Friday, November 2, 2012

A Tape of Reality

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” -HDT

With a project like this, where the beginning stages are primarily theoretical, (and everything is rainbows and lollipops) it's important to get a healthy dose of reality as soon as possible. It helps to weed out all those ideas that would be significantly harder to uproot once they've grown on you over a period of time. We have drawn out several drafts of the interior layout for the house, and sure, it all looks neat and wonderful on the 8.5”x 11” graph paper, but staring at a six by eight inch schematic gives no accurate hints of the true feel.

We headed over to my Dads to get precise measurements of our trailer- since all trailers are not made equal- and also tape out a full scale size of the floor plan on his driveway. It was a very fruitful exercise. By measuring the exact dimensions of our trailer, ie: width with metal frame, width not including metal frame, length from back end to wheel well, and wheel well to front end, etc we can now re-sketch our sub-floor plans to accurately match our trailer. This was important since many free tiny house designs make generic assumptions on the dimensions of the trailer. As we suspected, the placement of the wheels on our trailer were different than the measurements used in the free tiny house design. This can affect many decisions on how to lay out the floor plan. The wheel wells will need to be built around, and the design must account for that.

We have decided to make our tiny house 8' 6” wide versus the flat 8'. By the time you put up the 2x4 framing, you lose about 7 inches of interior width. In a tiny house, every last square inch counts. We next did the math to figure out our exact interior dimensions, so when we laid the tape down, we were looking at exactly what space would be left once all the walls were up.

Before we were even finished taping out the bathroom area at the back of the house we quickly realized we were being ridiculous by following traditional house plan concepts. News flash: nothing about this is traditional- there does not need to be a fully closed off room dedicated to showering and doing your business. After we taped off the area we had marked on our little piece of graph paper, we stood there looking down at the huge chunk of floor space already gone. We exchanged “Oh, hell no!” glances, and started ripping up the tape lines. Just like that, our little graph paper sketch that had gone through several exhausting drafts already, was merely a vague map of suggestions.

We opted to go with a set up more like what we have seen in many other tiny house videos, where there is no particular sectioned off space for the shower and toilet. They simply reside at the back of the house in sort of a hallway fashion- the shower on one side, with just the curtain keeping people from seeing you scrub your bits and pieces, and a nook on the opposite side for the composting toilet, with an adjacent storage closet that juts out a few inches further so anyone looking down the way can only see your pants around your ankles. The door for that abutting storage closet will be designed to swing out and provide extra cover for anyone with stage fright.

We also decided to swap some window placements after the bathroom re-write. Originally, we had a large window in the kitchen (about 54 inches tall), which would have gone almost to the floor, since the loft is directly above and we have the ceilings set at a cozy 6' 6” under the loft. We liked the idea of having a window in that space to let in more light and give an open feeling, but having a window go clear to the floor meant that no cabinets or shelves could be put in that space. Not a smart design. The window in the former bathroom was set to be one of the smaller windows, at about 36” by 24”. By trading places, the small window can be set up at a normal height in the kitchen area, and below, we are now going to be able to set up our propane stove/oven, and some storage. The large window will be at the center of the back wall, right between the shower and toilet nooks, providing ample light, and much better feng-shui. I like the idea of being able to walk through the front door and look all the way down the house, out a window on the opposite side. It says, “Yes this place is cozy, but it's open.” Having a floor design that promotes a good flow of energy is super important, especially in small spaces.
After taping down the new and improved concept, we walked around in the space and tried to imagine it all in 3D. Much to his chagrin, I begged Dan to lay down within the lines to get an idea of our sleeping space in the loft... The word snug comes to mind. Haha. Dan had about 5 inches to spare. This is one of the first times I've been thankful that I'm short like my Momma. There will be just enough space for us to sleep and store our water tank for the very simple, gravity fed plumbing system. The loft was the only area that we knew would stay as is. There were still many questions about the floor layout. We didn't have any of our appliances yet, and knowing those dimensions is a very important piece. We did our best to guesstimate, and always on the generous side.
Debating the sliding glass doors.
  When we headed home for the day, we searched the web for possible appliances and took down the measurements. We were happy to find that most everything was slightly smaller than we had estimated. The wood stove was one of our main concerns- not only do you need to account for the size of the stove, but also, a surrounding heat zone. Place anything too close, and it might very well catch on fire! We found a site for a mini-wood stove, only 12in x 12in. A whole new concept was introduced to us, too, as we watched a youtube video of the stove in action. The man had placed it on a platform about 2 feet off the ground. There's an idea! Then we can store firewood below! More free space! Perfect!

Our wee abode. :)
Here is the tentative floor plan after taping.

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