkward on a tiny house, but choose windows that are big enough to provide a view of the outdoors. Devices like venetian blinds can help diffuse light up into the room while providing a measure of privacy.
- Open up to the outdoors. In addition to windows, think of creative ways that doors or even whole sliding walls could allow you to open your house up. (Check out the Virginia Tech LumenHaus for one elegant example). With a porch, deck, and a whole landscape outside, your tiny space won’t feel at all claustrophobic.
The ‘Tiny Living‘ plan from Tiny Home Builders (at right) is a good example of design that creates a spacious feeling. The walls are not white, but are relatively light in color. A high ceiling and high windows bring in light. Only the small bathroom is partitioned off. And no cabinets or other elements intrude into the space above waist height.
There’s no doubt about it—downsizing and simplifying your life to fit in a tiny home is a very difficult thing to do. And you certainly will want some storage space, partitions, and so on. But beware of the “big house mentality” in which a room can be packed with cabinets, bookshelves, and furniture and still feel spacious. In a tiny house, it can’t. Restraint, and a little bit of good design, will go a long way towards making your small space feel plenty comfortable.
Have more ideas on how to make a tiny space comfortable? Share them in the comments below! In my next post, I’ll talk in more detail about lighting strategies for tiny homes.
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