Iterative Tiny House Plans

. 4 min read

I've worked on my tiny house plan for the past 8 months and I want to walk you through 5 iterations from clueless drawing to a polished floor plan of a home I'm seriously considering building. This tiny house on wheels is for a 28' trailer and designed for a couple to live in full time, with overnight guests and frequent dinner parties in mind.

Version 1

The very first tiny house sketch! I drew it after watching the video tour of hOMe and started dreaming about my own tiny house.

It's so comically bad. I had no clue how to size things and how to use space efficiently, as you might tell by my child-sized bed, dwarf door, and the dead hallway space by the bathroom. It's also missing basic things like a washing machine.

Version 2

For iteration 2 I looked up standard sizes so it's accurate. But this doesn't change the fact that it would be a terrible house to live in.

I don't know why I had to label everything

The kitchen is large but cramped. The living room is even busier: storage platform, couch, stairs, and table all scrunched into 100 sq ft of space. There is storage in walls, above windows, inside floors. In retrospect, I was too obsessed with squeezing in extra space and lost sight of the most important thing: designing a great living experience.

I did have a blast researching efficient storage though! These ideas made it all the way to iteration 5:

  • Folding windows with a table extending out so guests can eat inside and out
  • Storage utilizing the dead space inside walls and in-between joists
  • Utilities outside on the tongue of the trailer
  • Built in storage under seats

Version 3

Here's when I started seriously learning about architecture. My favorite books were Residential Interior Design and Compact Cabins. Both taught me about good design for living spaces, and Compact Cabins in particular had great reference plans.

I killed the cabinets and stairs that gobbled up most of the living room. There's less storage but this is a tiny house. I also realized I can't make up random sizes for things! Custom is hella expensive so I looked up the dimensions for the windows, doors, furniture, etc that I wanted.

Many poor design idea still persisted. I stubbornly tried to make the center storage platform work, wasting hours on optimizing a terrible idea. Other ideas that didn't pan out:

  • Luxurious French doors taking up a ton of wall space
  • Lofts filled with storage up the wazoo
  • Big and inefficient bathroom that I wouldn't be using much
  • Haphazard window placement that would have looked ugly from outside

Version 4

Up to this point, I had never seen a tiny house in person so my husband and I went to a tiny house festival. The homes I saw made me realize that living spaces have a flow and purpose.

I knew I needed to make drastic changes. Walking into a kitchen first thing is awkward and there was no place to put things like jackets and shoes. Climbing down from the loft to pee at night would probably get old. I also needed space to do desk work.

I axed the living room platform, moved the master bedroom downstairs, created a desk area, reorganized the kitchen. By doing this, the flow of the house finally made sense for my usage and the split-level floors made the home more open. This feeling of spaciousness was something I wanted more of. Here are some features I added:

  • Folding dinner table, makes this area more flexible
  • Longer sightlines, being able to see from one end of the house to another
  • Well-placed windows, including 2 roof windows over the lofts
  • "Wings" for the lofts so they feel wider

There was one major design flaw: the office loft over the master bedroom made the right side an uncomfortable crawl space. I didn't realize it until I went to model it in 3D.

This is the first time I drew out the exterior. Windows give houses so much character!

Version 5

This is the most recent iteration that I finished a few weeks ago.

The biggest changes were incorporating the wings on ground floor and switching the location of the door. Not only did it solve the crawl space issue, it also made the master bedroom more spacious and separated the bathroom from the kitchen. Other changes include:

  • A mini closet for shoes and coats by the front door
  • Backsplash windows in the kitchen
  • Slot ladder built into cabinets replaced by two practical sliding ladders
  • Double desks on long side of office loft
  • Less storage in bathroom for more openness and space for towel hooks

Next Steps

So that's my journey from naïve drawing to thoughtful plan for a comfortable home tailored to my individual needs. It's different from any other tiny house plan because it's mine and that's really why you might draw your own plan in the first place. Next up is modeling it out in 3D! I'm using software called Sketchup to build a realistic digital version.

Don't be fooled by the clean drawings above. Most of my sketchbook look like this: full of struggle.

Xin Xin

Designer of healthcare, games, ceramics, and tiny houses. Name translates to spicy happy in Chinese. Currently a senior product designer at One Medical.