My tiny house project: tour the inside!
March 25, 2007, 3:48 pm by bottleman. Filed under: design, my tiny house project, tiny houses.

[fall 2013: hello new visitors!  This is an old post with old pictures.  Check out new pictures of the place here, and all posts about this project here.  Thanks!]

The interior to my 400-square foot house is finally complete, and I think the results show that a tiny, environmentally sensitive house can be both complete and pretty darn nice. Please take a look around in this extensive series of pictures. For example, my cozy skylit loft (120 of the 400 square feet). Don’t you just want to read a book here?

loft from back of building

It’s my belief that real green housing for Americans (as opposed to preposterous faux-green McMansions) will inevitably involve downsizing, because downsizing saves energy and resources across the board. But to work, it truly has to be a better place to live than an oversized dwelling — not some unsustainably pious way of “doing without.”

I think my project makes the point pretty well. It was done on the budget (about $75,000 including $7000 for permit and $4000 for architect) and plans I gave in an earlier post. I am very open to comments and questions, but please read that post and in fact all the posts in this series before you quiz me…

Here’s what you see from the street (landscape and paint job still unfinished):

exterior from street, painting and landscaping still unfinished

The double doors open real wide, on to a future patio:

double doors open wide on to future patio

From the front door, here’s looking to the right, into the living area. Kitchen is back to the left.

looking in to the right from front door: the living area

The living area of a tiny house needs a vista to look out on. The re-angling of our front facade allows that vista to be a nearby park, barely visible beyond the contractor’s porta-potty:

vista into park (porta potty may be removed)

It’s tough to get from this picture, but the vista is very important. It lets the gaze run out into the distance, rather than get stopped in a nearby barrier. It just feels more restful when you’ve got a vista.

Now, looking up from the living area, you see the loft railing and skylights:

looking up to the right -- loft railing, skylight

Looking up to left, you see the edge of the loft and ornamental woodwork in the cathedral ceiling area:

looking up -- decorative woodwork, loft railing

Looking down to the left, you see the heating system, a direct vent gas stove controlled by a thermostat:

looking left from the front door at the heating system

It’s not very big, as you can see from my shoes:

heating system

Now you’ll probably want to head back to the kitchen. Pass by the curved eating counter, on the living room side of the kitchen. It’s made of concrete and has some nice antique keys embedded in it:

curved eating counter, seats 2

antique keys embedded in concrete countertop

Around the corner and into the kitchen, where you’re now looking out into the living area:

curved concrete counter

That is a 2-burner gas cooktop. There is a convection microwave underneath for basic roasting and baking. We skipped the full-size stove to save space.

There’s nice natural light in the kitchen, despite lack of windows, because we are passing light through a piece of plexiglass in the loft floor above… which in turn has a skylight above it. Look… you can see woodwork in the loft above…

loft floor from underneath

Now look at my dishwashing tour de force:

dishwashing system: stainless steel racks from ikea over concrete counter with integral drainboard

It’s a wall-mounted stainless steel dishrack system (from Ikea) mounted directly ABOVE a drainboard built in to the counter. This will save much more work than having a fancy dishwasher. Why? With a dishwasher, you have to move clean dishes out of the washer and into cabinets. Here there is no such wasted motion. When you wash a dish by hand, you put it in the rack and let it drain and that’s it. No cabinet, no wasted motion.

Now, check out the fridge. It’s a standard 24″ wide apartment model. There’s a nice thin custom cabinet to the side:


detail of vertical cabinet

Now head left to the bathroom, accessed via a pocket door to save space:

pocket door for bathroom, saves space in cramped hall

The bathroom has an efficient linear design (see earlier posts for drawings). Here I’m looking from the toilet towards the 3-foot square shower unit:

looking into shower from toilet

And here I’m looking from the shower toward the toilet. There’s a skylight above the toilet, making artificial light unnecessary much of the time.

in shower looking at toilet

After a shower, the perfect place to relax is the loft. Let’s go up the alternating tread staircase:

bottom of alternating tread staircase

Be really careful the first time you go up. Alternating tread staircases make very steep ladder-like rises comfortable to walk up. This one works very well, but you have to get used to it. First timers are in danger of getting their feet mixed up and falling. First timers MUST use the handrail to go up and down.

