authentic camelot tin backsplash

You know those beautiful tin ceilings in historic places? Tin could make a real statement in your tiny house, especially as a kitchen backsplash. It’s time to reveal your authentic Camelot or other cherished style.

We discovered Metal Ceiling Express, a Florida company that stamps, colors and sells all their own tin. Among the near-bewildering selection of designs and treatments, focus on smaller scale patterns to match your kitchen.

Here’s a traditional series of tile tins to get started.

Camelot appeals in unadorned tin. (Metal Ceiling Express)

Camelot appeals in unadorned tin. (Metal Ceiling Express)

This four clover leaf design is charming. (Metal Ceiling Express)

This four clover leaf design is charming. (Metal Ceiling Express)

Vintage Gothic adds extra flourishes. (Metal Ceiling Express)

Vintage Gothic adds extra flourishes. (Metal Ceiling Express)

Our favorite is an antiqued lucky clover. (Metal Ceiling Express)

Our favorite is an antiqued lucky clover. (Metal Ceiling Express)

tiny modern house gets feted

Let’s applaud Western home and garden publisher, Sunset, which will fete a 172 sq. ft. modern house at its annual celebration and then in print. The team has focused on small spaces over the past year.

Sunset’s Sarah Gaffney says the house “is going to be imagined as a female’s home office in her backyard.” Tumbleweed Houses delivered a steel-clad Mica house on wheels, and here’s a peek at the transformation.

Tiny house arrives and gets settled

At 10,000 lbs, moving a tiny house on wheels is no small undertaking. A large tow truck gets the job done. (Sunset)

At 10,000 lbs, moving a tiny house on wheels is no small undertaking. A large tow truck gets the job done. (Sunset)

The deck gets assembled, raised up and placed alongside the tiny house. (Palo Alto Weekly)

The deck gets assembled, raised up and placed alongside the tiny house. (Palo Alto Weekly)

Gardeners are working and adding edible plants to the tiny house yard. How beautiful! (Palo Alto Weekly)

Gardeners are working and adding edible plants to the tiny house yard. How beautiful! (Palo Alto Weekly)

Now the tiny house looks like it has always belonged in this backyard. It's ready for viewing. (Sunset)

Now the tiny house looks like it has always belonged in this backyard. It’s ready for viewing. (Sunset)

Tiny house gets appreciated from the inside

Sunset editors are hard at work, testing out whiskeys and recording results from their tiny house lab. (Sunset)

Sunset editors are hard at work, testing out whiskeys and recording results from their tiny house lab. (Sunset)

Before the furnishing began, a nice big dog visited and blessed the tiny house. (Sunset)

Before the furnishing began, a nice big dog visited and blessed the tiny house. (Sunset)

In a small space, it's nice to have only useful or beautiful objects around you. (Sunset)

In a small space, it’s nice to have only useful or beautiful objects around you. (Sunset)

It's easy to say, "I will sleep right here," in the cozy bedroom for two. (Sunset)

It’s easy to say, “I will sleep right here,” in the cozy bedroom for two. (Sunset)

great rooms fit their exteriors

Great rooms are de rigueur in smaller houses, offering open space for multiple and ever-changing uses. On a practical level, furnishings should be carefully selected based on how you spend time. It’s also important to consider aesthetics, the styles that make houses beautiful and delightful.

To gain aesthetic perspective, let’s take a look at great rooms and exteriors from four homes. Some of the rooms fit naturally, while others seem a little surprising. Why not be the jury and judge here?

A traditional, yet new, small cottage beckons you with all its quiet charms. The curved roof-line, woodsy green color, white and natural wood accents bring the home together. Gilann Ridge is well-sited and landscaped in Washington State. (Ross Chapin)

A traditional, yet new, cottage beckons you with all its quiet charms. The curved roof-line, woodsy green color, white and natural wood accents bring the home together. Gilann Ridge is well-sited and landscaped in Washington State. (Ross Chapin)

In Gilann Ridge’s great room, you see a very efficient use of space with a built-in nook, side bench, well-proportioned chairs and love seat. Its yellow paint, white, tan and wood decor complement the exterior. (Ross Chapin)

In Gilann Ridge’s great room, you see a very efficient use of space with a built-in nook, side bench, well-proportioned chairs and love seat. Its yellow paint, white, tan and wood decor complement the exterior. (Ross Chapin)

