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Tiny House Without A Loft: And Accessible too!

Here at THT we are often asked questions about building a tiny house without a loft.

A lot of people who are interested in the concept are planning for their futures and want to be sure that they can spend their retirement years in the comfort of a tiny house without needing to climb a steep ladder to a bed every night.

Several tiny house companies, including Tumbleweed, are answering the call with single story floor plans.

This week I came across a site that proved to me that if someone has the will and desire to do something I can be accomplished.

Meet Deena of the Access-A-Hut.

Deena's Tiny Accessible Home

Deena’s Tiny Accessible Home

Her blog has been idle for a little over a year so I took a chance and reached out to her and a delightful conversation ensued.

“After living in the house and settling in, what do you say?” she wrote back to me. I asked her about her tiny home, why she built it and how she lives in it now.

Click through to read more about Deena and her tiny home.

Deena has a chronic condition that can cause any joint in her body to dislocate at any time for no reason at all. She wanted a tiny house where, if something happened, she would still be in reach of the things she needed. “The house means I can meet all of my needs –including gardening!–within my abilities at that moment. I have managed to get dinner, a shower, and bed by myself with having only two functioning fingers and one wrist (everything else was dislocated). In my old apartment, I got stuck in bathtubs, laid on the floor for hours without being able to get up, had to have a hot-pot/bucket of water on the floor because I could not reach the kitchen, etc. I did not want assisted living, which was the only other option available to me.”

The bedroom in the Accesssahut

The bedroom in the Access-a-hut

Instead, with a little ingenuity and imagination Deena was able to have a home built that works for her. She developed a 180 square foot house where the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living space is all within reach. In a genius move that also meant Deena doesn’t have to consider assisted living, the tiny house is behind a larger home that she owns. “I have the tiny house in back, and a friend has the big (960 sf) house in front, so I give her reduced rent for helping me.  And that is my long-term care plan as well–when I do need assisted living for ever, I will just have someone live in the big house and take care of me in the little house.”

The kitchen in the Accessahut

The kitchen in the Access-a-hut

Deena also admits an ulterior motive that resonated with me; “I am a very messy person, and my tiny house means that first I cannot get too messy, and second, when I do, it is a matter of about 20 minutes to pick up everything in the house. I can get my whole house cleaned well for $60, as it only takes an hour.” I tended to be disorganized in a larger home as well but the tiny house broke me of that habit. I find that it is easier to keep things in the proper places in my small home. In a larger home I would think to myself, “Why should I put that away when I’m just going to use it again?” In the tiny house even when things are put away they are never too far to reach.

The Living Space of the Access-a-hut

The Living Space of the Access-a-hut

This tiny house not only has a first floor bed but is also wheel chair accessible throughout and still measuring less than 200 square feet. Deena’s house is proof that not only is it possible to live in a single story tiny home but that it has already been done.

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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.
{ 28 comments… add one }
  • TomLeeM
    March 4, 2013, 2:45 pm

    I think not having a loft is great when one has knees that don’t always work right. IMO; it looks really nice.

  • Doreen D
    March 4, 2013, 3:28 pm

    Excellent and practical idea! What a delightful little house, and an intelligent solution for a problem many of us 50+ people are already facing. I’m expecting co-dependence due to vision loss and a few other diabetes-related problems, but want to keep my pets, which rules out most facilities, and do not want to be a burden on my family. My plan is to build a small home on my property for me, and turn over the big house (what a relief!) to a nephew and his family. Quite frankly, I already relish the thought of giving away or leaving behind all the possessions that were once so “important.” I would also like to get used to the “new” house before my vision completely goes, so maybe I’ll get started now. Thanks so much for inviting us into your home and sharing your inspiring story. Few of us think ahead, and sixty gets here before you know it :-).

