This set of plans is extremely comprehensive, packed with photos, illustrations and diagrams, including detailed:
343 sf Including Loft & Window
Deck Over Trailer (Trailer Bed Above Wheel Wells)
Wide Load: 9’10” wide
Extra Height: 14’7″
Short & Long End Locations
Designed for Tall People
Washer & Dryer
How many square feet is your house? What is the size of your trailer? In imperial measurements it is 242sf + 122sf for the loft (364sf total). The trailer is 9’4” wide x 24’6” long . In metric measurements it is 22.5 sqm + 11.3 sqm for the loft (34sqm total). The trailer is 3m wide x 7.5m long.
How much does it weight? Unfortunately we never had the opportunity to weigh the house but the builder estimated around 4.5 tonne (9920 pounds) which is what the trailer was able to accommodate.
How many people live in your tiny house? Two people and two medium-sized dogs. My husband and I live in the house full-time. It is perfect for a couple!
What part of the world do you live in? We live in the Byron Shire in Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia. We have a moderate climate here. It gets quite hot and humid in summer and cool and dry in winter. The rest of the year it is mild. When we get rain we get a lot of it so we need the house to be cabin-fever proof.
When did you start and finish your build and how long did it take? We had our friend (a qualified builder/carpenter) build the house for us and we helped wherever we could with unskilled labour (drilling, sanding, all the painting, oiling, laying flooring etc). It took 3mths to complete.
What plans did you use to build your house? I designed my own house completely from scratch. I designed it on paper then on an app on my ipad. From there I made up elevations using Pages on my Mac! It is only post-build, due to popular demand that we’ve had them professional drawn up!
Why buy someone else’s plans? With the plans you get and all of the bonus materials, you will save yourself thousands of hours of design and hundreds and hundreds of decisions. Plus you’ll get a finished product that you know looks great. If you had an architect develop plans for you it would cost at least 5% of the cost of the house, for about $4000 in this case!
Why did you decide to build a tiny house? We had been living downstairs in our friend’s two-storey house in a self-contained apartment for 7 years. We all wanted to keep living close to each other and neither of us could afford separate mortgages so I came up with the idea of building a granny flat in the backyard. That’s when I discovered the tiny house movement and became obsessed with it! We’d always lived minimally in relatively small spaces so it just made sense to us. We could still live as part of a community but have our own home and the flexibility to move it should our circumstances change.
What is/was your design inspiration?
My design inspiration was predominantly from Scandinavian and Japanese architecture. I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and most of my pins were of modern Scandinavian cabins, Japanese cabinetry and spaces and german houseboats! The combination of good space mixed with utility and function really excites me. My Dad is an architect and I grew up seeing the world through his eyes, to some extent.
There was no Pinterest in the 70s and 80s so we travelled the world visiting the most iconic buildings and he took photos of the details that took his breath away. I think this strongly influenced my sense of space and the appreciation of details. And for fun as kids, we used to draw floor-plans of our dream cubbies and houses! So this project was tapping into that child-like creativity again. I loved it!
How did you find the time to work on your house with a job, relationships, AND building a house? The build was fast but it was absolutely exhausting. Luckily we run our own business so we had a great deal of flexibility in terms of our hours. When Kester was at work, I could spend some time at the tiny build and vice versa. The main thing we weren’t quite prepared for was how many decisions had to be made and how quickly they had to be made. Every step depended on a previous step being completed and it wasn’t always clear what order that might go in! So virtually everyday the builder had me on site to make a decision before he could move onto the next thing. And every delay cost money so you literally couldn’t afford indecision! When the build was completed, it took me a good 6-12 months to recover!
Have you run into any problems with your local codes? The Byron Shire Council is quite supportive of tiny houses. We checked the planning laws in detail and they allowed for one caravan per property that could be lived in full-time under certain conditions. We made sure we met the planning conditions for granny flats in terms of placement and also checked with the neighbours. As soon as we completed the build the Council ran a ‘Sustainable Tiny House Design Competition’. After entering, the planning department rang us up and asked if we could drive the house over for the competition! But… the laws around tiny houses are changing as they gain popularity, so I strongly recommend that you talk to your planning department before you start building to make sure you don’t run into problems later on.
Will the Byron Tiny House adhere to the building or highway codes/regulations in my state/country? This is something I cannot help with. I am not an expert in this area, and even if I was, no single person could possibly understand all the differing rules and regulations that exist around the world. Please do your own research to see what legal requirements you need to navigate in your own city, county, state or country.
What was the most time-consuming portion of your build? Drilling holes through the trailer for the plumbing. If possible it’s a good idea to get these pre-drilled for you! It’s a horrible job and you go through a lot of expensive drill bits! And… probably filling, sanding and painting the arches around all of the windows… and oiling all of the cabinetry.
What was the most challenging portion of your build? The trailer actually was the most challenging thing. It was made by a company who hadn’t made one that big before. It was 15mm higher than agreed (which makes a huge difference in tiny design) and it had a length-ways bow in it. So the builder had to compensate for this in many different ways.
