Who is the tiny home for? Is it for you, for family, or for renters?

We often think of tiny houses as a long-term home, but they also make excellent cottages and vacation rentals.
However, the design process can look very different if you are intentionally building for yourself or for Airbnb, for extended family.

We asked Canadian builders who do all three to tell us about the design decisions that go into each type of home.

Designing a tiny home for yourself, as a long-term home

One thing that sets apart this type of home design is the intentional approach of designing for a specific owner. Because of your tiny home’s size, it really can’t be all things to all people. But, designed correctly, it can be all things to you.

When designing a tiny home for a specific client, tiny home builders will go through a process of prioritizing and mapping out how the client’s lifestyle should be reflected in the floorplan and design of the home.

When Style and Grace Homes built this tiny home for their art therapist client, they worked with a number of very specific needs and quickly modified the original model that she had in mind to make it even more her.

Photo: Style and Grace Homes

Photo: Style and Grace Homes

“We had a pretty big list of needs to make living full time and working from home in our client’s semi-retirement years a reality. She wanted plenty of light flooding in especially in the kitchen and a fair size kitchen table where she could do her art work with her clients. We vaulted the gabled roof as high as we could in the kitchen and maximized every window size so that she had a grand kitchen flooded with light. We followed her wishes and built her a river table that would be a wonderful and inspiring work area and made sure it was at table height as requested. We made sure there was plenty of built in storage to accommodate her art books and work materials.”

With aging clients, builders often talk about future mobility needs. For example, a loft bedroom may be moved to a main floor space in the future.

When Petite Homes designed this backyard home for a client to retire comfortably in her son’s backyard, they considered her needs:

“This beautiful Craftsman model was built earlier this year in Essex, Ontario  complete vaulted ceilings, skylights, an open concept design. Our interior designer took special care when designing the kitchen and bathroom to be wheelchair accessible so that she can live most comfortably and feel safe and secure.”

Photo: Petite Homes

Storage is a huge issue in a tiny house intended for full-time living. Unlike the other types of homes, this is a situation where most or all of the owner’s belongings must be stored in the home. We see this reflected in the creative and innovative ways that builders find even more space in a tiny house and are able to build in useful storage solutions.

VedaHawk Tiny Homes wanted to add more storage in an unconventional way: “I realized that the volume footprint of the loft framing could be utilized for storage while still maintaining the structural integrity of the bunk. I had never seen this before, so I designed these pneumatic drop-down storage blocks that work great for things like clothing, towels, extra blankets, and pillows.”

Photo: VedaHawk Tiny Homes

Finally, when getting a tiny house built for yourself, you may find that you can afford a few little indulgences to make the home yours. From wood burning fireplaces, to soaking tubs, to even a custom stained glass window, if it’s really you, your builder will find a way to work it in.This home from Teacup Tiny Homes features a wood-burning stove and in-floor heating.

Photo: Teacup Tiny Homes

And this Teacup model, like many of their other models, prioritizes the bathroom as a space for rest and relaxation and includes a soaker tub.

Photo: Teacup Tiny Homes

Because of the tiny home’s size, you may find that it doesn’t cost that much more to add a few touches of luxury, whether it’s countertops, tile, or flooring. You can also just go wild with something completely unique, such as this build by Adorable Abodes – we’ve never seen anything like it!

Photo: Adorable Abodes

Designing a tiny home as a short-term rental

There are a few reasons why tiny homes can make excellent vacation rentals.

They’re super cute and can be an attraction in themselves – people will book them simply for the experience.

They’re comfortable and include everything that you need to qualify as a “whole home” rental, but they don’t have extra unnecessary space. So, less cleaning.

If the tiny home is on wheels, it also gives you more flexibility to move according to market needs. If the current location isn’t working out, you can find another one for the same home.

For example, the Nomad 30′ from Minimaliste comes with advanced off-grid features that may come in handy for those extra remote, extra beautiful locations!

Photo: Minimaliste

“The Nomad 30′ model was designed to add living space and sleeping capacity to an already existing design that was initially shorter. In this extended version, the sofa-bed and open area by the entrance combined with an additional window makes this model a sure hit for short term rental. Indeed, this easily towable modern looking tiny house on wheels can sleep up to 5 people, including the sofa-bed and convertible dinette in the kitchen. This makes this unit suitable for families on a vacation or simply adds to the comfort for couples who like to Netflix and chill even on a getaway weekend!”

When designing a tiny home intended for short-term rentals, you have the opportunity to approach it as a business and work in the best ways of recuperating your investment.

Firstly, think about your costs. You can look for energy-efficient technologies and choose more cost-effective finishes, ensuring comfort, but lowering your initial investment. However, simply going for cheaper may not be the answer. Thinking ahead to preserving the value of your investment, choose surfaces that will not need to be replaced after many uses.

