A Lunar Lander-Inspired Tiny House is an Otherworldly Escape

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By Lucy Wang
Inspired by a picture of a lunar lander, a naval architect perches a tiny house in the shrub-steppe landscape of Eastern Washington.

Naval architect Kurt Hughes typically creates designs for the water, but when the Seattle–based designer saw a picture of a lunar lander, he couldn’t resist the challenge of figuring out the structure’s unusual form.

His curiosity culminated in the creation of an Apollo 13-inspired tiny house, which now serves as his weekend getaway on a remote plot next to the Columbia River. 

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The 250-square-foot Lunar Lander weighs less than 3,000 pounds and sleeps two.

The 250-square-foot Lunar Lander weighs less than 3,000 pounds and sleeps two.

Dubbed the Lunar Lander, the 250-square-foot abode’s eye-catching appearance belies its minimal environment footprint, thanks to its highly insulated elevated form.

A photovoltaic panel is installed above the outdoor deck.

A photovoltaic panel is installed above the outdoor deck.

"The Lunar Lander is not only an interesting configuration, but an homage to a time when people did new things," explains Hughes of his inspiration behind the design/build project. 

"Innovators were prized, not feared. And more, the actual Apollo astronauts trained some 25 miles from where this project is sited."

White paint was applied to the exterior to protect against UV damage.

White paint was applied to the exterior to protect against UV damage.

Bringing his boatbuilding background together with his experience in prefabricated homebuilding, Hughes has crafted the "retro-futurist" Lunar Lander using the latest marine composite technology.

Every piece of plywood, fiberglass, and foam used on the Lunar Lander is completely epoxy encapsulated, which gives the building self-extinguishing benefits. Last month, the Lunar Lander was engulfed in a wildfire, but was left completely unscathed.

Every piece of plywood, fiberglass, and foam used on the Lunar Lander is completely epoxy encapsulated, which gives the building self-extinguishing benefits. Last month, the Lunar Lander was engulfed in a wildfire, but was left completely unscathed.

"Construction is plywood / epoxy / core / fiberglass. There is no framing, no headers, no joists," notes Hughes, adding that if he had a larger budget he would have made the entire structure out of fiberglass and foam core.

The geometric abode features an open core surrounded by external modules. The home has a galley kitchen, bathroom, breakfast nook, outdoor deck, and plenty of storage.

The geometric abode features an open core surrounded by external modules. The home has a galley kitchen, bathroom, breakfast nook, outdoor deck, and plenty of storage.

The building components are made of structural insulated panel (SIP) construction, and are comprised of BS 6566 plywood and Foamular structural foam core. The parts are bonded together with biaxial roving, a fiberglass with the same strength as A36 steel.

Utility equipment and storage is hidden in the hexagonal "systems ring" below the living space modules.

Utility equipment and storage is hidden in the hexagonal "systems ring" below the living space modules.

The most challenging part of the project was permitting. "They didn’t know what to make of it," says Hughes, who said he was surprised when he found out that his tiny house needed to follow the same R3 code that a 24,000-square-foot, four-story condominium is subjected to.

A look at the breakfast nook. The Lunar Lander can comfortably entertain up to four people.

A look at the breakfast nook. The Lunar Lander can comfortably entertain up to four people.

The porthole in the breakfast nook overlooks the Columbia River.

The porthole in the breakfast nook overlooks the Columbia River.

 Code compliance forced him to change his design, though the spacecraft spirit has been retained. "It has a low environmental impact and high weirdness factor," adds Hughes. "It’s also light on the land."

The sewer, water, and electrical lines are attached along the legs of the building.

The sewer, water, and electrical lines are attached along the legs of the building.

The galley kitchen features counters also built with SIP construction. The counters are layered with epoxy, along with carbon fiber on top.

The galley kitchen features counters also built with SIP construction. The counters are layered with epoxy, along with carbon fiber on top.

The door to the right of the galley kitchen opens to outdoor deck. A Fujitsu ductless heat pump is installed in the corner.

The door to the right of the galley kitchen opens to outdoor deck. A Fujitsu ductless heat pump is installed in the corner.

The bathroom is equipped with a Bosch on-demand water heater, as well as a Panasonic bathroom fan and air-to-air heat exchanger ventilation system.

The bathroom is equipped with a Bosch on-demand water heater, as well as a Panasonic bathroom fan and air-to-air heat exchanger ventilation system.

A clear geodesic dome tops the structure, and floods the interior with natural light.

A clear geodesic dome tops the structure, and floods the interior with natural light.

LED strip lighting and recessed ceiling lights illuminate the space at night.

LED strip lighting and recessed ceiling lights illuminate the space at night.

A queen-size bed is located down below and accessible via ship ladder.

A queen-size bed is located down below and accessible via ship ladder.

A look at the floor plans of the Lunar Lander.

A look at the floor plans of the Lunar Lander.

A series of elevation views of the Lunar Lander.

A series of elevation views of the Lunar Lander.

To learn more about the Lunar Lander, click here.