September 11, 2008

Would you like to live in a "tiny house"?

We're not talking about a house that's very small -- under 700 or even under 500 square feet -- because that's all you can afford and times are hard, but a tiny house that you like precisely because of what that compact space does to you. You want that aesthetic. You embrace that relationship between the space that encloses you and that wider landscape onto which you've plunked it.

Be clear. This is not like living in a small apartment. Many people live in apartments that are far less than 500 square feet. That's not new and it's no kind of statement. What we're talking about here are very chic but austere house-cubicles perched on scenic landscapes. This is not going to work if you line these things up close together, of course, because then it's basically a trailer park, and that couldn't be a chic new lifestyle with a write-up in the New York Times. You've got to have that thing up on a mountaintop or out in the forest.

Once there, you will suffer from occasional bouts of angst. The thought this is how the Unabomber lived will inevitably rattle that brain you had meant to calm. Conquer these doubts. Remember: This was written up in the New York Times.

ADDED: I'm imagining a screenplay about a guy who goes for this idea. Of course, he's idealistic and comically naive. And bad things will have to happen to him. He's from the city and there are un-chic local people who don't really like his attitude. I think I'll have a group of them sneak up the mountain at night and tip the house over.

51 comments:

Seven Machos said...

Maybe.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

My wife would never stand for it. According to her, "size matters".

MadisonMan said...

Me? No. I could do it, but I wouldn't like it. I'm the family packrat. All those letters from great-grandfather? I have them. (Why? No idea!) I have a minimalist brother, however, who would enjoy it.

I wonder if the people who live in these small spaces have to rent a garage somewhere for stuff -- like the clothes for the season it's not now, or blankets.

goesh said...

secretly I hoped a sod house would be on display

Freeman Hunt said...

If you want to live as a work of art, you art too wrapped up in cool.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'd stick one of these out in the woods for a weekend getaway though. Kind of like camping with plumbing.

Meade said...

Where would I put the piles and piles of New York Times I keep meaning to read but just never seem to find the time?

Freeman Hunt said...

One more thing: As a resident of Arkansas I have to admit to being a little bemused at the idea that pulling a shack, no matter how pretty it is, out into the wilderness is chic. If you drive far out into the rural areas around here, you can find plenty of people who've done that. I bet no one has told them how cool they are!

Kirby Olson said...

I had a cabin when I lived in Seattle. It was surrounded by a big lawn. Inside it was probably a little bigger than the Unabomber's cabin. I had books all over the walls, and what was left was about 300 feet of space, with a marvelous little kitchen.

Can you do that with kids, though?

Now that I have four kids, it seems like space is more or less necessary.

How big is the Unabomber's cell in Colorado?

It's probably bigger than the cabin he lived in.

My cabin was within easy walking distance of video stores, restaurants, grocery stores.

Living like the Unabomber in the midst of a vast forest with no amenities is an aesthetic that I think few would choose, and the few who choose it might be crazy to live like that.

How big is Osama's cave?

Kirby Olson said...

That is to say, some of those who choose that aesthetic might be on the lam.

MadisonMan said...

What Freeman said. (@10:27, that is :) )

The problem with owning a cabin in the woods, though: I'd feel an obligation to go visit it. The plus side of the small one: You can (truthfully) tell people you don't have room for them to visit!

Joaquin said...

I am just about finished with a guest-house on our property that is 625 sq. ft. (25'X25') The more time we spend in it, the more we know we could live in something close to that size. But it would have to be a very special place like.................. Grand Cayman.

Meade said...

And how would I get there?

Hey, I could just drive one of THESE into a cave and voila!

Maguro said...

I don't get it. A trailer is more comfortable and probably cheaper.

I guess it's harder to look deeply thoughtful and in touch with nature while posing in front of a trailer.

Freeman Hunt said...

Maguro, you could use a trailer and panel it with those apparently stylish, rusty, metal plates.

rhhardin said...

Camping vacations endured as a kid would kill that idea off.

Eddie Thomas said...

On the rare occasion, usually a visit to the doctor, that I look at chic homes in the magazines, I am amazed at what little privacy they have with all of the windows and sliding glass doors. A number of these tiny houses have the feel of being large telephone booths. I guess it doesn't count to be cool if people can't see you being cool.

Revenant said...

I could live with that. A bed, a desk, and a fridge and I'm good to go.

Freeman Hunt said...

