The above video shows the first of our designer's suggested concepts in action. But does it work?
There's no right way to outfit a porta potty as a tiny home. When the Our Own Backyard designers, consultants, and prospective helpers sat down to discuss potential layouts, there was much debate. How sophisticated should the interior be? Do we include plumbing and cooking on the interior? Should the bed accommodate two?
After years of living in small and unusual spaces, my ideas on micro-living were well-formed. But I'm no contractor and I'm certainly no architect. Having those folks in the room to squash my bad ideas was vital to the success of the project. Like when I suggested digging out an underground lair for Earth-cooled food storage. I guess that doesn't fly with city code enforcement. Fair enough.
Mostly my team and I were on the same page. We agreed that separating the living space from the eating and restroom space was critical. Fighting negative perception about living in a structure universally recognized as a toilet is difficult enough without having a resident actually pooping in there. But just how ornate the interior should be was up for debate. Some believed we should spend as little money as possible. Others felt we ought to make the unit as striking as possible to wow viewers.
Our first mock-up represented the former side of the debate. It was a simple (but innovative) series of folding surfaces, hinging the bed surface in three spaces to reveal an underside table and seating space. The construction was impeccable. The materials were durable. The surfaces folded into themselves to make room for extra floor space. What was not to like? Not much. But the few undesirable elements were major.
Foremost, the bed was too small. Laying atop it barely accommodated my full 6'+ frame. Spreading a leg towards the wall was met with stiff resistance by the curved hexagonal wall. The bed would have to be wider. Which was problematic because the wall behind it wasn't straight. Meaning additional cuts and problematic folds--including the center piece getting dangerously close to the ceiling upon fold-up.
It was great that the unit folded, but was the floor space really necessary? Our architect and I had discussed this at length and decided that the illusion of space could be achieved without sacrificing bed comfort for floor space. Folding the unit away was a sophisticated but unnecessary feature. So we nixed it.
Finally, we desired to achieve much more with the interior. Utilizing a small space doesn't necessarily mean maximizing mobility. It's a balance between moving around and storing stuff in creative ways. Losing the underbed space from potential storage of belongings, ala the average live-aboard sailboat, was a major negative. So we nixed the folding undercarriage.
Our updated design (to be revealed!) includes an under-bed fold-down table with bench seating for two, and enough storage for an armful of backpacks and a solar-powered mini fridge to boot. The folding bed remains, but with a fixed end third and a fixed top tenth, ensuring the bed clears all structural elements on the fold up. It takes up a bit more space but in doing so uses it more efficiently.
I am grateful to have been challenged with so many great ideas during the initial design phase and confident our layout will be better for it. Very excited to unveil that design soon!