Staying in a hotel with my family – husband, three kids and springer spaniel – isn’t always my idea of a vacation. Let’s face it: most hotel rooms are pretty bare bones. So, to foster a spirit of relaxation and actual sleep, I usually opt for condos or townhomes whenever I can. This past fall, instead of booking our usual condo for a weekend getaway, I decided to book a tiny home.
I won’t lie; I did it a little as a joke. My architect husband has long bemoaned the tiny home movement. He’s very considerate of a family’s lifestyle when designing homes and it’s usually his opinion that tiny homes are better on paper than they are in practice. When he found out that I’d booked a tiny home for our vacation, he rolled his eyes and I was ready for a round of “I told you so.”
What we learned over a three-day stint in a tiny home surprised me. As it turns out, small space living isn’t for everyone, but it’s probably not as crazy as you’d think. Here are five things I learned about tiny homes that I couldn’t have grasped without actually staying in one.
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Okay, first, some of the drawbacks. While the tiny home we stayed in was cleverly laid out and made use of every inch of space, it also meant the floorplan wasn’t exactly ideal. To fit a full galley kitchen and range, the full-sized fridge opened directly across from the bathroom door. In fact, you couldn’t walk through the kitchen if the fridge was open at all. You definitely make a few concessions when it comes to a dream layout, especially if you’re trying to utilize standard-sized appliances and cabinets.
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Because tiny homes have such limited space, your outdoor living situation becomes more important. We found ourselves spending a lot of our time playing outside. With three active kids (and a hyper dog!), staying inside would have meant cabin fever – and probably a few broken lamps. If you really are considering a tiny home, I think your location and lot will be even more important than that of a traditional home. Simply building a tiny home under the premise that you’ll just park it wherever you can could mean getting stuck inside – and that could lead to some major cabin fever. A great porch, open lot and outdoor seating made all the difference to us.
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It’s no secret that tiny house living comes with some major compromises. You’re trading off a high house payment with square footage and a simpler lifestyle. Still, some of the compromises surprised me because I just hadn’t thought of the day-to-day of living in a tiny home. Take laundry, for example. Tight space usually means tiny homes don’t have the space for a washer and dryer. Another compromise is understanding that some areas of the home are inaccessible to full-sized adults. Our home had a sleeping loft that was great for kids, but I don’t think it would be ideal for adults. My 6-foot husband didn’t even attempt to go upstairs.
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We rented our tiny home as a part of a group of friends. The home was in a development of a handful of tiny homes, all just a few feet apart. That made it a great option for traveling with a group since everyone had their own space but wasn’t as far removed as we would have been in different hotel rooms. It was great to light a fire and cook dinner with everyone, so I can definitely see tiny homes as a way to foster a sense of community. As long as you liked your neighbors, of course.
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On the last night of our getaway, our plans for a BBQ were derailed by some bad weather. No big deal, we just moved the party inside. Problem? Tiny homes don’t have the typical space and comfort you’d expect when entertaining. In fact, dinner that night felt more like a game of Tetris than anything, with kids eating in the sleeping loft and adults taking turns on the small couch. It reminded me that tiny homes probably aren’t the best option for those who love to entertain. Sure, you could plan to entertain in your outdoor space, but there’s not much of a plan B. I can definitely see this roadblock becoming a major lifestyle change for some people.
All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. I preferred having my own tiny home over crowding everyone into one hotel room. Even if the square footage is similar, tiny homes are well thought-out and utilized so you have all of the comforts of home. In fact, my skeptic husband reluctantly admitted that with a few tweaks, a tiny home could be a livable option – especially for a vacation home.
As it turns out, small spaces can have a big impact, even if it was just for the weekend.