I could live with that. A bed, a desk, and a fridge and I'm good to go.

Yeah, but no woman is going back to that place.

"Hey, let's go to my cubicle in the woods."
"Are you wanted or something?"

Bill Harshaw said...

80 square feet = one prison cell.

Paddy O. said...

This is the exact opposite of the McMansion philosophy of placing an overlarge house that completely takes up the entire plot of land, leaving very little outside space and what is left is almost obsessively ordered.

I've long thought about something like is noted here. It's basically saying I want to live outside, and so the inside space is only about the essentials. Life becomes participation with the wider world.

My idea has been for a while that instead of having just one of these as the whole inside structure, having like 5 or so, in a circle, each 'room' it's own structure, without outside becoming the hallway of sorts. A person is forced to participate in the rhythms of nature. Course, that would really only be fun in a setting that doesn't have extreme weather.

Ron said...

I'm seeing a large bear in rut (and hunger!) trying to pry screenwriter Adam Sandler out of his NYT eco-Spam can house just after the photogs have left it in a sort of cross of Deliverance and Grizzly Man. Only funny. Maybe with bear "hair gel", like There's Something About Mary.

bill said...

Maguro said...
I don't get it. A trailer is more comfortable and probably cheaper.

I guess it's harder to look deeply thoughtful and in touch with nature while posing in front of a trailer.


Albert Brooks, Lost in America

George said...

There's a whole town in the midwest like this.

Incredible zoning.

People there seem to like it, though. Takes all types, I guess.

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

A couple of points:

This in not a place to live in by necessity, but by (expensive!) choice; you can probably by 110 Square feet of Double Wide Trailer for the same money, so as a "Statement" praticality goes out the window.

Second, these may be small, but if you think of cubic feet, not just square feet, more storage possibilities emerge that leaves them feeling larger. Still, can we be comfortable with less than 200-250 square feet apiece, long term?

former law student said...

The Tumbleweed houses are trailers, because you can put them anywhere without having to worry about building codes -- that specify how much square feet per person, etc.

One Tumbleweed owner lives in a friend's backyard as I recall.

Original Mike said...

What we're talking about here are very chic but austere house-cubicles perched on scenic landscapes.

We're talking backpacking, here. I love backpacking.

Freeman Hunt said...

I would like to point out that anyone who pays $37,000 for a 65 square foot house is getting taken for a ride.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Somewhere between the 120-sf alt-house on 160 acres and the tract mansion on zero lot lines, there's got to be a happy medium.

vbspurs said...

Americans, except for a few New Yorkers, don't know the meaning of small in the European city or Japanese sense.

I was born to parents who thought it was better to live in the best London address, and have a tiny bedsit, than to live in a spacious home in an unfashionable suburban tube-stop.

I once entered an Amsterdam home which was so narrow, I felt claustrophobic and had to run.

I marvelled how an aged granny slept on a tatami in my student's teency flat in Tokyo, and no one thought that was elderly abuse.

When I marry, I want the biggest house I can afford. Yard for the kids. The American frikkin dream.

Cheers,
Victoria

chuck b. said...

Could that possibly be the most ineffective movie trailer, ever?!

Unless breaking glass really turns you on.

"Unleashed Dustin Hoffman"?! I don't need to see that.

SGT Ted said...

I guess that means Ted Kaczinski was ahead of his time.

Ralph said...

On the north shore of Nantucket, there were some tiny cottages that movie stars like Bette Davis used to rent. They looked like children's play houses.

MadisonMan said...

When I marry, I want the biggest house I can afford. Yard for the kids. The American frikkin dream.

Well, enjoy your commute, or enjoy your yard. It's tough to have both.

Larry J said...

When I got out of the Air Force in 1982 to attend college full time, I lived in a small camper for 9 months. The camper was 23 feet long (counting the hitch and rear bumper) with perhaps 160 square feet of enclosed space. It had everything I needed as a single man. I only sold it when I became engaged. There is such a thing as too much togetherness.

As my wife and I approach retirement, we've given a lot of thought as to what we want in a retirement home. It has to be one level and handicapped accessable. We've looked at our current home (3800 sq. ft.) and decided that we don't need a formal dining room, a separate family room, and more than a couple bedrooms and bathrooms. Depending on the floor plan, it could easily end up being less than 1000 square feet.

When you contract to have a house built, you're charged by the square footage. A smaller house will cost less to build. If well insulated, it'll be inexpensive to heat and cool. It'll also be easier to clean and maintain. A smaller house has all sorts of advantages for a retirement home. I look forward to it.

