Tiny Houses Turn Their Backs on the Street

Dee's Front (Back) Porch

Dee's Front (Back) Porch

I’m confused about why not a single one of the tiny houses I’ve ever seen has the front door at the front. I’ve been looking at photos of tiny houses for years and I have yet to come across one. Now, I recognize that in big houses most people use their back or side door more often than their front door. Front doors are formal and tiny houses are anything but formal. But tiny houses usually only have one door so its placement is important.

It’s awfully cute to see the front door facing you when the tiny house is rolling down the road. It’s even cuter if it has a Shrinky-Dink Porch. But since tiny houses are more home than mobile, they are usually parked, not traveling. Why aren’t the front doors over the tongue so that when the house is parked the entrance is facing the street?

Many tiny houses are backed into their parking spots

House Truck's Front (Back) Porch

House Truck's Front (Back) Porch

because it’s usually difficult to maneuver a vehicle hauling a tiny house in such a way that the house can be pulled in and disconnected and then the truck moved away. This often positions the door near the garden/backyard/etc. which is certainly pleasant and more private. But by the time the truck pulls away the tiny house’s door is opposite the entrance to the parking spot, which means that the house is facing its backside to the street. It seems so anti-social and impolite to turn away from the community. There’s always an option to set up a private space on the private side in some other way.

Jay's Front (Back) Porch

Jay's Front (Back) Porch

Now, it could, of course, make sense to have the door on the side of a tiny house (as most RVs do), but since I plan to move my tiny house periodically I won’t know where my tiny house will be parked. The chances of having the door face an undesirable direction seems high. It would be awkward to have the door facing a wall or a bush or the opposite direction as the natural entrance.

So when I build my own tiny house I plan to put the door over the tongue. It makes sense to me for two main reasons: 1) it will be more likely to be facing the street once it’s parked and 2) the tongue will be a great support for the deck to rest upon. I plan to make a fold-up deck and a fold-down awning that can latch together to protect the door during transport. When the house is parked the deck and awning will be unlatched, the deck will drop to rest on the tongue, and the awning will be propped up with braces. This will enable me to have a front porch that is nice and big, much better than a Shrinky-Dink Porch.

Gypsy Wagon's Front/Back Door

Gypsy Wagon's Front/Back Door

It seems to me that the front of the trailer, over the tongue, is the most logical place to put the door. So why aren’t tiny housers doing this? Are people building their tiny houses with the doors opposite the tongue because tiny house pioneers Dee Williams and Jay Shafer did? (For the record, Dee put her door opposite the tongue because her house was designed for a specific site where her house is backed into a yard via the alley, so her door intentionally faces her community.) Or because is it because that’s how the gypsy wagons are designed? (It makes sense for gypsy wagons to have their doors at the back because it allows people to enter while the house remains attached to a vehicle.) Or are tiny housers following in the tradition of house trucks? (Which can’t put the door at the front because that’s where the cab is located.)

Am I missing something? Tiny housers, help me out here. Why are tiny house’s front doors are at the back? Anyone have examples of tiny houses that do have their door over the tongue? If so, let me know. I’d love to see them!

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24 Responses to Tiny Houses Turn Their Backs on the Street

  1. Our door is on the side (length) of the house. We chose not to build a front porch or back porch connected to our trailer. After reading your thoughts it seems that you are referring to only one (perhaps two) types of design regarding tiny house both of which revolve around Jay. He is not the only dreamer, builder, designer, etc. out there. There are a number of different designs that pay absolutely NO homage to Tumbleweed. All that to say, the door goes where you want it. If I were building a Fencl type model I would not build the front door at the tongue end. Mainly because on a trailer the propane shelf in on the tongue and unless you want to have your propane (assuming you are using propane) somewhere else then you will be having to build around or build over or…man, I don’t know actually. Even without the propane it seems odd to have a porch on the tongue end as then when guests come in they have to navigate around that. You certainly can’t build over it because then you won’t be able to hitch up and travel. Whatever the case, when all is said and done….the door goes where you want it!

