The Little Leaf

A unique tiny home on wheels.

Overview

The Little Leaf tiny house on wheels is truly a one-of-a-kind home. Every inch of space is intentionally designed to maximize storage, light, and comfort.

The home was designed by Laura Yates in 2014, and built in partnership with Indianapolis-area contractor Jeff Mongan. Licensed subcontractors installed the electrical and plumbing systems, built the roof, and completed the insulation.

The home is 20′ by 8′ 6″, and is 220 sq. ft. (including the lofted bed). It is currently located in Plainfield, IN.

The Little Leaf is designed to be comfortable in all seasons, and functional on or off grid. Spacious bathroom, kitchen, and dining areas are bathed in natural light throughout the day.

Storage is everywhere in this home – in the stairs, under the front step, inside the benches, and in the utilities loft. A full-size clothes closet is adjacent to the sink, while a half-size closet is under the stairs.

A lofted queen bed is complimented by two twin beds which double as bench seating: this tiny house can comfortably sleep four.

Specifications

Trailer & Foundation
The house is mounted on a PJ Trailers 2014 Car Hauler (Model B5202), 20’ long by 8’6” wide, with two brake axles, 9,900lb GVWR (2x 5,000lb GAWR). The trailer was purchased new from Southern Ohio Equipment Company in 2014. Heavy duty hydraulic jacks on the hitch end and on the rear corners of the trailer support and level the home when stationary (the jacks easily fold up for transport). The original steel cross-bracing and decking was supplemented with 2×4 subfloor framing, sealed off from the elements using thick aluminum flashing, providing a sturdy foundation for the home. Titled in Indiana.
Structure
The walls were constructed with 16” on center 2×4 framing, attached to the trailer frame every 32” on the perimeter, and every 24” on the subfloor. Built using conventional framing methods, supplemented with L-brackets and hurricane ties to increase durability and wind resistance during transport. The roof was framed using 2x6s at 16” on center. Supplemental framing was used in various places, such as the lofted bed and front-side windows. Exterior framing is enclosed in 3/4” OSB and Tyvek house wrap moisture barrier. Walls are insulated with open-cell spray foam (more information on insulation and R values in the “Sustainability & Efficiency” section).
Roof
The design of the angled shed-style roof was chosen to eliminate valleys and penetrations, reducing the risk of leaks and maintenance or repair. The grey standing seam metal roof (professionally installed by Jackson Contracting Inc, with an expected life of 40 to 70 years) provides excellent protection from the elements (bonus: generates a beautiful sound during rainfall). The roof is insulated with open-cell spray foam (more information on insulation and R values in the “Sustainability & Efficiency” section).
Exterior Finishes
8” spruce tongue and groove carsiding and spruce 1×4 trim, finished with SuperDeck semi-transparent stain in Redwood (recently stripped and re-stained). Seams and joints are sealed using DAP Dynaflex in Redwood (recently stripped and re-sealed).
Doors & Windows
The ThermaTru Smooth-Star 6’ French Door with left-hand inswing and multi-point locking mechanisms comes with a lifetime warranty. Hardware is oiled bronze exterior and white interior). Custom-built low-e Jeld-Wen windows have maintenance-free aluminum clad frames on the exterior, natural wood interior painted white, and excellent insulating properties. Windows are positioned to enable lower windows to remain securely locked, while upper windows can remain open to provide airflow and cross-ventilation at night. When placed with the door oriented to the south, the house is bathed in natural light and passive solar heat in the winter. In summer, curtains close to keep the interior cool, assisting the air conditioner which fits into the kitchen window. All but the 4’x5’ picture window are equipped to open, and include screens.
Floorplan

Main Level
Smiley face
 
Loft Level
Smiley face

Interior Finishes
The walls are covered in 1/4” solid birch plywood finished with whitewash pickling, creating a beautifully modern, neutral-tone interior. The stairs to the loft are built of 3/4″ birch plywood, with extra framing for rigidity. The benches in the dining area are also 3/4” birch plywood, and each seat is hinged to allow storage of bulky items, such as the window air conditioner, when not in use. The flooring is rich mahogany-toned tongue in groove laminate, accented with white trim. The front step is made of sturdy oak boards. The bathroom floor is covered in durable, water-tight vinyl planks in a grey wood pattern.
Bathroom
Layout & Storage
The full bathroom is spacious, including all the traditional features without compromising on space. A large mirrored medicine cabinet keeps toiletries out of sight, while a set of three small shelves can serve as decor or storage of daily used items. A pocket door provides privacy without taking up extra space.

