Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.5 - Designing and layout planning.

After all the other steps,  I started to get measurements of all appliances that have to go in.   Stove, Sink, Shower, Toilet, etc...   I then grabbed some graph paper and started to draw them out.   Kitchen will only need 21" wide by 18" deep for the Stove, vent hood, and microwave above it.  I hate being crammed in a corner when I cook so adding a 6" wide counter space on one end before the wall is needed,  this is not wasted space, its' thin storage.   On top of that you need a sink.  a 25" wide by 17" deep kitchen sink is enough.  Plus I can have cutting boards cut to fit on top of the sink to add more work space. I am figuring 24" deep counters and 16" deep shelves above the counter.

A minimal kitchen that will be tight to work in is about 5 foot 6 inches long by 5 feet wide,  Ok, not too bad. A little tight for cooking anything, no place to use a blender or stand mixer, but this is minimalist living.   I can use a bowl and hand mixer.  I also could add a flip up work space at the end of the kitchen for more work space when needed.

On to the bathroom,  Shower stall is 36" by 24".  Tight but doable,  Another 24"by 24" for toilet space and 10"X10" for a tiny corner sink.  This means I can cram the bathroom into a 5 foot by 3 foot space.   This means my minimum width for the house is 9 feet or so with wall thickness and siding averaged in.   So if I go for 10' wide I have more room to add.  So far my 10 foot wide house idea is solid.  If I went for even wider then I have more options in room rotation and space.   But I at least know what my minimums are.    Now if the house is to be mobile...  I need to make it smaller.  8.5" is the MAX width I can have the house,  that includes eaves. so the house will actually be 8' wide outside with 8 inches removed for the wall thickness plus interior wallboard.   So I am stuck at 7.3 feet wide inside if I want to be able to tow the house around the country as a nomad....   Keep this in mind, it's a hard rule that you can not get around.

Now add in living space.  I am thinking 10 feet in length would be nice,  that is 8 foot of space for a couch that turns into a bed and room to get into the bathroom/kitchen. add a couple of feet for length and I have 17.5 feet long for the length of the house.  157 square feet of living space not including the sleeping loft.  This allows the loft to be about 11 feet long with a 2 foot wide over the door loft for storage.   You can go longer easily, the legal limit to a trailer length is 40 feet in most states. so expanding to 21 feet long gives us some options.....

Doorways are a different issue.  a LOT of plans out there use a 26 inch wide doorway.  This is typical for a RV.  IF you are more portly, you may find that doorway to be a little too tight.  Be sure to look at different options,  you can mock up a doorway with cardboard on a regular doorway where you live now to see if you are comfortable with a 26" width.

I also suggest drawing up your idea on graph paper,  I use a small grid paper and 2 inches per square. and then cut out squares relating to different furniture sizes and people standing, sitting and laying down to get an idea on space use.  Try to allow 18" or more for traffic lanes.  A person is about 17 inches wide and is comfortable when they have 20 inches of space to sit in.  Larger people need more room,  I'm built like a football player, so shoulder to shoulder I'm 24" wide, I will be uncomfortable in 20" of space (and I am on a typical airline) So I assume a luxurious 28 to 30 inches of width for sitting space.  This means a 5 foot long "love seat" is perfect for two.  I have 22" from the back of my knee to my back. is a link to some furniture cutouts you can scale to whatever scale you draw up your micro home floor plan in to make some decisions.

Once you get done with this step, if you live in a large home you can mock it up with your current furniture.  OR  get some stakes and line and go out to the yard to mark out the house floor plan in real scale  Seeing it full scale will tell you a lot about how it will feel to you..

Monday, June 18, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.4 - Separating Needs Versus Wants.

A Micro Home is all about balance and change.  Most Americans live in insane sized homes, Myself included.   I have 1900 sq feet of home plus a full basement and full garage.  For just my Wife and I it's insanely over-sized.  We could live like kings in a 650 sq foot apartment with two bedrooms, and even then it's still a major waste of space and resources.   What do we do with all that space?  we fill it up with stuff we  just do not need.   A nice oak dining room table that will sit 6 people,  Nice pretty furniture in the living room that we never sit on.  And the basement full of junk we never use.

