Tiny Tiny House Design Contest

It started with a simple enough idea... many building departments allow structures under 200 sf to be built without a permit. So, we asked, "what is the best design and the easiest construction? What are your ideas? What would you build?"

The interest and discussion that followed exceeded everyone's expectations. It was a full boat of new and old ideas, floorplans, photos and designs that filled over nine long display pages on the forum and perhaps 90-100 pages if anyone had the patience to print it all out.

To see the full panorama including many good ideas and options not shown here be sure to browse the full topic at "Buildings under 200 sf".

For the purpose of this contest, the design needed to be 200 sf or under and have been developed by the contestant. Early on the question of wall heights and lofts came up. In general, the usual intent of the code exemption is for a small utility structure or playhouse. "A building permit shall not be required for a one story detached accessory building used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet." - This wording is from the state of New Mexico (requirements vary considerably between states, towns and jurisdictions).

However, our contest did allow for tall walls and lofts if desired, and several contestants planned upper level sleeping lofts and one even had a cellar under the floor.

In general the designs followed one of two approaches —

  • Simplicity and ease of construction — or
  • Squeezing as much living space as possible into a 200 sf footprint.

And the Winners are...

Perhaps current economic conditions influenced the judging, but two of the the top three designs took the path of simplicity. You can easily imagine either the First or Third place winners being constructed quickly by the owners to provide shelter and a sense of home for small family or as an accessory building to a crowded main house.

1st Place Winner

winner of design contest

As Mark Chenail said when posting this design, "I found this a very intriguing exercise but would like to point out that most of the designs posted are aimed at the young skinny nimble and able-bodied. As I am confined to a wheelchair and plus-sized into the bargain, I decided to see what I could design all on one level and as accessible as possible. That meant NO steps, ladders, lofts for sleeping. [Here is] a simple minded shed."

Update: Since this contest, Mark has expanded his projects and kept a journal of his building experiences. His Missouri Journal is a fine read.

Comments from jurors:

"Very easy to build with a post and pier or pole foundation, shed roof and wonderful decks and ramps that fold up for security shutters. Lots of light and ventilation."

"This was drawn in a paint program?"

"Could probably be panelized and quickly assembled on site."

2nd Place Winner

This design by Bart Cubbins was the best example of the "maximum livability" approach. 


Front Elevation

Comments from jurors:

"This is a good example of a derivative design. The designer acknowledged that a larger cottage from architect Ross Chapin had been the inspiration. Yet, this in many ways is a unique design."

"You could actually have four people in this place!"

"Nice looking little building with a usable bath and galley, a large feeling sitting area and dining for two. The loft and basement fill it out and make for a great little tiny house."

3rd Place Winner

This design, the first in a series from Jonsey of Hay, Australia is the simplest to build. In fact, an experienced builder could whip this little building up directly from Jonsey's plan here. Click the graphic for a larger image. Yes, the dimensions are in that mysterious system called metric (used down under and in other places in the civilized world). Follow this link to the forum for more on this design (and look further along for others).

Comments from jurors:

"Another easy to build shed roof design with a great outdoor room added with the deck."

"The pop-outs for the seating use the cantilever strength of the joists to good effect."

"The depth of the porch roof can be used to control sun angles and thus this sun tempered design can work in many climates."

Honorable Mention

There were many other very interesting designs and new ones are being posted all the time to our lively Small Home Design/Build Forum. The following forum link now has over 18 pages of postings and designs "Buildings under 200 sf"  Feel free to add your ideas to the thread (registration is free).

Thanks to all the participants who contributed their thoughts, designs and ideas to this interesting project. Bravo!

John Raabe
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