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Tiny house book review: Compact Cabins

Compact Cabins by Gerald Rowen is a book about building a tiny house.
Gerald Rowen

The book, Compact Cabins, by Gerald Rowen


The beauty of tiny houses is that they can be built for a small investment. Unlike traditionally large homes, tiny homes—under 500 square feet—can be built for a few thousand dollars. Finding plans for these homes is challenging. The book, Compact Cabins, by Gerald Rowen, gives potential home owners the chance to examine 62 floor plans. Whether you are looking for a small cabin for weekend excursions or a tiny house for full-time living, this book has a plan for it. Homes in the book range in size from 1,000 square feet to a mere 162 square feet.


Compact Cabins is more than just a book of floor plans. Author Gerald Rowen gives readers sound information about building materials, options for appliances, off-grid power systems, and other options for tiny house construction. The plans are drawn at 3/8 inches equals one foot. Any competent architect can draw out the plans for you. If you know how to use an architect’s scale, you can enlarge them yourself.

The smallest cabin in the book features a 162 square foot micro cabin. It has a sleeping alcove of 7.5 feet by 5.5 feet. This is cozy quarters for a couple without children—it would hold a full size bed. Rowen recommends using RV kitchen and bathroom units. The cabin’s small size makes it ideal for off-grid power.

Chapter one gives you 50 tiny house plans. The largest of these plans is the Pocono Woods cabin. It is roomy enough to sleep up to four people comfortably. This two-story cabin design features a bedroom and full bath upstairs and a half-bath on the main level.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Compact Cabins gives readers a good education in building materials and non-traditional choices for a tiny house. One cabin is designed from a Quonset hut, another uses shipping containers as part of the design. The author does not skimp on any information a tiny house builder would need. Waste systems, power systems, and even innovative furniture choices are all covered in the book.

What makes a pleasant looking home varies from one individual to another. Some of the cabin designs are ugly. Other designs are really cute and some of the larger layouts are well thought out.

One thing that the author does not mention is on-demand hot water systems. Tiny houses are the ideal candidate for on-demand hot water. The systems can run on electricity or gas and they do not have tanks like traditional hot water heaters.

Book details

The book is available in digital and print format. If you are planning on enlarging the plans, the print version is the way to go. The plans from the ebook do not print out to scale. You can find the book at many big box home improvement centers or you can purchase it online. Photos are in gray-scale. There are no color photographs in either book format. Published in 2009, by Storey Publishing.

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