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Teensy tinyness — taking it even smaller

I was chatting with an acquaintance the other day, who knowing how fanatical keen I am on small houses, told me that he and his wife are planning on building a tiny house. Not small — tiny.  One of the houses that fit snugly into the Tiny House Movement, at under 120 square feet.

Rustic Exterior by Other Metro Architects & Designers Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Currently they are renting a nice condo in Vancouver.  The tiny house (on wheels) would sit on his in-law’s property out in the Fraser Valley, and would serve as their quarters as they help her parents renovate their home. If the home is then sold, they would just roll the home onto some recreational property, or onto a corner of the subdivided property. Or they might just decide to move out there and stay.

It’s the perfect solution to their current dilemma, although presently they are not planning to live full-time in the home.

But others do.

Dee Williams has lived for 10 years in just 84 square feet. It’s an accomplishment, to be sure, one worthy of having a book written about her experience.

Like this one.  Which she wrote.
Williams used to live in a much bigger house.  With a big mortgage and big heating bills.  But a life crisis made her realize what was really important — and she turned her life around and put it into a tiny house.
She realized what her true priorities are.
Time has become her most valued and abundant possession. “I have time to notice my natural environment and take a breath through the seasons, to puzzle over the way that nature is throwing itself at me and the community. I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. If you’re working all the time, sitting inside, you miss a lot of it. I feel lucky and blessed that I’ve been able to pay attention to it.” 

Dee’s story has been told here in Houzz, and here.  And she’s given a TED Talk on it.

It’s a big story (about a tiny house).

Tiny houses come in a surprising variety of designs.  This couple has a luxuriant 240 square feet in a space no wider than 8 1/2 feet and no taller than 13 1/2 feet.

Contemporary Exterior by Sebastopol Architects & Designers The Tiny Project


What makes tiny houses so liveable?

The blog Tiny House Talk has some suggestions to get the most spaciousness (if not space) in your tiny home.

Some of them are fairly apparent, such as combining your living room and your bedroom to avoid partitioning already small areas even further.  But some I would never think of, like

Keep the space uncluttered above waist height. Anything above waist height that projects into the living space will make the space feel that much smaller. That means kitchen base cabinets are not a problem, but upper cabinets might be. Limit cabinets, shelves, or anything else that intrudes into this space.

This one is a given

Use light colors to create a spacious feeling. Light colors make a space seem bigger, while dark colors make a space seem smaller. Choose white or light-colored finishes for the ceiling and walls. (The floor color is less important for this purpose).

In most of the tiny houses I have seen have seen the ceiling and walls are all the same light colour, so your eye travels from the walls up to the gabled roof without interruption.

And of course

Open up to the outdoors. In addition to windows, think of creative ways that doors or even whole sliding walls could allow you to open your house up. (Check out the Virginia Tech LumenHaus for one elegant example). With a porch, deck, and a whole landscape outside, your tiny space won’t feel at all claustrophobic.

I know that just having our deck outside the upper floor of our laneway makes the entire storey seem larger.

As the author at Tiny House Talk points out

There’s no doubt about it—downsizing and simplifying your life to fit in a tiny home is a very difficult thing to do. And you certainly will want some storage space, partitions, and so on. But beware of the “big house mentality” in which a room can be packed with cabinets, bookshelves, and furniture and still feel spacious. In a tiny house, it can’t. Restraint, and a little bit of good design, will go a long way towards making your small space feel plenty comfortable.

And as DH has pointed out several times, Good Design Trumps Space.

Living small? Buy into the idea

Yes, we are moving into a tiny home, and yes, we are happy to do it.  It’s not for everyone, but is it for you?  Would you put your money where your future house may be?

Ian Kent thinks his Nomad Micro Homes could be one of the answers for densification in our city — plus the solution for other housing problems.  “Less House More Home” is their motto and they have a 160 square foot house for you…for just $25,000 to $28,000.

Great for a summer house, a guest house, a studio or even your main house (if you live a minimalist life).