"“I’ve had people knock on the door, wanting to see this house,” says Gary Beaudoin, owner and builder of a bright yellow and red-trimmed storybook home. Located in Bend, OR, the cutie measures 875 sq. ft. (Bend Bulletin)

“I’ve had people knock on the door, wanting to see this house,” says Gary Beaudoin, owner and builder of a bright yellow and red-trimmed storybook home. Located in Bend, OR, the cutie measures 875 sq. ft. (Bend Bulletin)

This storybook home is all about light. Upstairs is the great room, with a view towards the sky, sun, trees and valley below. It is arranged with a few simple pieces of furniture and creature comforts. (Bend Bulletin)

This storybook home is all about light. Upstairs is the great room, with a view towards the sky, sun, trees and valley below. It is arranged with a few simple pieces of furniture and creature comforts. (Bend Bulletin)

An oak framed and stone clad structure gets curved into a summer home, giving it modern sensibility. Light pours from skylights, windows and french doors. Located in Devon, UK, the getaway overlooks a river. (Carpenter Oak)

An oak-framed and stone-clad structure gets curved into a summer home, giving it modern sensibility. Light pours from skylights, windows and french doors. Located in Devon, UK, the getaway overlooks a river. (Carpenter Oak)

Devon's great room reveals strong bones through its interior wood trusses. The home is well-used for living, dining and also gazing at the views. There are plenty of bookshelves against one wall, as a terrific bonus. (Carpenter Oak)

Devon’s great room reveals strong bones through its interior wood trusses. The home is well-used for living, dining and also gazing at the views. There are plenty of bookshelves against one wall, as a terrific bonus. (Carpenter Oak)

In a Nomad Live micro-sized home, it's possible to set up and live inside a container-style structure with plenty of windows. The pre-fab home has a 100 sq. ft. footprint, and may be directly shipped to you. (Nomad Homes)

In a Nomad Live micro-sized home, it’s possible to set up and live inside a container-style structure with plenty of windows. The pre-fab home has a 100 sq. ft. footprint, and may be directly shipped to you. (Nomad Homes)

On the lower level, there's a small great room to sit and even watch TV. Outside views make a huge difference, as the home looks and feels far larger than its measurements. (Nomad Homes)

On the lower level, there’s a small great room to sit and even watch TV. Outside views make a huge difference, as the home looks and feels far larger than its measurements. (Nomad Homes)

smaller houses, antidotes to debt

Smaller houses should be a logical economic and green choice, saving buyers on their purchase prices and beyond. Yet even the nicest places are viewed as starter or vacation homes. It’s time to change.

Renting or buying:  More American homes are owned and occupied than rented. However the percentage of owner-occupied homes peaked in 2004 and has continued on a quick descent. Of course, renters are filling them.

Last year, 65.2% of U.S. homes were occupied by owners. That's a pretty rapid decline of 4.2% from the 69.4% peak in mid-2004. Interestingly, the owned and occupied rate seems on course to return to mid-1990s levels. (Pew Research)

Last year, 65.2% of U.S. homes were occupied by owners. That’s a pretty rapid decline of 4.2% from the 69.4% peak in mid-2004. Interestingly, the owned and occupied rate seems on course to return to mid-1990s levels. (Pew Research)

Everyone with cold feet:  American renters up to age 64 have shied away from jumping into the home ownership pool. From 2001 to 2011, the annual shift plummeted by nearly 43 percent.

Look at households switching from renting to owning homes over the prior year. In 2011, some 4% bought homes as compared to 7%  in 2001. While under 44 year olds drove the trend, each age group slowed ownership. (Pew Research)

Look at households switching from renting to owning homes over the prior year. In 2011, 4% bought homes as compared to 7% in 2001. While under 44 year olds drove the trend, each age group slowed ownership. (Pew Research)

College loan pressure:  Some 37 percent of young households shouldered school loans, in the latest Pew statistics.  That’s a large group of would-be home buyers, mostly sitting on the sidelines!

