When we made the decision to move back into our bus with our family of five, we knew of some specific shortcomings of the bus as a permanent living situation on a farm without other amenities:
- Laundry facilities – we do at least a load a day, and we cloth diaper the
- A real bathroom – a flushable or composting toilet (rather than chemical toilet) and either a bath or shower. With little kids, a bath is really a priority.
- Space for sleeping and for some of the kids things – we did manage to sleep the five of us in the bus for five months but the sleeping arrangements were far from ideal and not something we would want to do long term. We were also very short on space for storing clothes for five people. We put all seasonal clothes in Rubbermaid bins under the bed, and tried to downsize the amount of clothes each person had, but less clothes also means you have to do laundry more often (which brings us back to point number 1). The kids also have some bigger, nice quality toys like a dollhouse, castle and play kitchen that we didn’t want to leave in storage indefinitely.
- A Dining Table – we prioritize meals together, and while we could (and should) build a bigger table in the bus, the table in the bus is not the ideal place to eat meals with young kids on a regular basis. Because the place where we eat is the same space where they play, colour, read, watch movies, lounge, and goof around, it is very difficult to discourage that kind of up and down, wiggly behaviour at meal times. Spills were every meal occurrences and our seat covers have taken a huge beating. Imagine eating every single meal on your couch.
We decided to build an additional space to house:
- a bathroom/laundry room
- some hangout space & a dining area
- a loft bedroom for the kids
We were originally going to build a little conventional style two room shed/cabin, but Aaron has had an interest in timber framing and natural building for many years and we thought this would be a good chance to explore and learn about building in those styles. Aaron had a book with complete plans for a small timber frame garden shed and we decided to give that a try.
We took the initial plans for a 12’x16′ shed and stretched to 12’x24′. We added 2′ to the height to give a little extra headroom to the 12’x12′ loft. We also added a 4′ bay window on one side (between two bents 12′ apart) and a 6′ porch on one end to accommodate our chest freezer, coat & boot storage, and to create an entry way for the bus. The bathroom/laundry room is 12’x8′ tucked under the loft.
**A word about materials: all of the windows, the bathroom door, the wood stove, the bathtub, the mirror, the washer and dryer (and our furniture though that’s not pictured) have been obtained through Craigslist or free from friends. The front door was bought from a used window and door retailer – it was a factory second, never even hung. The lights and bathroom vanity were all purchased new. All of the wood except for the 2×4 framing for the drywall was milled by a local sawyer from trees from on site at the farm.**
The resulting space (especially coupled with the space our bus provides) is by no means tiny. We feel very comfortable with this much space for our family of five. It is, in fact, very spacious. What we love about the design of this house is that, in the future, by removing the bus and adding kitchen facilities (either in what is now the porch, or in one corner of the main room), this house could easily be a wonderful small house for a couple – for us after the kids grow up or if we wanted to rent it out. We could also potentially add a kitchen and bedroom wing on to the back side if we stay here long term and eventually tire of having the bus attached (which is conceivable as we also dream of making a long distance trip with the bus at some point). For us, having a workable kitchen is important because of the priority we are putting on making our own food (storing in freezers, canning, buying staples in bulk sizes etc.) – you do need space to do those things. The bus kitchen is adequate for daily living but leaves something to be desired for some of those activities.
We’ve been living in the cabin now for about 6 weeks so this unveiling comes late, but as you can see from the photos we still haven’t finished so much: light fixtures, ceiling fan, a step into the porch from the main room, towel bars, coat hooks, shelving, and beds in the loft still need to be installed or built. We still have piles of boxes and make-do storage (think piles of towels, coats etc.) everywhere so for now, you’ll have to make-do with a single picture of the finished product:
Tell me: how much space do you need? Could you live in a tiny or small house? Could you do it long term (5-15 years), or just short term? What are some areas where you would be unwilling to go tiny? (For us, because of the ages of our kids, and because of our desire to produce more of our own food, it’s the bathroom, laundry, and in the end, the kitchen).