See how there’s a skylight lined up at the top? Nice.

climbing up alternating tread stairs into loft

This steep and special stair saves a lot of space, but is NOT for anyone especially frail.

After you get used to it, it is super-efficient. You can go down frontways. Unlike spiral stairs, you can carry big things up it — like a mattress. Just be careful until you get the hang of it.

One of the first things you see at the top of the stairs is the top side of that skylight-pass-through in the loft floor. It’s a very thick circle of transparent plastic. You can walk on it. It’s cool. The rest of the floor is cork. Notice how you can see the dishracks and the kitchen sink below.

loft floor skyhole from above... plexiglass surrounded by cork

Because the loft is directly over the kitchen, we made a special point of providing a kitchen fan that truly vented to the outside. We didn’t want the smell of burned garlic infusing what should be a cozy, airy retreat.

The loft is not big (about 120 of our 400 square feet), but it doesn’t feel cramped because of the strategically located skylight and circular window. The railings are stained wood and regular 3/4 inch copper pipe.

loft from back of building

This is just the right place to take a nap, and to end this post.

Hope this tour has inspired you. I’m open to comments or questions, but please read all the posts in the series before you ask about something I’ve already covered elsewhere.

Cheers! bottleman

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Beautiful & inspiring! A job well done. Love your choices of quality materials, too.
Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Eva on 25.03.2007 um 7:03 pm

Awesome job; this home fascinates me. I am checking on building codes in our county, I would love to have a tiny home with a small garden that we could actually afford once we retire rather than being stuck in an apartment. I only know so far that manufactured homes are required to be over 800 square feet.

Comment by marcia on 26.03.2007 um 9:47 am

oh, wow. gorgeous work, and such a great space.

Comment by pamela wynne on 26.03.2007 um 4:52 pm

Verrrry nice. Love the wood and the light and especially the embedded keys. Tres cool.

Comment by kt on 26.03.2007 um 9:45 pm

LOVE the dishwashing area, just like Spain, only there, the rack is built into a cabinet, you put the dishes up on the rack and shut the doors, of course, they don’t have lovely IKEA. I have to go home now and look at my sink and figure out if the neighbors would mind looking at my dishes racked up in front of the window.

Comment by Liza on 27.03.2007 um 12:25 pm

Liza, I was thinking about putting my dishes in the window too — since unfortunately I’m not going to live in the little house this post describes. I want to fix up the kitchen in my own house so it’s much easier to clean and I’ve convinced this dishwashing method is the sh*t.

Anyway, the alternative to putting dishes in the window, in my house anyway, is moving the kitchen sink, or at least creating a drainboard that in effect extends the sink. This could be very simple or very complicated, but I am reminded of those huge old farmhouse sink units which were mostly drainboard. Now I know why..

Comment by bottleman on 27.03.2007 um 5:10 pm

This is a gorgeous place–and I want that kitchen! The drain with racks above, and the cutom storage are brilliant. Unless you are regularly cooking for hordes of people, a two burner cooktop with convection/microwave is sufficient. On the rare oaccasion you would need more than that, plenty of room to put an electric wok, crockpot, grill, griddle, whatever. But you did include a nice sized fridge–good job. Those small, counter high ones are only big enough for people who not only never cook, but don’t keep much on hand either.

Oh, and materials are beautiful—-very serene and harmonious….

Comment by Lorrie on 28.03.2007 um 4:36 pm

Wow that staircase is incredible. Neat project.

Comment by Elaine on 28.03.2007 um 5:42 pm


Comment by Jim M on 28.03.2007 um 5:50 pm

Amazing… beautiful wood work, especially the stairs, reminds me of the old ships ladders… the entire balcony is very ship-like, porthole and all ;-) The space saving dish drain and cabinet are wonderful, add a nice touch of the modern.

Comment by Anet on 29.03.2007 um 4:42 am

Wow! Just… wow!