MarkW said...

Maybe, but not like those. I'm a sailor, and what I think I'd like is something more boat-like. No straight walls or square corners. Beautiful woodwork with built-in furniture and cabinetry. A house where the whole roof is a deck. And not a tiny little lot, but the equivalent of being anchored alone in a little cove.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Could that possibly be the most ineffective movie trailer, ever?!

In a world of tiny houses, only One Man can fit into each one.

Freeman Hunt said...

Straw Dogs is a fantastic movie. Not for the squeamish though.

The Criterion Collection DVD has some of the most unintentionally hilarious movie commentary I've ever heard. It was done by a man whose commentary is generally very good, but he argues that Straw Dogs is an indictment against force and violence. Har har har. The entire movie is an obvious argument against pacifism. And it's a Sam Peckinpah movie. Sam Peckinpah! Into pacifism, not so much.

George said...

Straw Dogs is a favorite of mine.

This movie was made in 1971 and directed by Sam Peckinpah.

I watched it recently and the effect it had on me had not weakened over time. A very violent and jarring movie.

And I was married in 1971.

I am not responsible for any conclusions you might draw from the previous sentence.

George said...

Hi, george--

This is a small room...

And Harpo has a place all to himself...

vbspurs said...

Well, enjoy your commute, or enjoy your yard. It's tough to have both.

Not in South Florida...

George said...

re room 58:

hah! great!

'...marx and scars I carry with me...'

considering the fact that 8 to 9 people live in my house now, harpo had room to spare-

Donna B. said...

I call these things playhouses and I think that's what these people are doing. Playing and pretending.

Oh, and getting ripped off mightily!

Jennifer Whatnot said...

Re: Paul Zrimsek, LOL!

I would live in a tiny house. I love these little houses and have been pining for one since the first articles started coming out about them. But I would only live in one if I could live in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

I've also thought it would be fun to live in a yurt.

babuilder said...

These are kind of fun. Google "shipping container houses".

Clancy said...

The 120 sq ft, $24,000 house (pics 10-14) was about $20,000 overpriced. Seriously - 4k, including labor to build that 'shed' - even in california...

Synova said...

I've been thinking of hiring a dumpster... not to live in!.. and do some serious decluttering. (The Unibomber might have had a tiny cabin but it was packed with junk.) We could probably all do with some un-junking of our lives. But, yeah, there is a element of "closet space" involved and it's hard not to fill all of that space. But a person can fill 100 square feet as well as 1000 square feet as well as 3000. No matter how small the area you still have to resist filling it.

Also, the pictures weren't of primary homes. Those were vacation homes. Or as used to be called... cabins or bungalows. When we drove up past Mt.Taylor there were lots of tiny little cabins that would look right at home on that slide show.

But for all the time? Well, Mt.Taylor would be snowed in for most of the winter so living there all the time is out of the question anyway.

Still, for all I'm glad that we've got 3000 square feet to go with the four kids... it's a lot to take care of. And I've had jobs cleaning houses that were a lot bigger and... well... I don't want one and *new* houses that are large have a whole lot of unusable space. The floor space would suggest enough space for four or five bedrooms but they have three at most and the "kid's" bedrooms are tiny. All the rest of the space isn't useful for offices or hobbies or *doing* anything... it's all show-space. Even figuring out where to put a television and sofa is a problem because the windows and walls are wrong.

Joe said...

When I was 30, I fulfilled a life-long dream and purchased a 2800 square foot house.

I hated it.

Six years later, I sold it and moved into a 2400 square foot rental. Still too big.

Moved to a 1400 square foot apartment. Really liked it, but managers were jerks who hated families and it was too expensive.

Now I'm living in a 1200 square foot townhouse. It's a little crowded with three kids and all my wife's craft stuff, but it works.

For retirement, a 750-900 square foot home in a tropical area would be a dream.

Gabriella said...

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house/need-help/

Fred4Pres said...

They look great when presented in Architectural Digest or the New York Times as some tiny elegant structure, in a beautiful pristine setting. Or a tiny cute trailer behind a clean truck or SUV.

But in practice, you can see these tiny structures all the time, in trailer parks. The aesthetic is not quite as nice.

Fred4Pres said...

Cute as presented. The practical reality though is called a trailer park.

Not quite as aesthetically pleasing.