  • Cahow
    March 4, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Deena: I take my hat off to you, with your brilliant foresight. I’m a licensed architect and also hold a landscape architect degree. I’ve had some of my original clients with me since I began my firm, 23 years ago. Many have become extremely close friends, not just clients. In the past two years, I’ve lost 6 of them, 2 last year and it will be 4 this year, to aging bodies. What I mean by “losing them” is that they no longer can function in their homes. Now, these people are millionaires; money is NO object! So, if it were possible, they’d retrofit their existing homes to reflect their aging bodies. But, because of the configuration of floor plans which THEY chose, and which worked for them when they were in their 30’s-40’s, now that they are 70+ years old, the floor plans can’t be adapted for age. These beautiful, cherished friends of mine, are now FORCED to leave the home they thought they’d die in, because they literally can’t make it up the stairs to the functioning bathroom, let alone their bedroom.

    I’ve always been struck by the almost naiveté of some tiny house people when they clamber up and down a loft ladder to their bedroom or have no means of cleaning their bodies inside their “home”, reducing basic human needs in their attempts to seek the least square footage possible, as if it’s a game and they receive an award. All I could do is shake my head in silence and sigh, thinking “Ah, you’ve yet to break your wrist or ankle or had back surgery; just wait”. And it doesn’t have to be when you’re ‘ancient’, either. I was struck by a car while in a crosswalk at the age of 27 years old. I spent 6 months in hospital, in traction, and told “You’ll never walk again.” I proved them wrong, but have a permanent limp on my left side, 30% nerve damage loss to that leg and 4 fused disks. I haven’t been able to climb a ladder for over 33 years, not even a step stool! So, I’m inordinarily appreciative and complimentary to the people who design tiny houses for their NOW and their FUTURE. If a person who has $5 million dollars in the bank can’t outfit their home for age, what chance does a tiny house person who is living off of a pitance have? Before any flamers attack me, I’m using the word “pittance” because so many tiny house folks want to be “debt free/owe no one/not be beholdin’ to the man”, which means they are living very frugally, by choice. If you are retiring to a tiny house and a wheel chair can’t navigate the area and you can’t install handicap bars in the shower and toilet area, your dream will be as busted as your body. I know. I’m almost there, myself. I made sure when I bought my cottage at the age of 44 years young, that every door could fit a wheel chair and that the tub could be replaced with a shower unit a chair could fit into. Also, not a single step, anywhere, from the sidewalk to inside the house. I don’t plan in my senior years to be taking sponge baths from a bucket or hobbling out to an outhouse where I need to shovel a path in the snow to get there. The majority of my friends are seniors; they preceed me by 10-20 years. I’ve seen what time does to human bodies…HEALTHY…human bodies that just went bad with time. It isn’t fair and it isn’t pretty.

    So, well done, Deena!!!! You really have a great game plan laid out for now and in the future. May you be blessed with 1,000’s of pain-free days ahead!

    • March 4, 2013, 4:56 pm

      It was a pleasure to talk with her – even if it was through email. It really gave me some great perspective on accessible tiny house living.

    • sunshineandrain
      March 4, 2013, 10:06 pm

      I’m with you and Deena. My Tiny House is designed with no steps to get onto the porch or into the house. I have 36″ wide French entry doors (for a total opening of 6 feet or 72″ and can wheel a “slim” wheelchair or 23″ wide walker anywhere on the first floor.

      I do have a storage loft with a special-made staircase. If ever I lose the ability to climb these stairs with the old-fashioned 5-inch handrail I bought through Craigslist, I can use my pulley-lift to get up and down to access my storage. This loft also serves as my guest bedroom.

      My bathroom is not a room (with acknowledgement to Erik Markus’ thoughts later in these comments). The toilet/shower/lavatory alcove (it could be called a wet room) is on the outside wall between the kitchen and the bedroom. The 4′ clawfoot tub is on the other side of the house right behind the kitchen wall. The two sides sort-of meld into a “bathroom” that is also the way into the bedroom.

      The composting toilet sits on a rubber-type riser in the shower pan (easier to take a seat and rise when finished). The lavatory is a small sink above the corner of the shower pan where the shower drain is located (occasionally, I’ve been incapacitated with vomiting and diarrhea at the same time). The handheld/hookheld shower head can easily be used while seated on the bottom of the upturned plastic tub placed over the toilet seat (so that water doesn’t get into the toilet from the shower).

      There are ADA wall and floor safety rails in both the toilet/shower alcove and the bathtub area.

