Living Small Is Living Big

Setting up permanent residence in a house smaller than 400 square feet is a difficult thing to wrap the mind around; indeed, it’s likely beyond the comfort zones of most. When it comes to choosing a home, square footage is something that tends to rank high on the wish list. However, our lives aren’t always improved by sheer quantity of space; the most important thing is to ensure that a space is functional, allowing us to create homes that work for us.

While the Tiny House movement has existed with varying degrees of popularity over the last few decades, it wasn’t until quite recently that I was introduced to it myself. While scrolling through Netflix in search of a documentary to watch, I came across a bold, eye-catching title: TINY. This documentary follows a young couple, Colorado-based Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller, as they create a 120 square foot home that is both affordable and comfortable. It’s definitely a learning curve for the couple; not only are they building the home themselves, but they’ve never picked up a hammer before.

I was hooked. As a designer, I was intrigued by the idea of a movement that focuses on sustainable, affordable living. Downsizing presents its challenges, certainly, but the results can offer a rewarding. globally-conscious lifestyle. I knew that this was a journey I needed to embark upon myself, and since I wouldn’t be using my tiny home as a primary residency, the design possibilities were vast.

Planning a fully functioning Tiny Home that complies with by-laws is a rigorous process – don’t let the size fool you! The movement isn’t yet as prominent in Canada as it has been in the U.S., and until it gains ground in southern Canada, I will have to focus on obtaining land in the north. But it’s an intriguing challenge worth pursuing, and so I’ll soon be following the example set by Smith and Mueller to create a dream home that doesn’t need to be larger than 120 square feet.

How It Started

A tiny house itself is not a new concept, though its realization as a powerful movement is something that has come about relatively recently. A wave of the movement began in 1997, when American designer Jay Shafer built a tiny home on wheels for his personal use. Two years later, Jay created the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company to share his vision for simple living with the world. Jay Shafer was able to provide people with building plans and detailed information on all aspects of Tiny Houses.

The financial crisis of 2007-08 fuelled the growth of the tiny house movement in the United States as thousands lost their homes and jobs to foreclosures. Tiny Houses became an opportunity for people to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient without accumulating more financial debt. And the movement isn’t exclusive to the U.S.; around the world, economic stresses and housing affordability have strengthened the appeal of the tiny home.

How It Works

For those interested in transitioning to this downsized lifestyle, there are many companies who specialize in tiny builds; The Tiny House Map is a great resource for finding local builders. The process has come a long way over the years. Now you can generally choose from a company’s standard designs, which can be shipped to your allotted land and then built in no time.

For those who wish to build a Tiny Home themselves, inspiration can be found in the blogs and documentaries of those who have chosen this route before. Should you choose to build a Tiny Home on your own, there are also many resources online to guide you through each step of the way. While Tiny Houses and Tiny House communities are generally used as primary residences, many building companies have started providing options for Tiny Cottages — perfect for those who wish to slowly transition to this lifestyle or simply desire an affordable, simple getaway.

Where To Look

Where are the best places to go Tiny? In recent years there have been many studies conducted to identify states that don’t micro-manage tiny home builds. These studies considered factors like resources, ordinances, and builders in all fifty states. Based on this research, the top five states for going Tiny are California, Oregon, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida.

Downsizing can be scary and challenging, but it can also provide exciting improvement to quality of life. Smaller housing and less consumption can often represent 30-40% recovery of household gross income, and it has also been reported that over 60% of tiny home owners are debt-free and mortgage-free. The movement is making a large impact around the world and continues to spread rapidly.

Take a glimpse at the gallery above for some Tiny Houses around the world.