Households are saddled with student loans. For heads of households under 40 years old, 37% were paying or deferring their school debts in 2010, a big leap from the 22% in 2001. (Pew Research)

Households are saddled with student loans. For heads of households under 40 years old, 37% were paying or deferring their school debts in 2010, a big leap from the 22% in 2001. (Pew Research)

Income high, net worth low:  How will the under-40 year olds decide to live? For those paying school loans, assets are scarce to fund a large down payment and home. It’s not all doom and gloom, with smaller home options out there.

College-educated Americans do earn 79% more than their high-school grad counterparts. Still college grads have limited net worth due to their loans, which drive up all forms of debt. (Pew Research)

College-educated Americans do earn 79% more than their high-school grad counterparts. Still college grads have limited net worth due to their loans, which drive up all forms of debt. (Pew Research)

comfortable, hidden, clever beds!

In a small house, a bed or bedroom consumes a lot of space. The good news is there are comfortable, hidden sleeping options that don’t hog square footage.

Let’s tour six cleverly-designed beds for overnight slumber or daytime naps. Get ready for some surprises in the latest wall beds, benches, sofas and chairs. Whether for yourself or guests, there’s sleeping joy ahead.

1.  Two Murphies:  Welcome to wall beds, for one or two sleepers. Anywhere you have an empty wall, murphies may be installed vertically or horizontally. They solve space issues instantly, by folding away when not in use.

Here's a horizontal Murphy bed, which folds sideways into a single sleeper. It also comes in full and queen models for two. (Murphy Beds Direct)

Here’s a horizontal Murphy bed, which folds sideways into a single sleeper. It also comes in full and queen models for two. (Murphy Beds Direct)

This pull-down Murphy bed, installed in a 20 ft long Cypress tiny house on wheels, sleeps two on the main floor. You don't have to sleep in an upstairs loft! (Tumbleweed Houses)

This pull-down Murphy bed, installed in a 20 ft long Cypress tiny house on wheels, sleeps two on the main floor. You don’t have to sleep in an upstairs loft! (Tumbleweed Houses)

2.  Two Boxes:  Find a mantel or bench during the day. When ready to sleep, the mantel reveals a full bed with unfolded sections. Meanwhile, a classic bench transitions from seating to sleeping area with ease.

How about a folding bed for two? We hear this is comfortable, looks like a mantel during the day, and offers mantel storage. (Tiny Revolution via Tree Hugger)

How about a folding bed for two? We hear this is comfortable, looks like a mantel during the day, and offers mantel storage. (Tiny Revolution via Tree Hugger)

A specially-made bench gets used for daytime seating and lounging, stores bedding, and becomes a nice single bed overnight. (Vina Lustado, Sol Haus Design)

A specially-made bench gets used for daytime seating and lounging, stores bedding, and becomes a nice single bed overnight. (Vina Lustado, Sol Haus Design)

3.  Two Upholstered Pieces:  A high-design lounge chair and modern sofa hide their bedding well, and jump ahead of old-fashioned sofa beds. The chair is a single sleeper, while the sofa reveals bunk beds. Both are pricey, though.

This Palazzo sofa looks cozy and is available in dozens of colors. It transforms into a bunk bed that's suitable for adults or kids. (Resource Furniture)

This Palazzo sofa looks cozy and is available in dozens of colors. It transforms into a bunk bed that’s suitable for adults or kids. (Resource Furniture)

Live it up! Here's an elegant, pricey lounge chair that hides a bed for one. This chair comes in white, sand and grey, with washable coverings. (Itzy Bitsy Ritzy Shop)

Live it up! Here’s an elegant, pricey lounge chair that hides a bed for one. This chair comes in white, sand and grey, with washable coverings. (Itzy Bitsy Ritzy Shop)

small house winners for 2014

Let’s share the annual Howies Awards, run by Houseplans. The small house category had 12 finalists, and a traditional cottage designed by Peter Brachvogel received the winner’s ribbon. At 780 sq. ft, the Willow cottage comes with one bedroom, 1.5 baths and terrific porch. While any colors work, we like to imagine it with brown shingles.