      My inspiration to build my house this way came from my observations of my grandmother who suffered with rheumatoid arthritis all her life, and never complained. I wanted her and the rest of my family and friends to have no barriers to come and see me and stay awhile (as well as being a home where I can age in place).

      Just incase you want to know, my Tiny House (outside dimensions) is 8′ 6″ by 16′ 6″ not including the porch. Porch on the trailer is 3′ 6″, folding part of porch is 3′, for a 6′ 3″ by 8′ 6″ porch. The trailer itself is 20′ long by 8′ 6″ wide.

      Love y’alls ideas.

      • sunshineandrain
        March 4, 2013, 10:12 pm

        Sorry, I meant “for a 6′ 6″ by 8′ 6″ porch.” instead of 6′ 3″.

      • Cahow
        March 5, 2013, 11:30 am

        Bless you, Sunshineandrain, with far more Sunshine in your days ahead, than rain! <3 It seems like those of us that paid attention to our Elders have learned a "thing or three" as my Gran liked to joke. I was raised by my grandparents from birth so I was surrounded by folks 60-90 years older than I was. I still have a HUGE love of older people, which is why so many of my friends are decades older than I am. They have the manners and patience and desire to talk to you FACE TO FACE that so many of the younger generation fail to desire. Best of luck to you in your tiny cherished home. 🙂

  • Erik Markus
    March 4, 2013, 4:03 pm

    I understand the concern.

    I originally designed my tiny home to have two full length lofts, each, 6′ 2″ off the floor. Then I saw a previous article here, in 2011, and reconsidered based on the fact that I’m 6’1″, have arthritis, and with a mattress in the loft, it really would not be comfortable.

    I compromised and built only one loft at 4′ off the floor. The bed is three steps up, there is plenty of head room( I can almost stand up), and I have a large storage area underneath.

    • March 4, 2013, 4:55 pm

      That is a great way to handle both a first floor bed and storage space!

    • Cahow
      March 4, 2013, 6:17 pm

      Very smart turn-around, Erik. Right now, I can access stairs but need a very strong railing as a brace. You know, life changes in a *blink*. I have a dear friend who I’m caring for right now, who just had knee surgery. She got a bad infection in her leg, then blood clots and can’t make it up her stairs to her bedroom/bathroom. So, we had to rent a hospital bed for her living room and she is giving herself sponge baths to stay clean. She’s said, “I’ll never be more grateful in my life when I can get into a shower and clean my entire body without a rag!”

      • Erik Markus
        March 4, 2013, 8:31 pm

        Yes, accessing the bathroom fixtures was a concern I also had.
        No one likes a cramped bathroom.

        Typical RV baths, and most Tinyhouse baths are in deed cramped, and the floor space is dedicated just for the bath fixtures.

        I realized, in a tiny house, a bathROOM is redundant. Frankly, it’s redundant in any home.

        I eliminated the bathroom and bath sink I had planned, I put the bath tub in the “hall” and put the compost toilet in an alcove.
        I am never cramped. Never banging elbows on walls, etc. Effectively, when you use the tub or toilet, the hall area becomes the floor space for your bathroom. It’s wonderful. If one were in a wheel chair in my house, they would have no problems using, well, just about anything. My exterior doors are 32″, I don’t know if that would be wide enough, but….

        Bathroom fixtures are used differently, anyway.
        -Tubs/showers, one can spend hours in, and some do, a few times a week. privacy not always an issue.
        -Toilets, only a few minutes at a time, but several times a day. Privacy required.
        -sinks, frequently, for various things, none really requiring privacy. I so dislike those low, tiny sinks, often found in bathrooms. I have a large double bowl SS sink in my kitchen and it works great for everything.

        I don’t advise anyone to build an actual bathroom anymore, no matter what kind of structure.

        Actually, one ridiculous ‘stuck-to-the-ground’ house I built in 1996, in the master bath, one of the sinks I made a 36′ high, ss kitchen sink with one of those tall faucets. This way it was easy to brush your teeth or wash your hair.

