(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-5pm Eastern

thompson tiny house

Lessons Learned from Two Years of Tiny House Living

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Jun 12, 2019

The average master bedroom size in the United States is around 224 square feet, and that doesn’t even include the added walk-in closet and master bathroom. How is it then that Austin and Heidi Thompson, along with help from the Tiny Home Builders Team in Florida, came up with a plan to build a 204 square foot tiny home that feels every bit as spacious as a regular-sized home? Their lofted tiny house is only 24 feet long by 8.5 feet wide, but every square inch of the home is imaginatively and skillfully custom designed to maximize the amount of interior living space. 

From the outside, most onlookers might doubt that the interior of this home could include a kitchen with a full-sized refrigerator and electric range and stove, a wraparound sofa couch, a washer and dryer combo, a large shower with a glass door, and a large, lofted bedroom with an enormous amount of light. The Thompson home offers an enormous wealth of wisdom on maximizing space in tiny houses to reduce your home's ecological footprint while not sacrificing comfort. 

Details of Austin and Heidi’s Home 

Instead of simply settling for a mass-produced tiny home model manufactured by the hundreds of tiny home building companies around the country, Austin and Heidi were adamant that they wanted a custom-built home tailored to their individual needs and preferences. One of the main attractions to the house is the large accordion window, which opens up entirely to the outside. This large window essentially allows Austin and Heidi to feel as if they are outside on the connected deck even when they're inside the home. When open, the window offers an abundance of fresh air to the entire house and cuts back on the need for additional air conditioning during the summer.

tiny house kitchen
Photo Credit: Tiny Home Builders

The kitchen is located in the center of the home and includes an oven and electric range, both attached to a kitchen countertop with a full array of shelves and storage space connected to the wall. The kitchen fills out across from the cooking area, a full-sized refrigerator, a dishwasher, and a kitchen sink with additional storage space underneath.

tiny house living room
Photo Credit: Tiny Home Builders

Next to the front door, a washer and dryer combo is located in a small closet attached to a wraparound bench seat, which offers a comfortable lounging and living room area. A movable table doubles as office space and a larger dining area for when the Thompsons have guests over for dinner.

tiny house stairs
Photo Credit: Tiny Home Builders

Between the kitchen and living room, a set of stairs (not ladders, like other tiny homes) leads to the main loft, where two large windows and a unique skylight offer an enormous amount of natural light. While the loft areas of some tiny homes are dark areas reserved only for sleeping, this bedroom is a comfortable place to relax. On the opposite side of the tiny house, a separate “lounge loft” offers an additional sleeping area, along with a bright area for reading or relaxing. To control the temperature in the lofted area, a small mini-split air conditioner allows Austin and Heidi to control the temperature even on the hottest summer nights. In the lounge loft, a small air circulator is located to refresh the air in the home.

tiny house loft
Photo Credit: Tiny Home Builders

The bathroom includes a toilet, bathroom sink, and a standard-sized tiled shower that includes a butterfly glass door. Another strategy for maximizing the feeling of spaciousness within the home's main living areas was through incorporating an industrial look for lighting. Underneath both lofted areas, track lighting was installed to increase the home's brightness and “glow.”

tiny house shower
Photo Credit: Tiny Home Builders

A Ton of Unique Storage Ideas 

The central design strategy of the Thompson tiny home that allowed for a feeling of spaciousness was the incorporation of several innovative storage solutions throughout the rooms of the house. The bench seat in the living area opens up on a set of hinges for a large storage area. A custom shelf in the main bedroom loft allows for a separate “closet” for clothing and other personal items. Underneath the accordion window, an L-shaped shelf is an excellent space for books and other things, and this shelf also doubles as a seat for the dining room table.  

The large staircase maximizes storage opportunities, as a series of small cubbies and pull-out shelves allow for a small pantry to store kitchen and food essentials. The stairs also have a separate drawer and a storage pocket for separate spaces to accommodate their belongings. 

Austin mentions that “at first, it was hard to figure out what we would need in our tiny house and what we could give away. I was afraid to get rid of something, only to find out later that I should have kept it. Well, two years later, I do not miss a single thing from the boxes and boxes of junk we gave away. The fears we had of letting go were completely unwarranted.” Through downsizing, Austin and Heidi found that a bit of design creativity allowed them more than enough storage space for their belongings. 

Lessons Learned from Two Years of Tiny Home Living

Shortly after having finished the home, Austin and Heidi built a full-size outdoor deck directly connected to the front door of their tiny home. This outdoor space includes an outdoor cooking and eating area and even a tiny dog house for their dog Ruth. Austin adds that “we enjoy spending time on our deck when the weather and mosquitos cooperate. Our dog Ruth even has her own tiny house to sleep in while we are away at work.”

The outdoor living space allowed the Thompsons to connect their home to the surrounding natural areas. According to Austin, “We love our home. We are fortunate to live close to work and friends, but in a secluded area where we can get away from the hustle and bustle of life.” The inclusion of an outdoor living area and the large accordion window allowed for a sense of biophilic architectural design, which creates a direct connection to the natural world.

This space also allowed Austin and Heidi to create an escape for the sometimes tricky moments of sharing a small space with another person. “Many people ask what my wife and I do when we are angry with each other and want our own space in the tiny house,” Austin mentions. “Sharing a small space has exposed our selfish tendencies but also forced us to address the issue and work it out. As a result, we have learned how to love each other better.”

Of course, one of the main advantages of having opted for tiny house living is that the Thompson family could escape the path of lifelong debt, even as a relatively young couple. Austin mentions that “tiny house living has allowed us to pay off debt, spend more time with each other, and focus on what is important in our lives. If we had not gone through the difficulties of starting our tiny journey, we would not have reaped the benefits.”

Advice from the Tiny House Builder Team 

Austin and Heidi’s home certainly provides several ideas and innovative solutions for how a small space can amplify the sense of interior living area. RISE also spoke with Angel Salat from the Tiny House Builder Team to gather a few more suggestions and ideas on how potential tiny home homeowners can confront some of the challenges of tiny home living.

RISE: What would be one thing that people interested in tiny homes usually don't think about?

Angel: Most people don’t think about where they will put their home once they build it. Community legislation and zoning laws can be tricky, so do your homework.

RISE: If you could tell potential tiny home homeowners to get rid of one thing, what would it be and why?

Angel: Your preconceived notions of how their life would change. The essential element of going tiny, for many, is the prospect of a simpler, easier life. This is definitely the case for most. Others will face hurdles that they never saw coming. Be open and welcoming to it all.

RISE: From your perspective, what is the essential advantage(s) of tiny home living?

Angel: The biggest is financial freedom, which has a cascading effect to all the other sought-after freedoms: freedom from stress, dead-end jobs, creative stagnation, unrealistic ideas of material needs, and freedom to travel and experience.

RISE: Anything else you would like to add?

Angel: It is essential to do your homework when considering the home design you would thrive in. Use quality materials in your build; this is, after all, your shelter, no matter how small it is. Put your home on a sturdy foundation; know the quality of the trailer you are buying, and order the correct size trailer for your home design.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-09T16:57:04+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.