Small Space Living: Tiny House Trend Grows Bigger
by Lea Bogdan
An increasing number of Americans are expressing interest in smaller space living, with some even owning homes under 100sq ft! One indicator of the trend is that instead of saying that tiny house owners are “downsizing”, those writing and speaking about little homes have coined the euphemism “rightsizing,” which more aptly describes how many view their choice to go small. Rising costs of energy, the recent mortgage crisis, and the troubled economy have all contributed to the tiny house trend, but the tiny house owners don’t describe a sense of loss with the space change. Instead, they feel they have traded in square footage for an increase in the richness of their life. Dee Williams, who has gained national attention for her 84sq ft Tumbleweed home, says that that her small house made her realize that “the more intentional you are in your choices, the more every change makes room for more changes.”
The National Association of Home Builders reports that the average size of newly constructed homes was 2438 sq ft in 2009, but sizes have been decreasing since 2007, where they peaked at over 2500sq ft. The NAHB chief economist, David Crowe, believes that the “decline is related to phenomena such as an increased share of first-time home buyers, a desire to keep energy costs down, smaller amounts of equity in existing homes to roll into the next home, tighter credit standards and less focus on the investment component of buying a home.” Census studies show that new houses are being constructed with fewer bedrooms, and the percentage of homes with three or more bathrooms has also dropped.
Many would argue that the recent trend has been heavily influenced by American architectural history. Specifically pointing to times when there was a need for affordable, quickly constructed homes, Levittown homes, built in the 1950’s, were an extremely successful small house style built for returning veterans of World War II that could be bought with a down payment as little as $100. Other historians point further back to the efficient design of row homes, like those in Philadelphia and Boston.
Prefabricated homes are another style of small, affordable housing. They are often built in large sections before being assembled on site, and they have been widely covered on Inhabitat. North American retailers are noticing the need for prefabs, and they have introduced a wide range of reasonably priced, well-designed models. The Katrina Cottages that were designed in the aftermath of the hurricane disaster are now available from Lowes. Another US-based retailer, Design Within Reach, was until recently selling their ultra-stylish kitHAUS. Shipping container prefabs are also available in the US from companies like Phoenix-based Upcycle Living. Builders have answered the call too, offering modules or cottages like the Eco-Cottages from Nationwide.
There are many web-based resources available for those interested in tiny houses, including a list generated by the Small House Society of design firms that specialize in small spaces. The Tiny House blog will show you examples from around the world, and if you want to build your own, Tumbleweed House Company and PAD(Portland Alternative Dwellings) have plans and workshops to show you how.
You may be interested, but not sure that the tight quarters would work with your lifestyle. To get a feel for life in a tiny home, google and check out the video of Dee Williams in her 84 sq ft home in Washington. Living off the grid in a home you built yourself sounds like it could be really cozy and liberating at the same time!