So I started the list of things I like doing and need space.  

Wine Making.   I currently take up about 25 square feet for my wine making supplies and space to do it in.  I ferment 3 carboys of wine at a time to make about 36 bottles of wine every 3 months.  Do I really need to?  no.  I can scale back to a single 3 gallon batch and reduce the space needed by 1/2 and still enjoy the hobby.  I just cant give away as much wine as I do now.

Cooking.   I love to cook, but I dont need a 38" wide double convection oven with 5 burners to do it.  A single crock pot, and a small camper range can do the job nicely.  I would need to go through my pots and figure out how to reduce what I have and what I need.  A bread pan can do as a Meatloaf pan and even a cake pan.  yes all my cakes will be small and oblong, but taste the same.

Home Office.   This one is easy in some ways.   Laptops.  The hard part is the printer.  I have yet to find a nice tiny color laser printer that will fill the need.   I want laser because inkjets become unusable within a month of no use.  Laser printers can sit for years and fire up and print perfectly.   Outside of the printer, everything else in the home office can be thrown away.  I dont need a desk, a fold up tray or the dining table will work just fine. I really like my triple monitor setup,  but buying a nice large laptop with the fastest processor in it will make a big difference.  Spending $2500 on a laptop instead of  $800 for a laptop, $800 for a desktop PC, $350 for monitors, $450 for a desk, $200 for a chair, etc... Is a LOT cheaper and I end up with a faster and better computer than if I do the traditional desktop+laptop setup that most people have.

Gaming.    I love video games, it's my escape and time waster.   No I dont like gaming on a computer,  I love my Xbox though.   Luckily an xbox can do double duty for gaming and entertainment.  Plus if you get the right flat screen TV it can also work for the laptop as a second screen or much larger screen.  a Single 32" 1080p monitor will turn any laptop into a desktop.

Motorcycling.   This one is hard to deal with in smaller spaces.   You dont have a garage so storage of the bike will be outside in the elements all the time.  IF you get a tiny bike, you can store it on the porch (if your micro home has one) but it will block the entryway.   I have yet to find a solution to this.

Those are my wants.  And yes I consider some of them as needs, but they are in reality only wants, luxuries that I can live without.   How do I include all my luxuries into my life?   Reduce them to their essence.   If you love making arts and crafts,  do you really need a whole Sewing and Craft room?  cant you reduce it to a bag and then buy what you need when you need it?  Yes that means you cant go out and buy a metric ton of beads or fabric when it's on sale.  How small of a space can you reduce your hobby into?  Some like "furniture making"  cant be reduced.

Needs:  I need a shower.  Luckily my wife does not care about a bath tub.  So that makes the bathroom smaller and saves space.   We have owned an RV and I have done the RV shower thing.   IT's not fun,  enough room to turn around is really important to me,  IT also needs to have windows for light and a fan for moisture/smell control. I am realistic,   no long showers = smaller water heater,  Although hot water on demand systems are a possibility but only if you are Grid connected.  I cant find any that work for 12Volt solar systems.

Kitchen that has enough room to work in.  That means a larger galley than most micro homes have.  I want a microwave above the stove. and an oven.    IT also needs an additional fan for smell and moisture control.

Guest space.   we would like to be able to accommodate guests on a occasion.  This means having TWO sleeping areas or the possibility by having the couch convert into a spare bed for two.   This seems to be more of a "want" but with my daughter and other very close friends, it's really a need.

Entertainment/work space.  Space for my wife to be able to work at the same time as I do.  And allow her to watch TV or do whatever she wants while I work/ etc...   Being able to feel at home without forcing the other person to do what you want is important for a happy family life,   make sure the space is there.

Pets.  Cats need a place to eat and to go to the bathroom.  How can you have a kitty box that is not in the way and will not stink up the house horribly.  I am thinking of a second vent fan for the kitty bathroom.  Micro Dog owners have an advantage here.

Again,  Some of the needs feel like Wants.  But if I want to stay married, it becomes a need.

