Can a family live in a tiny house?

What sort of floor plans would be necessary for a family of five to live comfortably? Can they live in a tiny-house that meets EU trailer regulations?

Can a family live in a tiny house?
Photo by Michael B. Stuart / Unsplash

That's the question I've been asking myself lately.  You see very few examples of it. You find couples and singles in tiny houses, maybe even a couple with a baby or two. But what happens when these children get older?

Families can live in yurts apparently, at least Google reveals several blogs from families living in about 35 sqm, and that's how the Mongolians in particular have been living for centuries.

Our first house was 60 sqm and felt small with four of us, but it wasn't optimised and we couldn't make use of shared space. I think if the stairwell and hallways were removed and we had access to a nearby laundry facility and workshop, then five of us could live in 50 sqm.

Caravans are available in 6 or 8 berths and static caravans or chalets are also available in even larger sizes.

Requirements

Let's consider what a family like ours would need in a house if they had access to some communal facilities. I'm not assuming it is a fully-fledged co-housing community with a cantine, rather that the family could live entirely independently in that space, but if they wish to, then they have the option to use the shared facilities.

Kitchen

  • 4 burners (or two fixed and one portable)
  • Storage for pans, cake tins, mixing bowls
  • Storage for cups, plates and cutlery
  • Storage for groceries
  • Fridge-freezer
  • Sink, dishwasher optional

Dining area

  • Table for 6

Lounge area

  • Sofa and seating for 6
  • Television

Bathroom

  • Sink
  • Toilet
  • Shower
  • Bath desirable for young children

Bedrooms

  • Double master bedroom
  • Ideally 3 single bedrooms, worst case 1 bedroom with 2 bunks
  • Each bedroom to have a wardrobe
  • Each bedroom to have drawers
  • Ideally, children's rooms would have a desk and stool

Layouts

Taking these requirements and the basic Microsoft Visio floor plan tools I was able to come up with a few ideas (see below). They lack the innovation of a tiny house because I have not considered things like can we sleep in a loft space.  Maybe all the kids could sleep in half-height bedrooms. Honestly, if we didn't have to then it would be ideal not to. The vertical space can be used for clothes and personal item storage. When you have four seasons then you need a variety of coats and shoes.

Space savers are included though:

  • Under-bed storage is a must. I considered having fold-away beds but then you lose the storage.
  • Over-bed storage.
  • Fold-away desk.
  • Custom height wardrobe (1m is probably long enough)
  • Bulky items like push-chairs stored outside
  • Wall-based storage for stationary.
  • Pocket doors and bifold doors

What I've come up with then is similar to a large caravan or chalet at 5m x 11.7m totalling 58.5 sqm or 630 square feet (external including walls). I'm doubtful if I can, or even want to get it smaller.

I could do something with the lounge area because 4.7m width is a large space to fill. It's the same as we have in our current house and you are needlessly far away from the television. I'd like a large sliding glass door at this end so a TV could not be permanently placed on it, but you could get a projector and a pull-down screen, or a folding mechanism to hide the TV. The problem remains that that is simply the size of the space so without doing something crazy like making it a triangle shape (nose-cone), there is just extra space there. Some of it could probably be borrowed to make external storage, but I'm going to assume that this is not a touring caravan, especially with those dimensions and so the storage doesn't need to be built into the structure but can be a separate shed off to the side, or under the cabin.

Trailers

Ok, I had another go this time using two trailers. After all, if two people can live in one trailer then surely five people can live in two trailers. Again I have not used all the vertical space. I thought about placing the master bed above the dining area but it makes more sense for all sleeping spaces to be together because of the temperatures. The sleeping cabin could be kept at a lower temperature than the living area.

In this layout, I've assumed that the children's beds will use the vertical space somehow. They would miss the desk space then but could hopefully do homework at the dining table. Another option would be for the children to all sleep side by side above the master bed, or above a study/play area, and this may make more sense if your children are up for it. We've got three girls so I'm sure they'd be happy with that arrangement.

You'll notice that the three-seater sofa has been replaced with a two-seater. That's because now you can use some dining chairs if the whole family is watching. Alternatively, you'd rearrange the kitchen to create a little more space, that probably makes more sense.

The grand total space for two such trailers comes out at 36 sqm.

Practicalities

The trailer appears much more cramped because the children would have half-height sleeping space. It also looks more cramped and less homely.

Children tend to come with lots of stuff and if there are babies then you will need to consider where they will sleep and how you will reach them in the middle of the night.  The same applies to younger children, they also can wake up crying and need attention at night.

Older children will find it more difficult to share a bed. I've heard of several cases of two girls sharing a double bed, but three girls could get difficult. Also if you have boys and girls then this also probably won't work. You could resort to simple bunk beds in that case. With three children like we have, you would put the desk space under one of the bunks instead of the fourth bed.

Now the reality. As a long term dwelling, meaning at least 8 years until the eldest moves out then I would not want to live in a tiny house. I think the ideals can still be achieved in a larger and probably the cost would be similar and the enjoyment bigger.

As temporary accommodation whilst applying for planning permission, renovating a property, or building a property, then yes it could work. But, in that case, it would make more sense to purchase a used caravan and then sell it again afterwards.

Comments

I'd like to hear your comments and especially whether you have lived as a family in such a space long term. Please use our chat group on Telegram at https://t.me/greatdeceptionchat

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