My first Guitar Vlog Video:
A topic not much talked about but that’s made a big difference to my guitar playing…
My first Guitar Vlog Video:
A topic not much talked about but that’s made a big difference to my guitar playing…
The 2nd in my series of Dream Tiny Home designs – A small van for part-time living.
This is what I’ve chosen for my current lifestyle – a vehicle I can sleep in at a moment’s notice and live in comfortably for a few days at a stretch without any planning, but that isn’t suitable for full time living.
A bigger fully self-sufficient van is useful for weeks on end in nature or an urban life in which the van essentially acts as a full time home. You can stand up in it and it has enough room for a wood burner.
Unfortunately it’s also easy to spot and invite hassle, on account of the chimney, long and difficult to park. Having such a low MPG, it could be prohibitively expensive to drive.
Alternatively, a moderate sized van can sleep two, may not have enough room for standing or for a burner, but will be as economical to run as a large car. It’s a better choice for a lifestyle in which long distances are covered, and cooking/sleeping in the vehicle fill the gaps between using indoor spaces. The money saved on fuel can be spent on the occasional cheap accommodation, or using coffee shops for office space.
The nightmare comes when you need a live-in vehicle that you can also drive long distances…I haven’t found a solution for that problem yet.
So, I’m currently running: a short wheelbase VW Transporter. It’s a squeeze. I’m continually pairing down my possessions. My pet gripes with this lifestyle are that it’s not possible to set up my studio speakers in a van so small, and I have to store most of my instruments in a friend’s cupboard. It’s too cramped a space to act as a useful practice room, so I’m sad to say I’ve practiced less since having a small van.
My dream small van represents how I’d upgrade my current van. To summarise, I’d double the cupboard space and buy more sports bags and packing cubes.
Over time I’ve come to love the simplicity of my current van furniture – one bed and one kitchen cupboard set. I wouldn’t do much to change it. At first I was frustrated with a few things but soon discovered they were symptoms of having a small van not design flaws in the furniture
Other things that you may have to deal with in a small-van:
Having accepted all this, until recently I still found my van too small for all the stuff I needed to carry to make my life function. I pared down hugely, but was still stuck. Then I discovered the key – It’s not about how many cupboards you’ve got, but about what’s going on IN the cupboards.
Cupboards with stuff chucked straight in don’t work – once filled to only ½ their capacity, everything starts to fall out whenever you open a cupboard after a rocky drive. Boxes are better, but you lose a lot of space around the box since it needs to be smaller than the cupboard opening in order to get it in and out. Stuffing cloth bags in can provide more space, but it’s hard to see what’s in them.
Recently I’ve solved these problems using packing cubes – mini nylon suitcases with transparent tops so you can see what’s in them. Sounds pretty basic, but moving over to using a combination of sports bags and packing cubes has doubled the storage capacity of my van – yes that means I can keep twice as much stuff in the same space! To give you an idea, the majority of my clothes fit into 3 medium sized packing cubes, but I estimate that at least 50 cubes of the same size would fit under the bed.
When I first got my van, I started collecting rectangular nylon sports bags because plastic boxes were too tall to fit under the bed. I’d previously thought that boxes were best, but sports bags showed distinct superiority: they could be folded away if empty or squashed into a smaller space if only half full.
Whenever I stay somewhere even for just a night, it’s easy to take most of my possessions inside since all the bags have convenient handles and shoulder straps. Valuables come inside even if I only stay somewhere for an evening, but I never pack and I never unpack.
The main improvement I could make on my current van is to add another set of cupboards to the right of the bed that reach up to the ceiling, and a small set of cupboards to the left of the bed, high up (as shown in both drawings). With my new packing cube system, I don’t even need that extra space – it would just be for “visitor” luggage.
