My tiny house design philosophy

“Design Philosophy” is a rather grand term but I think it’s useful to try to explain my way of thinking with regards to design.

Phrases such as “near enough is good enough”, “if it looks right, it is right” and “added simplicity” ring true with me.

This is a rustic cabin type building. I wasn’t going to be anguishing over paint shades or skirting board styles.

Although my budget wasn’t huge, I didn’t want to compromise on the important bits of the build. To me that meant using healthy, durable and efficient materials for the fabric of the building. So the likes of glass fibre insulation, plasterboard and PVC were to be avoided where possible.

On the other hand I did try to save money on less important things, so I didn’t buy ‘big brand’ kitchen appliances or fancy furniture.

It would be wrong to say that I made it all up as I went along. For safety’s sake I had to do some calculations. Two examples are in the design of the foundations and the sizing of the floor joists. One becomes expert at finding nuggets of helpful information on the internet. This could be the blogs of fellow builders, local government websites, forums, etc.

However, I think people often go ‘over the top’ in conventional building. One bugbear of mine is in the over use of concrete. I remember once having to knock down a wall of a small house extension. The wall had been cast from reinforced concrete and would have survived a nuclear blast! Sledgehammer blows just bounced off it. This is an extreme example but illustrates the kind of overkill that can happen when people want to make something ‘nice and strong’.

So I wanted my design to be be ‘good enough’, not excessive.

Common sense and some lateral thinking was what I hoped to employ. I was keen to avoid complicated and expensive ‘stuff’. Simple, clever and reliable was what I was aiming for.

Fortunately, I was able to call on the experience of a friend and ex-colleague who is a very skilled and knowledgeable carpenter and general builder. He was able to give some advice on construction methods and appropriate wood sizes which helped me make sensible design choices.

Some of my design was done ‘on the hoof’. I remember sketching my idea for a mezzanine sleeping area one night, then building it the next day. This has a lot to commend it. By this stage of the build I knew exactly which materials I had lying around and how I could best use them. Sometimes it’s better to have a general idea of where the design is going but be open to change as the project proceeds. You learn to trust that solutions will appear when needed.

Pictured are photos of the sleeping area and bathroom
Sleeping area and bathroom

Time and labour constraints meant that I couldn’t indulge in any architectural flights of fancy. It had to be quick and simple. It needn’t be sleek or flashy but I hoped that it would have some kind of honest and simple beauty, if only by virtue of the natural materials used.

2 thoughts on “My tiny house design philosophy”

  1. Thanks so much for all the effort that you put into detailing your experiences with this. This will be incredibly helpful with the planning of my own project, as some of this information is otherwise hard to find.

    ps. out of interest: Have you built your main house yet and what’s your next steps?

    • Thanks for your feedback David, I’m glad you find it useful. I’ve still got lots more to write!

      I haven’t started the main house yet (I only finished the summer house in Aug 2021). So my plan is to start the main house this year, even if that is just the foundations and the floor. A lot depends on how much money I haven’t got as well as the covid travel restrictions!


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