        As for the storage area, I have a clothes rack for hanging clothes, I have a 5′ long mobile unit that pulls out and holds storage boxes, I have my tools, collectibles, water softener, holiday items, etc.

  • Victoria
    March 4, 2013, 6:16 pm

    My tiny house is under construction as I write this. I am 47 and have disabilities so am building to accommodate me now as well as future issues I might have. I am putting in a loft but it will only be used for guests as I put in a bedroom for me.

  • Carolyn B
    March 4, 2013, 7:44 pm

    Laura L., I’m sure you knew I’d be pouring over this article. Very wise woman is Deena. Glad to know it can be done. I’m assuming she’s on grid since she’s next to a larger home.

    • Cahow
      March 4, 2013, 7:48 pm

      Carolyn: from the article–” In a genius move that also meant Deena doesn’t have to consider assisted living, the tiny house is behind a larger home that she owns.” If you have disabilities you have to be on the grid. Insulin, oxygen machines, etc. require constant power.

  • March 4, 2013, 8:28 pm

    At 136sq ft and a 56 sq ft sleeping loft. I can in the Summer months easily sleep on the cooler ground floor in a bed designed for the grand room as it is so often called. In the winter months I move to the upstairs loft area to sleep and enjoy the extra warmth. Three years of doing so and at age 62 hopefully several more years of blessed good health. If some ailment or injury did happen to stumble into my life I would just go into Summer mode on a full time basis.
    Plenty enough room for a kitchen,bathroom,shower,living/bedroom conversion as needed on the 136sq ft main floor.

    • Erik Markus
      March 4, 2013, 8:42 pm

      Yes, my loft bed is my favorite part of my home.
      I put my electric light bulb heater below, in my storage area, that way the heat slowly migrates upward so it’s always a nice, comfy, warm 70 degree space.
      Add in a queen size Sleep Number mattress, soft freshly washed and line dried cotton sheets, the sky light (Thanks Dee Williams !), some mellow environmental music playing, perhaps a gentle rain pitter-pattering on the roof, and I can slumber all day.

      • Cahow
        March 5, 2013, 11:36 am

        “Sleep Number Matteress”. Bwhahahahahahaaaa! Yo’ Mama didn’t raise no fool, Erik! It sounds like bliss, much like our bedroom. Aside from the kitchen, it’s my favourite place to escape to.

        If I may: queen sized mattress; feather tick; german flannel sheets year-round; merino wool blanket; feather comforter; and finally one of several quilts my Gran made in the 40’s. Sounds like a lot of bedding and it is: we sleep with the window open, year ’round. Mind you, the height of the “crack” differes with temps–if it’s 20 below zero, it’s 1″, if it’s 70 degrees, than all 4 bedroom windows are opened. Favourite activity is to open all the windows on a rainy day, snuggle under my mound of covers, crack up a good book on my Kindle and gently drift asleep after the 2nd page. LOL

        • Victoria
          March 5, 2013, 10:23 pm

          That’s me, windows open year round, in my tiny house, the headboard for my bed will be a window. I’d rather sleep under a ton of comfy quilts and have fresh air, unfortunately I live down wind from my neighbors who like to run their wood stove and burn pile in their yard a lot….might have to talk to them or move….but hey…it is a tiny house….I CAN move it. 🙂

        • Cahow
          March 6, 2013, 9:57 am

          Victoria: do we have the same neighor??? There was an old crotchety coot that lived upwind of our cottage. One Summer, years ago, we awoke (in Summer), gasping for breath and convinced someone’s house was on fire! Seems that old coot was attempting to burn GREEN GRASS CLIPPINGS in a massive pile, directly downwind of our bedroom! GREEN???? Both my husband and I tossed on clothes and went to kindly speak to him; he tossed us off of his land and screamed “I live out in the country so NO ONE can tell me what to do!” We finally had to contact the local sheriff about him. Seems that what he was doing was hiring himself out to the “weekenders” to tend their lawns and since the local waste company won’t take grass clippings, he was coming back to his home with them…piles that were 4′ x 4′ tall! Everyone knows everyone out here so the sheriff didn’t cite him with an official warning but made it VERY clear that “burning green clippings was a county offense” and to “knock it off!” <I love that part! LOL

          Do I wish that this could have been settled amicably? Of course! But "Dave" wasn't open to civil discourse. At least the sheriff was on our side; he told us that "Dave's been trouble since he was in Junior High School" and was well known by the local police for being contentious and a trouble maker. But, he never attempted to burn clippings again and has since moved, due to age.

