One of 2020’s biggest trends has been one wrapped with worldly hot topics of sustainability and living zero waste lifestyles: tiny homes. Thanks to television series such as Tiny House Nation and YouTube series Living Big In A Tiny House people around the world have zoned in on this new trend of living small.
While there are many reasons to start living tiny, most choose the lifestyle to save money, be able to work remotely and be location independent, and to live a much more eco-friendly life.
There are various ways to obtain a tiny home: there are companies that pre-build small houses or customize campervans or you can simply renovate the whole thing yourself, which has become a huge trend on TikTok.
The tiny home movement isn’t just for those who wish to haul their entire lives into a small space 24/7, but can also be for those wanting to easily travel the country while still having their own home base with them.
Being influenced by this tiny house movement, my partner and I bought a used camper trailer this summer and have been renovating it to become our dream tiny home.
After a lot of research and trial and error, including inspirational ideas that are way out of our league, I decided to share 8 amazing ideas for tiny homes, including full renovations as well as custom furniture ideas, to help you be inspired to discover your future custom tiny house.
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Luxury Semi-Truck Tiny Home
Just because many peoples’ reasoning for going tiny is to save money and live a minimalistic life, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on living in luxury.
This luxury tiny home was custom built by the owners, Julia and Robert, as they downsized from their giant mansion, into a luxurious trailer that most would never see as a downgrade.
At the price of an average small house in Tennessee, they built a dream home-on-wheels that they simply attach to their own personal lorry, (or semi-truck, as they call it) to move around. Having a car also isn’t a problem as they park their tiny Smart car on the lorry too.
Julia and Robert gave up over 5,000 square feet of real estate to swap for their 300 square feet location independent home, and it shows that whatever the circumstances, going tiny to live closer to nature is quite real and a path worth pursuing.
The Murphy Bed
Tiny living takes a lot of effort to ensure that you have all you need in your small space, which may mean that some items become a two-in-one with a simple flip or lift to change it from one piece of furniture to another.
The Murphy bed is one of my favourite furniture options that can take your bedroom into an open office space so quickly simply by lifting and securing the bed vertically and allowing a shelf or desk to appear horizontally off of said bed.
You can buy pricy ready-made murphy beds from Wayfair or using a little bit of time and patience can create a custom-built DIY murphy bed to perfectly fit your space and choose exactly what you have on the bed’s underside, such as, a desk, a shelf, or a TV.
Murphy beds are great for small spaces where you may be working from home or may not have a separate living room area from the bedroom and as a bonus, it ensures you always make your bed each morning. Tidy.
When my partner and I bought our camper, the first thing we did was rip out the dinette table and benches that are traditionally found in most campers. We knew exactly what was going in its place: a custom extending sofa.
When making DIY furniture, there are endless possibilities for customization, which allows you to perfectly fit the space you have and add any extras that will take the piece from a one-time piece to a multi-faceted functional item.
We created an extending sofa to go over some existing storage and the wheel hub in our camper. We wanted a permanent ‘L’ sofa, as we like to cuddle, that could pull out into a twin-sized bed if and when needed.
Not only does the sofa extend, by using opposing slats, but, when closed, also has a lid that lifts up, allowing to access the storage centre; we used ours to house our battery setup.
By created custom cushions, it is easy to transform from sofa to comfortable bed, in a mere matter of seconds.
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We are about sustainability and renewable resources over here, so of course, I’m going to mention the use of solar energy.
Since many tiny homes are location independent, they are also often off-grid, which simply means they don’t need external electricity or power from the grid in order to run.
While I could go into the various types of battery setups and generator options, they become costly, large, and heavy. All of which are things that need to be kept down when custom building a tiny home.
Solar panels are something I have seen on the top of almost every tiny home I’ve researched. We have two large panels on the top of ours, but some tiny homes house up to four dependent of roof space.
As well as placing them on top of your home to run off of, you can also get personal sized solar panels to use for devices such as phones and tablets.
If you’re changing your lifestyle to accommodate an eco-friendly way of living, solar panels are simply a no-brainer.
