Dec 28, 2012

New 8' x 20' Shipping Container Home Design

When I set out to design my first shipping container home, my goal was to keep it simple and affordable.  The resulting design is not fancy, but it has pretty much everything one person needs.  In my view, this is too small for two people for an extended period of time, but one person could be comfortable here.  It could be a great vacation home, guest house, or place for an adult child who has returned home after college, as many are doing these days. 

Front view of the 8' x 20', 160 square foot container home design with an 8' x 20' deck.

I was surprised that I was able to shoe-horn this much into 160 square feet.  There's a three fixture bathroom, a tiny kitchen, a stacked washer/dryer combination, a "great room" that combines living, dining, sleeping, and study/work space, plus two closets.  The dining table doubles as a desk, and the futon couch folds-out to become a full-sized mattress at night.

Floor plan for an 8' x 20', 160 square foot shipping container home with an 8' x 20' deck.

Dec 12, 2012

Floor Plans for Garage to Apartment Conversion

Want to downsize but can't sell your current homeHere's an idea to consider.  Convert your garage into an apartment for yourself, then rent the rest of the house to someone else.  You might not be mortgage free, but someone else could be paying it for you in the form of rent.  Plus, it's already half done!  The walls and roof are in place, it has electricity, and the other hook-ups are already on the premises.

Incidentally, if you have a 24'x24' freestanding garage you want to convert to a two bedroom home, see my post on that by clicking here.

Years ago I considered converting a two car garage in my old house into an in-law apartment.  This is what the garage looked like from the outside.

The garage of my old Garrison Colonial house.

Dec 11, 2012

Furniture for Small Living Spaces

There are a couple of videos on YouTube about furniture sold by that is great for small spaces.  Here are some stills from the video so you can see a few examples.  The videos themselves are posted further down below.  The first example is a wall shelf unit that turns around and folds down to become a twin bed.

Dec 10, 2012

Off-Grid Living Part 1: Lighting

I'm going to assume that you don't have upwards of $25k available to begin investing in photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines, along with a massive battery bank to store all your free energy in.  Instead, I'll take a simple, low cost, back to basics approach to off-the-grid lighting in this post.  I'm only going to deal with non-electric, simple solar, and battery operated alternatives.  I'm also going to cover day-lighting otherwise dark interior spaces, and lighting at night.

Dec 9, 2012

Drawing A Tiny Home With Google SketchUp: A Complete Video Tutorial Series

Prolific tiny house designer, Michael Janzen, has made a seven part video tutorial series for YouTube that is all about how to use Google's free 3D drafting software, SketchUp, to draw tiny house plans.    He's actually using SketchUp Pro, but I didn't notice too much difference between that and the free software.

SketchUp drawing by Michael Janzen

He draws as though he was actually building the tiny house, making sure that it is properly framed, sheathed, sided, and so on.  The thickness of the various materials, air spaces, gaps, flooring, etc., are all drawn very precisely so that there won't be many surprises when the real building occurs.  

I did a post quite a while ago that featured Michael narrating a tour and describing his clever 12'x24' house plan in a YouTube video that you can see by Clicking here.  

At the bottom of the post, after all the videos, I've included a link to download Google SketchUp for free.  His seven part SketchUp video tutorial series begins immediately below.

Dec 1, 2012

Sears Kit Homes

Sears, formerly known as Sears, Roebuck and Company,  used to sell kit homes from 1908 through 1940.  One kit sold for $191, but most were sold in the $500 through $2,000 range.  You may live in or near a Sears kit home.  They sold more than 70,000 of them.  The house I grew up in in Connecticut had two Sears kit homes very nearby.  One was diagonally across the street, and the model in the picture below was less than a block away.  Many more were in the area.  

I grew up just down the street from this exact Sears kit home model.  It's called The Lewiston and it is just a hair less than 1,400 conditioned square feet. It has four bedrooms, kitchen, living room, dining room, and one 1st level bathroom.  This and all other images in this post courtesy of

Nov 20, 2012

Wood-Tex Adirondack Cabin

This 16' x 28' Adirondack Cabin is much smaller and more affordable than the Wood-Tex Gatlinburg Cabin I posted previously (see that post by clicking here).   The 16' x 28' figure includes the covered porch which looks to be about 16' x 6'.  That makes the enclosed space only 16' x 22', which equates to 352 square feet.   That's pretty small, but it could be a great vacation get-away, guest house, in-law flat, rental apartment, or even a full time residence for the right single person or couple.  A sign on the inside of the cabin said you could buy it and have it delivered within 100 miles of their Himrod, NY store for $21, 600.  That's less than the price of most new cars.

