Tiny, Tiny Houses! What's With Them?!

Sometimes I spend hours wandering the Internet, hopping from tiny house site to tiny house site, because really, what better things do I have to do with my time?

Mar 12, 2012 at 10:00am | Leave a comment

I have this lingering fascination with tiny houses that I just can’t seem to shake, and it seems I’m not the only one. Apparently some people are desperate to figure out the psychology of people who build, buy or drool over tiny houses; for me, it comes down to a pure and simple fascination with interesting design, and a love for efficiency. My last house was pretty close to qualifying for tiny house status and it was like a lesson in how not to do it, so now I like looking at tiny houses done well.

Sometimes I spend hours wandering the Internet, hopping from tiny house site to tiny house site, because really, what better things do I have to do with my time?

Tumbleweed Tiny Houses is one of my favorites, and I lust after several of their designs, particularly the B-53 and Whidbey. The Craftsman-y look of both houses appeals to me, and I could totally see myself painting them in chipper colors and growing lilies along the walkway. I also kind of love the Popomo, but that might be because I have a soft spot for rusting steel siding.

But then, look at this amazing house in Sweden, known as a friggebo. I love the little blue door! I want a tiny red house with a blue door in the middle of a meadow with sheep! Don’t you? Or how about the Painted Lady over at Texas Tiny Houses? All it needs is a swing on that porch and I’d be set for life.

Quietude is pretty awesome too -- I really love the open floorplan, which I think is totally the way to go with a tiny house. When you’re working in a small square footage, it makes no sense to wall it off into a bunch of rooms. Get air and light circulating throughout, I say. For a more whimsical turn, I also adore the real-life Hobbit house that’s been making the rounds; the builder had basically no experience and used virtually no tools to make it, incidentally.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my current house. It was built by an artist and long-time member of the community of whom I have very fond memories, so living in a house that he built is another one of the ways I stay connected to the place I live. I loved it the first minute I saw it, and I continue to love it, even though it’s a bit over tiny house standards, though it is probably much smaller than the average for a two bedroom.

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Houses in the US are getting bigger, and a lot of people are worried about that for a lot of different reasons. Big houses are kind of an epic symbol of waste, excess, and power, but they’re also massively inefficient. In terms of sustainability and environmental friendliness, small houses are definitely preferable to large ones; and dense development in urban spaces would be better still.

Large houses are also more expensive to maintain and harder to deal with. They tend to accumulate Stuff, because there’s room for it, and suddenly you have a huge house filled with crap that someone has to deal with. Possibly you, if you need to move at some point, or your hapless inheritors after you kick the bucket, if you and your Stuff stick it out to the bitter end.

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I could go into great detail on the sociopolitical issues behind tiny houses and some of the reasons I think they’re getting so trendy right now, but I don’t really feel like doing that today; what I’d rather talk about is the pure visceral delight of seeing a space so tightly and beautifully designed, where every inch of real estate matters and considerable thought has been given to every possible element of the layout, every detail, every possible permutation.

I love things that are well-engineered, and tiny houses are marvels of engineering because they’re designed to be multifunctional, yet cozy. Home, but a home where everything has multiple incarnations and possibilities. Like the living kitchen concept, which is a neat example of how to use space, but also environmentally friendly, and it looks pretty. I’m a big fan of that pinnacle of achievement where something is efficient, cost-effective, and beautiful.

Whether I’m looking at sites talking about and selling plans, where every detail has been carefully tested and explored with a variety of materials in consultation with people who are experienced in this matters, or looking at websites maintained by people building their own tiny houses, I love the passion for small things. By which I mean the small details of life, not the size of the houses. I think the thing I love about tiny houses is that everything brings up the question of “How badly do you need this?” and “Is there a way to do this better?”

Tiny houses force me to look around my own house and ask myself “How much of this crap do I really use?” It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but a good one to have, I think.

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It might sound like a weird comparison to make, but I see a lot of parallels between tiny houses and good writing. I’ll take a really tight, crisp, amazing 600-word personal essay that just punches me right in the gut over a rambling 2,000 word piece with a bunch of fluff that adds nothing, but eats up valuable space.

In both cases, the mark of a master is making every bit count, no matter what the size of the final product might be.