Tiny, tiny houses

Tiny, Tiny Houses by Lester WalkerIn the last episode of our house-buying saga, we learned that the house we were attempting to purchase had copious mold and foundation problems. Today, we signed the papers saying we weren’t going to buy it. The contractor who gave us an estimate said $11,000, which is already a lot, but also said it would be more, he just couldn’t tell how much more until they started digging out the foundation.

We’re now leaning most toward a place a little further out from town, although still within biking distance, that has some acreage around it. The best part (or at least the most fun part) is the little shed that the owners have converted into a tiny one-room office.

As Maggie alluded in that last post, I recently got a book called Tiny, Tiny Houses. The author is a huge fan of small spaces, from single-purpose ice fishing sheds to a full-featured inside out house with the kitchen and living areas in the woods surrounding the bedroom. I’m not sure we could live entirely within the 300 square feet that those provide, but both Maggie and I have become intrigued by the concept.

I’m bothered by the space we have that we don’t use or under-use. This isn’t a totally new idea. Southern mansions used to have an indoor winter kitchen and a separate summer kitchen. Extra kitchens require electrical and plumbing abilities, so they’d probably be pretty difficult and costly. Building a separate office room (or reading room or sun room or whatever you can imagine) would be much easier and cheaper. With a little ingenuity, I think we could do all of the work ourselves and could find most of the materials we’d need for free. For example, the billboard chicken coop could be turned into a billboard working space pretty easily.

I don’t know if we’ll actually be able to build any of these little spaces, but I highly recommend the book. It’s amazing how compact you can make things when you have them serve multiple purposes and work them into the surroundings. Many of the small houses were considered complete in their day, which blows me away. A 210 square foot apartment would barely be considered an efficiency, but Thomas Jefferson and his wife lived in a house that size for years while building Monticello. There are also several houses that were designed to be expanded as time and money permitted. Much more sensible than McMansions that require a family to overextend themselves to afford.

Even if you’re not environmentally conscious at all, you can’t help but be impressed by the ingenuity and comfort embodied in some of these tiny, tiny houses. Give it a look and let me know which is your favorite! Today, mine is George Bernard Shaw’s rotating writing cottage, but there are so many good ones that it might be different tomorrow!

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Andy said,

    April 25, 2008 @ 4:03 am

    I really think that if you want to be efficient, the step that will help push everything else in the right direction is a small house. I’ve been living in roughly 600 square foot, 2-bedroom “cabins” for the last 4 years in college. Yes, it is the most amazing college-owned housing available: I have a lake house. Ok, enough bragging from me.

    What I’m saying is that I don’t have room for junk. My bedroom basically holds a bed, and all I do in that room is sleep. I have a beautiful large and tall bathroom, a moderately sized kitchen with a bar, dinning table, and all the necessities (aka haybox and cast iron pot, fridge, sink, toaster oven).

    The best part about a small house is that although I have a ridiculous number of outlets, they are mostly empty because I have learned that to live in this space I can’t fill it with junk that uses space and power. I have an alarm clock, a cell phone charger, a medium sized entertainment center, fridge, laptop, and toaster oven, and that is all that I have in my outlets. There’s just little space to put the extra crap that everyone else counts as necessary. No desktop (no desk), no microwave, no multiple televisions needed (I don’t have cable anyway, just Netflix).

    Deciding to live in a smaller arrangement is also a big savings on energy. Most of my time here I’ve been using wood pellets for heat. It’s a recycled product from local furniture manufacturers, which burns at something like 87% efficiency. To heat this space takes almost no time, especially since when I close off the bedrooms I only have to heat about 300 sq ft.

    Go for the small house :)

    -Andy

  2. 2

    gogo said,

    July 7, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    nice article

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