Front of Wood-Tex Adirondack Cabin
 The inside is divided into three spaces, great room, bedroom, and bathroom.  The big covered porch is effectively a fourth space, albeit an outdoor one.  It wouldn't be too tough to turn that covered porch into a screened-in porch or three season room to extend the useable space a bit.

Nov 13, 2012

Tiny Home for the Homeless: Project Update.

Back on October 6th, I began a blog post about a project I am involved with through Rochester Greenovation, in Rochester, NY.  I loaded the post up with so many photos, videos, links, new developments, and so on that I thought it best to start a new post about it instead of adding more to the original one.  If you'd like to follow the story from the beginning, you can click here.

 Tiny House Project sign that greets visitors to Rochester Greenovation.
Just as a quick refresher...  The idea behind this tiny house project is to build a prototype tiny home for a homeless person using mostly materials that would otherwise wind-up in a landfill.  The tiny house prototype itself is a work in progress, but the progress thus far has been more in the exchange of ideas between group participants than in the actual building of the structure.  The merits of various materials, sizes, shapes, heating methods, and amenities have been the focus of a lot of the discussion.  The initial idea of building on a trailer has been scrapped for a couple of weeks now.  

Nov 11, 2012

750 Square Foot Seattle Area House Boat

One interesting variety of alternative housing that is often overlooked is house boats.  Today's feature is a very attractive house boat I found for sale in the Seattle area.  This is a small home, but not a tiny one.  With one bedroom, one bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen,  fireplace, high ceilings, and decks, this 750 square foot floating home feels positively spacious.

Nice 750 square foot, one bedroom, Seattle area house boat.

Nov 7, 2012

Katrina Cottages / Cusato Cottages

If you've ever seen a Katrina Cottage,  chances are you were looking at one of designer Marianne Cusato's designs.  Other architects and designers were involved in developing Katrina Cottages, but Cusato's designs are the most iconic.  There are currently 14 Cusato Cottage  models, with floor plans ranging from 308 to 1,807 square feet.  Marianne Cusato designed eight of them, while Eric Moser,  Andres Duany, and W.A. Lawrence designed the others. The number in the the model name is the number of conditioned (heated and/or cooled) square feet.  For example, the model KC 697 has 697 conditioned square feet.

Sample front elevations from Marianne Cusato's Katrina Cottage designs.
All images on this post are courtesy of

The cottages range from one bedroom with one bath and minimal kitchen, to five bedrooms and three baths, with ample kitchens and even home office space.  The largest plan still has considerably less square footage than a typical new home built today.  In my view, that's a good thing.  Keeping the square footage down also helps keep costs down, conserves resources, reduces both the literal and the carbon footprint, and is just plain good practice because building smaller is building more sustainably. 

Nov 1, 2012

Energy Efficient Folding Homes by Blu Homes

Blu Homes makes these impressive folding homes inside a giant building.  They say that by ordering your home from them, you will save significant time and money compared to a stick-building on site.  The time savings stem from the fact that the homes are built indoors and are therefor not subject to problems and delays caused by unpredictable weather.   Blu Homes aren't cheap, but they appear to be very high quality.

Blu Homes least expensive model, "The Origin", starts at $130,000.  Two are shown here.  They come in studio, one, and two bedroom variations, with dimensions of 18'x24', 18'x36', and 18'x48' respectively.

Once the home arrives to your site, it is craned onto the foundation you had built for it.  Then it is unfolded, set-up, and ready for occupancy within days.  These may be folding homes, but they are sturdy and intended for permanent habitation.  

Oct 17, 2012

Container homes by MEKA World

I just discovered this prefab container house company from Canada.  That's right, all these home models are made from metal shipping containers!  They have six very impressive container home designs to choose from.  The number in the model name tells you how many square feet the design has.  For example, the ALP 320 is 320 square feet.  You can find more photos and floor plans on their website,  All photo and image credits in this post go to MEKA World.  The models and current prices (in USD) as of the day of this post are listed below...
ALP 320         $45,000      
SOL 480         $55,200   
VOR 640        $73,600     
THOR 960     $110,400   
HELA 1280   $147,200      
ALP 320 Exterior

Oct 16, 2012

Folding Homes by Habitaflex

I'm posting two videos and some informative images about folding homes made by Habitaflex ( today.  The way they operate seems pretty well thought out.  Bathrooms and kitchens are included, along with cabinets, countertops, and fixtures such as toilet, sinks, shower, and range hood.  Even phone and cable jacks are included, but some models at least don't appear to be intended for permanent habitation.  The larger heavier ones look like they may be suitable as permanent homes.   If you scroll down far enough, you'll find interior and exterior photos, and a floor plan too. The model in the photos is 768 square feet with three bedrooms.

