Tiny Houses – Cozy or Crazy?

tiny-house

Photo: CountryLiving.com

Is bigger always better? When it comes to a house, not necessarily. A bigger house means a bigger mortgage, more taxes, more upkeep and maintenance costs, larger energy bills, and more outdoor and indoor chores to keep it looking nice.

These are some of the considerations behind what’s being called the “tiny house movement” in the U.S. Google tiny houses and you get more than 8.5 million results, including sites selling a complete tiny house kit, plans, or even the house for $3,000 to $12,000.

What is a tiny house? Generally it’s a house that has less than 600 square feet of actual living space. In real estate, living area is defined as space that is finished (floors, walls, ceilings), enclosed (carports and porches don’t count), and heated (neither do garages).

Loft spaces reachable by ladders (often where the sleeping space is) don’t count either. There must be direct access to all the living space, and lofts typically don’t have the minimum 7-feet of height to qualify as a room.

Compare that to the median house size in the U.S. at 2,384 square feet (U.S. Census).

Tiny house aficionados are not only looking to save money, to soften their carbon footprint, live more sustainably and simplify their lives; often they’re looking for flexibility and the option to get up and go—literally. They are often built on a flatbed truck platform or 8-foot by 20-foot trailer, even coming with wheels.

While most tiny houses are designed with sewer and plumbing hook ups, others are totally off the grid, using solar power and composting toilets. Look online and you’ll see photos where the solar panels are almost as big as the tiny house. There are even some “houses” made from metal shipping containers.

Tiny house living is a very concentrated, distilled way of living, where everything does double duty, has a dual purpose (at least) with no clutter. You have to quite literally make the most of every inch. A kitchen table is for eating and food prep, for a desk or a workstation.

The fridge may be dorm-room style; there may be only two stove burners, and they might be fueled by propane. The one—count ‘em, one—bathroom may offer a shower stall only.

Because wall space is limited, you need to plan windows carefully for placement, heat transfer, energy efficiency, and privacy. If the sleeping area is an upstairs loft, the tight quarters may get too hot without its own ventilation, and again you sacrifice privacy.

Love to entertain? You can still do it, if you have a good-sized lot and good weather most of the time. Hosting the extended family for Thanksgiving in a tiny house in the Granite State? Good luck with that.

Still, a wrap-around farmer’s porch or deck can add outdoor living space. But if your little dollhouse is on a large piece of land, you may need another tiny house: a shed or outbuilding for tools and a tractor.

Some mini houses are just like fishing or lakeside cabins, upgraded for all-season occupancy, and with a sleeping “nook” instead of a separate bedroom.

Could you live in one?

toy-houseConsider how much stuff you have and how much you’re willing to let go of. How many people? A couple is one thing—and two can be too much when you’re in such close contact all day, every day. Add a child or children and pets into the mix, each with their own accompanying needs for space and accessories and it’s probably a deal breaker.

Can’t live with only one tiny bathroom, or without that walk-in closet? Need your privacy? Want a home office? Have an issue with clutter? A tiny house is not for you!

Not ready to do an extreme downsize, but want to maximize the space you have? Maybe you have a cottage or bungalow where you could incorporate some micro-house ideas. Our designers can help. Elements such as under-the-stairs storage or pull-out drawers in a staircase, a rolling ladder attached to floor-to-ceiling book and display shelves, can be incorporated.

To make spaces look bigger, use smaller-scale furniture (if it’s movable, even better) and built-ins for a sleeker, less-cluttered look.

  • An open floor plan helps make rooms multi-purpose
  • Use glass walls or room dividers to visually open the space
  • Light colors also expand space
  • Sliding walls (like the popular barn doors) and curtains can add privacy
  • For interior rooms, use frosted or semi-opaque glass or skylights to let light in
  • Adding height helps, and gives you room for shelves.

Will the tiny house movement last, or is it just a backlash against the McMansions that used to spring up like Monopoly houses in zero-lot-line developments of years past?

Time will tell. But in 2013, the National Home Builders Association reported that in the previous decade, new houses grew bigger by 25 square feet a year. There is still a market for four-bedroom homes with three or more full baths.

So take your pick: supersize, mini, or in-between. Either way, the 3W Design team can bring your vision to life beautifully.

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