Find a Low-Cost, Small House Design and Get Tips to Build It

Low cost small house design with a blue roof

When it comes to home design, a mini movement has taken over — a trend that proves great things come in small packages. Just like everyone on Pinterest, we’re talking about the tiny home movement.

These tiny and low-cost, small house designs are often seen in the great outdoors so you can revel in the quiet of nature. They make a perfect escape for those who are tired of the expense of large homes (especially spending copious amounts of money on a mortgage or rent, plus maintenance and more) or living the chaotic city life. Both tiny and small homes are also much more sustainable, environment-wise.

Have you dreamed about building and owning your own simple house? Are you curious about sustainable living and why a low-cost, small house design or a tiny home is the most effective way to both save money and live a more ecologically friendly lifestyle? Let’s explore what it takes to build and live in a low-cost, small house design.

What Is the Tiny Home Movement?

Low cost small house design: bedroom with a chimney

What is the tiny home movement? What’s the difference in square footage between a tiny home and a small house? Why is it cheaper to build and maintain a small house? We have answers for you.

Origins and Evolution of the Tiny Home Movement

Described by as both an “architectural and social movement that advocates for downsizing living spaces,” the tiny home movement has seen a massive rise in the past few years. A natural progression from minimalist living, embracing a tiny home means you have a compact floor plan and spend less money and use fewer resources.

The roots of the tiny house movement can be traced to naturalist Henry David Thoreau, whose book Walden (1854) is about simple living in natural surroundings. The New Yorker credits Jay Shafer as the mastermind behind the modern tiny house movement that we see on our Pinterest boards today. He built his first tiny house in 1999.

It’s about decluttering your life instead of being weighed down with (literal and metaphorical) baggage. It draws on minimalism and leaves space in your life for the more important things.

Now, think of that the next time you’re lugging 18 heavy cartons of your stuff from one rental apartment to another!

Design-wise, a tiny home is one that generally sits neatly within 400 sq. ft. (usually much less), like the gorgeous 144-square-foot Tiny House 2.0 from DEN Outdoors.

While a small home is a relative term, in context to the tiny home movement it’s one that’s less than 1,000 sq. ft., like our 600-square-foot Modern Cottage design.

Why It’s Cheaper and More Sustainable to Build a Small House

Smaller houses require less material to build so you’re not depleting as many resources. They’re also energy-efficient: They use fewer light bulbs, have less space for appliances, and heating and cooling is cheaper within a smaller space. No more scary electricity bills in those terrible summer months! To reduce electricity costs, they can also be fitted with solar panels.

Often designed for with the surroundings in mind, small homes are frequently built closer to nature. The size already cuts down on the environmental impact of construction and requires less land development.

If you’re a DIY-er or craftsman in the making, you can even build your own tiny house and cut labor costs. If you build and own your small home, you don’t pay rent, and the amount you spend on utilities and maintenance is far less. A win all around!

Where Do You Start When Building a Low-Cost, Small House Design and Who Are They Perfect For?

Top view of a low cost small house design

Small and tiny homes are ideal for a range of people. They’re for sustainable living advocates who want to live greener lives and minimize waste. They’re for empty-nesters who want to retire or downsize, and lastly they’re for the new generation of professionals who want to flee from the chaos of big cities and live in homes that don’t burden their pockets (or the planet) — whether it’s permanently or for a weekend escape.

If the idea of an environmentally conscious, low-maintenance, pocket-friendly small new home is appealing to you, DEN can help you do the groundwork. We streamline each stage of the building process and offer budget-friendly packages that include small house plans, to help design your custom home.

Our Complete packages come with architectural blueprints, detailed structural plans, a project brief, a buying guide for materials and fixtures, and even a cost breakdown spreadsheet to help realize your dream build. 

Choose a Starter package if you’re still evaluating your options. Once you’re ready to build, you can apply the amount spent on a Starter package toward a Complete package.

Pros and Features of a Low-Cost, Small House Design

While we’ve been over the obvious benefits of a small home, let’s discuss some of the practical features.

To save valuable space, most small houses tend to eschew walls and have an open floor plan, or a “great room” that includes a living room, kitchen, and dining room. Usually there’s a lofted area where the master bedroom is kept, which turns your tiny home into a two-story.

