Tiny Houses


Tiny Houses

It could be the eggnog, the ungodly amount of sparkly tinsel or the fruitcake and pannetone, but whatever the case, we can’t help but feel a bit queasy and overwhelmed this holiday season. There’s just so. much. stuff. While you’re wading through masses of anonymous shoppers in the next few days we know you’ll know exactly what we mean.

And while a splurge and binge here and there probably keeps us all sane (and employed), the state of the world today calls for some radical reconsiderations and even more radical behaviour shifts. Maybe even a healthy dose of sobriety. Considerations of looming population explosions and climate change and finite natural resources can do the head in, but in practice, answers lie in well-measured alterations of our own behaviour. Real solutions often come disguised in the simplest, most elegant packages.

Enter the tiny house, pioneered by the accidental visionary, Jay Schafer, founder of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. From the yurt to the Airstream, it seems we’ve always had an oblique fascination with tidy glove-tight dwellings, but these are meant as far more than simple shacks or ramshackle mobile outposts as they ideally offer all of the creature comforts of a traditional home without the possibility of hoarding – 6 to 77 square meters (65 to 835 square feet)! This is living essentially, not poorly, and the vanguard of this mini movement (no pun intended) is picking up steam. And while in its more semiotically safe incarnations, its shape and scale may cause snickers about its eerie similarity to the particle board dwelling your father nailed together for you as a child, just imagine your playhouse decked out with Sub Zero appliances, a few choice artworks and some fancy furniture, and the misconception vanishes. As BMW’s ingenious MINI and its numerous copycat pretenders have taught us, quality and size most definitely aren’t doomed to an inextricable inverse relationship. The key, as always, is skilful execution and considerate design.

Urban housing considerations are altogether different than the quarter-acre grid and cul-de-sac standard of suburban America, yes. And it would be sheer folly to expect millions of well-heeled, eco-aware urbanites to abandon their comfortable flats and townhouses for tiny, decked out pods, yet these almost revolutionary reconsiderations of space should provide a valuable impetus for the future of home design in general. While the Japanese have been the masters of modularity and efficiency since pretty much forever, those lessons in efficiency mostly just translated into an ability to amass more junk in less space. These pint-sized paradigm benders from the land of the Big Mac and Hummer offer up a refreshing change of emphasis. In an out with the baby and the bathwater scenario, if even the McMansion can be reconsidered, imagine what a true rethink of urban dwellings could amount to! And who wouldn’t love to live in one of these on the leafy green roof of an LA skyscraper or London warehouse?

The cherry on the sundae, furthermore, is that instead of being off-the-shelf kits for Ikea easy 1-2-3 construction, you have to build your own. Tumbleweed is based on a model of education and facilitation, providing expertise, plans and workshops to encourage creative execution of one’s own mini-mansion. The result is an infinitely customisable, open ended, bespoke creation. All probably without mortgage payments, endless metres of floor to clean or negligible maintenance and utility costs.

Text and Image Tag Christof, additional images courtesy Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.