Tiny House Alternatives to Inspire Your Designs

A VW van in Hawaii by the ocean

If you’re tired of seeing the same layouts and configurations in tiny house designs, it might be time to look at some tiny house alternatives. Step into the related small-space worlds of vans, travel trailers, and even truck camping, and you’ll see some truly unique and ingenious designs.

Some people start their small home search with tiny houses on wheels, but end up finding that another type of small home is a better fit. Campervans, trailers, and truck campers or canopy tops are viable tiny house alternatives for a lot of folks. They’re used less often for full time living (though some folks still make it work!), but all make great seasonal or mobile accommodations that supplement more conventional living situations.

We’re getting ready to tell some van stories of our own (more on that soon!) but in the mean time, here are some of our favorite vans, trailers and truck camping resources.

Vans

There’s a huge, amazing van living and campervan travel community on Instagram, where it seems like virtually everybody is living out of a vintage VW and surfing from dawn to dusk. In an environment crowded with people trying to project the dreamiest life, some van Instagrams really stand out for their designs, photos, storytelling, or all three.  Here are three van Instagrams I find myself coming back to again and again.

Permanent Roadtrip (@permanentroadtrip)

Sprinters, Sprinters everywhere…but here’s one that really made me take notice. This full-height Sprinter van has side doors on both sides, a propane stove with a flex line so they can cook indoors or out, and a wall of storage hidden behind doors decorated with an unbelievable woodburned mountainscape. Plus, their western road trip route is pretty genuinely jealousy inducing, and they’re fantastic photographers.

 

Radius Ulna (@radius_ulna)

While most van interiors are heavy on cedar and wood paneling, the Radius Ulna van turned heads with a number of unique finishes and features. Elastic ropes keep their storage secure while bumping around on the road, and fabric and cork finishes make their interior feel homey in a totally different way. They also have an interesting system for managing without a fridge, and they’re not done tinkering with their already awesome design, which is fun to watch.

A post shared by Radius & Ulna (@radius_ulna) on

A post shared by Radius & Ulna (@radius_ulna) on

Van Life Ideas (@vanlifeideas)

When you think you’ve seen it all in the world of van design, Mark Conley mines van accounts from all over Instagram and shows you that there is always something new under the sun. A lot of van Instagrams are either personal accounts or aggregators reposting other people’s sunset photos. Van Life Ideas is different, focusing on the nitty gritty details that small space builders are really looking for. New layouts, new approaches, and new ideas! What’s better than that? Plus, Mark is documenting a pretty interesting build of his own.

A post shared by Mark Conley (@vanlifeideas) on

 

Trailers and Trucks

Travel trailers, campers and even elements of truck camping present a lot of the same space constraints as tiny houses on wheels, so there’s a lot to learn from people modifying their designs today. And while they don’t always offer the same conventional sense of “home” that a stick-built tiny house does, they’re an affordable and increasingly beautiful option for a small or travel-friendly home.

The Tin Can Homestead (@tincanhomestead)

Who says living in a trailer can’t be glamorous? This incredible Airstream renovation is light, bright and homey. The couple who pulled it off (and garnered quite the following in the process) just sold it and are planning a new A-frame house on the east coast instead – another fun project to follow!

Macy Miller’s Travel Trailer

PAD pal and famous tiny house designer Macy Miller’s latest project was a gut renovation of a vintage travel trailer – and we mean gut renovation: check out her photo timeline of the naked trailer framing. The trailer is now complete and dang good looking, and her family of four is taking it on the road. Macy earned her tiny house fame both with great design skills and an admirable dedication to documenting her process, so you can learn a ton from her blog posts on the trailer renovation process and careful budget tracking. Follow her new trailer on Instagram (@learningthelongway) or check out the process on her website.

The Truck Camping Facebook Group

Taking small space design to the max and optimizing for travel (and often for budget-friendliness), the Truck Camping Facebook Group is a super educational window into how much home can be crammed into just a pick-up truck’s camper shell. The posts range from show-and-tell of finished and in-progress builds to product recommendations to lively exchanges about tips for different challenges of truck camping. I’ve been part of this group for almost a year now, and have been really amazed to see both how simple and how complex these build-outs can be. These two photos show some of what you’ll find there.

Truck camping photos from the Truck Camping Facebook Group
Erin Flanagan’s Truck Camping Set Up
Tiny house alternatives: Truck camping photos from the Truck Camping Facebook Group
Mark “B-radd” Braddock’s amazing truck camping build.

 

No matter what your budget, location, climate or space needs, there are tons of resources out there to either inform your tiny house design, or show you a whole new category of small space that might be a better fit for you. Keep hunting and keep inventing!

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