Three years ago, I decided, for several reasons, that I wanted to design and build myself a tiny house. Designing a tiny house is a fun and rewarding exercise, but it has its challenges depending on the format in which you’re working. I’m designing my house to fit inside a shipping container. This limits the width of the entire house to 8 feet across. Now imagine the thickness of insulated walls on either side, and in a cut through the galley kitchen, a 24-inch countertop on either side. This leaves very little room for much else in that area. While the countertops don’t extend the full 40-foot length of the house, there are some things to consider when the goal is maximizing usage of a small space.
With a central, linear circulation path from one end of my house to the other, it’s important to make sure that this space stays clear, so occupants can traverse the house. However, in a house with such limited space, it seems like a waste to devote that strip of floor space solely to circulation. I began to ask myself how many things have a temporary usage area? Think of the clearance a refrigerator door requires as it swings; the space drawers take up when they’re pulled open; the space in front of a sofa that you shuffle through to get to your favorite seat. If I could take all these areas that may otherwise have their own dedicated space in a house, and overlap them with my path of circulation, I can make the most of the space I have. If you want to get extra crafty, you can try to convert your remaining furniture that requires dedicated space into furniture that doesn’t!
The concept of transforming furniture never occurred to me until I was in college, and when I discovered Murphy beds, I was hooked on space-saving. Collapsing or folding furniture expands on the idea of multi-functional spaces and gives the user a chance to have a space serve one function at one minute, and another function the very next minute. In one of my older tiny house designs, I had a table that folded down from the end wall of the house and sat between two banquettes. Imagine a booth seat at a restaurant, where the table can fold up into the wall. When dinner was over, and it came time to relax, the table could be folded up into the wall. One of the benches had a hollow back that would descend into the seat of the banquette, revealing a wall-mounted TV. With an interior wall-to-wall dimension of 7 feet, the TV would still be at a comfortable viewing distance from those sitting on the opposite banquette. Just like that, a space can be transformed from a functional dining area into a cozy living room!
You don’t need to have a tiny house, or even a lack of space to incorporate smart space-saving designs. At the very least, overlapping occasionally used areas and utilizing transforming furniture will make your space more versatile and visually tidier. Do you use any techniques or special furniture to transform spaces at home? Let us know!
Brendan Horman is a Certified Interior Designer at SR/A. He resides with his girlfriend, Alex, in Gaithersburg, Md., though, sadly, not in a tiny house.