One more NEED I have yet to come up with,   multiple exit doors or improved fire safety.  I cant see how to add a second emergency exit into a micro home.  In case of a fire you have literally seconds to get out.  In a micro home you have even less.  I really am uncomfortable with the single Exit door that all micro homes have.   Plus with Loft sleeping, there is no way you can get out without going down to the main floor.  This means really going overboard with smoke, fire and Co2 alarms   plus adding multiple fire control measures.  Having several extinguishers in the micro home takes up more space, but I would rather be able to put that fire out or reduce it long enough for my wife and I to get out.  I am looking at small scale built in systems that use piping and spray heads in key locations.  I know, Most RV's and cabins don't have that now and they are safe.   This is my little bit of paranoia that I have to satisfy.

All of the above will significantly effect the side and design of my micro home, and these MUST be decided before anything else.  Failure to consider your wants and needs before you even start to think about the home size or design will lead to you being unhappy with the home after it is completed. You need to start your lists now and start thinking about what you NEED and what you WANT in your home.  What are the compromises you are willing to take and how can you simplify your life to fit inside a micro home.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

$20.00 Clothes washer.  Ok it's a bit rustic but it certainly will work in the Micro Home. and storage of the washing machine is easy as well as using it for other things.

Just a quickie idea/link for this weekend.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Closer to smaller living: Stage 1.3 - Appliances

Modern conveniences are a nice thing. Ask anyone that grew up in the 40's or 50's and they will tell you that they don't miss hand washing clothing. My mother used to tell me how she would run her hands through the clothes wringer and how it hurt badly.   A lot of what we have today even in a huge 750 sq foot home is something that our grand parents would have wanted when they were our age.

Living in a tiny home though means giving that up,   a Laundry in your home is a big luxury you can not have.  Well a traditional one at least.  Unless you build your home larger to make room for it.  A stacking washer and dryer, apartment small size is 30"X30" by 72" tall and it needs 6" at the back and 3 inches on each side.  Plus you need either 220Vac power or a large propane tank/natural gas hook up.  This means you are not in a trailer but on a permanent lot.  Even the low power ones draw so much power that the solar system needed would be expensive as all get out.

So what can you do?   look for alternatives.   Laundrymat is always an option, and give you and excuse to be gone for a few hours once a week.   If it's summer, you can buy a wonderwash hand crank washer and then air dry on clotheslines,  I hope it's windy and dry or it will take a couple of days to dry.    Or you can do like your grandma did, get a washboard, buckets, wringer, and do it all by hand.   I have not tried the wonderwash, but many reviews online say it works great but you still need a wringer of some type.  In the winter you can hang clothes to dry in the home,  people did it for centuries.

Dishwasher, honestly you can get a tiny counter top dishwasher, but in a micro home you don't have enough dishes to need a dish washer.  If two of you live there, you have 3 coffee cups.  His, hers, and a guest cup. you just don't have the space to keep service for 12.  hand wash your plate when you are done eating makes a big difference.  Also smaller dinnerware is a bonus.   Eating off of 9" diameter plates makes your  dinner look huge compared to what is normal today.

Refrigeration is another one.  if you can generate the 100VAC for a dorm fridge, you have it solved for cheap.  Otherwise your choice is a RV two or three way power fridge that runs on 12V, 110AC, or propane.  Problem is these need to be on an outside wall with ducting for exhaust.  and they are very expensive compared to a large dorm fridge.

Entertainment is easy.   iPads can cover most of what you need, but if you are a gamer geek,  then new LED Tv's are incredibly thin and a Xbox is a multi use device.  a 32" TV in a micro home where you are sitting 4 feet away looks huge. and you can use it for your laptop screen as well.  The Xbox acts as a game system, DVD player, and if you have internet, netflix, hulu, etc...   Hey when it's raining outside or you have 30 feet of snow on the ground,  You will want to do something like playing a game or watching a movie.  A better choice though is a laptop and many people will use that for everything including gaming and movies.  They dont want the 32" TV and xbox.  and that saves you money and space.  a nice 17" laptop 18 inches away from your face feels like a 98" TV screen.  and if you want surround sound, they sell 7.1 surround headphones so you can get the theater experience..   you can even get 3D display laptops to watch 3d movies on.