“There’s a wide range of uses, from people using them as additional accommodation, to recreational property — you could basically drive this home in and assemble it in a week.”

And if you think it’s a good idea, you can support the idea with a contribution to their Indie Gogo page


And find out more about the project here:

Tetris housing? China says yes!

I bet the first house you designed was built of blocks.  And although it may have had tons of style, I bet it didn’t have a lot of structural integrity, nor did it have a lot of interior room.

But Studio Liu Lubin has designed a modular home plan that lets you fit pre-made blocks into each other to make a small, or a large home.

Studio-Liu-Lubin-Tetris-House-537x405According to this story at Inhabitat, the home can function as a single room, or

can also be stacked up to create a mini housing complex that meets China’s land use policies

Read more: Tetris-Like Micro House Can be Stacked to Form Expanded Housing Suites | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

I’d love to see the housing complex go up!  Especially when they start flipping the modules around to get them to fit perfectly.

Terence Conran — living small

Terence Conran is not a household name on this side of the Atlantic, but he is a legend in Europe (and kind of a hero to design fanatics here).


Now 81 years old, he’s been at the forefront of design (residential, commercial, graphic) since the 1950s, and he started some innovative companies to bring great design to the masses.

Ever the innovator, Sir Terence has gone online now with The Conran Shop and Conran Home  and ever the prolific author, has put his ideas about living small into a book – How to life in small spaces.


Lord love ‘im, he’s had his finger on the pulse of what is fashionable, cool, and avant garde for over 50 years. And living better in smaller spaces — is fashionable, cool, and avant garde.

Now the fun part begins…..

I mean it!  Even though we are busier than ever with packing and tossing and moving and all the nuts and bolts of those things, now is the time when we can really get down to the fun of planning the decor of our new home.

It helps that we are moving into a tiny rental space.  There’s no time for us to regret shedding most of our furniture — we’ll be seeing pretty much how we will be living, so sentimentality will get put out on the curb along with those IKEA chairs.

Although most of the choices can be made at different times during the build process — we won’t need the sectional for the upstairs sitting area until we are ready to move in — we will need to decide on a number of options soon because we have to design how to get power to the lights we want.

For instance, we know we want the sputnik lamp above the bed



(maybe with fewer arms)

sputnik2 so we’ll have the box wired into the ceiling to accommodate that.

Now for beside the bed — we want lighting beside the bed for night-time reading.  Mounted on the wall?  Or sitting on the bedside table? Mounted, since the tables are already very small.  Maybe a pendant?  No, we want a lamp with an arm so we can direct the light onto our books and away from our fellow sleeper’s faces.  We know where the bed will go — but how high will it be? How big will our headboard be?  We’ll need to place everything correctly.

We need storage under the bed, and because the bed will be placed so close to the side walls there won’t be room to pull out under-bed drawers, that means a lift-a-bed

bedLuckily they have a local distributor. So when we pick a bed, we will have a good idea how high the mattress will be in relation to the lamps, and we will know how wide the headboard should be, so we’ll be able to talk with the designer to get the boxes for the lamps put in just the right place.

And this is before we even break ground on the new place!

But doing this homework ahead of time and making clear decisions means no CHANGE ORDERS!  Change orders are just what they sound like, a way of taking your estimate and blowing it up (literally and figuratively).  Heaven forfend you change your mind on something after the trades are off-site!

And all the time we are picking the nitty and the gritty of the design, we are trying to keep to the big picture.  Or rather, the small picture. Because we are trying to make the inside of our home look bigger than the outside.

Like this guy did:

TardisAnd that’s going to influence all our decisions.



We have a cunning plan

We went over to see Laurel at  Novell and signed the contract and looked at the final plans and picked up our copies of the plans and the permits and signed a whopping great cheque.  And all is well. Better than well, really.

Would you like to see what the place will look like?

Like this:



(click on the images to embiggen)

That’s the main floor — nice, dark bedroom with a lovely bright bath with the walk-in shower we wanted. Plus the washer/dryer, the clothes closet outside the sleeping space, and the storage for our shoes int the bottom two stairs.  Then upstairs


the adorably small sitting room with the kitchen of our dreams — compact but just what we want. Plus the walk-out to the deck with green, living roof  all around it. A little deck off the north side stepping into our garden.