You can have plenty of privacy! For those hankering after a walk-in closet, you’d be surprised at how many tiny and small homes can be smartly designed to accommodate them. Lastly, you can add a little outdoor patio to make the most of the green space around you.

Other Pros

  • A home that’s smaller in square footage is easier to clean.

  • You save money on interior decoration; since you have less space, you need to buy fewer things. If you invest in fewer decor items, you can replace them more often than you’d do in a regular house.

    For example, if you wake up one day and decide your white walls are an eyesore, you can repaint in one morning and enjoy a new sunny yellow wall without a second thought.

  • It’s easier to stay neat and tidy. When you have a tiny home, overloading it with "stuff" is really not an option — not if you actually want room to move around in.

  • You’re doing your part for the environment. Small homes use less energy, produce less waste, and consume less resources than larger homes.

Interior Design Tips to Make the Most of Your Small Space

Low cost small house design: elevated bed with shelves beside it

If you thought that a small home would deprive you of the chance to live out your interior designer dreams, think again. A compact space means you get to have more fun with vertical storage and use multi-purpose, flexible furniture. Here’s how:

  1. Make use of wall space: Since you have less space in this low-cost house, make use of all that empty wall space. Add a Murphy bed and stick narrow shelves on walls so you have enough space for your prized possessions — whether they’re books or Beanie Babies!
  2. Opt for furniture that has multiple uses: A multi-purpose bench can be used for seating and as a table — and can have hidden storage under it. A sofa bed that pulls out is great for guests or a desk can double as a dining surface.
  3. Use furniture that blends in: Like a wooden version of a chameleon, you should use pieces that assimilate nicely into your space. For example, if you have a lofted room and need ladder access, an innovative design is including a bookshelf in the room below that has steps on top so you can climb up. That way it will fit in the bottom space and serve its dual purpose as a step ladder to the room above.
  4. Get creative with storage: Homeowners should remember that while you have less stuff, you’ll still have things. Include sneaky storage wherever you can — like a platform bed with storage in the master suite. A sofa can have a pull-out drawer installed in it (where the legs are), and if you have a staircase, you can use space below it for cupboards or shelves.
  5. Embrace light colors and harness natural light: The old adage is true in tiny homes — whites and light colors will make your home look brighter and bigger. Stick to these shades for walls, curtains, and big furniture pieces, but bring in pops of color with small decor items. A great feature in modern house plans is making use of natural light by installing skylights and French doors — especially useful in tiny/small homes in the great outdoors.

Real-Life and Low-Cost Small House Designs Under 400 Sq. Ft. to Inspire You

Whether you’re looking to build your dream home or a vacation home, these affordable house plans will inspire you — and prove that you can save money while living the tiny/small home life, and make your design dreams come true!

Cottage Tiny House

Minimalist home interior

An alcove bed for two, a bathroom with a shower, a mini kitchen with spacious 24-inch-tall cabinets, a storage loft, and four picture windows — DEN’s Cottage Tiny House proves that less is more at 196 sq. ft.!

A-Frame Bunk Plus

DEN’s A-Frame Bunk Plus design

If you’re all about loving the outdoors, then DEN’s 270-square-foot A-Frame Bunk Plus will inspire you to live out your cabin-in-the-woods dreams. With floor-to-ceiling windows and a skylight that invite the outdoors in, this home and its spacious lofted bed alcove, bathroom, and optional kitchenette makes the perfect romantic getaway.

Alpine Tiny House

DEN's Alpine Tiny House design

Large glass windows that overlook a little patio, a warm fireplace, a space-maximizing Murphy bed for two, a bathroom with a shower, and a well-equipped mini kitchen make the modern 300-square-foot Alpine Tiny House from DEN a true small wonder.

The Outpost

DEN's The Outpost home design

Soaring high ceilings, a full wall of glass, a loft bedroom, and a Murphy bed make the 225-square-foot Outpost a certified scene-stealer.

Find the Right Small Home for You

Now you know what a tiny home and small home are and why these compact designs are perfect for those with a low budget. You’ve learned how small homes are more ecologically friendly, low-maintenance, thrive in the great outdoors, and give you the pleasure of owning your own home without worrying about high costs and a mortgage.

Go from reading about the perfect low-cost, small house design to building a tiny home that’s perfect for you. DEN's design packages contain everything you need to start your small-home journey.