It started as a quiet ripple that gained momentum, with more and more Americans considering the advantages of tiny houses. The desire to move away from the big home and live a simpler, mortgage-free life has attracted enough of the population to make the tiny house movement a viable alternative.
But, would you – and could you – live in a tiny house? That all depends on your perception of tiny living.
Going from Small House Plans to the Tiny Home
For some, the turnabout is quite dramatic – going from the normal house plans of 2,000 square feet or more, with three to four bedrooms to the tiny homes that measure 60 square feet to 400 square feet. For others, the transition is not that drastic as they move from the “traditionally” small house plans of 1,200 square feet or less to the mini homes. The thinking is that, once you have scaled down to one bedroom, a kitchen, living area, and a bathroom, it becomes easier to live in a home that is similar to a studio.
A circle of change: from a standard two-story three bedroom farmhouse with two-and-a-half baths and 2200+ square feet (left) (#126-1297) ... to a small one-story ranch with three bedrooms, two full baths, a front porch, a courtyard entry and 1,400+ square feet of space (right)… #176-10212)
… to this 117-square-foot made-to-order tiny home on wheels. On the left is a 160-square-foot single-story home with an area for a bed at one end and bathroom on the other end. A cathedral ceiling makes the space feel bigger.
Below are two views of an impressive 196-square-foot home designed by a 27-year-old architect for her family of three (and their dog); and built on a 24-foot flatbed.
And, with a still uncertain economic market and a less than steady employment picture, an expanding number of potential homeowners are now thinking “small is not only beautiful.” It also brings a certain simplicity, order and freedom to do things they really want to do. Why get tangled in the cumbersome mortgage of a $350,000-conventional home when you can be financially stable and live just as comfortably in a well-designed $11,000-$40,000 mini-home?
Who Finds Tiny Homes Appealing?
While tiny home communities are increasing across the country, not everyone is likely to join the crowd and give up the comforts and space of a bigger home. However, there are certain segments of the population that find the prospect of designing, building, and living in a tiny home very appealing.
1. Generation Y or the so-called “Millennials,” some of whom watched their parents struggle with debt. The relatively low financial cost of tiny homes is very attractive. To them, a tiny home that can be hitched to a trailer – and moved around from place to place – spells independence and almost zero obligation.
2. Newlyweds and people just starting out with their careers who want to own a home. There are no 30-year mortgages to be tied to, the smaller footprint means lower bills and efficient use of energy.
3. Then there are the Baby Boomers on the verge of retirement, and empty nesters who are downsizing and looking for a simpler life, and less clutter.
4. Residents of crowded cities and towns, who want shelter and a roof over their heads without all the trappings of a conventional home and its economic implications.
What are the Benefits/Advantages of a Tiny Home?
Besides the obvious financial benefits, proponents of the tiny home cite several advantages:
1. Much like the small house, cleaning and maintenance are easier – fewer rooms mean less time spent in cleaning.
2. Minimum clutter around the house. The most important rule of tiny house living is to keep the essentials and get rid of all the things (“stuff”) you don’t need.
3. Energy efficient – less heating and cooling bills
4. Smaller footprint is ecologically sound
5. More time for oneself and family to do things that matter
What Fits in a Tiny Home
So, you’re ready for a tiny home… and time to decide what exactly you need and want in it. As in a conventional home, design and space are crucial. You can have a 400-square-foot home that can feel big if it’s well-designed, has plenty of light, air, and open spaces. To view more tiny house plans from The Plan Collection, click here.
A 400-square-foot country home with a bedroom, bathroom, eat-in kitchen, living room, and a fireplace. (Plan # 126-1022)
Depending on the square footage, tiny homes can accommodate a full-size bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, sleeping lofts, and storage space. Others are large enough to include a front and back porch. The micro-minis have to be more judicious with the use of space, and most often, are equipped with a tiny kitchen and bathroom, a sleeping loft or a bed that hides storage space.
Check out the storage spaces under the bed and above the pantry. Open shelves in the kitchen create a feeling of more space.
A Throwback to Thoreau and Jefferson
While the tiny house movement is growing in popularity, it is hardly a 21st century innovation. One of America’s greatest poets – Henry David Thoreau – built and lived in a small cabin on Walden Pond. Thomas Jefferson and his wife resided in a 648-square foot home as they awaited the completion of Monticello.
Thoreau described his house as a “tight shingled and plastered house, ten feet wide by fifteen feet long and eight feet posts with a garret and a closet, a large window on each side two trap-doors, one door at the end, and brick fireplace opposite. The exact cost of my house ... was $28.12-1/2.”
The Cottage and Guesthouse Options
A beautifully-designed 450-square foot vacation retreat became a permanent home for a couple who loved the outdoors and peaceful surroundings
Within the past decade, as a growing number of the U.S. population embraced the benefits of “tiny living,” architects and designers were at the ready to create functional but beautiful homes for them. In addition, there are several firms that offer ready-made homes and “build-your-own-homes” - ranging from 120 square feet to 400 square feet. The more adventurous clientele – much like Thoreau – are going full force into it, and involving themselves in every detail of the design and construction of their tiny dream home.
Others who are on the fence and not quite ready to jump onto the bandwagon are, nevertheless, engaged in the tiny house activities. A number of homeowners are building small cabins and cottages that serve as weekend retreats and vacation homes.
Those who have a sizable property are building guesthouses within their compounds– from the smallish 400 square feet to as big as 800 square feet. Some of these guesthouses are just that – guesthouses. At times, they accommodate young adults who have returned home to live with their parents, or in-laws visiting for the weekend or an extended amount of time. In other instances, the guesthouses are used as home offices, or as rentals.
As the merry-go-round of styles go, these small guesthouses may turn out to be primary residences.
And so, where does the tiny house go from here? From the looks of things, it is here to stay – with some tweaks and improvements.
From the 200-square feet homes to the slightly bigger 400-square feet versions, here are a few “looks” at tiny homes.
The designer of this home (on the left) offers a 261-square-foot version (with a bedroom, full bath, kitchen and fireplace); and, a 356-square-foot model that comes with a sleeping loft. On the right is a 336-square foot home with a covered front porch, a back deck, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, refrigerator, and washer/dryer.
This 480-square foot home (left) has a front porch, queen-size Murphy bed in the living room, two sleeping lofts, full bathroom and kitchen, and a screened back porch. Relax on the front porch of this 320-square-foot home (right) that has a full bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen and fireplace (Plan #126-1036).