Comment by Vyn on 30.03.2007 um 8:26 am

Wow; this reminds me of the tumbleweed houses, with obvious high quality in materials and construction, plus beautiful.

Comment by steve rinsler on 30.03.2007 um 12:38 pm

Simply lovely


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Comment by Joanie on 30.03.2007 um 3:34 pm

Looked throughout your writings on this house, and don’t see any mention of your source for the metal racks in the cabinet next to frig. Could you share where you found those? Thanks.

Comment by Lorrie on 01.04.2007 um 11:52 am

Lorrie, the contractor found those pull-out metal racks. I don’t think they are particularly sturdy by themselves — they only gain strength when you screw them into a cabinet. The brochure the contractor left around says they are “Rev-A-Shelf” 5WB2 Series. . Good luck!

Comment by bottleman on 01.04.2007 um 12:31 pm

Looks great. Good job.

Comment by robert on 02.04.2007 um 7:49 am

Thanks, Robert, that’s big of you. Perhaps the whole thing makes more sense now? –bottleman

Comment by bottleman on 02.04.2007 um 1:26 pm

sweet casita, bottleman! i’m especially digging the stairs. congrats.

Comment by pat on 05.04.2007 um 4:02 pm

Wow. This is just super-fantastic. I came over today when catching up on Stitch Marker, and I’ve since forwarded it to my own husband and read all your back posts about it and GOOD JOB! is what I can say I guess. I love your exuberant eco-consciousness. I’m typically always working towards balance, balance, balance, and I think this is a marvelous picture of it. My guy and I were lucky enough to get a great deal on a three-bedroom apartment in New York, so we share it with a roommate, and before I got to all your backposts, I was thinking of how much she would love such a tiny, expansive, usable, separate but not in the boondocks place like this. Just brilliant. And I was so pleased to read that you’d done it “legitimately.” It IS disappointing that it’s so difficult and so geared towards giant ridiculous homes, but running away from the regulation isn’t going to change the regulations, and it isn’t going to make tiny houses any more mainstream and do-able and reasonable and attractive if they have to be illegal and hidden. Thanks for fighting the good fight and building the good home and for telling us all about it.

Comment by Amber on 06.04.2007 um 11:27 am

I like the curved railing. How did you it?

Comment by Randy on 22.04.2007 um 11:31 pm

Randy, the posts are 2×4s, tapered at the top so they don’t look blocky. The top rail is made of wood planks cut along arc lines. The other railings are 3/4 inch copper plumbing pipe bent to match the top rail. I didn’t personally do the railing, so I can’t tell you how the contractor bent the pipes so gradually. Sorry I can’t be more help! bottleman.

Comment by bottleman on 22.04.2007 um 11:39 pm

Hey bottleman, I emailed you a long time ago about the rural/urban dilemma and then rudely never got back to you. Anyway, your little house is looking great. The one question I have is, won’t that high ceiling result in all the warm air going up and away from the people on the bottom floor in the colder months? Perhaps a hanging ceiling fan in that front area could keep the air mixed?

Comment by Nick on 18.05.2007 um 1:58 pm

Hi Nick, nice to hear from you again. Did you know that we did an entire post based on your urban/rural question? see . As for the high ceiling and the heat, you are right, there is a definite vertical gradient in the heat during the winter and you have the gas stove on. It’s perhaps 4-5 degrees F warmer in the loft than below. This is related to the fact that the floor is concrete and uninsulated as well as the high ceiling. Some of this probably could be equalized with a ceiling fan, which wouldn’t use much energy, but would fill up a nice open space that makes the small house feel larger.

The gradient isn’t as bad in practice as it is in theory. Other than the floor, the place is very well insulated so temperatures don’t change rapidly enough to have that drafty, uncomfortable feel. In fact sleeping in that loft , with its warm, consistent heat, view of the stars and whiffs of fresh air from the slightly opened skylight, is a true pleasure.

Since the gas stove is made of cast iron, it’s throwing off radiant heat when it’s on, and the closer you are to it, the warmer you feel, regardless of the air temp. People downstairs are closer to it because they’re typically in the “living area” which is near the stove. We’ve provided supplemental heat in the bathroom with one of those hotel-style heat lamps, which comes in handy because the lamp produces heat instantly. And the concrete floor has a good benefit of making the place considerably cooler on warmer days.