"The Willow's wrap around porch and walk-thru great room makes this house feel much larger than its modest size. This perfect starter house contains a fireplace, cozy dining nook, private bedroom in the trees and the potential to expand near the stairs." (Peter Brachvogel, architect)

“The Willow’s wrap around porch and walk-thru great room makes this house feel much larger than its modest size. This perfect starter house contains a fireplace, cozy dining nook, private bedroom in the trees and the potential to expand near the stairs.” (Peter Brachvogel, architect)

We think three other finalists are also worth closer examination. They vary in style, look well-designed, optimize interior space, and feel larger than their footprints. To see house details, you may click on each architect: Moser, Pearlson and Schwabe. And see the stylish exteriors here!

"A vaulted ceiling in the living room and sleeping loft define the open feeling of this plan, which is ideal for a starter house or vacation cabin." It features two bedrooms and one bath, in 697 sq. ft. (Eric Moser, Katrina Cottages)

“A vaulted ceiling in the living room and sleeping loft define the open feeling of this plan, which is ideal for a starter house or vacation cabin.” It features two bedrooms and one bath, in 697 sq. ft. (Eric Moser, Katrina Cottages)

This single-level deck house received Fine Homebuilding Magazine's Small Home of 2013 Award for "its shared spaces and connections to the outdoors that make it seem larger." It has two bedrooms and one bath, in 800 sq. ft. (Nir Pearlson)

This single-level deck house received Fine Homebuilding Magazine’s Small Home of 2013 Award for “its shared spaces and connections to the outdoors that make it seem larger.” It has two bedrooms and one bath, in 800 sq. ft. (Nir Pearlson)

A SF Bay Area architect designed this modern cabin to feel much larger than its footprint thanks to a wide deck, soaring ceilings, large windows, and strategically placed built-ins. It has two bedrooms and one bath, in 840 sq. ft. (Cathy Schwabe)

A SF Bay Area architect designed this modern cabin to feel much larger than its footprint “thanks to a wide deck, soaring ceilings, large windows, and strategically placed built-ins.” It has two bedrooms and one bath, in 840 sq. ft. (Cathy Schwabe)

voting for lower house sizes

When you think of trend-changing places, does the middle of Minnesota come to mind? The Brainerd City Council, representing its 13,590 citizens, will vote on June 2nd about lowering their minimum house sizes from 750 to 400 sq. ft.

Planning Commission member Sarah Hayden says there are 465 vacant lots which “can’t be built on while meeting current city codes, or would leave a small yard.”  Adjusting minimum builds could help solve this problem.

Brainerd, MN began when Northern Pacific Railroad selected its location fora Mississippi River crossing. By 1871, the undeveloped land had been platted. (City of Brainerd)

Brainerd, MN began when Northern Pacific Railroad Company selected its location for a Mississippi River Crossing. By 1871, the undeveloped land had been platted. (City of Brainerd)

Changing the code for primary dwelling units is no slam dunk. City Council member Gary Scheeler declared, “I would like to see this tried somewhere else and see what it does to the community.” Several officials voiced concerns about the impact of smaller homes on other property values.

Will home values in Brainerd decline if new smaller houses are built? This 1940 built home is one of the larger listings for sale, at $124,900. (Realtor.com)

Will home values in Brainerd decline if smaller houses can be built? This 1940 built home is one of the larger listings for sale, at $124,900. (Realtor.com)

The Brainerd Dispatch posted an online poll asking if the city should approve houses as small as 400 sq. ft., to be built. With 1,170 votes cast, 55 percent said yes, 39 percent said no, and five percent were undecided.

It’s something that municipal leaders with unoccupied lots should consider, so we’ll give kudos to these Minnesotans. Stay tuned for the City Council vote next month, to see if they ended up permitting 400+ sq. ft houses.

tiny house with or without garage

Tiny and small houses typically lack attached garages. You park a car or truck outside, under some shelter or in a separate garage. Would you appreciate a fully attached, enclosed garage?

With garage:  There are some tiny house plans available with garages. Perfect Little House, for example, offers Salal Studio. From the outside, it looks like a full cottage and neatly encloses its studio and garage.

The Salal Studio features a 240 sq. ft.  upstairs studio with bath. Downstairs is a 338 sq. ft. garage and inside staircase. (Perfect Little House)

The Salal Studio features a 240 sq. ft. upstairs studio with bath. Downstairs is a 338 sq. ft. garage and inside staircase. (Perfect Little House)

Without garage:  Of course, tiny cottages are designed to maximize living space. Perfect Little House’s Woodland model offers curb appeal with its wrap-around porch. There’s space to sleep four people, cook, dine, bathe and hang out.

