Tiny House: Settling in

Hello everyone!  we’ve been in our tiny house two nights now and it is so wonderful!  we are also learning a lot and finding areas for improvement.  this whole process from designing to building to moving into it to living in it has been so informative.  All in all we love it!

so many funny things have happened since we’ve moved it in.  first, the neighbors were standing outside when we first parked it.  one neighbor said “and I thought I had the smallest house on the block!  not anymore!”  kids flock to the house like it’s the pied piper.  they seem to think it’s some sort of playhouse….  one little girl literally tried to crawl across the deck and over a storage crate and into the house when we were unpacking.  Shane (kindly) told her she couldn’t come into our house right now and she burst into tears and was still crying (being comforted by her mummy) a half an hour later!  Tragic.  So, we’re just trying to communicate clearly so the house doesn’t turn into the neighborhood playhouse for the kids!

I still don’t have all my stuff moved in, or cleaned up at our big rental house because I have some work deadlines, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far.  I can’t seem to get the pictures off my SD card… so it will be a list for now, but I’ll do a better post with photos soon.

Wonderful things that work so well:

  1. the bedroom: the roof gable over the bedroom is turned perpendicular to the main space and this creates the most wonderful, spacious, yet cozy sleeping area.
  2. storage stairs in the bedroom:  the stairs work great!  they are full of storage drawers and cubbies and work great for walking up onto the bed.  the turned gable roof mentioned above also provides enough head height to use these stairs
  3. the kitchen: it is laid out so well and such a nice small size that it is so easy to cook and wash dishes, pull food from the fridge, etc.
  4. the kitchen dish rack: we bought stainless steel shelving from ikea including a folding dish rack.  it hangs over the sink and works perfectly for drying dishes.  then it folds up and away.
  5. the front porch: so great to have a walk-out porch attached to the house
  6. the lighting: I used 60w CFL’s and they could easily be 40w or even less.  I am thinking of switching to LED bulbs.  the white ceilings and walls really help spread the light.

Room for improvement / lessons we’ve already learned:

  1. the incinerating toilet:  I could write a (humorous) short story about this toilet already and we’ve only been using it for two days.  the first night we had smoke coming from all seams on the toilet and filling our lovely space with the smell of burning urine.  not sure I’ve ever smelled THAT before!  the next morning we went to Starbucks for our toileting needs.  🙂  we bought the toilet second hand off craigslist.  buyer beware.  I wish people were just honest and would say “it’s really shiny and looks good but it needs to be completely re-built” when they’re selling a non-functioning item.  because the toilet needs to be completely re-built.  and Shane, bless his heart, is doing just that.  there are about 5 things listed on Incinolet’s trouble-shooting guide, and we have all of them.  First, it was the fan not working.  hence the acrid smoke coming inside.  He fixed that and now the fan is working but extremely loud, so that needs work.  probably needs a new fan.  there are bad smells on the exterior now (at least not inside) but the toilet is supposed to be odorless, so apparently the liquid catalyst (?) is not working.  that needs to be fixed.  so.  we’re not sure about the incinerating toilet idea.  Incinolet has been very helpful and hopefully we can get it to work.  but I can see why traditional porcelain toilets with gallons of fresh, clean water in them are so popular!  a composting toilet would also have odors, as would an RV toilet with a sewage tank under it.  stay posted for our adventures in re-building a toilet!
  2. the pocket doors: go ahead and take an extra 4″-5″ from your interior living space to use pre-hung pocket doors that work smoothly and silently.
  3. the sink in the shower: we need to re-work the plumbing somehow because the sink is so small and the faucet is directly over it, so it’s almost unusable right now.  (like some people have commented here on our blog.)  in order for a small corner sink to work the plumbing needs to not be directly over it.  which is hard in a 32″ x 32″ shower, because you really want that faucet in a corner so you don’t hit your elbows on it.
  4. the site: it’s beautiful but we’re really close to our neighbors.  and when your house is small, it would be so nice to have some breathing room outdoors.  Of course, I am rather anti-social, so I’d need about 20 acres.  haha.  they’re nice neighbors, it’s just adjusting to a little more proximity than we had at our last house.  once distinct advantage of mobile living, is that this can actually be changed!  it’s not like we just invested our life savings in building next door to … fill in the blank.  🙂
  5. the couch: a comfortable seat height is 18″ to the top of the cushions, which will compress when you sit down.  if you’re smaller, 16″ might even be better.  measure yourself or measure some couches that you find comfortable.  of course, the higher the couch, the more storage underneath.  right now I picked up a futon mattress to use on the couch (due to the high cost of foam and lack of time for upholstering cushions) and it is too thick, making the couch 23″ above finished floor.  too high to be comfortable.  I think with some thinner foam cushions it will work.