By the way, we were wondering the outside dimensions of the sectional we will be getting for our sitting area, so Novell kindly marked out the measurements — 4’2″ by 6’91/2″.

That is not the whole plan, of course, there is also a look at what the outside will be:


That’s what you’ll see walking up the lane — except with lovely plants around the front door on the lower left. The pitched  metal roof is rolled steel, continuing onto the cladding on the front of the deck. the siding and the board and batten will be painted to match the main house.

Going clockwise, if you can sneak between the fence and the house, on the west side:


See how you walk in on the lane level of the house and walk out on the yard level, with all the light coming through the windows. We have great plans for a green space between the home and the fence.

If you walk out the basement of the main house, you’ll see this:


The metal roof is rolled steel, and you see how the foundation continues below grade — that’s our bedroom.  You see the bedroom window, with the little window between the counter and the upper cabinets of the kitchen on that side of the house.

And of course, the east side of the building:


The bump up on the garage roof will be covered in living roof — with bulbs planted for a beautiful spring garden just outside our kitchen window.

S’pretty swell, isn’t it? You see how we couldn’t just buy a plan off the rack– the slope of the lot, plus our need for the special engineering the living roof requires meant that we needed something a little more…custom

Start of build will be May 13, and should last 30 weeks.

Bon yoyage, our little home!

Shopping for a tiny home in the US

Living small is certainly not a new idea.  But in the US, the housing crash of about 5 years ago really made people think about buying more house than you need (or can afford).

If you’re interested in living small in America, this site has listings for some nice little homes.

Interested in a vacation home in Arizona? Florida? California?

If you’re honestly interested in the tiny house movement be sure to check out Tiny House Talk for great ideas.

Living large in Hawaii

Johnny Sanphillippo had a dream — to own his own home.  But, daunted by the housing prices in hometown San Francisco (and his salary as a housekeeper), he knew he had to come up with his own solution.

Read this Huffington Post article about how he managed to build a place he could call his own — without a mortgage.


Big cities, smaller apartments

Big cities want to attract citizens — people who live right downtown, not just commute from the suburbs to work.  One of the reasons Vancouver is such a vibrant city is because people live in the downtown core.  At any time of the day or night you’ll find people going to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, concerts, sporting events, but also walking their dogs, dashing out for grocery shopping, visiting their neighbours.  I know lots of large cities where the downtown area becomes a science-fiction dystopian landscape at night, the only cars the occasional police car or delivery van.

According to this Houzz article, Mayor Bloomberg is trying to find ways to bring people back into the city to live.  And right now, that means getting more apartments into smaller areas.

 The city states that there are 1.8 million residents who are singles and couples, but only 1 million studio and one-bedroom apartments in all five boroughs.

He called for a design competition, and a couple of weeks ago he announced a winner.  An exhibition of the entries will be held at the Museum of the City of New York until this September.

If you are in the area look it up.

Good bye to all that…..

One of the reasons we are looking forward to the laneway living experience, is because we have to rid ourselves of extraneous “stuff”.  That is a good thing.  As Wordsworth says

THE world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:

Others have gone before us, and show us the way.

Sherry Willis of the Half-Pint Homestead blog writes about it on the Tiny House Blog.  Like her, we must begin

the complicated process of extricating ourselves from our possessions.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? When we hold on to “things”, no matter how precious they seem to us at the time, we are owned BY them.

But most advice I get on how to de-clutter seems to be geared to clearing the mess that we can see — hiding away the untidyness and detritus of our lives.  But we want to get rid of it.  Forever.  Banish it from our lives, so we can live so much more simply.

That’s why I like what Laura Norcross has to say about winnowing her wardrobe at Tiny House Talk.  It’s a process.  Do it once, twice, how many times you need to say good-bye to things that you don’t need any more.

Good advice for our new lives, not just our new living space.

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