Tiny home traits: 5 features every small space needs

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5 Incredible Tiny Houses



Tiny homes appeal to many people, whether as a solution to surging rents or because of the freedom they can lend your lifestyle. But if you decide living in 400 square feet (or less) is for you, how do you actually make it work?

Here are five features that help make tiny homes functional — and even comfortable.

1. A bed on the main level

Although most tiny homes have lofted beds for obvious space-saving reasons, it's a good idea to also have somewhere to sleep on the main level for guests, or if you can't make it up the stairs due to an injury, notes Dee Williams, author of "The Big Tiny" and founder of Portland Alternative Dwellings.

One of the easiest and most efficient ways to put a bed in the main living area is to purchase a couch that converts to a bed.

2. A ton of natural light

Many tiny homes are restricted to an 8.5-foot width and 13.5-foot height due to federal and state highway rules on transporting structures. (Although you can build a tiny home on a foundation, many tiny home owners choose to place theirs in backyards or even in RV parks, which means the home will need to be moved once it has been built.)

Because of this limited amount of space, the more natural light, the better. "Using windows or different wall finishes can make a space feel a lot bigger," explains Derin Williams, builder and designer for Shelter Wise, a design-build firm based in Portland, OR.

3. Creative storage solutions

If you are living (or planning to live) tiny, then a large majority of your items will most likely need to be recycled, given away or tossed. However, the items you still have will need a space, which can be a challenge in less than 400 square feet.

Simple solutions like hanging up your pots and pans instead of storing them in drawers, or keeping extra blankets and pillows in an ottoman or trunk, are good space savers.

When building your tiny home, consult with your builder, as there are tons of creative ways to make space for your items. "Many people have collapsible or hidden drawers in their tiny homes," notes Dee. "A lot of builders are now also putting drawers in the toe-kick area, which is an awesome additional use of space."

4. Multipurpose areas

In a tiny home, every area has to be flexible in how it is used. A kitchen will not be your kitchen all the time in your tiny home, because it could be your office, dining room and maybe even your closet at any point in the day.

Because each room has to be multipurpose, it's important to have furniture that reflects these uses. "If you have a table for eating, make that space multifunctional," says Derin. "Remove the table, and then you'll have a lounge area. Drop down the table and make it a bed."

5. Multi-use appliances

Many of us are familiar with the stackable washer and dryer, and maybe some even have experience with combination washer/dryers, but the popularity of tiny homes has given rise to appliance innovation.

"GE and other manufacturers are leaning toward developing smaller appliances for tiny homes, studios and mother-in-law suites," says Dee. "The idea is that you could have a whole kitchen setup — kitchen sink, range, dishwasher — all built into one set."

Although these products may not be widely available at every major appliance store, it could be something to look into if you are serious about moving into a tiny home.

All photos courtesy of PAD Tiny Houses. The home shown is the Hikari Box Tiny House, designed by Shelter Wise. Plans for this home are available from PAD Tiny Houses.

Related: 10 cities with the most tiny homes

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Tiny home traits: 5 features every small space needs

10. (Tie) Dallas, Texas: 14 Tiny Houses for Sale

Not everything is bigger in Texas. In fact, tiny homes are catching on throughout the state. Dallas has the 10th highest number in the nation of tiny homes listed for sale — tied with Irving, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn.

Like in many large cities, housing costs are high in Dallas. The city has experienced one of the steepest surges in rental prices in the nation, according to the Zumper National Rent Report for August 2015. Low-price tiny homes might be offering an alternative to high-rent apartments and high-priced homes.

Related: Best (and Worst) States to Buy a Home This Spring

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

10 (Tie) Irving, Texas: 14 Tiny Houses for Sale

This suburb has as many tiny homes listed for sale as its bigger neighbor, Dallas. High housing costs could be among the reasons.

According to Zillow, monthly rent in Irving is $1,429 — $132 higher than in Dallas. And the median sale price for homes is $175,598.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

10. (Tie) Nashville, Tenn.: 14 Tiny Houses for Sale

Nashville is one the many cities where the tiny house movement is growing. In fact, a micro-home community for the homeless was recently created in Nashville, reports USA Today.

