Picture this: You've got a piece of land, or you're looking to buy / rent a piece of land, and you're wondering what you can do with it. As you survey it, your mind goes wild with ideas that can take you in 59 different directions, and pretty soon you're overwhelmed and need to sit down for a second. Its normal, and i think it happens to everyone when they first start dreaming about their future.

To alleviate some of that potential "holy crap, this is overwhelming" feeling, I've noted down a couple of steps for Planning and Designing your tiny house; the land around it and figuring out how to shape your property to support your happiness.

General concept:

Planning and designing a Tiny house, or other sustainable types of houses (they don't have to be tiny, after all), involves a few steps. Very simply put, you'll be looking at 2 categories: Property and Dwelling. Just because you're going to be spending most of your time indoors, doesn't mean the external parts should be neglected - having a nice view, and a property that supports your lifestyle, is a massive health boost and can really add enjoyment to your life.

As such, you should really dedicate some energy and time to answer these questions as honestly as possible. If you're going on this dream with a partner your answers might differ, and it's best to find a compromise early that can facilitate both your needs.

Without further ado, lets get on with surveying and planning.


Ask yourself as you walk around your property:

  • What areas do you have available, including amenities like sources of power, internet, locations with a lot of sunlight?
  • What materials do you have available?
  • What is the ugliest place on the property, what is the prettiest place and where do you have the best views?
  • What is your plan for water, do you plan on getting hooked up to a grid or harvest it - and what does your laws say about it?
  • What about waste?
  • Any places you could imagine for outdoor activities?
  • Any place that would be great for a garden or something else?

To plan this out it can be much easier if you have a way of taking aerial-view images of your property, such as using a drone or with Google Earth, as you'll be able to either print them out or just work digitally while you're planning. This becomes especially easy with things like Paint or markers to note on a picture where you plan on placing things, as well as get a feel for the property as a whole, such as property lines, septic placement and similar.

Once you've got a fair idea of the external things on your property, you can start to consider the internal things. As mentioned earlier: This is simply an overview. I'll be making 2 follow up posts that look at the External and Internal considerations more deeply, with a simple printout you can use to answer these things and guide your planning process.


Considering the internal plans is a wee bit more involved than the external parts. Where the external is very permanent (its hard to move a house once it's been built), the internal part is more fluid. As such, it can be changed later - with that said, we're trying to avoid redundant work here.

Bad news first: This involves sitting down with yourself or your family and figuring out: "What do I / we want out of our home. What adds value to our home, and what is not needed?". And really being honest about your needs. Start small, go from there.

Once you've asked yourself that, write down the answers. These will help you decide what you want to plan for your home. There are a ton of ways to plan these things, so having a list that can be a guiding point really helps when you're feeling overwhelmed.

The three major categories are:

  • Necessities for survival - kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area.
  • Great-to-have elements - storage, workshop (for self-built homes), water for showers / drinking.
  • Nice-to-have elements - reading nooks, offices and similar.
  • Other considerations.

There is a bit of overlap here, but these are the simple concepts. I'm a big fan of the whole "A room doesn't have to only do one thing", so I like planning around my living room being also a reading nook, eating area, social area and potentially an office.

Once you've started to consider these things, you can begin formulating a bit of a plan. To help shape what this could look like, I've added my own answers to the two categories as inspiration.

Planning my future home:

This is a very broad rundown of what I've been considering for my own tiny home. It will be elaborated further in my Building My Home series, so these are my preliminary thoughts.


  • What areas do you have available, including amenities like sources of power, internet, locations with a lot of sunlight.
    • Must haves: Area with lots of sun (so not blocked by trees) for solar,
    • Area for food (8-10 hours of sun a day), definitely a compost area and some place for a greenhouse.
    • Area for animals.
    • Internet connection.
    • Trees useful for construction, so no pine or similar.
      • Using green wood isn't recommended, but I'll likely be doing so regardless and then dealing with the warp afterwards.
  • What materials do you have available.
    • I am looking for land specifically with running water and forest at a bare minimum of 1 hectare, which is about 2½ acre.
    • A nice to have: dirt with about 10 % clay in it, for Cob building - though this is not required.
  • What is the ugliest place on the property, what is the prettiest place and where do you have the best views.
    • I intend to place my garden on the ugliest place, to make it prettier, or place the compost there.
    • The best place I'll likely not touch to keep int natural, maybe add a pond in.
    • The place with the best view will be where I place my house, with the Bedroom facing towards the view.
  • Other considerations:
    • I'd like a natural swimming pool, so I'll have to look out for areas where this would fit well.

As I have yet to acquire a piece of land, this is more theoretical than anything. However that doesn't mean it can't help shape what I am looking for in a property and what I'm going to do with it.


  • Necessities for survival - kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area.
    • Until I get set up, I am considering an outdoor lavatory and an outdoor bath, with some manner of heating for the water.
      • Here I have taken a lot of inspiration from Off Grid with Jake and Nicolle and their shower ideas.
      • For kitchen I am planning on a kitchen with an island  that is connected to the living room, as I hate when they are separate.
      • For sleeping area, as I will likely be building a Yurt, it's just going to be a simple bedroom with electricity for lights, a potential heater if needed and a two-person bed for that glorious space.
  • Great-to-have elements - storage, workshop (for self-built homes), water for showers / drinking.
    • Since i am planning on building a Yurt and making a lot of things myself, I will need a Workshop, storage, a Fireplace for winter.
    • I intend to get running water from rainwater harvesting which needs to be filtered and purified.
  • Nice-to-have elements - reading nooks, offices and similar.
    • I don't particularly need an office, as i usually use a laptop, so I can ignore that.
    • I'd like a place to sit and look out over the garden, so a reading nook / a cozy spot would be nice to have.
    • I'd like a place for a home gym, likely in an adjourning building ( I am thinking a well insulated container would do the trick).
    • It would be cool to have a hydroponic setup for gardening as well.
  • Other considerations:
    • For my yurt, I know I'd like to have a deck I can sit on and enjoy the view.
    • I intend to have pets, both cats and dogs, so space for them is needed.
    • I intend to do rainwater harvesting, so my yurt will need some gutters.
    • I like large open spaces, so that puts requirements for the size of my yurt as well - likely a 40ft diameter one is the smallest I'd consider.

At this point my plans are still purely speculation, and as such they are likely to change - however they have pointed me in a specific direction:

  • I need a garden which includes composting.
  • I'd like to use solar for electricity, and potentially hydroelectric systems as well.
  • My property needs to have access to internet, preferably already on the property to save costs.
  • I'll need storage for rainwater harvesting, and a filtering system as well

With these things in mind, I'll be starting the design phase of my yurt, which will likely happen in Google Sketchup. I'll be posting my designs and ideas here on the site, in case they can be a help for somebody else as well.