What was the most limiting factor for your build? Cost and weight. We ran out of money before we finished and were having difficulty gaining a loan for the final amount so that was challenging (and stressful!) to say the least. Every decision we made was based on three things 1) was it beautiful, 2) was it affordable and 3) was it light-weight. It had to meet all three criteria to even be considered! The final criteria was 4) was it environmentally friendly?
Did you use any reclaimed building materials in the build? No. Everything was new. Given we were building within a short time-line, we didn’t have time for collecting reclaimed materials.
How did you move your tiny house? We built our tiny house at a friend’s place nearby and had to move it about 3 blocks to its current location. To move it we hired a tow-truck company because they were the only ones with a tow-ball big enough to tow it. This presented its own challenges because the tow truck was 10m long and the house was 7.5m long so combined they couldn’t get around the corner we had to turn onto the road. So we needed to use a fork-lift to get the house out of the tight back-lane way and then put it on the tow truck for the rest of the journey. It was fine, but it was a bit stressful. My advice is… it’s a good idea to build on-site OR thoroughly think through your move/route before you build your house, if possible.
Did you consult any professionals for your design? Yes. I showed the design to my Dad who, as I mentioned, is an architect. He made some suggestions regarding the size and placement of windows to maximize airflow. We had a professional builder build it and hired professionals for both plumbing and electrical.
Is your house insured? No, not yet. Because our house is a extra-wide we couldn’t get the usual tiny house insurance available in Australia. I am yet to consult an insurance broker about getting mobile-home insurance. It was, however, insured by the tow truck company when we moved it for up to AU$150K
What features did you prioritize in the house? A high ceiling was the number one priority! We wanted a standard sized kitchen with loads of bench space and a big sink, a breakfast bar for eating pancakes, a very large couch that would take in the best views and could double as 2-3 guest beds, a staircase to the loft (not a ladder) and we really wanted a loft bedroom (I’ve wanted one all my life!) but with enough room around the bed for stretching, sitting, making the bed etc. We wanted enough floor space downstairs for a standard rug and stretching and exercise, a window reading box and a plant box on the loft to bring greenery into the house. We definitely wanted an outdoor shower for post-beach trips and have ended up using this more than the indoor shower… and a wrap-around deck to extend our living space and make the most of the site was a must.
What features did you leave out? We didn’t want any transforming furniture so everything is functional as is. We didn’t include a home office because we have a separate clinic with offices and we knew when working from home we’d work on the couch on our laptops, and, the fourth step of the staircase is the perfect height for a standing desk. We mostly eat out of bowls on the couch so a dining table was also redundant but when entertaining we use our outdoor table. We also left out a bath because it uses too much water (but we have a blow-up Japanese sit-bath that we put in the shower or on the deck when we really need one!) and we left out a washer/dryer because we do our washing at work or in the laundry of the big house. But, we did include space for one just in case.
What do you have for cooking? We have a standard gas-stove and a gas oven. We also have a medium-sized standard refrigerator.
Are you off grid/What do you do for power, water and gas? Not yet but we’d like to be eventually. At the moment we are plugged into the main house with an extension cord for power. We have an electricity meter to keep track of our power usage. We only use about 2-3kwh per day so our power bill is very low. We are also plugged into the water supply of the main house, via our own meter, and use about 3- 4kl per month. We also have propane gas for our instant hot water heater and stove/oven.
What do you do with your grey water? Our only grey water is from the indoor shower, tiny bathroom sink and kitchen sink which we filter and then direct out to the paddock.
What kind of toilet do you have? We use a Separett Villa Composting Toilet. It isn’t really a composting toilet because nothing composts in the toilet… the composting comes later. The toilet separates number ones from number twos into different buckets and there is no odour whatsoever from the loo due to the large internal exhaust fan. The poo bin sits in the toilet and we empty it about once a fortnight (we’re home a lot). We simply cover it in soil, vent it and let it sit under our deck for 10weeks (we have a 5 bucket rotation system). After 10 weeks the black soldier flys in the area whose larvae eat poop have converted it into soil so we then add it to a large composting bin where it continues to break down for another 12months before we can use it on the garden. The wee bin is emptied ever fortnight as well. You simply plug it into a tap and it cleverly mixes one part urine with eight parts water so you can use it directly as a nitrogen fertiliser on your citrus trees and garden. It smells for about 20mins afterwards so we try to do it before rain or on days when the neighbours aren’t home.
What do you use for heating and cooling? We use a small oil heater in our bathroom that comfortably heats the whole house (and dries the towels as an added bonus!). Just cooking heats the whole house! For cooling we mostly use the fan but also our AC split system on hot summer days. We haven’t used it at night yet. And, we have a simple box fan in the loft.
What are some of the space savings tricks you used? All of our cabinetry is custom made so there is storage in everything. But the most handy storage is under the window box. It is 900mm deep so we can fit backpacks, suitcases, a massage table and large plastic storage boxes of clothes for rotating our summer and winter wardrobes!
