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Two Tiny Homes in One with this Duplex Cabin

While you’ll be hard-pressed to find many municipalities allowing foundation homes under 400 square feet, more and more communities are accepting in-law apartments and ADUs that allow members of the same family to live on the same property. These duplex plans could be a great way to give in-laws or kids their own space while still keeping a small footprint.

This design has two mirror-image tiny homes glued together to look like a single-family dwelling. Each 340 square foot side has a living room, kitchen, bathroom, downstairs bedroom, and upper loft. The homes are sleek and modern, with plenty of windows for natural light. Would this setup work for you?

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This 680-sq.-ft. Cabin has Two Units! Rent one out, and live in the other? Or make it a family cabin?

Lots of clean lines inside this little home.

The big windows open for fresh air.

The homes are mirror-images of each other.

You get all you need on each side!

How do you feel about this design?


  • 680 total conditioned space (both suites)
  • 1 bedroom per suite
  • 1 bath per suite
  • 1 loft per suite
  • 340 sq. ft. per suite
  • Dimensions: 20’ X 38’
  • Wall height: 9’-0”
  • 2×6 R-21 + walls
  • Trussed R-49 + roof
  • Insulated slab foundation
  • Mini-split heating & cooling
  • Tankless water heating
  • Wood or gas fireplace, optional
  • International Residential Code compliant
  • Instant PDF download
  • License to build one house

Learn more

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • May 9, 2022, 10:51 am

    Love the lines on this house. The concept reminds me a little of the houses in New Orleans

  • Ray
    May 9, 2022, 12:28 pm

    Thanks for including floor plans. They are a great addition to the article.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 10, 2022, 2:36 pm

      Thanks, Ray! Whenever the builder provides them, I include them!

  • May 9, 2022, 5:02 pm

    Conceptually a great use of space. materials and appliance packages leave a lot of leeways to determine cost. It would be a great unit for the duplex shotgun systems of the French Quarter. It even has me thinking about how to adapt two of my designs to duplexes.

  • Margaret C. McCauley
    May 9, 2022, 5:44 pm

    I like the idea of the duplex but I do not like at all the tiny one wall kitchen or the 3 piece bathroom right across from the kitchen. I understand the need for careful use of space avoiding “halls”. But stealing space from one corner of the living room to make an L kitchen layout would leave only a short hall by the bathroom. Adding a tub might be possible with a bit of extra room.

    • Gail L. Van Luvanee
      June 26, 2022, 6:26 pm

      I agree about the proximity of the bathroom to the kitchen. Her in FL we even have a law restricing how close we can have the bathroom to the kitchen. But that can be modified. I do like the idea ……. i think i tould have been a dood idea for when my mother had become enfirmed …. i could have been living beside her and been able to help her but we would have been separate so we didn’t kill each other. We could have put a door between the two units.

      • James D.
        June 27, 2022, 12:57 am

        The law you’re referring to only applies to public bathrooms such in restaurants, malls, etc. and not residential homes.

        The IRC doesn’t actually address proximity between the bathroom and kitchen but most Codes otherwise just requires that there must be a door between the bathroom and the kitchen, often the bathroom must have a sink for handwashing, and new installations must meet all the other requirements for plumbing, which includes rules about fixture spacing, ventilation, drainage, etc.

        • Gail L. Van Luvanee
          June 29, 2022, 2:09 am

          That might depend on the state, too, James …. or even the county. I’m in Florida — Central Florida. I worked for a home=builder and this was a concern we were always taking into consideration when designing our homes, especially in our smaller houses because we had less room to fit everything into …. like a tiny home. Some states might not have that building code, though.

      • James D.
        June 29, 2022, 3:29 am

        Maybe but I looked it up for Florida and the only reference to proximity is for commercial/public spaces. Under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) regulations for food services, etc. and the IBC… And I did check both the 2020 FBC – Residential, 7th edition and the 2017 FBC – Residential, 6th edition…

        Perhaps it was an old code that was replaced during one of the previous IRC updates, a lot has changed over the years, like adding Appendix Q for Tiny Houses on foundations in the latest update… Code requirements did used to be more strict for bathroom placement many years ago, or maybe your county just never published its specific code requirements online and has specific amendments to add that requirement but that seems unlikely that there would be no mention of it online if it was still an active code requirement…

        People do tend to assume that bathrooms can’t be near a kitchen and designers would recommend that separation but as stated the IRC doesn’t address proximity and most states only require a door for separation…