If I had this to do all over again I don’t think I would change the loft arrangement or the idea of having a hearth that actually provides heat as well as a visual. Those were good decisions. But the concrete floor is more problematic. It’s very easy to clean (which is important in a small place, because the intensity of foot traffic is high) and it is palpably cool on hot days. But it’s a heat sink on cooler days, too, and you need to wear socks instead of bare feet. At some times of the year that heat sink effect must be making the heating arrangement less efficient. (Note- The same critique could be made of trendy radiant heat systems buried in concrete.) I guess I could just have rugs in the winter in the place but I hate rugs — they gather too much hair if you have pets. Now I’m theorizing about a removable cork floor that would only be applied in the winter. Alas, I’m out of money!

Cheers, bottleman

Comment by bottleman on 19.05.2007 um 12:23 pm

The temperature gradient issue could be solved by having a 6″ dia duct pulling air from the peak, and blowing it down behind the stove in the winter time. In the summer time, the hot air from the peak could be exhausted straight outside.
This has been a standard HVAC arrangement for gyms and auditoriums for about a hundred years now.

A frind of mine has 16 ft cathedral ceilings and concrete floors in his house. In the summertime we have measured 105 degrees 1 ft from the ceiling and 65 degrees 1 foot from the floor.

Comment by coal_burner on 09.07.2007 um 6:04 am

thanks for the tip, coal burner. you’re right, the temp gradient isn’t that big an issue in the summer… we have all 3 skylights open constantly. it’s the wintertime. so i assume I would need some sort of fan in the 6″ duct? or is there some more elegant way to move the air?

Comment by bottleman on 09.07.2007 um 12:49 pm

A fan is required to move air down the duct. The most elegant solution would probably be to use a bathroom exhaust fan mounted high up in the wall to move air down between a couple of wall studs to a vent mounted near the floor.
I didn’t see ant mention of what kind of insulation system you are running in this house. If you are using foam board on the outside of the walls, this would be a simple solution. There would not be ant metal lining or ductwork required by code in the wall space because this would be considered “return air”.
If you really want to do an interesting experiment with kinetic art, you could hang a 2 ft wide piece of heavy cloth from an oscillating shaft on the ceiling, about six inches away from the wall. You can actually move a very large amount of air down the wall with this method, and if you use a silky material, it’s very soothing to watch. (kind of like watching a lava lamp)

Comment by coal_burner on 10.07.2007 um 5:55 am

I can see my husband and I retiring in something like this. So cute! Talk about simplifying.

Comment by Jen Lang on 03.08.2007 um 1:49 pm

So glad to see someone else building an efficient home! I am just getting to (super) insulating my 450 square foot palace. We seem to think alike! I am doing a similar dish rack system. i also want to do the alternating tread stairs. I found you as I am looking online for plans but can not find any. Do you have plans? Would be so helpful if you could provide them for me and anyone else looking to build space saving stairs!

Thanks- beautiful work.

Comment by Ken Greene on 17.08.2007 um 6:57 am

Hi Ken, thanks for the nice words. I have purposely not posted the plans for the alternating tread stairs because I believe them to be safe only in certain situations. I would never put them in a public space because there is a learning curve to using them… people can stumble as they get used to the new sensations of the different stair layout. However, with practice and a handrail, I’d say they are quite safe. So i’m thinking that anyone who wants to do this might have their intentions clarified by the work of figuring out the design themselves. There are various commercial, industrial, and domestic examples you can find on the internet if you look, with different modes of construction. You and a carpenter can figure it out! Or you can get a prefab set from Arke or Architectural Stairs. Send us pictures of your project if you have them!

Comment by bottleman on 17.08.2007 um 11:00 am

Thanks so much for sharing. I’m inspired! I’m researching the possibilities of builing a tiny, unique home and I love your ideas. Thank You.

