A Beautiful 265-Square-Foot Backyard Tiny House Is a Family Affair

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someone sitting in white living room of tiny home next to large windows
Credit: Gregg Segal

Irmhild Liang has been living in this tiny house in her daughter’s backyard for four years. It was designed by her son, who is an architect. My family and I call it Kleines Haus, which means “small house” in German. It’s a small house with one main room, a kitchen, and a bathroom. I moved from the Boston area to Oakland to be closer to my children. I didn’t like the weather in Boston anyway. And when you get older, some things become harder and more stressful by yourself.

Credit: Gregg Segal
My house is tucked behind the main house. When I'm in my house, I don't see the main house.

My son is an architect. He has his own firm called Blue Truck Studio and he designed this house for me. We built it in the backyard of my daughter’s house. Everyone helped, even the grandkids. When I’m inside Kleines Haus, I don’t see the big house. My family is close by, but it’s my own space. It’s small, but has everything that I need.

Credit: Peter Liang
We built a slide outside the house for the kids.

The kids come by spur-of-the-moment, and I usually love it when they come. There are aspects of the house designed for the kids. It’s got a little loft, so there’s a ladder. So Otto, my grandson, goes up there once in a while. Or we have some quiet time. Sometimes I get out some of the children’s books that I brought with me and we can sit down and read a book. And that’s good for him because he’s got so much extra energy. So being calm and quiet is good for him.

Credit: Peter Liang
The small house has built-in storage everywhere.

I’m from Germany. I like things clean and neat. There are built-in cabinets everywhere to keep things tidy. I don’t cook much, so in the cabinets over the kitchen I store photos. When I moved here, I shipped many boxes and then went through them, organizing and seeing what I wanted. The things that I’ve kept are unique, like the antique wooden sewing chest with many drawers, the dragonfly sculpture my good friend gave me, or the knotted shag rug tapestry that I made in my younger days that’s hanging on my tall wall.

Credit: Gregg Segal
Moving all my belongings across the country was a big endeavor. I sorted items on both ends and kept only the most cherished items.

Describe your home’s style in five words or fewer: Comfortable, modern, European.

Credit: Gregg Segal
The Murphy bed is by Resource Furniture.

What is your favorite room and why? The main room because I can feel relaxed and do what I want for myself. It has everything I need. My desk is in there, which is good. I can take out the sewing machine and use it. I can sit on my couch and watch TV on my iPad or read.

Credit: Gregg Segal
Family members, like my daughter, often stop by for a visit.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? A vase and flowers. Occasionally I get flowers from my niece Freya’s flower shop, Brother and Sisters Flowers. Wherever I live, I always have flowers.

Credit: Peter Liang
Even though the house is small, the large bathroom and tall ceilings make it feel larger.

Any advice for creating a home you love? My advice is to think about creating a simple space that is both functional and has room for the items from your life that have emotional value. It can be small — very small — as long as it has room for memories both old and yet to come. And it should be easy to clean.

Credit: Blue Truck Studio

Thanks, Irmhild!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

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