Stealthy School Bus Conversions
Even as a kid, I remember seeing traditional yellow American school buses and thinking how cool it would be to convert it and travel around in one, (maybe I just watched too much of The Magic School Bus as a child). In the United States, these buses are a daily sight, but I always thought it would be super cool to have one in Europe where they are much rarer to see.
There are different lengths and sizes of school buses which allows for varying levels of customization. Some people even raise the roof by a foot or two to allow for even more space, and potentially two levels of living.
For me, the coolest part of converting a school bus is that it can easily be hidden in plain sight, much like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, or can be totally customized from the outside and look as unique as possible.
The same can be done for old ambulances, but I feel somewhat conflicted about owning a vehicle that looks like an emergency vehicle but is actually for casual living inside.
Illusion of Space
As the name suggests, the majority of tiny homes are tiny. This means when decorating the interior, you may want to consider designs that elongate and open up the space.
Current trends in 2020 inject a little bit of colour to the bottom cabinets and cupboards, usually in the hues of mint greens, greys and blues, while painting the upper cabinets white, along with the walls.
This allows your home to have some colour, but the light upper areas open up the space to feel less claustrophobic.
Along with paint, floorboards help elongate the space too.
Putting floorboards lengthways along your home, rather than widthways, fools the eye into believing the space is longer than it is.
Adding mirrors to the space can help with feeling less claustrophobic. Just don’t go overboard, otherwise, your trendy designer home will turn into a vortex of repeated reflections.
If your home on wheels allows for the design to have a large door or window that can give a panoramic view of nature, I would suggest incorporating that into your plans.
Opening up a large back door, or installing a sliding window, will bring in fresh air and the illusion of a much bigger, and less cramped, living space.
Living tiny means being minimalistic and innovative with storage.
Not only should you try to create furniture with more than one use, but ensure that any extra space you have is used for storage, without looking too cramped inside.
Hidden storage can be obvious, like under the bed storage, or more innovative, such as staircases with drawers inside of them.
It is much better to have more storage than needed, than to have more stuff than the storage can fit. Make your storage a beautiful design feature, rather than looking obvious and out of place.
Hidden storage works out really well if you find there is an extra couple-of-inch space somewhere in your design. Turn it into a pantry cupboard, a place to keep your removable tabletop, or fold up chairs.
If you have pets in your small living space, you can build dog crates into seating to allow your loved one to have their own space or be securely put away when you’re not at home. This is a great way to incorporate dog crates into a small space.
Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle
Sustainable living being one of the great reasons to go tiny allows for many chances to reuse, recycle or upcycle previously loved items.
To start with, if renovating an existing camper, RV, or tiny home, when removing unwanted fixtures from inside, hold onto them until the very end of your build; you never know when a small throwaway piece of wood or fabric may come in handy.
Using wood cutoffs is great for experimenting or making frame prototypes before the real thing. Even using discarded ugly wood can be useful if the frame will be completely hidden anyway - it doesn’t need to look pretty if you can’t see it.
Facebook Marketplace, or other secondhand sites, are super helpful when trying to keep costs down and save from needlessly buying new. We have bought so many electric tools, and even our solar panels, from Facebook, that we’ve probably saved hundreds.
For a truly unique look in your tiny home, you can create DIY countertops and tables from discarded live edge wooden slabs or you could upcycle fabric to make new seat covers in your new home.
Never Stop Experimenting and Researching
While I have listed only eight amazing ideas to inspire you in your tiny house adventures, there are a plethora of photos, tutorials, blogs and videos online of more ways to transform your independent home-on-wheels.
Although, remember that tiny homes come in so many shapes and sizes so something that may look great in one home, may not work successfully in another, and since beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, maybe you just think something looks fantastic, even if others don’t, and that’s okay.
Experimenting with tiny home living allows us to find more sustainable ways of living and to share tips and ideas with communities online.
If there are any innovative ideas I haven’t included, please leave a comment below and share more exciting ways to transform our future custom tiny homes.
About the author
Ruby is a Brit lost in space. She enjoys travelling the world, having lived in a handful of different countries she now lives and studies in beautiful Tennessee, US. When she isn’t fighting the environmental battle against climate change, she can be found walking her dogs, creating illustrations, or experimenting in the kitchen.