Comment by Janet Bruland on 14.11.2007 um 3:09 pm

Very nice.
I really like the antique key details in the counter top!

Comment by Lynette on 02.12.2007 um 6:38 am

EXTREMELY inspiring! I love the way you have used natural lighting in the house to light the situation. Of course – alternative lighting is required at night, but most of the time, I’m sure you get to enjoy free, bright, full sun light. Your design is borderline genius. Keep up the good work!!

Comment by Lenard on 08.01.2008 um 8:45 pm

The inlays on the kitchen counter are very interesting

Comment by Kitchens on 22.01.2008 um 3:58 am

Love the dish drain/dish rack implementation! I’m planning something similar for my own sink in my own tiny living space.

Cool photos!

Comment by Angela Allen Parker on 17.12.2008 um 7:45 am

Do you have any guarantee that your view will be maintained? I note a conifer (douglas fir?) in the yard which could easily remove that vista.

A beautiful house.

Comment by njh on 27.12.2008 um 11:48 pm

Thanks, njh. The particular vista you’re talking about we do have considerable influence over, since you’re looking across the yard of our own “big” (750 sf) house. That conifer is actually a subalpine fir planted in nearly pure gravel — chosen and planted that way to control growth. It only grows about an inch a year. You’re right, a real douglas fir would be a disaster (as they can grow 2-3 feet a year..)

Comment by bottleman on 28.12.2008 um 12:44 pm

Great job , I think the future of housing is in these smaller more intimate spaces. Thanks for posting this

Comment by brad carlisle on 12.03.2010 um 8:49 pm

I know how old the post is, and can only hope you still check comments…
The design is stunning, bravo for sticking to your design! the turret would have been overkill.
Codes and enforcement are there to chase after lousy contractors who know how to manipulate the system, in defense the codes were made in such a way as to foil those seedy developers and contractors, sadly this system interferes with the sanity of small project builders who honestly do better design and safety than the scum who the system defends against.
I say let there be two codes….one for those commercial interest in the building and contracting world. A second, more realistic code for those who build a home not more than once in five years.
The new split code system would allow for a homeowner such as yourself to responsibly build a modest building such as your tiny home, without the red tape and roadblocks needed to keep the commercial types honest.
The ‘homeowner code’ would include basic safety in design such as utility and structure issues that may be unknown o9r overlooked by the non professional builder. I think these safety items must be enforced provided they make sense and make us all safe. I’m sure you wouldn’t want harm to come to anyone because of some thing you may have overlooked.
I am all for sensible codes….and for being strict with the commercial guys looking to save a buck irresponsibly.

Comment by john on 19.12.2011 um 10:02 am

I was wondering exactly how much storage is in the kitchen under the counter top? I know the cook top and microwave are on that wall. How much space is left for additional storage or organization? How deep are the cabinets on that side? The concrete counter tops are a great idea. Was that a DIY project that you were able to do onsite? What type of square footage is the kitchen layout? Wondering about the traditional work triangle that makes cooking less stressful.
The house is very well constructed out of good materials. My concern is the amount of space for real living. Storing the clothes, the dishes, the food.
I will rave about the fact that this is the first tiny house that looks arty. The curved railing and having the overlook loft is very nice. Thank you for sharing your work with us.

Comment by calibeachgirl on 06.03.2012 um 8:03 pm

So many questions, calibeachgirl! If you look in the other posts about this project you will find one with floor plans. From the scale drawing (1/4″=1 foot) you can answer your space questions objectively. I have no idea as to whether you would consider the volume of storage space sufficient “for real living.” :) As for the concept of the kitchen work triangle, you might want to read my thoughts here . cheers! bottleman

Comment by bottleman on 07.03.2012 um 8:17 pm

Great little house – am looking to build something here where I live in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne, Australia. Would love to see some pics taken with a wide-angled lense, as it’s quite hard to see in these pics, the relationships between different living spaces…

Any chance of some more pics, or even something to show the floor plan?

Comment by Kerry on 21.03.2012 um 5:20 pm

hi kerry, please look in the third paragraph of this post! :)

Comment by bottleman on 22.03.2012 um 10:37 am