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for responding. You bring up some interesting points. Sounds like you’ve put the tongue of your trailer to use by putting the propane tank there. I’ve just tucked mine underneath the trailer. I understand it wouldn’t work to build the deck over the tongue because, as you say, I couldn’t hitch up and move the house. But I’m planning to have a deck that would cover the tongue when the house is stationary. Of course, as you point out, the door should go wherever you want it to be, wherever it fits with your layout. I just wondered why I hadn’t seen one over the tongue since that’s where I want mine. :-)

  2. Logan says:

    Hi Lina,

    Sheila and Kai over at 2cycle2gether built thier porch over the tongue of the trailer. They would be a good example for you. http://2cycle2gether.com/2011/09/building-our-tiny-house-weeks-18-19-20/

    Also, you can move tiny houses without a truck to get them oriented “properly” using a motorizied dolly. We have a model called “power mover”. We chose to shun the tongue as a porch option because the jack gets in the way of a straight entrance to the door. Everyone has their own aesthetic of course, and its interesting to see the pattern you’ve pointed out. :)

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Logan,
      Thanks for your response and the reminder that a motorized dolly is an awfully useful tool for getting a tiny house situated in a tight spot. It was great to see the video of your tiny house getting snuggled into its spot. Are you up for sharing that video link? Also, a while ago you said the motorized dolly was available for rent here in Portland. Is that still the case?
      As for aesthetics, yes, that’s certainly one of the biggest considerations. Whether it’s within the footprint of the trailer or not, it’s important to find a sense of balance for the porch.
      Lina

  3. Hi Lina,

    As Logan pointed out, we did build our house with the door at the tongue end, for some of the very reasons you pointed out. We’ve been just as confused as you as to why this hasn’t been done before.

    We figured that the house would be backed into it’s location more often than not and we didn’t want our door facing away from the community/entrance/road. We also thought it made sense to build a porch out over the tongue – it’s there and can be used as a support for something so why not? We specifically designed and built our porch so that it can be quickly and easily removed and stored in the house if/when we need to tow it – it’s a temporary porch, not permanently attached. (We eventually hope to build stairs that run the full length of either side of the tongue to create a fairly large and accessible/usable porch/patio space.) But the real reason we built our house with the entry toward the tongue is because it makes good building sense. The general rule is that you shouldn’t have more than 20% of the total weight on the tongue side, so we designed our interior space so that the open floor plan was toward the tongue and the weightier section of the house (kitchen/bathroom/sleeping loft) is over the central and rear portion of the trailer. It also made sense to us to incorporate the wheel wells into the kitchen cabinets so that they didn’t take up space in the open living area.

    Anyway, we hope to cover all the details about our choices, how we designed the house and how we built it (including sections on how to build the temporary porch over the tongue) in a future e-book about our Tiny House. We’re hoping to have it available within a few months so we’ll send you a link to download it when we finish it.

    In the meantime, good luck designing and building your own dream house! :-)

    • Little Life says:

      Hi Sheila,
      Thanks for sharing your thinking about the porch. It sounds like having the porch at the front made good sense to you, too. And it’s helpful to hear about the ratio of weight over the tongue. I’d heard that it depends on how far back your wheels are, but I’d never heard any percentages, so that’s useful. I also appreciate the link to your blog. I hadn’t come across your website yet and it’s great! I’ll be curious to see how you like your porch at the front. Keep me posted. And I’d love a copy of your tiny house story!
      Sincerely,
      Lina

  4. Parker says:

    Hi Lina,
    I’m currently building my own tiny home on wheels, and after much thought am putting in a small dutch door on the tongue end, and my french doors on the other (back) end. I did consider having the french doors on the south side, as they would give the home tons of light and solar gain for heat, with the dutch door remaining on the tongue. Finally though, the symmetry of a door on each end won me over. It lead to my having the sleeping loft in the center of the home, so the doors can be a normal height without having the loft floor be so high that I have no head-room.

