7 Tips for Tiny House Design, Decorating, and Organization
There is a little known secret to tiny house design or small space living that is well hidden and kept within the cloisters of some stale fortune cookie in New York's Chinatown so that we tiny folk don't appear to be as disorganized and messy as we sometimes are. It is figuratively (and sometimes quite literally) our dirty little secret.
Small spaces get messier and more disorganized much faster and much more chaotic than a larger space.
In fact, the rate of messiness is probably proportional to the actual square footage of the space. I sometimes wonder if a lesser-known mathematician didn't come up with a formula that reads J2 + C3 ÷ Xft2 = messiness where J=junk and C=chaos. The reasoning however is pretty simple. There is less space in a tiny house to actually commit to solid organizing. Right? WRONG! What there is more challenge to overcome. But it can be done and the following tips explore those victories.
Hanging Storage Strategies
One of my personal tiny house design inspirations is boat living. I don't have much time on the water but I do love the use of space, the warm colors typically used, and the compact feeling live aboard boats provide. So it makes for no surprise that recently I have been smitten with the use of baskets and pulleys as a way to store things you need access to but want to do something different.
That is where this idea comes in. Imagine soaking in your tub and needing a towel. Typically you have to cross the room (dripping along the way), pull one out, and then rush back to the tub mat. With a system like the one onboard this boat (pictured above) you could simply loosen the rope, let the basket come down, grab a towel, and send your storage flying back to the sky!
Keep Your Secrets Safe
I have actually come across people who live in larger homes that have stand up safes, wall safes, lockable filing cabinets, and the like. In them they typically keep mortgage papers, birth certificates, money, jewels, etc. But when your home is less than 300 sq.ft. you can't possibly dedicate 6 sq.ft. of your tiny house design to a safe.
Why not try something much smaller then like a SentrySafe Fire Chest. We have found that it holds our 8.5"x11" paperwork, a few backup DVDs, some irreplaceable photos, and a USB stick or two, and slides nicely right under our bed. It is also lockable and fireproof up to 1550F.
Utilizing Filing (Digital and Not)
I have often wondered what my mother kept in her two-drawer, metal, lockable filing cabinet. Imagine how disappointed I was when she opened it one day for me to reveal, not folders of secret covert operations or original Coke-Cola stock certificates, but rather receipts from medical bills, the warranties to her kitchen appliances, and other less impressive things.
I realized then I did not need a file cabinet in any way. So for our own tiny house design and organization we opted instead to digitize a number of documents, shred the originals, and purchase a small filing flex folder that again would slide under our bed. This Pendaflex organizer does everything we need it to. It has 19 pockets, expands to 15", holds legal size paper, and even has a protective flap with handle - all with much less space.
Hidden Toe-Kick Storage
Perhaps one of the most innovative, space-saving, abstract tiny house design and decorating ideas I have seen is the use of cabinet toe kicks as drawers. I first saw this used by builder Dee Williams in her kitchen for Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith. Because the riser space has to be there anyway to properly elevate your kitchen cabinets, why not use the otherwise wasted space to create out-of-sight and out-of-mind drawers? With a little creativity you can even purchase a push to open latch so you don't have to constantly bend over to see what is in the drawer.
Using Space-Saving Boxes
You can't argue the convenience and space-saving ability of boxes - fabric or hard-sided - in your tiny house design and organization. You can usually find a fabric storage box for less than $6 at places like Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Homegoods, etc. They work perfect for our daughter who at two-years old has a lot of clothes that simply don't want to stay on a hanger, don't hang right anyway, fold into nothing x nothing, etc. They also work great for adult t-shirts, underwear, socks, and the list goes on.
Perhaps the most effective aspect though is that they can be used one-at-the-time and kept wherever you have room or you can purchase one of those laminate stacker organizer and turn an otherwise useless 32" wide space into a functioning dresser.
Finding Wasted Space for Books
The logical path to eliminating the need for library space would be to get digital copies of all books - new and old - and then only purchase eBooks. But if you're like me there are a few stragglers that either aren't available in electronic format or they have a bit of undeniable nostalgia to them.
Even a tiny space can accommodate book storage. There is quite a bit of wasted space above all door headers. And if the door is framed properly you have a trim stud, king stud, header, and cripples - all perfect support for a shelf. Perhaps the easiest way to create an over-the-door shelf is to nail a ledger board to the header, screw your shelf board down into the ledger, perhaps add a couple of 45 degree angle brackets and you instantly have a shelf to support those "must not get rid of" books.
Whatever the size of your tiny house, small home, apartment, RV, or even Yurt, there's one spot that is seen first by everyone (including yourself) that enters your home: the entryway. And that spot is typically the beginning of the clutter chaos. Once you enter you drop (your keys), toss (the mail), kick off (your shoes), and even throw (your jacket).
Your landing strip (as it is affectionately called) in your tiny house design doesn't have to be big or expensive or filled with clunky furniture. It can involve just a welcome mat, a coat hook or two, and a shelf. Case in point is the simple yet welcoming area pictured above. Coat hooks? Check (which also help tremendously in keeping up with a dog leash or diaper bag). Key hook? Check. Small shelf? Check. There is even a little place for pictures which could easily double as a place for notes to teachers, letters to go to the post office, etc. that you don't want to forget on the way out the next morning!
BTW, check out this cool tiny house design from the Museum of the City of New York!
More Tiny House Design and Decorating Tips
These seven tips above are in no way the full list of innovative ways to keep clutter clear, utilize storage, and even add style to your small space. They are only the tip of the iceberg and perhaps a jumping off point for you to customize your own space in a way that solves the earlier math equation and makes an organization genius of you for all your friends to applaud.
Looking for more tiny house design tips? Plenty more can be found in the new eBook, How To Decorate the Tiny House. A 48-page guide to color choice, use of light and windows, organizational ideas, and clever storage solutions, as well as top tiny tips for decorating, How To Decorate is an easy read yet a powerful resource to get your creative juices flowing and return to you creative control in your home.
Andrew Odom is a content contributor, author, designer, community manager, neo-homesteader, and dreamer. In his spare time he typically dons a tin foil hat and sets out to reveal the real culprit behind the Scooby Doo mystery. Read more from his sustainable housing chronicles here or find him on Google.