The Dream Yurt was 113 sqft (10.5 sq metere) and was about the right size for a modest living space. Designing a a small van will ultimately be a compromise – trading off features against each other because with less than 4 sq meters (43 sq ft) of floorspace, there simply isn’t enough room for everything. Rather have a short bed or a folding bed? Rather have a full kitchen or more cupboards for luggage? I’d rather be able to ride my bike than give it up for the sake of more space, so I’ve gone for packing my van to the brim and packing smart. This system really shines when I’m working. It’s wonderful being able to pull my portable amp out, strap it to my bike and go for a day’s busking, or to go to a country house with one bag and set up to shoot a https://www.youtube.com/embed/b07rbdJ-UpA” target=”_blank”>music video like this one.
The 1st of three Dream Tiny Homes I’m designing and may build one day.
My Dream Yurt aims to be:
The yurt used to live in had its flaws. It was damp. I kept my electrical gear in a cupboard in a house and barely got to use it. It had no power for the first few months and limited solar power after that. Because my setup was temporary it wasn’t possible to install plumbing or a toilet. But let’s imagine for the purposes of this design that we have a nice double skinned yurt or bell tent, on a platform, with no damp problems and good access to electricity, water from an outside tank and an outdoor composting toilet/bathroom.
These are my needs for a living space:
No matter what, I’d keep my possessions minimal. Even if I had lots of space, I like the simplicity of not having to deal with lots of stuff. Digital stuff isn’t so bad because it automatically files itself and is searchable, removing both the headache of having to find things and then tidy them away. The less I have, the smaller the space I can live in, which I find cosy. The smaller the yurt the cheaper it is to heat and the quicker it warms up when the fire’s lit.
I’ve decided on a 13ft diameter yurt, which is 132sqft inside. My previous yurt was 12ft and was a little small. There was enough room for everything, but it was hard to have guests or a rehearsal. However, they usually only come in 12ft and 14ft…if I had to choose I’d go for the smaller option.
For This Design You Will Need:
A pitch (which may also provide a toilet, washing machine, water source, rubbish collection etc.)
Total budget esimate: £4700 initial outlay plus £150-200 per month running costs
Click on the pics to read the annotations.
It seemed best to design purpose built storage around the bed. It would act as a thick layer of insulation for cold nights after the fire had died. In my last yurt, I pulled a curtain across the bed and the thermometer showed it kept the area 3 degrees C warmer – great for sleeping and for getting dressed in the mornings. Imagine how much warmer it would be in the Dream Yurt bed area!
The last time I lived in a yurt I furnished it with bed-side tables, because they were often free. I also made some furniture – kitchen units and tables. I didn’t know how long I’d live that way, so wanted to keep my costs low, and not spend too much time on it. However, this is the Dream Yurt, assuming I have the resources to build bespoke furniture for a permanent dwelling.
The deepness of the storage units would mean that some stuff would be pushed to the back and be less accessible. I could use this for camping kit or other stuff that would normally be kept in a loft, but here it would still be useful, doubling as more insulation.
I’ve always been fine with just one gas ring and a woodburner. Other people might bemoan the lack of oven. The kitchen is deliberately minimal and probably has more crockery pictured than I’d use in reality. Hot water for washing up would be provided by the wood burner.
Experience has taught me that it’s best if the fridge is outside. Sometimes I’ve used a cool box rather than a fridge, which works for everything but meat. Even veg doesn’t last as long, but it can be the best solution for setups such where access to electricity is limited. A cool box can however be easily picked up and brought inside every time you cook.
Having a sink with a tap would be a step up from my last yurt, but it’s still good to be economical with water if you have to bother to refill your water butt yourself. There are probably rainwater collection solutions too but this article doesn’t deal with water sources. I used to pour water from 5ltr bottles, which was a drag. These days I still catch myself cleaning a bowl with a hot teabag out of habit, even when I’m in a house.
Someone’s fed-back that it would be better to include a wider and strategically angled area of aluminium behind the woodburner than is pictured in my design. They are probably right.
My previous yurt was always stacked high with damp wood I desperately drying, but this design includes an outdoor wood store which should be water tight, meaning I’d only need to bring enough wood inside for a day at a time.
A facility for drying clothes over the fire is vital, but it’s important not to store your whole wardrobe there permanently, because it would all end up smelling of cooking. The coat and shoe rack are also near the fire for faster drying. I’ve balanced shoes on the hearth for quick drying in a pinch, keeping a close eye in case they ignite. Once I had the bright idea of toasting my PJs for 10 seconds on the burner before getting changed for bed. They melted after 8 seconds, so don’t try that one yourself!
