The Cheat Sheet to the Best Tiny House Design

windows in tiny house design

The Cheat Sheet to the Best Tiny House Design

How To Design The Best Interior For A Tiny House

7min read
by Olesia Chikunova, ADU Specialist.

skylights to add space in tiny house design

Whether you’ve decided to downsize your living space and live more simply and economically — or are looking to have some extra space for your multi-generational family — a tiny house is the way to go! 

Moving towards your own tiny house is an exciting step, but working with a small space (typically under 400 square feet) can indeed get overwhelming. There are various factors to take into consideration, such as the features you require for it to be fully functional to your needs and an optimal layout. Understanding your daily routine and designing the tiny house interior around it is the best way to find the right design for the limited space. 

In fact, the effort you invest in curating your tiny house plans is an integral part of designing your home. And, a few months into living in your small space, you will realize how all the effort that went into your tiny house design paid off!

This article is your comprehensive guide on how to design the best interior for a tiny house, so you can create a small space that is visually open and fully functional to your needs.

Set A Budget for Your Tiny House — and Stick To It

budget for tiny house interior

Setting aside a budget is one of the first steps to creating a small home. In California, you can expect to spend between $120,000 and $250,000, depending on the amenities you wish to include. We are not talking recreational vehicle. An RV is not considered real estate but private property that quickly depreciates. We are thinking of something that appreciates with time. 

We are talking about small homes on permanent foundations, connected to power, water and sewer lines, that add value to your property and go up in value over time. Browse tiny home designs, select one that is close to what you need. Then, discuss building materials and construction process with a general contractor. Square footage is not the main cost driver for small homes. It is often utility connection costs that get underestimated.

So, start off by deciding your budget, and be sure to keep it in mind every step of the way. We recommend setting aside an emergency fund (10% of your total budget) for unforeseen expenses.

Determine Your Needs

Tiny House Design Rule #1

Even before you delve into planning your tiny house design, invest time in determining your needs. This means searching for activities you spend the most time on. Also be sure to pay attention to which rooms you do these activities in, and filter out the ones you can do without.

As an example: are you a chef that needs a full kitchen? Or can you do with the bare minimum?



Filtering Your Major Activities

One effective way to do so is by jotting down what you do in each room of your house (and the duration the tasks take). After 10 days, you will be able to tell the activities that are most important to you — and the ones that you need to make room for in your tiny house.

Also, note the activities that you can do outside the house. For example, you will no longer need a home gym or home office. You can even do without a laundry room. While you can avail these as public services, you can also visit your main home for the purpose, especially if you’re part of a multi-generational family and are moving out.

Keeping Only What You Need

Tiny House Design Rule #2

The same applies to belongings. Walk throughout your house and look for items you need the most. For example, you don’t need to take along books you’ve already read or supplies for hobbies you’re not really interested in. 

As a multi-generational family, you will be leaving these possessions in the main home. So, you can drop by and have these when you need them! That said, the success of a final design a lot of time lies in thinking through creative ways on how to include your most favorite pieces into the tiny home plan.

multifunctional rooms in tiny house interior design

Design A Functional Layout

Tiny House Design Rule #3

Time to mind map your tiny home design!  Loft bed or storage space? Full kitchen or a small dedicated dining area? Work space or separate bedroom? Is there enough space for a water heater? 

Once you’ve determined your needs, you will begin to understand which areas can merge into one — and where they will belong in your tiny home.

While your tiny house layout doesn’t need to be perfect, it should logically designate different parts of your home to specific tasks. Generally, public areas, such as the living and dining space, are found near the main door of the home. More private areas, such as the bedroom and bathroom, can be situated towards the back. 

It is also a good practice to look for multifunctional spaces. For example, can you merge your living room, kitchen, and dining space into one? Adding a laundry basket in a corner of your bathroom is another space-savvy idea.

You can create (or seek professional help while creating) 2D and 3D floor plans for your tiny home. Below, you can see a 3D floor plan dividing the tiny home into designated areas. These include a bedroom, a bathroom, and an open-concept living space and kitchen. Plenty of windows can also be seen, ensuring the interior remains airy. Finally, there’s a large door allowing for smooth entry and exit through the living area of the home. This plan works perfectly for the average person/family. If there are additional features you’re seeking in your tiny home, you can consider adding those, too.

The best part about 3D floor plans is that they include surface materials, furnishings, and decorative elements, too. These help you visualize exactly what it will be like living in your new tiny home.

Pro tip: It is essential to practice minimal living in small homes. While looking at your 3D floor plan, ask yourself: can I do without this space/item? If removing it will still offer the lifestyle you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to remove it!

