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Tiny house, big movement

Tiny House Conference

A few members of the SketchUp team recently spent a weekend in Portland, Oregon at the Tiny House Conference. It seems that SketchUp is the unofficial “official” tool of choice for the planning and design of a Tiny House. The folks we met in Portland were passionate about making the Tiny House lifestyle accessible to everyone, and we were excited to see that SketchUp plays a part in making that happen.

Tiny House ConferenceThe Tiny House Conference: where the parking lot is the place to be.

So what’s the big deal about tiny houses anyway? The crew at have nicely summed up the “Tiny House Movement” here, but it might just be easier to ask yourself: “how much simpler could life be if I lived in a smaller space?” We see a growing number of 'Tiny Housers' who are being more mindful of the space and things they use. At the Tiny House Conference, we learned that the Tiny House ideal is as much about lifestyle as it is about reducing the physical space you need.

At the conference, we talked to many people about how SketchUp is being used to design a big change in lifestyle. From simple space planning to designing construction-ready tiny houses, SketchUp seems to be a Tiny Houser's best friend. We were especially excited to meet James and Macy from Before the conference, we had spent a lot of time drooling over their tiny house plans, done entirely in SketchUp and LayOut.

Macy and James have developed an amazing resource for designing and building tiny housesMacy and James have developed an amazing resource for designing and building tiny houses their tiny house SketchUp plans are available for purchase and download at

We also learned a few nuggets about lifestyle design we thought y’all would be interested in learning. Here is some design advice straight from the Tiny Housers's mouths.

  1. Maximize by minimizing. You can live happily in a small space with fewer possessions by being aware of your consumer habits, and learning the secrets to hiding critical objects. These choices often come hand-in-hand with a lot of self-reflection.

  2. Go on a scavenger hunt. Many Tiny Housers choose reclaimed and salvaged materials. Repurposing and breathing life back into something can be fun, comforting and rewarding. What a great way to spend a Saturday!

  3. It’s ok to splurge! You will most likely be able to splurge on higher quality appliances, furnishings, finishes, and insulation when you are planning for two-hundred square feet versus two-thousand.

  4. Purpose-driven life. How satisfying and comfortable is the idea of living in a space that has been maximized in every way? Great tiny houses maximize the use of everyday living space and even take design thinking one step further into space, light, and function. Your life and your home are purposeful.

  5. Be green, save green. You can save more money by choosing alternative energy sources and smaller heating systems. It’s typical that one solar panel charges a tiny house’s lights, appliances, and cell phones.

  6. Build your toolbox. Be independent and develop new skill sets by designing your own lifestyle. There are many businesses, communities, and opportunities opening up in this movement as well as, some great support systems and resources.

  7. Make Friends. Did we mention how awesome these people are!? Talk about an amazing, smart, supportive, and international community!

The Tiny HousersThe Tiny Housers! Can you spot us? Where’s waldo? See the rest of the pictures from the conference here!

There has been a lot of talk lately about how the Tiny House and DIY'er movements might transform industries. At this event, we saw that, at the very least, these small houses can change lives. We saw innovators of all ages using tools like SketchUp to help shape a new future and make their ideas real. And heck, we can’t help but be proud to be a small part of this big movement.

About the Author

Alex was previously the Community Manager for SketchUp. She has a degree in Environmental Design from CU Boulder and believes in the power of storytelling as an accelerator of good things.

Profile Photo of Alexandra Bowen