The Woodland has open-space living, two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. This popular home measures 950 sq. ft. (Perfect Little Home)

The Woodland has open-space living, two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. This popular home measures 950 sq. ft. (Perfect Little Home)

Garage theories:  Tiny house design and ethos likely drive down the demand for garages, and here are some reasons we’ve heard.

  • Seen as less green or sustainable design
  • Considered out-of-fashion these days
  • Takes up too much prime living space
  • Not worth spending money on garage

It’s possible that garages could become more desirable, depending on how tiny or small houses get used. If built as as secondary or rental unit, then a garage might be a nice extra lure for its occupants. In a single primary unit, the garage might be welcomed for extreme weather, safety reasons or storage.

We’re interested in learning more, from you.

shed ready: six ways to buy them

Congratulations! You have decided to buy a backyard shed, as a new personal office and hang-out area. It should be easy on the eyes, and wired for lights. You are considering adding heat and air-conditioning.

Yet there’s a major hurdle: you recoil at the idea of assembling children’s toys and furniture, let alone a full shed. Someone else is going to have to build this structure for you, while you somehow pay and support their efforts.

Let’s start by looking at pre-fabs, one of six ways to buy a shed. Here are three Modern-Shed examples, pretty much the same structures with different siding and placements. Pretty sweet, no?

Is this the shed of your dreams? This Moraga, CA owner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

Is this the shed of your dreams? A Moraga, CA homeowner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

Six ways to buy sheds

With only a little tongue-in-cheek, we identified six approaches to buying and building your shed. Your decision naturally depends on trade-offs of time and money. The list is ordered from priciest, sky’s the limit to perhaps a couple grand. Which approach would you take?

  1. The Ultimate:  Get an architect who will deal with everything, along with their hired construction crew. It’s your dream, fulfilled.

  2. The Practical:  Go to a garden place where you see nice sheds and gazebos built. Talk with the builders, place an order and await delivery and set-up.

  3. The Possible:  Pre-fab and kit sheds look awfully nice, and get shipped to your door. You pay extra for their assembly team or hire someone local.

  4. The Good Enough: You head to a place selling sheds and gazebos (see #2) and pick something that’s already built. It is good enough for now.

  5. The Active:  You find a great set of plans online and buy them! Now turn to friends and family to get materials. Hire someone local to build it.

  6. The Almost DIY:  You have plans in hand, hunt for salvaged materials, widen your circle of friends and family, and arrange weekend-only work parties.

tiny houses making a point

“What if you could build a different kind of castle?” asked ABC World News Tonight anchor Diane Sawyer.

Last night Sawyer presented tiny houses as an economic alternative to high mortgages. She focused on the realities of living full-time in a tiny house on wheels, with insights from two owners. Click to watch on ABC News.

Diane Sawyer, ABC News anchor, discusses the downsizing trend and features tiny houses and their inhabitants.

Diane Sawyer, ABC News anchor, discusses the downsizing trend and features tiny houses and their inhabitants.

Which tiny houses are shown?

Andrew Morrison shows his family home: The Morrisons created a modern, 221 sq. ft. haven filled with built-ins. They have a well equipped kitchen, two sleeping lofts, bathroom and places to eat, work and hang-out. (See a 28-minute video tour and buy house plans.)

Jay Austin shares the Matchbox home:  Jay Austin lives in Matchbox, a 146 sq. ft. home with neighbors at Boneyard Studios, DC. There’s a calm feeling inside, with plenty of kitchen space plus a full-screen TV in the loft. (See build story and a short video tour.)

Tumbleweed Tiny Houses also featured:  Throughout the ABC News coverage, many images of Tumbleweed houses get shown. Look out for the Elm, Linden, Cypress and Mica houses on wheels as well as the foundation-based Z-Glass. (All houses to buy or build.)

Something to think about, from ABC News

ABC’s Devin Dwyer explained that tiny houses are “marvels of architecture with tiny price tags, enticing buyers stressed out by full-sized mortgages.”

The idea of living with less and being mindful isn’t arcane.  When asked, Jay Austin paused and admitted he doesn’t miss much. “There are lessons for all of us,” declared Dwyer. “You may discover more of who you are, with less.”