        While there’s examples like Cornerstone Tiny Homes that has been producing Tiny Houses on Foundations for more than a few years now in Florida, which have to meet local code requirements for an example of a builder in Florida that doesn’t appear to have had the same issue as you did… Though, prior to the adoption of Appendix Q, they only could place the tiny houses in 2 counties that removed their minimum sq ft requirements but have since expanded their operations and continue to offer the same layout options…

        • Gail L. Van Luvanee
          August 22, 2022, 2:59 am

          That is possible, James. I’ve been retired since 2007. Speaking personally, it would still be a concern that i’d design for as an architectural designer/drafter ….. if there was enough of a concern for this situation in the past, i’d choose to hold to that concern for the well-being of my client(s). With the sections, one of my other concerns was also clarified — the head space of the ceiling …. the high ceiling makes it difficult to control the heat/cold and electric bills …… i’d likely solve those concerns by using a barn-style roof and ceiling ….. sloping the ceiling off the loft while still giving head space — it was a trick that the North Eastern colonists and countries of origin used and one that i’ve used countless times in my own designs (i LOVE researching colonial architecture ……. they are awash with passive solar design concepts and designs that fit into the sites. GREAT places of study that i found are in the colonial buildings of Kingston, NY …. especially those that have been burned so that a person is able to see the construction underneath …….. but i also grew up in a home that was 180yrs old …. LOL first hand study with YEARS to do so LOL.

      • James D.
        August 22, 2022, 2:44 pm

        Yes, homes built before the previous century could teach us quite a bit about passive designs as they had to work with nature instead of the isolation and control that modern homes employ. However, it also highlights how different modern homes have become from how we used to construct them. Something that even now builders are still struggling with to develop best building practices but while building technology and the science of home performance has been slow to develop and adapt over the last century. The industry is finally starting to make advances in our understanding of how buildings should be built…

        Home chemistry, understanding how materials can be toxic or interact with other chemicals in our living environment, examples like Asbestos being one of many that we used to use but now know we shouldn’t, how pathogens actually work and finding ways to deal with them that doesn’t impair our immune system and make us more vulnerable, etc. There’s a lot we thought we knew that we’re finding we really still have a lot to learn but as we learn we improve, even though we may stumble along the way…

      • Dallas
        January 5, 2023, 8:34 pm

        Not sure what county you are in- but i’ve only heard of this in commercial applications. I live in Florida. I’ve actually built a home similar to this- never had an issue with the water closet and it’s proximity to the kitchen. Also- this is in fact a tiny home. Most people (in Florida especially) will be building this as an ADU- which isn’t regulated like general construction. I actually own the plans to this exact unit and will be building two of these on my personal property for family/short term rental. I’m going to be using passivhaus technologies to see how well they do in this humid climate. Shawn (the engineer who created these is amazing- and when I took them to my local engineer- he was like- you don’t need me to do anything other than to certify it- It was already well engineered.

  • Diane Harvey
    May 10, 2022, 10:24 am

    just what my daughter and I are looking for!!

    • Gail L. Van Luvanee
      June 29, 2022, 2:11 am

      I was thinking the same thing about my Mom and i when she started to become enfirmed …

  • shirley williams
    May 10, 2022, 10:27 am


    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 10, 2022, 2:34 pm

      So happy we could inspire you, Shirley!

  • Eric
    May 28, 2022, 9:15 pm

    Stairs are toooo steep. Unless you are a mountain goat. YMMV

    • James D.
      May 28, 2022, 11:39 pm

      That’s because it’s a ladder…

      • Eric
        May 29, 2022, 1:33 am

        Shame on them… it looks very much like stairs… but now that you mention it, I can just (repeat JUST) see you are right.

    June 26, 2022, 12:54 pm


  • Sue Roberson
    June 26, 2022, 1:18 pm

    I love this design. I would flip one side so that a porch would be on one end & #2 porch on the other end for more privacy.

  • John Thompson
    June 26, 2022, 3:31 pm

    Now THIS is what I’m talking about! Sharing the cost of the foundation – great. Improving heat retention by having that common wall where it is. Open, airy, functional and looks good. IT WORKS. Natural light everywhere except the bath. Ventilation path from bedroom to living room. Decent insulation and HVAC. (I thought the IRC required to exits, but apparently I’m wrong.) Insulate slab. For what it is, this thing lacks nothing. Sized perfectly.

  • Cathy Witt
    June 27, 2022, 6:41 pm

    I guess people like spending a LOT of money on window treatments! While huge windows are lovely for views, they gain a lot of energy in the summer and lose heat during the winter. I have lived in a THOW since 1998. I have smaller windows that let in light and air, but are easy to attractively cover for privacy and energy efficiency. Something to keep in mind.