Vanity
The IKEA sink and cabinet provide additional bathroom storage for extra towels and tissues. An American Standard faucet with single control is elevated for ease of use. The sink has a raised edge to control splashing, and plenty of room for toothbrushes and soap. Towel hooks on the side allow towels to dry stored out of the way.

Shower
A water-tight 67-gallon galvanized steel stock tank serves as the shower basin. A high-efficiency shower head ensures comfortable and effective water pressure without excessive water usage. A custom shower-curtain ring provides 360-degree coverage, protecting the bathroom walls from water damage. A bathroom fan/light directly above the shower promotes air circulation and helps control humidity in the home while providing adequate light while showering.

Toilet
The use of a Nature’s Head composting toilet is the central feature that affords the homeowner flexibility in choosing where to locate the home. All drainage from the home (from showering, cooking, and washing with biodegradable materials), is considered “gray water,” which can be safely released into the environment (in compliance with state and local regulations). A composting toilet helps the homeowner avoid the complexity and expense of sewer or septic system hookups to manage “black water” waste, or sewage. The Nature’s Head composting toilet provides efficient and odor-free performance, and greatly reduces household water consumption and waste. The Nature’s Head is similar in design to conventional toilets, and is surprisingly easy to use and maintain, even for guests! The toilet is filled with peat moss that absorbs and composts solid waste, while liquid waste collects in a separate tank that can be removed and emptied outside, where it quickly biodegrades in nature. Odor is eliminated by means of a silent, constant exhaust fan, which also speeds the breakdown of solid waste into compost. Once composted, the solid waste is safe to dump in a garden. Depending on the number of occupants in the house, the composted solid waste can be dumped once or twice a year. If the tiny house owner prefers to place the house in a location with full plumbing and waste treatment, the Nature’s Head can be easily removed and replaced with a conventional toilet.