    My little home will only be located on acreage, so the “friendliness-factor” you spoke of won’t come into play.

    Anyways, just sharing my design decisions :)
    Take care,
    Parker

  5. Parker says:

    Sorry for a double post, but I forgot to mention that the french doors will open outwards, onto a separate porch I’ll build, and the dutch door will open inwards, both to not interfere with the tongue and for safety reasons – I’ll be living where snow is very very deep in the winter and I don’t want to get trapped inside! :) I agree with you on the tiny, un-useful porch! Instead of the folding idea you have, I’ll just build mine separately. I’ll only ever be in two locations and it will be easy to make them on the spot.

    Parker

    • Little Life says:

      It sounds like you’ll have a great porch. Looking forward to seeing it! Those outswing French doors are tricky to come by. Did you have to order them custom?

      • Parker says:

        Heh, no…..I’m a broke kinda girl so got them used at a ReStore here in town. I’m redoing the hinges and where the doors meet to make them work (fingers crossed – I’m no carpenter).

        Love your Summer digs!
        Parker

  6. Pingback: Well, Hello, Tiny Housers! | | This Is The Little LifeThis Is The Little Life

  7. Jennifer says:

    I know your post is older and you’ve likely decided on your floorplan, but I was just looking at this one last week: http://dreadnaughtdarling.com/fortune-cookie-vardo/fortune-cookie-on-the-move-2/ I loved the fact that she had the door at the hitch end. She doesn’t do a porch on hers, just a front step, but she gets an overhanging roof above her door, to shelter her from rain as she fumbles for her keys, yet it doesn’t eat into floor space or affect the maximum size limits, because it would stick out over a bit that doesn’t stick out into the road. I was thinking if you had fold-up bits, you could fold out quite a nice square or hexagonal porch (or whatever, depending on the size and angles you use you make your initial triangular porch… OK you’d have to work around the hitch… details, details). Anyway, she also has lovely blogs about living tiny, and as she’s also a crafter in a tiny space, you might find or be able to share something useful with her in that regard.

    • Little Life says:

      Dear Jennifer,

      Thanks for sharing this link. I’ve loved The Fortune Cookie since I first saw it, but I didn’t know that Kera kept a blog. I’m now following. I like the stoop on the trailer tongue, but I’m still planning to do a porch on mine. Do you have a tiny house, too?

      Lina

      • Kera says:

        Hey, it’s Kera!

        Yeah, the design of mine is I have a ‘side’ door over the tongue (that drops you off in the bathroom/shower area) and on the side is my front door that I use for my main entrance. The ‘side’ door I kinda use as a tiny mud room when the weather is particularly gross/muddy. I’ve yet to run into an issue with my main door facing the wrong direction, as I have had some super awesome skilled movers/friends helping me.

        During the summer I keep the side and front door propped. Makes for some excellent airflow, and gives my dog a sense of happiness as he can track dirt and grass in whatever entrance he pleases.

        I noticed that trend as well, and kinda wondered about it. Glad you’re following my blog!

        ~Kera

        • Little Life says:

          Hi Kera,

          Thanks for sharing a little more about how your side door enables you to connect with the greater world around you. I look forward to following along!

          Lina

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi, Lina. I don’t have a tiny house… yet! I really do want one, but am at the dreaming stage at the moment. Finances are way off of even beginning to genuinely plan. I figure if I use this time to obsessively plan, then when I get the chance to start, it won’t take as long to finish. I am probably delusional. I’m sure it’ll still take ages. Most things take way longer than anticipated, but it does provide the perfect opportunity to learn as much as I can. I would love to have a look at your floor plan, please, and any photographs, if you’re that far along in the process.

  8. Laura says:

    Hi Lina,

    Have you heard of Molecule Tiny Homes? http://moleculetinyhomes.blogspot.com/ Apparently they have been pioneers of fold up porches.

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