You can also omit most of the storage. As long as your guests have somewhere to put their suitcase, toiletries, and snacks, you’re covered. And instead of storage, add more beds! It is not unusual for a tiny home rental to sleep 6 people, which will get you a much higher rate than if you stick with 2.

Simplifying the appliances is another way to lower your initial costs – most people don’t go to vacation rentals expecting state-of-the-art stovetops, ovens, and refrigerators. In designing your home, you may be able to significantly reduce space and budget dedicated to the kitchen by choosing small and basic appliances.

This elegant kitchenette by Minimaliste is stylish, but minimal.

Photo: Minimaliste

Once you’ve simplified, time to add in the OOMF factor! Think about the location of your rental and the experience you intend to offer. If it’s just a basic place to spend the night while enjoying the surroundings? Or is it an experience in itself? By adding in some luxurious design elements in the home, you will be able to attract an increasingly discerning clientele and raise your rates by being a more attractive option in the area.

When decorating your tiny home rental, go big – forego small details that are hard to clean and add clutter in favour of bold choices. Add an immediate wow effect and personality with outsize proportions, dramatic finishes, and a single style for the entire space.

This luxury rental designed by Fritz Tiny Homes for an ec0-resort shows how glamorous a simple design can feel, when created with all the right elements.

Photo: Fritz Tiny Homes

“We took our Halcyon 1 model and added in a few customizations to make this the perfect place to rent for an off-grid adventure. We customized the Halcyon 1 by adding in even more windows, so you feel like you are truly staying in the forest. Through every window you see the magic of the forest and crystal clear skies, as if your living room is limitless, bringing nature right inside to you, in every season. We even added a window to the spa-shower. We took out features you don’t need in a short term rental, such as the washer and dryer, creating more room for your luggage. We added in an electric fireplace for the coziest experience.”

These black cabinets frame the bed in a Minimaliste home, adding a design statement without breaking the budget.

Photo: Minimaliste

Cabinscape, an off-grid cabin rental company, does this perfectly by letting the surrounding landscapes play the starring role in their modern take on the wooden cabin. In this image, you can see just how many windows there are as well as the elegant inclusion of multiple sleeping spaces.

“When working on our Cabinscape short term rental designs, we took the opportunity to leverage recent developments in off grid and energy efficient mechanical solutions while preserving aspects of the “classic” cabin and cottage aesthetic. Tongue and groove pine board interior cladding creates a feeling of warmth and helps to connect to the surrounding natural world. In addition, we focused on breaking down the barriers between the inside and outside spaces. This includes large windows throughout and a garage door indoor/outdoor bar at all of our cabins. This feature mimics the central island in larger homes where culinary activities become a part of the social experience in the home. In the case of our indoor outdoor bars, this has the added benefit of connecting with nature as well.”

Designing a tiny home as a family cottage

Tiny homes are becoming a increasingly popular cottages for families because they are less expensive than a full house, and yet, extremely comfortable.

And if you’re planning to spend most of the day outdoors anyway and using the indoor space as a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area, you can fit quite a few people in a tiny home.

The ability to invite more people to your cottage seems like one of the biggest drivers of tiny cottage design.

Summit Tiny Homes’ client wanted a cottage that could welcome 8 people. Summit ended up designing for nine sleeping spots. “Liza came to us searching for the perfect summer cottage for her and kids to enjoy by the lake. After hearing her wish list and dreams of a summer cottage in the woods, we knew we could give her exactly what she needed.”

Photo: Summit Tiny Homes

And while you’re at it, remember that a tiny home cottage is your biggest opportunity to have fun. Why not use your imagination and include some dream hangout elements such as an outdoor kitchen? In this yet-to-be-built family cottage by Acorn Tiny Homes, the outdoor grilling station will be the talk of all your neighbours and friends.

Photo: Acorn Tiny Homes

“For us, the second most important aspect of the cottage experience is good food and room to entertain. No shortcuts were made in this design and we’ve included an outdoor grilling station, which includes a built in BBQ, wash station, mini-fridge, and pass through window right into the kitchen. Just add the deck and you can spend all summer long enjoying watching the stars and listening to the call of the loon. Since the cottage experience is best shared with friends and family, it was also important to provide enough flex space, and this home can sleep 7 comfortably, while still has enough space for storing games, activities, and linens!”

Are you ready to start?

Whether you’re designing a tiny home to be your personal nest, a family retreat, or an unforgettable experience for hundreds of people, work with a great builder and just have fun with it!

Looking for land to go with that great tiny home design? Check out our Land Seeker membership!


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