Kitchen
The kitchen is designed for convenience, functionality and storage. It features a beautiful oiled walnut butcher’s block countertop and dining table. A sleek two-burner propane stove and a Breville SmartOven provide all the equipment of a traditional kitchen without compromising on space. A Broan stainless steel stovetop hood, with a fan vented to the outside, prevents steam and cooking fumes from collecting the home, and provides additional task lighting for cooking. A stainless-steel Danby refrigerator is located under the counter; magnetic spice containers attach to the door for convenience and decoration. A deep stainless steel IKEA sink, and full-size Hans Grohe kitchen faucet with spray nozzle, make washing up a breeze. The sink comes with two custom inserts: a drainer for drying dishes, and a cutting board, which can sit over the sink to increase the amount of prep space when the sink isn’t in use. IKEA cabinetry provides ample pantry space and storage for dishes, pots and pans and cooking supplies. A stainless steel trash can is located under the sink.
Dining Area
The dining area is a truly unique feature of this tiny home. During the day, the benches are covered in pillows and cushions, creating a dining room table that seats six (unprecedented for a tiny house of this size). At night, the pillows can be rearranged and the benches become two twin beds, so the house can comfortably sleep four people at any given time. Under the mattresses, the bench lids hinge open, providing ample storage for seasonal items like the air conditioner, dehumidifier, tools, or off-season clothing. The dining area features a large picture window (which does not open) and a wide casement window, which illuminates the dining nook with natural light and provides ventilation and air flow. The table is made of the same oiled walnut butcher’s block as the kitchen counter, and rests on height-adjustable T legs. The overhead light is adjustable, providing a number of different configurations to suit the needs of the space.
Bedroom
The bedroom is located in the loft above the dining area, and offers an airy and comfortable retreat, with the angled roof providing ample head room to sit up in bed and move around. A queen bed comfortably sleeps two, and a deep wall at the edge of the loft provides shelving which acts as a railing and provides storage for extra blankets and sheets. Two casement windows provide natural light and cross-ventilation. The bedroom features two power outlets and a built-in reading light.
Storage
Storage is intentionally designed into every area of the home. The front step, raised a few inches off the floor, provides space to store shoes.  A full-height wardrobe maximizes hanging space, shelves and drawers, providing clothing storage well beyond the norm for tiny houses. An additional cabinet above the clothes closet provides storage for accessories and seasonal clothing items. The benches in the dining area not only double as guest beds: they also have hinged access doors under the mattresses, providing excellent storage for seldom-used items like seasonal appliances, luggage, camping gear, and tools. The stairs to the loft are open framed with additional hanging space for coats, storage for backpacks, etc. The bedroom railing includes four sizeable shelving areas, perfect for storing extra sheets, blankets, or books. The utility loft includes space to store large, bulky items like extra toilet paper, paper towels, or suitcases. The bathroom includes medicine cabinet shelving, under-sink cabinet shelving, and open shelving for toiletry and linen storage. The kitchen boasts four full-sized 24” deep IKEA cabinets, providing an unprecedented amount of kitchen and pantry storage for a tiny home of this size.
Safety, Security & Privacy
Security
The Little Leaf was designed with safety, security, and privacy as top priorities. Two motion-sensor floodlights provide 360-degree illumination around the home’s exterior, and a porch light illuminates the front entrance around the clock. The doors have a multipoint locking mechanism, bolting into the door frame at both the top and the ‘ bottom. All windows lock securely. A hitch lock on the trailer prevents theft of thehouse by blocking any vehicle trying to attach to the trailer while the lock is engaged. The house is protected from severe weather by a high-wind tie down system of eight mobile home anchors (tie-downs) for extra protection from wind in storm-prone regions, as required by many insurers.  Many insurance companies also require and recommend that the trailer tires to be removed in long-term parking situations, which offers additional stability and assurance that the home cannot be moved without the owner’s involvement and consent.

Privacy
The tiny house comes equipped with custom window treatments on all windows and doors, ensuring privacy and light control at any time of the day or night. The French doors are fitted with shades that can act as sheers or offer complete privacy without sacrificing natural light. The ground level kitchen, bathroom, and picture windows have opaque curtains and sheers for maximum versatility.

LP Gas Supply Safety Features
The utilities systems were designed and installed by licensed plumbers and electricians with safety and durability as the top priorities. An extensive propane/carbon monoxide detector, alarm, and safeguard system immediately alerts occupants to any air quality issues (the sensor is mounted near the floor, where heavier CO and propane gasses accumulate first). The detector triggers a solenoid shut-off valve attached to the propane tanks, so in the event of a leak or air quality issue, the supply is immediately shut off at the source, preventing harm to the occupants of the home. Also included is a conventional CO2/smoke alarm, mounted near the ceiling. The most important systems (the water heater ignition, CO/Propane alarm, water pump, furnace fan, and toilet exhaust) all run on 12V power, routed through a backup battery. If power is ever cut off to the home for extended periods of time (in a winter storm, for example) the most important systems will continue to run to keep the occupants safe and comfortable.

