VIVA Collectiv on Designing a Tiny Home

VIVA Collectiv on Designing a Tiny Home
The Rocker. Yes, that's a giant speaker. Courtesy of VIVA Collectiv.

Brian Crabb, founder of VIVA Collectiv joined this year’s Tiny House Conference held online last March 5, 2021 and gave some pointers on how to design and build your own tiny house.

An increasing number of people across the globe are opting for tiny homes and if you are one of them, you might be wondering how to design and build one. Brian Crabb, founder of VIVA Collectiv, participated in the online sessions at this year’s Tiny House Conference held online last March 4 to 7, 2021 and shared his philosophy on designing a tiny house.

As a tiny home builder for the last 5 years, Crabb has designed and built over 110 tiny homes. With his extensive experience in tiny-home building, he also shared some important pointers on how to build tiny homes and presented the layout and construction plans of The Rocker- an award-winning tiny home that he designed and built in 2016.

Tiny House Design Philosophy

The root of mankind’s progress has always been the constant search to make our lives easier and more enjoyable, according to Brian Crabb who began his session sharing his philosophy on what designing a tiny home means.

“From the earliest stone tools to the most advanced computers, it all starts with solving a problem. I believe that architecture itself can solve numerous universal problems at once. Shelter, comfort, utility and pleasure – I believe you should always start with these four elements in mind,” said Crabb.

The most technically important thing to consider in the four elements he mentioned when designing a tiny home is utility. 

“Regular homes are just waste of space, especially in the USA we have so much land that we just keep growing out and out and that’s why you see these 2,000 to 3,000 square feet homes with multiple rooms that no one lives in and with an 8 ft high ceiling, you got so much unused space,” said Crabb.

Courtesy of VIVA Collectiv

Pointers When Designing a Tiny Home

Crabb said that it is a big no-no to start designing with the exterior first when building a tiny home, as many architects usually do when building homes.

“With the tiny home, you start with a plan from the top down. It’s like Tetris or legos, you have a finite amount of space, and you have to make what you want fit into that space. It is important to think that you don’t have to have everything and you don’t have to have nothing. If you want to have a big bathtub, yes you can have that, but that means that some areas of your tiny home would be smaller,” said Crabb.

It is best to cut the spaces when designing a tiny home into three areas: living room, kitchen and bathroom. If you prioritize having a big kitchen, choose which of the other two spaces you would dedicate less space to.

“It is important to have a realistic conversation with yourself about what it is this house needs to accomplish for you and what you need on a daily basis to live. It’s not about less but it about efficiency,” said Crabb.

Comfort is another important thing to consider when designing a tiny home. Large kitchens, big showers, high ceilings and lots of natural light all contribute to comfort and you should choose which of these aspects would make you feel at home in your tiny home. Crabb also mentioned pleasure as an important factor.

“Everyone on this planet has a different opinion of what a perfect home experience is and for people who are thinking of building their own tiny home, they need to think about how the tiny home would work for them. The home should make you smile and you should never be afraid to do something off-the-wall,” said Crabb.

The Ohana is a good example of saving living room space by creating a center living space that connects two tiny homes together. Courtesy of VIVA Collectiv.

The Rocker: An Amplified Tiny Home

At the last part of his session, Crabb presented a tiny home he designed and built in 2016 called The Rocker. This tiny home won Dwell Magazine’s home of the year in 2017 and was featured in various design publications. It is the first-ever tiny home that has won that award and is actually made up of 2 connected tiny homes – the first one having a space of 20 x 8 ft or 400 sq ft built on a foundation, and the second one, a 8 x 24 ft or 160 sq ft studio.

“When we originally talked about doing this home, the client (violinist Asha Mevlana, violinist of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra) wanted a container-home that can also be a movable trailer. We figured out that we can do one part which is built on a foundation and another part as the studio that is tow-able. The client wanted (the studio) to take with her during her concerts, music festivals and events and that’s where the tiny-house-on-wheels came in. One fun fact is the massive speaker (situated on the facade of the studio) is actually fully-functional. So concerts can be played on the deck of the house and music rings throughout the interiors,” said Crabb.

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Crabb presented the interior layout plans of The Rocker tiny home which included a massive space dedicated to the kitchen with an integrated dining area and pantry. The middle part is the living area and there is a hallway that is connected to the staircase that goes up to the loft. The bedroom is located on the loft which is on top of the bathroom below.

The exterior layout plans were also shared which included strategic placements for glass windows that would give maximum natural light into the tiny home and cantilevered roofing 

“The more information that you give to the person building your house, the better,” Crabb advised. 

“If you are working on tiny homes on wheels, layout plans and elevations are really helpful to make you see how things are going to work and make sure that you are not doing something that will mess with the windows and other parts of your home. And always have your electrical and plumbing done by professionals because if you burn down your tiny house, what’s the point of building it?”

Brian Crabb. Courtesy of VIVA Collectiv.

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