The first time I saw a sleeping loft was on an episode of Little House On The Prairie. Fans of the show may remember the little sleeping area just behind the chimney stack that Charles built specifically for Laura and Mary to sleep in. It was located just above Charles and Caroline’s bedroom (which might I add was only given privacy due to a quilt hanging on a rod). Wait! That isn’t true.
When I was about 7 years old my Granny took my Mom and I as well as two of my aunts, a third aunt, and my cousin Jenny, to Wintergreen Ski Resort during the off season. Located in the Blue Ridge Parkway she thought it would be a great place to take in the changing of the leaves and to access the Parkway itself. My cousin – just two years older than I – and I did not think it sounded very exciting at all. To our delight though the condo we stayed at (which I now suspect was a timeshare my Granny was scoring for FREE!) had this queer little room above the kitchen that looked down into the living area and was accessed only but a small ladder attached to the wall. Barely big enough for a full size bed the loft had an A-frame ceiling and was perfect to play in and make all the noise we wanted.
Fast forward twenty-four years later to the moment Crystal and I were sitting at the computer discovering Tumbleweed Tiny Homes and the loft spaces that seemed synonymous to what we were discovering as tiny house trailers. But why lofts? They seemed so cramped and uncomfortable. And to think of climbing up and down through the night just seemed daunting at best. So why the sleeping loft?
To my dismay there is virtually no proper architectural history to the sleeping loft. What was able to cobble together though is that a loft is historically an upper room or story in a building. Found mainly in barns, directly under the roof, lofts have traditionally been used for storage (almost synonymous with an attic) or for a specific purpose such as an organ loft in a church or a sleeping loft in a cabin. The major difference between a loft and an attic is that an attic typically encompasses an entire floor of a building, while a loft covers only 1-3 rooms, leaving one or more sides open to the lower floor(s). That brings me to the hayloft.
A hayloft – or hay loft – is a space above a barn, stable, cow paddock, traditionally used for the storage of loose hay or fodder for the animals below. This is of course before the widespread use of hay bales which allow simpler handling of bulk hay. The hayloft was filled with loose hay from the top of a wagon up through a large door oftentimes above the gable end of the building. Since the acceptance of bales though most haylofts have become habitable rooms or even offices. Perhaps the adoption was natural since many times farmers would allow vagrants or untrusted farm hands to sleep out in the hay bale in exchange for daily work. The transition of loft to a home though is perhaps entirely for space saving purposes.
Crunched for space a number of home owners have found that there is no real need for 9, 10, or even 12 foot ceilings as some older homes provide. So taking a cue from New York City loft conversions homeowners and rehabbers around the country began adding loft spaces that would cut the bottom floor to about 7 foot high (still ample height considering the average American male stand only 5’11”) and thereby giving the loft about 4.5′ of headroom; perfect for a horizontal activity such as sleeping or a sitting activity such as desk work or office work. An added loft space would turn a traditional 64 sq.ft. room into a two-level, 128 sq.ft. space (hypothetically speaking, of course). Fairly easy to see why tiny houses favor loft sleeping over single level. With a sleeping loft you can maximize your already limited space thereby taking advantage of every square inch in the house. But is this the only way?
Single level living and split level living in the tiny house community has become more and more popular over the last two years. Beginning with the gooseneck designs of Clothesline Tiny Homes and the recent addition of MiniMotives gooseneck bedroom split-level seems to be a great way to get generous sleeping space (without the ladder or even steep steps) as well as closet or much needed storage room. Single level has also become popular since first introduced by Dan Louche and his Tiny Retirement home and continued with our own Tiny r(E)volution house. The options truly are limitless and I have even seen one or two tiny houses that use non-traditional beds including a hammock and a roll-up Japanese Tatami mat.
What do you think? Do you currently have a bedroom or a sleeping loft? Have you ever thought of single level living? What, if any, sacrifices would have to be made in your tiny house to allow for such? Do you have concerns about loft living? Let’s talk. Leave your thoughts below in the comments.