    • James D.
      June 28, 2022, 1:59 am

      Window technology has advanced a lot, options up to quad paned with superior air tightness, UV protection, etc. can be nearly as energy efficient as a regular framed and insulated wall now.

      While energy gain and loss can be intentional to optimize the structure for seasonal variation. Orientating the structure so it adjusts the amount of exposure throughout the year… Among other ways the different elements of the structure can be engineered and used to contribute to better home performance. So designs can be more flexible with some of the newer options to achieve a look and feel with fewer compromises… Though, it does depend on your budget as the higher end windows are expensive…

  • Laila Stephen
    July 17, 2022, 11:22 am

    I like this design, but would rather not have it as a duplex, just use the entire space for one home, and make proper stairs to go up to the loft. Keep the two bedrooms/2 bathrooms and expland the kitchen. That way as well, with the overall structure being more than 400 s.f. you don’t run into the zoning issues about placing something smaller than 400 s.q. It could be placed on a proper foundation as well. I love how a lot of the small homes are done, but for me long term the totality of this space would be more suitable and in one spot on a lot that I own.

    • James D.
      July 18, 2022, 11:30 am

      This is just to clarify what the rules and restrictions usually are but the 400 Sq Ft or less threshold is not a zoning issue. It was established mainly to put a limit on how large a house like structure, that doesn’t meet residential code standards, can be and to help prevent confusion between those and homes that do meet residential code standards. Meaning it doesn’t really apply to structures that do meet residential code standards.

      So, for a structure on a foundation, Zoning is usually not the issue but rather that the local code requires something restrictive like a minimum amount of Sq Ft. This varies, even from one municipality to the next, so can range from no restrictions, to something limited like 150 Sq Ft, on up to even over 1000 Sq Ft in some places. Along with other restrictions the local codes may impose that may make it difficult to comply with in a specific location.

      However, a structure this size would still fall under the loop hole of an ADU, where that can apply, as they can usually be up to 800 Sq Ft and in some places up to around 1000 Sq Ft, with a few places that allow a bit larger. The problem is just that means it will be a secondary structure and you can’t have just the small home by itself on a property, and have to have a primary structure that is at least twice the size or larger. Along with being limited to areas that permit ADU’s…

      Otherwise, structures on foundations just have to meet the local code requirements to be approved. Though, this can be an issue for aspects of a tiny home, like a loft, which is why that was specifically an added exception to details like that when they developed Appendix Q with the 2018 IRC update to officially add Tiny Houses on foundation to the residential code. However, Appendix Q hasn’t yet been adopted by all states yet and specific municipalities can still vary from the state.

      There is also the other issue of cost and making this a single structure means just one owner who will then have to cover the full cost instead of splitting it between two owners. While single family zoning can be more restricting in other ways as well, depending on the specific municipality…

      Since zoning primarily regulates land usage. Zoning primarily becomes an issue when it’s a non-permanent structure, like a THOW, or a type of structure that isn’t recognized as an approved residential structure or only allowed with a specific type of zoning, like with Mobile Homes/Manufactured Houses but that doesn’t restrict size and these types of structures can still be up to very large sizes of up to over 3000 Sq Ft… Though, zoning can have other issues like limiting the number of structures that can be on a single property lot and what the approved use is for that property, which can make it hard to farm/homestead if it it’s not agriculturally zoned, or run a home business if it’s not commercially zoned, etc. Along with protected land, and areas where you may not be allowed to put any permanent structure. Like it has become very restrictive to be able to place a structure near a body of water…

      Special zoning is possible and properties can be re-zoned but that can be a long and difficult process, with varying chances of success depending on the specific property and local municipality in charge of it. While some areas may allow things only because the property hasn’t been changed in years and falls under what is usually called a grandfather clause where an old property doesn’t need to meet new requirements but that changes if the property or structure is changed but that threshold can vary as well…

  • Dallas
    January 5, 2023, 8:36 pm

    I’d love to see someone who’s built this. I currently own plans to this exact unit and i’m planning to build two of them on my property. On paper it looks huge. I would love to know the exact room sizes… I’ve left word for Shawn (the engineer who designed this) to get back to me. If anyone has actually built this- i’d love to hear from you.

  • Deborah Dixon
    January 30, 2023, 11:38 am

    I love this idea and layout but I’m confused. It says it is a one bedrm for each side of the duplex yet the loft has a bedroom and there’s one on the main floor…in each home.

    • James D.
      January 31, 2023, 12:32 am

      You can sleep in the loft but it’s not considered a bedroom…

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