What You Need to Know Before Buying a Tiny House

Is going micro right for you? Small, sustainable living expert Sheri Koones offers tips on tiny living.

Sure, we are all obsessed with small houses and also with purging our lives of unnecessary belongings and really living for a change! But slow down, there pardner, and think about all the bits and pieces it’s good to know about before you embark on your tiny house adventure.

Shipping Container House

Shipping Container House

Sheri Koones' book Prefabulous Small Houses features homes like this 720 square foot San Diego project, created using repurposed shipping containers.

Photo by: Kevin Walsh Photography

Kevin Walsh Photography

One woman who knows whereof she speaks when it comes to small-scale living is Sheri Koones, author of the new book Prefabulous Small Houses featuring homes fabricated off-site and then plunked onto the homeowner’s property. Her book profiles homes ranging from 350 to 2,000 square feet and will get you super inspired to embrace a cleaner, simpler way of living.

We asked the hyper-knowledgable Koones for some sensible tips for making the transition to small. Koones has herself embraced a new clutter-free reality. “I have recently moved from an oversized house to a very small one and it is a wonderful liberating experience. You realize you don’t need all of the “stuff” that you’ve accumulated and it is easier to find the things you do have.”

Alcove Bed

Alcove Bed

A smaller living space requires creative solutions, like this bed tucked into an alcove.

Photo by: Alchemy Architects

Alchemy Architects

A smaller living space requires creative solutions, like this bed tucked into an alcove.

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Headboard Storage

Headboard Storage

Clever storage ideas like this space for purses built into a headboard show the creativity involved in rethinking space in a small house.

Photo by: Art Gray

Art Gray

Clever storage ideas like this space for purses built into a headboard show the creativity involved in rethinking space in a small house.

What do people need to think about when contemplating living in a tiny/small home?

  • Start immediately purging all unnecessary items: clothing and household goods.
  • Look for auction and consignment shops to get rid of large furniture and valuable items.
  • Find places to donate books and other discarded items.
  • Look to replace furnishings with smaller more multifunctional ones.
  • Learn to condense, such as photo albums and collections.
Rooftop Garden

Rooftop Garden

Small spaces call for double-duty rooms and this vertical garden in a small home performs multiple functions as green space, privacy screen and potential edible garden.

Photo by: Jason Flakes

Jason Flakes

Small spaces call for double-duty rooms and this vertical garden in a small home performs multiple functions as green space, privacy screen and potential edible garden.

What makes a prefab small home both appealing and challenging?

Challenging:

  • It is challenging getting rid of items you have accumulated over the years.
  • However, living in a small place is cozier, also keeping the family more together and connected.
Small House

Small House

This 2,400 square foot house in Seattle is a Greenfab prefab house with excellent energy performance.

Photo by: Tucker English Photography

Tucker English Photography

This 2,400 square foot house in Seattle is a Greenfab prefab house with excellent energy performance.

Appealing: 

  • It requires less maintenance.
  • Heating and cooling expenses are lower.
  • More time and money to do other things, such as travel and explore hobbies.
  • Building with prefab reduces the time it takes to build the house, in most cases also reduces the cost and provides a more stable, healthy environment.
  • Less time maintaining the house.
Little House

Little House

This Little House on the Ferry in Maine is a series of three-interconnected homes linked with a deck and is only 980 square feet.

Photo by: Trent Bell Photography

Trent Bell Photography

This Little House on the Ferry in Maine is a series of three-interconnected homes linked with a deck and is only 980 square feet.

What are the things most people need to learn to do without when contemplating transitioning to a smaller, prefab home?

  • Having excess baggage. (It can be difficult to get rid of long-owned possessions.) 
  • Need to own singles of items rather than multiples – such as sets of dishes and glasses. 
  • Having a room for each different purpose. One room needs to serve several purposes – such as a kitchen that doubles as an office space, and hobby area. 
House Book

House Book

Sheri Koones' book Prefabulous Small Houses features small spaces built with sustainable practices.

Photo by: Patrick Barta Photography

Patrick Barta Photography

Sheri Koones' book Prefabulous Small Houses features small spaces built with sustainable practices.

What are some of the innovative, creative ways that people have made better use of a smaller space that anyone can adapt to their own lifestyle?

Homeowners in Prefabulous Small Houses have come up with many ingenious ways to use smaller space.

Small House Kitchen

Small House Kitchen

Because this Tampa house was more of a getaway for a Florida couple, they decided to make the kitchen more modest and less spacious, knowing they would be eating out more than cooking here.

Photo by: Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott

Because this Tampa house was more of a getaway for a Florida couple, they decided to make the kitchen more modest and less spacious, knowing they would be eating out more than cooking here.

  • In the Casita de Invierno, which is just 352 square feet, they installed a dining table that drops down from the wall. The chairs are hung on hooks when not in use to keep them out of the way.
  • In the EHab Cabin, with just 450 square feet, a Murphy bed is in the kitchen area and the island is on wheels so it can be moved out of the way.
  • In the Cocoon House, just 480 square feet, the television is on a swivel in the dividing wall so it can be watched in the living room and bedroom.
  • In the Lakeside Container Cottage, a garage door was used to open up the living area and expand the feeling of space.
Cottage Small House

Cottage Small House

Not all small homes have to be modern.

Photo by: Jeremy Scott

Jeremy Scott

Not all small homes have to be modern.

Powder Room

Powder Room

Whimsy jumps off the walls in this Vancouver, Canada home whose small powder room boasts big style.

Photo by: Colin Perry

Colin Perry

Whimsy jumps off the walls in this Vancouver, Canada home whose small powder room boasts big style.

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