However, there are some restrictions on small homes in the city. Zoning laws allow for accessory dwelling units — small structures built on property with a primary structure — according to MusicCityTinyHouse.com. But houses on wheels can only be in areas that allow RV camping.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

9. Aurora, Colo.: 18 Tiny Houses for Sale

Housing costs in this city in the Denver metropolitan area aren't as high as in Aurora's bigger neighbor. But there are several tiny home contractors in the area, which might explain why so many tiny homes are listed for sale in Aurora.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

8. San Antonio, Texas: 21 Tiny Houses for Sale

One of the big builders of tiny homes, Tiny Texas Houses, is located about 60 miles from San Antonio — which might explain why the city has many tiny homes listed for sale.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

7. Memphis, Tenn.: 24 Tiny Houses for Sale

Small home construction company Tennessee Tiny Homes — and sister company, Tiny Happy Homes — are located just outside Memphis, which might explain the high number of small house listings in the Memphis area. In fact, one of Tennessee Tiny Homes' houses has been featured on the FYI TV series, "Tiny House Nation."

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

6. Denver: 25 Tiny Houses for Sale

Tiny homes were actually the big attraction at the recent Denver Home Show, a testament to the growing popularity of these small structures in the Mile-High City. "Tiny House Nation" has even filmed episodes in Denver, according to The Denver Post.

However, zoning laws in Denver — like in many other cities — don't favor tiny homes. But, city officials have said recently that they're open to discussing rules regarding tiny houses, reports The Denver Post.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

5. San Francisco: 26 Tiny Houses for Sale

It's well known that San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in. The median home sales price is nearly $1 million, according to Zillow. With a lack of affordable housing, there is a demand for inexpensive tiny homes.

However, prospective tiny house homeowners should do their research first; San Francisco's zoning codes make it difficult to have a tiny home legally.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

4. Oakland, Calif.: 31 Tiny Houses for Sale

Housing costs also are high in San Francisco's neighbor to the East, Oakland, which recently saw rent prices surge 20 percent, according to the Zumper National Rent Report. As a result, it seems that tiny homes are growing in popularity as an affordable alternative.

But, zoning laws make it difficult to find a place to park or build a tiny home legally, too. Despite the obstacles, tiny house enthusiasts abound in Oakland. The East Bay Tiny House Enthusiasts group has more than 1,000 members.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

3. Austin, Texas: 50 Tiny Houses for Sales

Austin residents who are renting might want to consider becoming first-time homeowners — tiny house homeowners, that is. Austin was the second fastest-growing rental market in the U.S., with rental prices jumping 17 percent, according to the Zumper National Rent August 2015 Report. As a result, there's been a push in the city for more affordable housing.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

​2. Seattle: 64 Tiny Houses for Sale

The growth in tiny homes might be fueled by the high cost of housing in Seattle, which has the 10th highest median rent for one-bedroom apartments in the nation, according to Zumper, and a median home sale price of $515,561, according to Zillow.

Seattle created a village of tiny homes and opened it in early 2016 for those least able to afford the city's high housing costs: the homeless, reports local news station KIRO 7.

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

1. Portland, Ore.: 87 Tiny Houses for Sale

Portland is considered to be a hotbed of tiny homes (it's also the best U.S. city for saving money). There are likely many reasons why the tiny house movement has caught on here.

For starters, the median rent is among the top 20 highest in the nation, according to the Zumper National Rent Report. And the median sale price of homes in Portland is $332,600, according to Zillow.

Portland's zoning rules are also friendlier to tiny homes compared to other areas. There also are plenty of resources for tiny home enthusiasts — including lecture series and workshops — and the Build Small, Live Large small house summit was held in Portland in 2015.

Keep Reading: 10 Tiny Homes for Retirees

Photo credit: GOBankingRates.com/Courtesy of TinyHouseListings.com

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