A project of Just Fine Design/Build

A project of Just Fine Design/Build. If interested in a tiny house commission: matt@justfinedesignbuild.com

Monday, June 18, 2012

tiny voids: the importance of empty space in the tiny house

As I go about the design build process (as a teacher of mine once said, it's design then build then design then build, not clearly delineated and distinct) i've noticed a theme with the built-in furniture and interior, which is that I usually try and subtract from the volume of space that an objet takes up: the stairs and the desk for instance use the houses' structure (stud wall) as supports so that it can be visually light and floaty.  I've also gotten to the point of having all of my day to day things inside the house, and I'm left with some voids, some empty space. There's a voice in my head that says "it's a tiny house, you have to use ALL of the space," but when i think about it more, I've noticed that I like being in my house so much because of the voids: in my opinion, having empty spaces and 'unutlized space' is what makes living in a tiny house bearable, and enjoyable.

I don't want to ruffle any feathers in the tiny house community, but to be honest I have not enjoyed any of the Tumbleweed interiors for precisely this reason. The interiors are too bulky, and they are over using the space.  There has been an absence of places that can become pools of airy light, for ideas and feelings to circulate through the house. I'm sure there are lots of Tumbleweeds out there that feel just right to me - I just haven't been in them.

Here are some of the latest photos. There's a new cantilevered staircase going up to the loft (ash stringers with cherry and walnut treads), and one of the cushions for the couch is done.  Also made a little contoured poplar stool. Next up is a handrail for the stairs and interior trim! I'm hoping to do it in such a way that it blends into the wall. 


  1. I get what you mean about "empty" space and the Tumbleweeds. I was initially drawn to the Fencl, but then I realized that I like to have elbow room. When I moved into a room two years ago, my roommates thought it looked bare, but I enjoy not having to fill every space, which really leads to visual clutter.

    On your design, I like how the white walls leave a canvas for your belongings and doesn't interfere with them. The wood accents make it feel cozy. Very interesting stair design. The kitchen seems very inviting with the light coming in through the windows. It seems you have spaces of concentrated items, and then spaces to breathe. I like it. ;)

  2. This is a compact yet functional small house. And it doesn't look cluttered at all. You placed the stairs perfectly. Since you have a smaller space, you opted not to use too much floor area for your staircase. This is ideal for single individuals.

    Kelly Ciancio

    1. yeah, haven't yet tried co-habitating in a tiny house - but i like the idea of two tiny houses connected with a little bridge

  3. I prefer your design sensibility to Tumbleweeds. I think one can try too hard to replicate "big" house amenities within 120 sq ft -- perhaps an attempt to appeal to buyers as a "real" house -- but making it feel more crowded than necessary. Keep it up, and please post any local related events you're involved with, or open houses. I'm in Oakland as well.

  4. thanks adam! appreciate your kind words. I'll let you know when the tiny housewarming is! feel free to come by if you're interested

  5. Totally agree with you on the empty space. We also went with white walls, and brought in more light than the Tumbleweeds have.

  6. How did you put together the stairs? I'd love to do the same thing in my house!

  7. Great stairs. Are the steps cantelevered into the wall? Curious how you did that.