Where do you put your clothes, vacuum, brooms, books etc? The kaidan-dansu staircase is predominantly a wardrobe. There is a 900mm hangrail and large drawer in the double cupboard then another four deep wire drawers in the the smaller cupboard. I also rotate my summer/winter wardrobe and keep extras in storage boxes under the window box. Our vacuum is a Shark Rocket and we keep it in the wardrobe as well. The broom and mop slip in next to the fridge and we keep books in the planter box in the bedroom, on the coffee table and on the staircase. We also have a spot for cookbooks above the fridge.
The stairs look big. Are they easy to use? We did a lot of experimenting to test what the greatest stair height could be that was still comfortable to use. The advantage of big stairs is they double as extra seats when people come over or as shelves during the day for putting things on. When going up and down in a standing position, the window next to them acts as a ‘rail’ of sorts. But, when going up them I often go up on all fours, using my hands and feet… and when coming down, particularly at night, I come down on my bottom. That feels super safe and something I could do in my 80s!
What’s it like sleeping in the loft? We love sleeping in our camper van so made the dimensions of the loft similar. Sleeping in the loft is actually really awesome. It feels incredibly cosy and safe. We now find it a little weird sleeping in a normal sized room, having so much space above us! The ceiling is high enough to easily sit up in bed, roll around in bed (if you know what I mean!) and also to do yoga, vacuum the carpet and make the bed. You can actually stand up in a hunched position.
What do you have for insulation? We used rockwool, earthwool and aluminium foil. What we used depended on the space available. We have an outdoor blind on the south western window box window that we use in summer as you can still see through it. We also have blinds on the kitchen gas window and the window box window that we use regularly for insulation and/or privacy.
How much did your tiny house cost? Approximately US$57,000/AU$80,000K for the house and US$3,500/AU$5,000 for the deck. Approximately US$18,000/AU$25,000 of that was wages for the builders, plumber and electrician. But, building materials a fair bit more expensive in Australia than they are in the United States.
What were the most expensive parts of your house? The trailer was US$7,000/AU$10,000, the windows & doors were $US5,700/AU$8,000, the cabinetry was US$9,300/AU$13,000, the timber framing was US$3,500/AU$5,000, the Weathertex cladding was US$2,500/AU$3,500 and the fancy cedar cladding materials were US$2,200/AU$3,000!
What has been your biggest accomplishment with your tiny house? Aside from the design, I think we did a pretty good job on the internal painting. We watched a bunch of youtube videos on how to paint like professionals and I think we nailed it!
Is there anything you’ll miss about living in a standard house? Not really. I love that in the tiny house we are living in the garden and that we are surrounded by glass so the outside is always coming in. We are so connected to the sky and the trees. This is unusual in most standard houses. Most houses are very inwardly focused. I think the only thing I miss is the incidental exercise you get from walking around (and cleaning) a normal house!
What has been the scariest part about building your house? Running out of money and not being able to finish it and… moving it.
If you could change one thing about your house what would it be? Before the indoor shower was installed we had a big rain so the jacks sunk slightly into the wet ground and the house wasn’t 100% level. As a result, the fall of the shower base isn’t quite right and water flows in the wrong direction. We accommodated this with an aluminium strip but water still pools in one of the corners. So before installing a shower, always check the house is level again!
How did you pay for your house? We had savings for about half the amount and borrowed the rest from Kester’s parents and a good friend. We’ve paid back the friend already and are currently saving to pay back the in-laws!
How has living in the tiny changed your lives? The tiny house has given us a sense of stability because we haven’t owned our own home before. There is also a huge sense of ongoing satisfaction having designed it and helped build it ourselves. Although we still pay rent to park it where we do, we don’t have a mortgage and we own the roof over our head… which feels good. Living in the tiny house has given us more privacy while still living in community. This has really helped our relationship. The small space has also helped because you really have to resolve any issues quite quickly. Anger or frustration take up a lot of space and you can’t get away from each other so patience, forgiveness, kindness and communication are a must. Building the tiny has also completely transformed the whole property. We took the back fence down to drive the tiny in and this opened us up to the paddock which was a game-changer! Plus, living in the garden has made us want to beautify it so we’ve gotten back into gardening in a big way, slowly transforming each garden bed on the whole property as well as mowing the back paddock. Our wastes from the tiny house are making all of the trees blossom as well! Our stormwater is feeding one tree, our outdoor shower another tree, and our humanure compost bins and urine bin feed another few trees… so the garden is booming and has never looked so glorious! I spend a lot less time cleaning, less time buying stuff because there is nowhere to put it and we spend a lot more time gazing at the sky that we used to. We entertain more because we’re so proud of the space and it’s such a novelty for people to enjoy. And the spaciousness and the high ceilings of the house are such a contrast to where we used to live it has completely changed our mental state to one of spaciousness and openness. Life has never been better!
This set is packed with photos, illustrations and diagrams, including detailed: