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We are the tiny house people
April 24, 2012 5:59 PM   Subscribe

In many parts of the world, the dream of owning a large house is being turned on its head #occupythesmallestpossiblespace
posted by Greener_pastures (58 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not sure I could live in a wee shelter.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:08 PM on April 24, 2012


The marriage was built to last....but the house was built TOO SMALL.
posted by cashman at 6:10 PM on April 24, 2012 [13 favorites]


In 1988 I bought a one-bedroomed flat in London. I still live there. It is all I need, and I cannot envisage any series of likely life events that would prevent me from living out the rest of my life and dying there. Perhaps this makes me an unimaginative fool. Or perhaps it makes those who think that of me something they haven't considered.
posted by Decani at 6:14 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am delightedly anticipating watching this video. The subject has been dear to my heart since I first heard of Katrina cottages. I am also a fan of the forward thinking competitors in the Department of Energy's several years of their Solar Decathlon.
posted by Anitanola at 6:16 PM on April 24, 2012


Interesting... I heard a quote today about a culture that viewed the accumulation of property beyond that necessary for shelter to be a sign of mental illness. Made sense to me.
posted by HuronBob at 6:17 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previously: Living Small
posted by XMLicious at 6:17 PM on April 24, 2012


A message lost on the Australian new home buyer
posted by mattoxic at 6:19 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want a small house, with enough room for me, my husband, my computers (and his), my books, our pets, and a pantry big enough I can have a kitchen garden in the yard. I would even take being able to have a kitchen box garden on my balcony. But I want in a place I don't have to drive unless leaving the city, and with a reasonable teaching salary and healthcare.

That's not too much to ask? Is it?
posted by strixus at 6:24 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I just finished reading "Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter" by Lloyd Kahn (of Home Work fame). I found the book inspirational, and am currently trying to convince the spouse to downsize (by at least 50%) our home size when the young'n moves out in a few years.

strixus: no, it's not! And I'm with you on that dream!
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition to our summer and winter estate, he owned a valuable piece of land. It was a small piece of land, but later he built a small home on that land.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:36 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like small places. When I was a boy, in the middle of winter, I would throw a blanket over myself and sit atop a heat vent, and I would have a flashlight and read a book, and I would think "This is all I need."

Fortunately, that's about all I can afford, as LA apartments go.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:39 PM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember when self-sufficiency needed 40 acres.
posted by DU at 6:40 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Jakarta's "kampongs," the homes were smaller than in other slums Bendiksen visited. One couple, with their three teenage daughters, lives here. There is space to sit upright, but not to stand.

Those photos, from a Foreign Policy photoessay titled "Planet Slum," sort of illuminate for me a tension I experience in my own life that I think of as No Peasant Anchorites.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:40 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I remember when self-sufficiency needed 40 acres.

Well, you also need the mule.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:42 PM on April 24, 2012


In Australia a wee shelter can be something quite different.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:46 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in tiny homes. They have their attractions, but I also grew up in the country: without easy access to the outdoors, I cannot imagine living in a small house with my family. I would have gone insane, and the frustration I often felt at having no space of my own has stuck with me. I don't want a mansion, and I dislike the Plywood Box style of housing, but I will never be able to live in a tiny space again.

I make up for it by sharing my home with a vast profusion of in-laws and relatives.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:47 PM on April 24, 2012


Also, exactly how old are you, DU, that you remember that?
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:47 PM on April 24, 2012


I'll leave in a compact space but count me out of this box trend going around. Maybe if it were in a verdant field by the shore of some water body, but not before.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:48 PM on April 24, 2012


"We the Tiny House People"

"Wee: The Tiny House People"
posted by jason_steakums at 6:49 PM on April 24, 2012


One's perception of one's living space is entirely a state of mind. I could live in a very small Dymaxion House, with very little square footage, because it would make my mind bigger.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:56 PM on April 24, 2012


Time is more valuable than space. I don't dream of a big house; I dream of a short commute.
posted by mhoye at 6:59 PM on April 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


strixus:I want a small house, with enough room for me, my husband, my computers (and his), my books, our pets, and a pantry big enough I can have a kitchen garden in the yard. I would even take being able to have a kitchen box garden on my balcony. But I want in a place I don't have to drive unless leaving the city, and with a reasonable teaching salary and healthcare.

That's not too much to ask? Is it?


Such a house could be worth CDN$350k to $750k here in Toronto. Is that too much?
posted by Artful Codger at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2012


My father lives in one of those "McMansion" type homes. Most of the neighborhood is occupied with just married couples living in huge 4 bedroom houses. I can understand needing to have a big house (I'm talking about number of rooms - not just a large space) because of a big family, but it seems to me they have the extra rooms and just fill it with stuff. That they pay maids to come and clean every two weeks. Plus most of the houses have a open-floor plan so the wasted space/wasted energy used to heat the large empty space is astonishing. And I am not even going to into the shoddy workmanship of these homes. /rant

I think for me small, cozy house = warm and safe.
posted by littlesq at 7:15 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm just watching the film version of The Sunset Limited and one of the characters has a slightly different approach:
I got my bedroom over yonder where I can get away, got a sofa where folk can crash... junkies and crackheads mostly. Of course they're gonna walk off with all your portables, so you can't own nothing. But that's good. You hang out with the right crowd, you pretty much get over all your worldly cravings.
posted by XMLicious at 7:17 PM on April 24, 2012


My wife and I just moved from an apartment we rented, which was about 38 pyeong (or about 1350 square feet) to a place that's about 26 pyeong (or 920 square feet) but a splendid location, that we bought and gut-remodelled.

And to be honest, it's a little bit too small for me. Part of that is that we couldn't really move walls, and it, like all of the apartments here built in this area at that time a few decades back, was laid out by dimwits and clods, and much better use of space could have been made. We worked around the limitations as much as possible, but you can only do so much.

I've lived in small apartments most of my life -- the previous one being the only one that was positively spacious, at least by my (and Korean) standards, but I am starting to think that, at least for people like my wife and I, somewhere north of 1000 square feet is optimal.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:18 PM on April 24, 2012


I love my smallish house, and it'll be paid off when I'm 47, and then I'll never be in debt again... unless my body and our wonderful health care system have a surprise in store for me.
posted by Huck500 at 7:19 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Forgot to mention, where I live the mortgages/rents here are insane. A tiny, 2 bedroom house here goes for $200k+. So you can imagine these McMansion type homes going for a million. So if you moved out a ways you could get a McMansion sized home for a small house price.

Of course you'd be in the middle of nowhere... But that's OK for me when I retire... in 40 years. Maybe we'll be living in space by then and houses would be cheaper.
posted by littlesq at 7:25 PM on April 24, 2012


I love my small house, less than a thousand square feet on one level, and small enough that I can stand in the middle and look out at nature in all four directions. The problem is that cosy kitchens and intimate spaces mean a severe lack of privacy and the inability to do any activity/craft/sport that requires storage space of any kind. I could see living here as a single or a couple but to be honest, with my family of five people and their possessions and their constant noises and single bathroom and a small dining table that only part of the family can use at once is slowly driving me mad...
posted by saucysault at 7:30 PM on April 24, 2012


strixus:I want a small house, with enough room for me, my husband, my computers (and his), my books, our pets, and a pantry big enough I can have a kitchen garden in the yard. I would even take being able to have a kitchen box garden on my balcony. But I want in a place I don't have to drive unless leaving the city, and with a reasonable teaching salary and healthcare.

We bought just this house in Victoria. Inner-city house, 2400 sq. ft. on a smallish lot (40ftx120ft). Old - 100 years old. We got a deal by all accounts, and it cost us $585K. Over $400K is land value. These sorts of places are not all that affordable in Canada anymore. Still, we sacrificed space for location. Our place isn't fancy at all - one small closet in a master bedroom that barely fits our bed and a dresser, no ensuite etc. It's far bigger than we have ever lived in, and I'm quite enjoying the luxurious amount of storage space in our basement etc.

The key is to be flexible. We bought a place with an easily suite-able basement, and the option of putting a garden suite in the backyard. The City of Victoria has a new policy where you can put a 400 sq. ft. suite into a yard if there's space. Being on a corner lot helps us. I'm interested in the possibilities - I'm thinking about one of these places for the yard, and it would definitely appeal to a minimalist who's into a high-quality space.

There's great appeal to a smaller house in terms of renovation and the selection of quality materials. If I want to put new flooring on my entire main level, I only need about 1200 sq. ft. of materials. If I want to put a new roof on, it won't cost a fortune.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:31 PM on April 24, 2012


2400 square feet isn't small. It's 140% bigger than our house, and we have pets, a garden, computers, books, 300 square feet of garden, and a parking space. I walk to work, to parties, to bars, to friends' houses and parks. It's not just possible, it's easy, if you can get over thinking that 2400 square feet is small.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:41 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and our lot is 13 x 150, luxuriously large in the city. Yes, 13 feet wide. Sure, I could use extra room. I'd like more space. I have all sorts of plans about what I'd do with more space. But that's a want, not a need.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2012


I don't think jimmythefish is saying 2400 square feet is small, unless I misunderstand. Man, I'd have to buy a house-bicycle to get to different parts of the house if I had 2400 square feet!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:50 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


2400 square feet isn't small. It's 140% bigger than our house, and we have pets, a garden, computers, books, 300 square feet of garden, and a parking space.

I agree with you, but it's 2400 sq. ft. total, including our 1-car garage that we use for bike storage - and our unfinished furnace room. So, probably about 1600 sq. ft. of living space and we have a daughter and another on the way. Kids take up a fair bit of space.

What we don't have is ensuites and walk-in closets and a 2-car garage and all the other things which people think they need these days.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:51 PM on April 24, 2012


Our 1950's bungalow is 540 sq. ft. (actually just measured it, I knew it was small, just never bothered to look at the numbers). The basement is partially finished, so about 850 sq. ft. total space for me, my wife, and two kids. And you know, it is enough space. There is a living room, dining room, 2 bedrooms on the main floor plus 1 in the basement for guests, 2 bathrooms, family room, a study, walk-in pantry, laundry room, cold storage room, workshop area, and lots of storage crammed into this place. We do have a decent-sized lot (50x100), which is good for chucking the kids out when they get underfoot. I can walk to work, stores, downtown, transit, everything. We paid $238K 5 years ago in Ottawa, and that was a bargain that we had to put in a hell of a lot of work to get it fixed up. Similar places are now going for $400K+ in this neighbourhood.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:54 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


“Low ceilings and tiny rooms cramp the soul and the mind.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

And that's why our 1,100 sqft condo is only 15 feet wide but has vaulted ceilings up to 20ft high.
posted by furtive at 7:59 PM on April 24, 2012


Actually, I had to measure twice when I worked that out. I couldn't believe it the first time. I just didn't think this house was that small.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:00 PM on April 24, 2012


Sure beats the rich folks building tiny houses in Ontario to thwart a wind farm.
posted by scruss at 8:02 PM on April 24, 2012


Ah. That explains it. Broken measuring tape. Third time is a charm, when you use the right tools. 680 sq foot, so with the basement, about 1000 sq ft finished total, 1300 if you count the unfinished space. I feel less cramped already.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:18 PM on April 24, 2012


I would love to live in a big house.
posted by grog at 8:43 PM on April 24, 2012


I love my small house, less than a thousand square feet on one level, and small enough that I can stand in the middle and look out at nature in all four directions.

I had never thought to check before reading this, but there is one exact spot I can stand in my house and see out windows in all four directions.

A smaller house is nice for many things (including paying for the stupid thing in the first place), but isn't so great when you have guests. My dream is to have a tiny guest cottage out back, with a bathroom and at least a pretense of a kitchen, so that I can have houseguests without being woken up by someone snoring or peeing in the middle of the night. And when I've been a guest, I've loved the times people have had a cottage or MIL apartment over the garage, because I don't feel at all like an imposition.
posted by Forktine at 8:46 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


We raised our kid in an 1100 square feet house. Plenty big for us, but small by the norms in our community.
posted by Danf at 8:57 PM on April 24, 2012


I guess I should mention that before the larger rental place that was before this place we just moved into, my wife and I lived in a 640 square foot (18 pyeong) apartment for 5 years.

I did not care for that at all. But it was company-provided rent-free, so we bit the bullet.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:14 PM on April 24, 2012


Junk, like goldfish, expands to fill the space available.


That being said if I ever wanted a big house, I'd want the biggest house possible, like self sufficient estate big, and none of these modern ideas about space and light, tiny oddly shaped rooms that open into each other from a dark warren of interior hallways and hidden passages and maids doors. And then I will invite everyone I know to come live and work in my Labrynth. I want relatives and get lost, go mad, and start new families with lost groundskeepers who just came in trying to find a place to pee. I want new breeds of cats to form in the indoor hedge maze, I want to forget how many wings I actually have and accidentally stumble upon a room made entirely if black marble that hisses when you touch it. I want an entire population in one part unaware of the population in the other part. I want color coded rooms. I want a vault. I want trap doors and animated statury.

But yeah cathedral ceilings, that's great.
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 PM on April 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


I liked the story of the guy who wasn't allowed to build a small house in Hawaii because contractors didn't make money, banks didn't want to mortgage since they couldn't resell a small house, towns couldn't collect much taxes on it. So he made plans for a big house plus a garage, built out the garage with plumbing (allowed), then canceled the rest of the project - small house done.
posted by stbalbach at 9:45 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not really impressed. I can't see these places without thinking of all the limitations they'd place on me. I have a "surfboard shed" (a backyard amateur surfboard factory) that's bigger than some of these houses. Obviously I'd have to give that up, and therefore the whole hobby board building thing.

I currently have baby chickens in my downstairs office. They need to stay inside until they're older. If I had a tiny little house, I'd have nowhere to keep them (especially with the cats, since they obviously need to be segregated), so I wouldn't be able to get them. I probably couldn't have the cats either, or at least wouldn't want to (where would I put the litter box?).

I couldn't go to the bathroom at the same time as my wife, cause there would only be the one. I'd be sleeping in the same room as my daughter for god knows how long. I wouldn't have a fireplace. I would have to park my bicycles out in the rain.

It's a big long list of thigs I wouldn't be able to do. I don't see the appeal, except that it's cheaper than a big house. That's fine, but I don't want to sacrifice all the things I like to do in the name of cheap housing. I'll keep my 2400sq ft house and my 2/3 acre lot and all the things that come with that.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:16 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


i live in a room and have lived in a set of rooms for months. i pay too much for too little space, but that's what happens when you have citites
posted by PinkMoose at 10:26 PM on April 24, 2012


What a great documentary, when it's not her voice.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:09 AM on April 25, 2012


...or her words.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:13 AM on April 25, 2012


It's a big long list of thigs I wouldn't be able to do. I don't see the appeal, except that it's cheaper than a big house. That's fine, but I don't want to sacrifice all the things I like to do in the name of cheap housing. I'll keep my 2400sq ft house and my 2/3 acre lot and all the things that come with that.

If I lived in a 2400 sq foot house, I wouldn't be able to do the vacuuming in five minutes. I wouldn't be able to walk to work in ten, and I wouldn't be able to travel the world on the savings from not owning and maintaining so much stuff. The way I see it, I live on a 2/3 acre lot with a great pizzeria and a terrible one, a laundry and a dry-cleaner, a grocery and a convenience store, a liquor store and a health club. And I park my bicycle out of the rain, right next to my balcony planter.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:27 AM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


man I love metafilter.
posted by Greener_pastures at 12:33 AM on April 25, 2012


What a great documentary, when it's not her voice.

She sounds like Sarah Connor monologuing Judgement Day.
posted by Enki at 2:36 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, with rents inflating in this city, I'm looking at having to move. And with all the apartments I'm looking at, I really, really don't think I want to live in less than 80sqm. I live in 70 now, and it's workable, but I'd like a bigger kitchen/bathroom.
posted by saysthis at 4:47 AM on April 25, 2012


If I lived in a 2400 sq foot house, I wouldn't be able to do the vacuuming in five minutes. I wouldn't be able to walk to work in ten, and I wouldn't be able to travel the world on the savings from not owning and maintaining so much stuff. The way I see it, I live on a 2/3 acre lot with a great pizzeria and a terrible one, a laundry and a dry-cleaner, a grocery and a convenience store, a liquor store and a health club. And I park my bicycle out of the rain, right next to my balcony planter.

Living in the city and prioritizing travel are legit priorities, and if you value those things, then a smaller place makes sense. But two things: one, not everyone wants to live in the city. If I sit on my back porch, the main things I'll hear are birds and the creek down by the road. I like it out here in the country, and living here hasn't limited my travel opportunities. And two, "living in the city" is a far cry from living in a self-built trailer parked in the side yard of somebody else's suburban Sonoma County home.

Because there are some nice things about a smaller or more urban home does not mean there aren't trade offs that you make by not having a bigger or more rural home. This is not how most of the thread has been presented, though.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:28 AM on April 25, 2012


I loved this, voiceover and all.

My house is somewhere around 730-750 square feet, for two of us and a lot of books. (It's an old servants' cottage that's been extended since; the Victorian townhouse the servants belonged to now houses four families, though). It's weird to see that size classed as the 'little' category for ApartmentTherapy's Small Cool contest, because it feels like we've got loads of space. Two bedrooms, a bathroom with an actual bath, a kitchen, a living room, and a dining room/sunroom as well - those Victorian servants wouldn't have known what to do with the place!

But Googling for floorplans for two- and three-bedroomed places when we moved in (we rent and the furniture's mostly our landlord's, but we were keen to rearrange), it looked like we didn't really have lots of room at all compared to the North American ones. We have almost no built-in storage; there's a cupboard under the stairs just big enough for the washing machine, and another one that fits around the boiler, and that's it. The bedrooms are big enough to hold a double bed and a couple of free-standing wardrobes, but not with massive amounts of space left over. We only have one bathroom, and it's twice the width of the bath and not much longer.

It doesn't remotely feel cramped, though. We don't need a garage because we don't have a car. We don't need walk-in storage for our clothes, or a bathroom each, or huge expanses of space in every room (what are we going to do, play tennis in there?). And I don't think these things are even luxuries I can manage without, so much as they're things that I'd actively not want to have.

When I moved into my first one-bedroom place, it was this old Victorian flat with loads of space. I'd guess it at around 550 square feet; it had a kitchen with enough room for a full dining table and a sofa, and a decent-sized bedroom, and a big spacious living room. But there was just me in there, and it felt... empty. It felt like I was living in a huge echoing hall, with all these spaces I couldn't fill unless I bought more stuff just for the sake of it. It always felt half-finished. It was gorgeous, but it never felt like home. And then I moved into a much smaller place (about 380 square feet), and it fit me and my stuff perfectly.

The place we're in now also fits us perfectly. If we had a kid we'd rearrange some room layouts, but we wouldn't plan to move. If it was our place to change as we liked, I'd probably juggle the kitchen around to give us more surface space. If I could wave a magic wand to extend it, I'd triple the size of the garden and leave the house as it is. Okay, so none of the floors are level and one whole side doesn't have windows because it's built into a hill and it creaks and clunks in weird ways sometimes, but whatever, we love it. Adding more empty space to rattle around it would only make it feel less like home.
posted by Catseye at 8:29 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our last apartment was just under 750 sq ft. It held me, hubby, a very active toddler and a very active Yorkie. We got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved in to it, choosing an accessible neighborhood over space, and when we moved into one almost twice the size last summer, continued to get rid of stuff instead of trying to fill up what we've got.

I've come to realize that part of our North American mindset is that I have to have a certain amount of stuff on hand "just in case". For example, I had my own set of guest towels and extra pillows for when the fam came to town, and my best friend had her own set, too. Rarely do we have houseguests at the same time. So last year when I lost all my pillows to a terrible mold outbreak, I didn't replace the guest pillows. And last month, I borrowed the pillows I needed. Somewhere along the line we decided that affluence has something to do with not needing to rely on other people.

I've been giving my stuff away bit by bit, to friends and acquaintances who actually need it, and yet I still seem to have a house full of crap. My cupboards and closets are by no means overflowing but I know I still have too much. The giveaway box by the front door will continue to fill up and get emptied out.

And kids? Sure, they take up a little space but mostly they just need space to play. I would happily live in 700 sq ft again if I had a yard.

It's so relative and we're so spoiled. Last month a 6 year old little friend walked into my 1300 sq ft apt and proclaimed it a "mansion". Kids don't need as much as we think they do.
posted by wallaby at 10:13 AM on April 25, 2012


Junk, like goldfish, expands to fill the space available.

This, exactly. Thus I have spent my adult life in a series of studio apartments and shared houses. Getting new stuff usually means getting rid of old stuff, because otherwise there's nowhere to put the new stuff. It also helps to move every couple of years.

My wife and I live in a lovely old 400-square-foot apartment with wood floors. It's a one-story complex, and our front door opens on to a courtyard with park benches and a fountain. We have windows on three sides, there are plants everywhere, and we're around the corner from an art studio / workshop / hackerspace where I can hang out with friends and do creative work. It's just about perfect.

There's really something to MrMoonPie's comment: small houses are easier than big ones. There's less cleaning to do, there are fewer walls to decorate, fewer rooms to heat and to populate with furniture. We can play music in the living room and hear it throughout the house.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2012


Oh, and our lot is 13 x 150, luxuriously large in the city. Yes, 13 feet wide.

I'm pretty sure that my local zoning laws require a five-foot setback to each side. So without a variance, I'd be allowed to build a house only three feet wide on your lot, were it located here; I'm actually quite entranced at the idea of a yard-wide house, at least as a design concept. (In reality, in my experience odd lots like that are always given variances, so it's not really an issue in practice.)
posted by Forktine at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2012


This video brought up so much want. I dream of being able to describe my space as compact/efficient/cozy. I live in a fairly large house and the only ones who benefit from the high ceilings and "luxurious, open floor plan" are the birds.

Our home is a 1700 sq feet clutter-magnet. Nearly everyone in my extended family falls somewhere between "it's my hobby to collect ALL THE THINGS" and clinical hoarding and we are no exception. This house just makes it so much easier to keep far too many things that "just might be useful at some point". I have had to rescue entire rooms from the accumulation of household detritus (old electronics, unused furniture, stacks of magazines and oh so many cardboard boxes). Even without the clutter, I don't know why anyone would want to live in a place that takes so f-cking long to clean.

The next home-buying decision will be mine. I am sorely tempted to simply buy a lot and stick a couple of Tiny Homes on it.
posted by Vysharra at 4:48 PM on April 25, 2012


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