Electricity
The electrical system was designed and installed by certified and licensed electrician Eric Clement of Plainfield, IN. Power reaches the home through a 30 amp locking connector plug attached to a 20’ heavy duty weatherproof cable. The cable runs through a conventional breaker box mounted on the home’s exterior, and grounds through the trailer frame. The majority of the home runs on conventional 120V power, with a few emergency systems running on 12V through a backup battery system. Two exterior GFCI outlets provide easy access to power for outdoor tasks, while two motion sensor flood lights and a sconce-style fixture by the front entrance provide exterior lighting. The interior light fixtures are all high-efficiency, including many LED fixtures and bulbs. The switches are conveniently located, and an ample number of outlets are located in each area of the home, so power is always easily accessible. The outlet above the sink has the capacity to power the high-consumption appliances such as the oven or the window-mount AC unit.
Water
The water and propane systems were designed and installed by licensed plumber James Burney of Plainfield, IN, to give the tiny house owner maximum flexibility in choosing a site for the home.  To date, the house has been off-grid, bringing water to the house by car in a collapsible 60-gallon bladder-style water tank.  A conventional hose input and built-in pump on the exterior wall makes it easy to fill the 60-gallon supply tank located in the ceiling above the bathroom.  Once water is in the supply tank, it is distributed through the house by gravity and a high-efficiency pump.  If desired, the plumbing can easily be reconfigured for an on-grid setup.  The gravity system is assisted by a high-efficiency ShurFlo RV water pump to maintain excellent water pressure using minimal electrical power.  Hot water is provided through an Atwood combination Gas/Electric water heater (10 Gallon, Model 94022), which runs on either electricity or propane, providing convenience and versatility in both on-grid and off-grid situations. Control switches for the water pump and the water heater are located in the bathroom, making it easy to conserve energy when the water systems will be out of use.
LP (Propane) Gas
LP gas fuels the two-burner kitchen stove and wall-mounted fireplace.  Two 30lb propane tanks are mounted to the trailer hitch, covered by a weatherproof cover, which can be easily detached and taken to be refilled as needed.  A solenoid regulates gas usage between the two tanks. The 60-pound supply of propane can last three to six months, depending on climate, occupancy levels, and usage.  An auto-shutoff mechanism cuts off propane supply in the event of an air quality alarm (see more information on the propane/CO detector in the “Safety, Security & Privacy” section).
Heating & Cooling
The home is heated by a wall-mounted propane furnace (Dickinson Marine Newport p12000 heater). The manual-ignition furnace includes a fan, which distributes heat equally and efficiently throughout the home.  The quality of insulation in the home makes it possible to heat comfortably with a small space heater if desired.  In the summer months, a low-profile air conditioner unit with a thermostat can be mounted in the kitchen window. When not in use, the AC unit can be stored inside the dining area benches.
Sustainability & Efficiency
The home is tightly insulated with open-cell spray foam, applied by a licensed contractor. The ceiling has 6” of open-cell foam insulation, providing a combined R value of about 21. The combined R value of the walls is approximately 14. The floors are insulated with rigid foam insulation boards supplemented with closed-cell insulation, with a combined R value of about 14. The windows are coated in high-efficiency low-e treatments, preventing excessive heat loss in the winter.

The home was designed to face south, incorporating elements of passive solar architecture to reduce the need for supplemental heating and cooling. In the winter, the low sun shines into the home through the south-facing windows, providing heat. During the summer, the high sun only shines directly into a fraction of the home, reducing the amount of electricity required to cool the house.

The water, electrical, and propane systems are all designed to minimize waste or inefficiency, without compromising on comfort or function. All aspects of the home are designed to work together to reduce the environmental footprint of the occupants, while keeping the cost of living low.

Additional Features
Exterior Steps: A sturdy exterior staircase of treated lumber includes railings for easy entry and exit, and are stained to match the house.  This staircase was designed to be easily deconstructed into smaller pieces for transport, and will fit in the back of a pickup truck.  The stairs also serve for outdoor seating on pleasant days.

Portable Water Tank: Collapsible 60-gallon tank for transporting water to off-grid locations, including a plug-in pump and hose set for transferring the water from transport tanks to the holding tanks inside the home.

Awning: A new sail-shade set is included to protect the entrance from rain, snow, and sun.

Dehumidifier:  A window air conditioner/dehumidifier unit to maintain comfortable interior temperatures during the warm summer months, plus an additional portable dehumidifier for when the AC unit is not installed (AC unit fits in the kitchen window, both units stored in storage bench while not in use).

Curtains & Linens: A full set of neutral-tone curtains, privacy shades, shower curtains, pillows, bedding, mattress, and other fabric accents, designed specifically for this home.

Consulting Services

The Little Leaf was sold to new owners in July 2017.

If you’d like to learn more about the Little Leaf design or you have questions about your own build, tiny home design consultations are available (billed hourly). If you’d like to build a website to showcase your own home, request a quote via the contact form for tiny house web design services.

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