          I hope that your burn pile issue with your neighbor works out to your satisfaction, Victoria.

  • Michele
    March 6, 2013, 10:35 am

    Thank you for talking about the loft issue! I recently had a tiny home builder ream me out on-line and ask me to leave his site because I put forward this issue. I love tiny homes and want one off-the-grid; but I am retirement age and the loft is out for me. Also, I have seen some plans that have tiny stairs. the other issue is storage. Even though I want to pair down, I still have Christmas tree ornaments I want to keep. And I have a pottery and basket collection, and 3 bookcases full of books! So in investigating everything – it seems that the cabin Park Models are more for me. Trouble is finding one for sale already in place on property. Do you know how to suggest finding these? I have so many questions!!!

    • billy
      March 9, 2013, 7:10 pm

      post a wanted to buy under the for sale listing. in all free listings and all low cost ones. newspapers, craigslist, and free ad papers. i have been buying motorcycles this way for years. when folks want to sell stuff we always look to see what the prices are so we know what to charge. do not assume that is what you should pay. i always quote a price way below the going “asking price” like 1/2 or 1/3. most stuff doesn’t sell on craigslist or ebay. something else if you can find a source of product try to find a year or so old listings. call them offer a really low ball price. you will surprised at the takers. 25 % is a nice number. peace. billy

    • Molly
      March 20, 2013, 9:46 am

      Also check Tiny Home Listings. It’s a web site where people list thier tiny and small homes for sale. I’ve seen lots of Park Models on land listed there.


  • cheryl wade
    March 9, 2013, 12:36 pm

    The loft wasn’t on the table for me. I owned a three bedroom modular on a lake lot and it also had a two car detatched garage with cement floor and a 10 by 20 storage barn with wood floor . Both out buildings have electricity. The house though was huge for one person. Then the economy took a poop and daughter and disabled grandson son needed a roof over their head and son , wife, and two grandkids did also. Because they wrre exsisting structures converting was a lot easier. My residence is in progress and will be th 10 by 20 structure. While we sre retrofitting the dtructure we are checking out every dual purpose furniture snd storage idea out there. Everything can be moved to a different configuration with the only permenant installation being the composting toilet. At68 I have to follow the idea of future diminished mobility. I have already cut down on my personal clutter, books photogrsphs and keepsakes, my collection of reciepe books have all been transfered to digital formst and three truck loads have gone out of here bound for th SA resale shop where they can clutter someone else’s life

  • LaMar
    March 9, 2013, 12:53 pm

    I built my cabin with a loft and ladder but because of a bad back and knees I knew at some point I would not want to use the loft for sleeping so I also designed the lower floor to have room for a daybed and the kitchen and bathroom are just a few steps away.

    I made doors 3 feet wide for a wheelchair and a ramp can be attached to the front porch for access. I installed a walk in shower and I have grab bars by the toilet. I put shelves up instead of cabinets and they are lower so I can reach them easily.

    If you are going to spend the rest of your life in any house you should design it so it will be functional in the event you become disabled.

  • Caroline
    March 11, 2013, 5:33 pm

    Working with elderly people, I’m always interested in stories that show alternatives to assisted living. Accesible tiny homes are fascinating and a novel approach to dealing with the rapidly aging population. Keep posting these stories, please!

  • Janet Doubledee
    July 25, 2015, 2:32 am

    As the “Tiny Home” market is catching on I too have been watching for ADA accessibility in floor plans. I am a Right Leg Below The Knee amputee, so lofts are out, and showers I need room for a safety seat. And if I need to get around quickly I generally use arm crutches. So it’s been interesting to see what designers “think” we need and what will work for us. I would love a house on a trailer, but I need a bed without a loft and a bathroom/shower modification. If I could see that happen, hell…I’d be all in!

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