You may have noticed that I’ve written VITAL next to the doormat. This is because there’s nothing like living in a one room dwelling to show you what hallways are for. It’s amazing how easy it is to tread mud through your entire living area in seconds. My last yurt had 1 doormat inside and a path of 3 outside. It also had no porch, which meant that as soon as you opened the door, rain poured into your home whilst you tried to get over the threshold.
It’s vitally important to remove shoes whilst still standing on the doormat and put them straight onto the shoe rack.
Having a double skinned yurt means opaque(ish) walls, so windows are necessary to let light in. They don’t need to open however, because you can just open the door.
Main Area/Living Room
The main area should be easy to transform for both work and play. Since there’s only one room in this house, it should be possible to fill it and clear it quickly so it can act as a study, practice area, gym, dining/entertaining area and more. At 132sqft, this dwelling can serve all these functions, unlike a 40sqft van which leaves me exercising outside, practicing guitar in the park and meeting friends in a cafe.
I’ve not included a standing-desk in my drawings but this is what I usually use to work on. There are a few reasons – it’s healthier, it saves space and it keeps you warmer (since you move more and more of your body is higher than woodburner level). A heavy duty music stand supports a laptop fine and then folds away. There are fold out chairs to create a social area (not my preference, but a compromise for the small space) and I’d consider a fold out table if I often had guests. It’s strange for me to think about this since I’ve not lived in spaces that have allowed me to have guests for some years, but I can imagine doing it often if I had the premises to. Floor cushions are another space saving idea but they are simply not an option because almost no heat from the woodburner reaches floor level. This is why I knitted extra thick guest socks for my last yurt.
As you can see from the diagram, the speakers are on casters so I can put them in the optimum position when I’m working on music. I’ve learned during my travels that I simply can’t mix on headphones, so if I had a permanent dwelling/workspace it would need to accommodate studio monitors.
What I’ve NOT included/addressed and why
Toilet: I’m assuming an outside toilet would be available. It’s best not to shit in the one room you live in, if you can help it. You may be pitched on land which is attached to a building, in which case you’d have access to a bathroom, washing machine and possibly even kitchen. If not, solutions may be specific to the limitations of your pitch, which is why they’re not detailed in this design.
Washing yourself: With a stove that can keep 3 pans/kettles warm at once, it would be quite easy to wash in a tin bath or basin. I tried this in my old yurt and it was lovely even in winter, since you have to stoke the fire to boil the water and can end up bathing in a body temperature room. I haven’t included this, but it would be easy to store a tin bath or basin hanging from the lattice.
Lighting: Assuming there’s electricity you could chose whatever lighting you wanted, but I haven’t drawn any in. Lightbulbs are cheapest and greenest, but candles are romantic. Candle lanterns suspended from the lattice are traditional.
Four long candles and a carefully placed mirror used to light up my old yurt, although once I stumbled in late at night and grabbed the pull-cord for the lights… only to remember that I didn’t HAVE any lights and was just pulling on the rope that had been tied in to tension the roof!
Washing machine: To wash clothes, I’d assume that it would be better to find other facilities than to clutter up such a small space with a washing machine. If you had to have one however, I’d recommend building an outside cupboard for it, similar to the wood store.
Hoovering: I’d carpet my yurt for warmth for warmth, but any dwelling with a woodburner gets ashy and needs hoovering. Unless I had a decent electricity supply and could borrow a hoover from a main building on a regular basis, I’d get a small battery powered hoover, even if it took longer to do the job each time. A lot can be achieved with a dustpan and brush first of all.
Household Running Tasks
Oil yurt wood once a year – 1 day’s work
So there you have it. I know I won’t be building this design any time soon, but I’m bound to some day. Basically, I wouldn’t be able to do it till I was ready to settle in one place for a few years at a stretch. Hope it’s helped you dream up your own design based on what you need. Alternatively, write to me with your needs and I could always draw you a design.