Oct 14, 2012

Small Cottage on a Beautiful Lake in Vermont

This waterfront cottage in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is less than 500 square feet. It also happens to be where my wife and I stayed for our honeymoon almost 14 years ago.   It has a galley kitchen, three fixture bathroom, gas fired "wood stove", sunken living room, and screened-in dining porch.  It's decorated in a rustic style with furniture by Old Hickory.  The lakefront location with its own dock on one of the prettiest lakes in Vermont is hard to beat. 
Sunken living room decorated in rustic style.

Oct 12, 2012

Tiny Homes Along the Erie Canal?

I  jog and walk my dogs on a path that runs along the Erie Canal near my home.  One side has the canal, the other side has the houses to whom these out buildings belong.  These little buildings are not tiny homes currently, as far as I can tell, but they can serve as inspiration for your own tiny or small home aspirations 

This one is actually a pool cabana, but I see a lot of small house potential in it.

Oct 10, 2012

Wood-Tex 768 Square Foot Prefab. Cabin

I found this modular cabin for sale by the roadside while on a recent drive near Seneca Lake in New York.   I snapped these photos with my phone's camera quickly because I was in a hurry to get to my destination .  This cabin's dimensions are 16' x 32', with a 16' x 16' loft.  The front also features a 16' x 4' covered porch.  It seemed pretty nice, both inside and out.  The company that makes it is called Wood-Tex.
Front of the "Gatlinburg Cabin."

Oct 6, 2012

Rochester Greenovation Tiny Home for the Homeless Project

I recently attended the first meeting in a ten part series that will ultimately result in a tiny house prototype for homeless people.  It was facilitated by Rochester Greenovation in Rochester, NY  The idea is to build a tiny home from salvaged materials such as pallets and old windows.  The first meeting involved brainstorming with members of the group and sharing ideas about the design.  In ten weeks, we should have a prototype.  This installment of my blog is intended as a resource for group members, but it could be useful to any other individuals or groups contemplating similar projects with similar goals.    

I will try to update this post as I find additional helpful material.  I'll start with a video about pallet types and how to break them down. 

Nine people attended the meeting, including me.  I enjoyed meeting everyone, and I thought there was a good discussion.  Some of the talk caused me to think of some work by the tiny home designer, Michael Janzen. What follows is from his website

Oct 1, 2012

Homes Made From Shipping Containers

Many people are turning their attention toward shipping containers, cargo containers, or ISBUs (Inter-modal Steel Building Units) as they look for ways to create affordable housing.  Shipping container house plans or floor plans are readily available on the internet.  Standard shipping container sizes are roughly 8'-0" wide by either 20' or 40' long.  They come in standard height which provides about 7'-6" of interior height, or "high cube" containers which provide about 8'-6" of interior height.  As I see it, shipping containers have four primary virtues... 

A nice modern house, made from old shipping containers.

Sep 27, 2012

Tiny House Inspiration

A bit more tiny house inspiration / eye candy for you.  Four tiny homes (most people would call them tiny, but purists would just call them "small") with little in common beyond their diminutive size.

Small Japanese home.

Sep 26, 2012

The Little House of Pittsford, NY

I spotted this house on a recent drive.  I decided to try and get a closer look and luckily it turned-out to be a museum that's open to the public (only six hours per week, but I timed it right).  They call it "The Little House." 

View from the street.

Sep 24, 2012

Sep 23, 2012

Tiny House Eye Candy

No story today.  Just a few nice tiny house pictures for your viewing enjoyment.  

Isn't this place the coolest?  When you decrease size you can go hog-wild with detail and still save a bundle.

Sep 21, 2012

Tiny Home In Stowe, Vermont

I love Vermont and I visit whenever I can.  It's a beautiful state.  When I'm there, I frequently find myself in the town of Stowe.  I spotted this tiny house pretty much right in the center of town.

Sep 19, 2012

Solar Powered Electric Car Charging Station

I recently pulled in to the parking lot of the Town Hall in East Haven, Connecticut.  I was pleased to see that the building's roof had an impressive array of photovoltaic solar panels.  As I looked for a parking space, I discovered that they had also installed a GE solar powered electric car charging station.  Impressed, I took out my cell phone and snapped a few pictures.  

View of charging station's solar panels from below.  There are ten panels.

Jun 8, 2012

Tiny House for Four, Near Portland,Oregon

This is a gem of a house.  I owe this find to Steven over at Tiny House Listings.  I recently ran across this small house, or as some would say, tiny house, on a site called  

      View from dining area toward living area.  
      Sleeping areas, bathroom, & storage are 
      behind the wall of book shelves.