The Decisions You'll Make When You Build Your Tiny Home

Tiny House Design Choices: The Big Decisions

Building a tiny house differs from the “typical” homebuilding process in a lot of ways. 

For one, you’re working with a lot less space and therefore, using a lot less materials.  You only include what you really need and most things have a double purpose.

But one thing remains the same… building a tiny house is full of decisions.

Being that I’ve never been a very decisive person to begin with, this proved to be an interesting part of the journey. 

It was exciting at times… getting to pick out fun stuff like my tiny appliances or paint colors, but challenging at times too when you find out what you want or dreamed of is not a realistic possibility.

The very first decision I had to make was: 

What do I really need in my tiny house?

That’s a pretty big decision right off the bat because the entire design of your house depends on it. 

When you’re building a “regular” house, a lot of things are standard… bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchen.  But with a tiny house, it’s not that cut and dry. 

When you’re building a “regular” house, a lot of things are standard… bedrooms, bathrooms, living room, kitchen. But with a tiny house, it’s not that cut and dry.

Since you only have a limited amount of space to work with, some things may have to get cut. 

Or at least “miniaturized.” 

For example, if you eat out all the time and never really cook at home, maybe all you need is a small sink and a mini fridge as your kitchen. 

Or if you work from home, maybe it’s more important to incorporate a designated workspace somewhere. 

In my house, I decided right away that there were some things that were non-negotiables:

  • A “large” kitchen with a dishwasher, mid to regular size fridge, stove/range and counter space
  • A bathroom with an actual door
  • A staircase up to the loft instead of a ladder
  • Head room in the loft
  • Closet/storage space
  • Comfortable couch

I also knew that I wanted to eventually be able to go off-grid if I wanted to, which meant I couldn’t have a regular toilet.  Which led me to my next decision:


What kind of toilet will I have?

It sounds kind of funny to an “outsider” but to those in the tiny house community, you know how important this question really is. 

There are a lot of different options – an RV toilet, a homemade composting toilet, a self-contained composting toilet, a waterless toilet or even a regular toilet if you have access to sewage.

You can read the full break down of every type of tiny house toilet here.

For me, I knew this last option wasn’t for me because I wanted to be able to go off-grid at some point. 

And since I didn’t want to deal with “pumping” out the toilet, an RV toilet was out of the question too. 

But originally, I thought I would go with a remote (self-contained) composting toilet.  Notice I said originally because plans change when building a tiny house.

I wanted a high-tech, do it all itself composting toilet to make my life easier (and hopefully my bathroom smell fresher!) so I was willing to fork out the big bucks (like $1k) for it. 

That is, until I realized that it wouldn’t work with my design of a rooftop deck. 

Since composting toilets vent up and out, that would put the vent right up next to my deck and well, that’s just not very pleasant.

So I made a new decision regarding my original decision and decided to go with a waterless (or dry) toilet instead. 

Every time it’s flushed, the silver liner inside the bowl basically contracts around the waste and seals it air tight.  Then it drops into a receptacle below and a new liner opens up in the bowl.  Easy peasy and allows me to still be off-grid in the future if I want to.

For more on tiny house toilet options, read this article "How to Choose a Toilet for your Tiny House".

Along the way, I encountered a lot more little decisions…

Do I want to pay more for the bamboo floors that I originally chose or do I want to use laminate instead?

Laminate!  It’s way cheaper and still looks beautiful!

Do I want to keep my front door centered on the house and lose 1’ of width on the built-in couch or off-set the door and shorten the couch?

Being the OCD person that I am… a symmetrical front on my house made me happy.

Where did I want to place some pops of color so the whole inside wasn’t just plain white?

Since purple is my “signature” color, it had to be incorporated on the inside too, of course.  So I decided an accent wall in the loft and a purple bathroom would give just enough “oomph”!

Do I want a longer breakfast bar and less space to walk through the middle of the house or a shorter breakfast bar and more walking room?

More walking room.  In a tiny house… always more walking room!

And of course, the biggest decision of all…

What to name her?

Sweet Caroline. Because I am a Carolina Girl at heart, as well as being a little nod to my Neil Diamond-loving dad whose now passed.

Some of these decisions were unique to just my house.  But then again, if you build a tiny house… you’ll have a lot of decisions that are unique to yours too.  That’s part of the fun of tiny living.  It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle that has to be put together. 

Except you get to decide what the finished picture looks like!

This article was contributed by friend and tiny house dweller Jenn Baxter, you can see her tiny house here.