Rent a tiny home on Airbnb  – this will help you determine what you need in your own tiny house floor plan.

small living room in tiny house

Look For Multipurpose Furniture Pieces

Tiny House Design Rule #5
multifunctional furniture for tiny houses
Tiny houses are about sizing down your living area and lifestyle — this means reducing your number of possessions, not shrinking your furniture items! You will still need a bed that fits your size and seating space that accommodates you and your family. One effective tip here is looking for multipurpose furniture pieces (those that offer double duty). For example, consider:
  1. A shelving unit that is also a divider between dining space and bedroom
  2. A sofa bed that serves as lounging area during the day and doubles as a bed for kids/visitors at night
  3. Seating spaces with storage, such as ottomans with hidden compartments
  4. Chair-tables that work as chairs as well as tables
  5. Steps to the loft that have storage space inside.

Other ideas include wall-mounted shelving units; these provide room for storage without taking up floor space.

heights and windows in tiny house design

Make An Effort To Visually Expand The Space

Tiny House Design Rule #6

Tiny houses may be small in size, but they don’t have to feel cramped. As a part of the interior design, incorporate elements that visually expand your space. Examples would be:

  • Plenty of windows. These allow natural light to enter the space and brighten it up.
  • French doors. Glass doors are a must to make the seamless indoor-outdoor transition. They also add visual appeal to your little house.
  • Neutral-hued walls. These reflect (bounce off) light and make the small space feel larger than it actually is.
  • Mirrors. Wall-mounted mirrors are excellent reflectors of natural light. Mount them near windows to leverage their use.
  • See-through furniture. This transparent furniture allows you to see through it, making the space feel less cramped as compared to bulky furniture.

Do you know that accessory dwelling units can be as high as 16 feet? Imagine how big the space can feel with vaulted ceilings that high.

Pay Attention To The Foundation

Tiny House Design Rule #7

The foundation of your tiny house can easily be overlooked, but it is one of the most important factors in terms of practicality and structural limitations.

While concrete slab foundations are a popular option for tiny homes owing to their many benefits (quick drying time, affordability, pest protection), there are various other options as well. For example, helical screw piles. Be sure to research the pros and cons of each of these — and choose the one that meets your needs best.

Pro Tip: Discuss foundation options with your designer or architect before you hand over the job to the structural engineer.


Avoid These Design Mistakes In Your Tiny House Plan

Avoiding the wrong design elements in tiny house design is as important as focusing on the right! Here’s what NOT to do while designing the interior of a tiny house:

Mistake #1: Creating A Tiny House That Is Not Personalized To You

Getting second opinions can help with design flaws, but you don’t have to implement everything others recommend. After all, YOU are going to be living in that home. So, be sure to listen to your personal needs and create an interior that speaks to your personality.

A piece of antique furniture? A DIY upcycled desk? A wall accent? You be the judge.

Mistake #2: Going Maximalist

Maximalism is a big no in tiny home living. Adopt the less-is-more concept, and you will find yourself creating a clean, organized, and relaxing space to be in.

Mistake #3: Building Too Fast

If you’re putting together your tiny home from scratch, we recommend pausing along the way to think about each decision you’ve made. This applies to the planning process as well — think, think, and think, until you’re fully satisfied with the idea. 

Tiny House Design — Tips and Tricks

Before we wind up, here are a handful of tips and tricks to keep in mind while designing the best interior for a tiny house:

  • Choose the right materials. Typically, tiny homes are eco-friendly, so this is a plus point. But even then, take your time choosing the materials that meet your needs. For example, you may wish to opt for a steel structure as it is lightweight but just as sturdy — ideal for a small home.
  • Delve into the details. Think of what life in your tiny house will be like. For example, when you walk right into the door, you’ll take off your jacket and place your keys. So, a mini storage area near the front door will be a useful addition.
  • Always ask for feedback. Once you’ve finalized your plan for your tiny home, be sure to ask for second opinions from friends and family. They can suggest improvements you may have missed.
smallest kitchen and built ins in tiny house

Tiny House Plans: Final Words

And, there you have it, folks! You can now design the best interior for a tiny house, so you have a space that is fully functional to your needs, resonates with your personality, and feels larger than it actually is. Plus, you will get more personal space to yourself — especially if you’re moving into that tiny house in the backyard of your multi-generational home.

Finally, a quick tip — be sure to check local laws and regulations before you start designing. This will make sure you choose the materials and sizes that are permitted.

Ready to start working on your tiny house plan? Share your ideas for your personal space in the comments section below, we’d love to hear from you!

tiny house design

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