I’m sure there are a lot more of these, but so far we’ve found that our design works great, and with a few tweaks it would be even better.  I’m really glad we’re living in it so we can figure out all these kinks.  our experience is really going to inform our future designs and builds for clients who want a tiny home.  they are just so unique that it’s imperative to get some first-hand experience with them to get all the space layout, storage, and MEP systems figured out.  to anyone who is building their own tiny house I would really recommend investing in it at the start by consulting with a designer or builder who has lived in one, or by taking a workshop.  or just by taking a tiny house designer/builder out to lunch.  🙂

okay, hope everyone is well.  thank you so much for all your kind words and thoughtful comments!  it is really helping buoy our spirits in this time of transition and adjustment.

take care,


Categories: Tiny House Design | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Tiny House: Settling in

  1. I really enjoyed this post, thank you for sharing! I learn so much from other tiny house people by what they like and what they don’t about their own space. There is good logic that goes into the flaws sometimes and sometimes its just overlooked. It’s very helpful though, thank you!

  2. I was wondering about the incinerating toilet. Hope it works out.

    • shanecaverly

      With a little help and mostly parts I think it will. Stay tuned…

  3. i want to come play with the kids in your house! 🙂

  4. Darren Genge

    keep up the reports, so happy for you guys..

  5. Marsha Cowan

    Nature’s Head toilets have gotten great reviews. They work so well because they separate the urine (which is sterile and, mixed with about 3 parts water, can be used as a great nitrogen fertilizer for plants, from the other matter making composting faster and more thorough and odor free (it is the mix of urine with other matter that makes the smell). They also have fans to keep air flowing over the compost aiding its quick breakdown, but do not rely on electric heaters in any way making them pretty maintenance free. It is what I hope to use in my tiny house. I was raised with nonelectric composting toilets, and I can tell you that used properly, there really is no odor. Hope this helps.

  6. Marsha Cowan

    Use a Nature’s Head. I think it is the best on the market.

  7. Pingback: Living in the Tiny House: First Week « Clothesline Tiny Homes

  8. J.M.H.

    Hi – I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I are tiny house folks, full time since October 2011. We use a simple bucket sawdust composting toilet system, and we are surprised by how well it works. I went with the “Lovable Loo” (Jospeh Jenkins) setup after spending a lot of time reading reviews about electric composting toilets and most other options – even brand new, people seem to report a lot of odor problems with commercial composting toilets. There is *no* odor at all indoors when you set it up correctly, and I spend about 10 minutes a week down at the compost bin emptying & cleaning the buckets. The compost pile itself works really fast, and it doesn’t smell, either. It sounds like it would be a lot more unpleasant than it really is in actuality. Of all the adjustments we’ve had to make, the one we were most worried about – the crapper – has worked out way better than we’d anticipated. Just wanted to let you & others know that bucket systems, when properly set up, do not have odor.

  9. Shawn Knowles

    Sorry if this has been asked before but I didnt see it if it has been. Is that drywall you have on the walls? If not what is it? If so, are you getting cracks by moving your home ? The reason I ask is I want to use drywall but think it would crack and I dont know of any other product to use without going the cheap mobile home walls.

    • Yes you’re right it is drywall. And no we do not have any cracks. BUT we have come up with a special joint ( exclusive to custom tiny houses we build). And has worked flawlessly with wonderful, spacious results. Thanks for asking.

  10. I just found your site. I run a dog rescue and we am getting ready to build a 8×12 guest cabin for our volunteers with reclaimed lumber . I LOVE the bed steps and wonder if you would share how you did them? Wonderful home. Thanks for sharing. MsDawn

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