Today’s society is busy (and very good at) accumulating stuff. Any kind of stuff.
Everyday, we are inundated with advertisements that encourage us to buy. Marketing techniques have been capitalizing on this ‘bigger is better’ commercial mentality following the industrial age.
Architecture and design are not excused from this concept.
Aren’t bigger homes and structures seemingly ‘better’? Maybe.
But, in the past decade or so, the Tiny House Movement has been combatting this age-old idea of consumerism and materialistic goals. With revolutionary ideas like Marie Kondo’s concept of only holding onto items that ‘spark joy’, more people are looking to downsize and embrace the minimalistic approach.
Photo source: Unsplash | Roberto Nickson
When and how did the Tiny House Movement begin?
Tiny houses are not a new thing. But this trend of downsizing and portable homes continues to grow in recent years. The tipping point that spiraled its growth was the economic downturn in 2008 which led to a housing market crash and foreclosures.
Before that, in 1998, Susan Susanka contributed to the tiny house movement through her best-selling book – The Not So Big House. Her book inspired architects, designers and homeowners by showing that houses can be better but not necessarily bigger if you focus on quality instead of size.
Later in 2007, Jay Shafer, one of the movement’s pioneers, appeared on the The Oprah Winfrey Show featuring one of his tiny houses; consequently allowing this nascent culture to really take off.
“My first tiny house was the product of me not being able to earn enough money to build a big house or afford much more than very basic rent,” he told The Believer.
Jay Shafer invented a sales pitch for tiny houses that eloquently spoke to a broader range of audience.
Video Source: YouTube
After which, television quickly adapted this trend. You probably encounter one or a few of the popular TV series like Tiny House Nation, Tiny House, Big Living, Tiny House Hunters (interestingly, all started in 2014).
Featured on popular networks like FYI and HGTV, they gave a face to the movement. The shows displayed trendy, sleek and ingenious designs of tiny homes and successfully conveyed the fun and adventures that are viable with it.
The initial spark might have been money and financial freedom. But the movement’s continued growth shows that this has become an architectural and social movement embracing the idea of living a simpler life and the satisfaction it brings.
Photo source: Flickr | Jan Ubels
So, what is a tiny house?
While there is no hardcore definition for a tiny home, here are some characteristics defined by those close to the movement and lifestyle:
- Typically sized under 400 sq. ft. but some can go up to 600, anything above that will be categorized as, well, small…
- Some are built on wheels while others are set on a foundation
- A single housing unit with the basic amenities similar to that of a permanent home: a kitchen, a washroom/bathroom and a sleeping area
- Tiny homes can be parked on land with other buildings or tiny houses but others are parked in their own lots as backyard houses or ‘guest houses’
- It could be either owned or rented
- Most are built by their owners but others can also be bought or adapted from trailers
- When owned, it can be entirely customizable and tailored to the homeowner’s design taste, needs and budget
- They are designed on the principles of environmental sustainability and affordability
“Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms, but they all enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space. It’s taking steps towards a more sustainable, harmonious way of life with the world around us” – The Tiny Life
With DIYers building tiny homes from scratch, there are endless innovative designs to be explored. You’ve probably noticed that tiny homes come in various shapes and forms, that’s one of its many advantages. You have the flexibility to create suite-style to resemble a hotel room or tall and narrow to get that modern loft twist.
All these architectural and design elements come together in a unique combination of simplicity and comfort while maintaining quality and sustainability.
Photo source: Flickr | Алекке Блажин | A rustic style tiny home powered by fully solar panels
Photo source: Unsplash | Cara Fuller | A tiny house in the woods where the outdoor area steals the show
With an unprecedented and difficult 2020 (and 2021), the pandemic brought another scary round of economic struggles for many. And like that switch in 2008, tiny homes and now, also inventive office spaces, have never been more relevant.
Many realized the advantages of tiny homes (or offices).
- Save a lot more money with reduced rental and utility expenses
- Be safer by socially distancing yourself from a crowded rental unit, house, dormitory, or office
- Still have a degree of outdoor time despite being on lockdown and quarantine
Best of all, you’ll have flexibility and freedom in other aspects – travel around whenever and wherever it’s allowed, a separate office space and a ‘complete’ private space that suits your style. Despite small square footage, tiny luxury and comforts can still be achieved while reducing environmental impact.
Photo source: Unsplash | Travis Grossen | A tiny house with a generous area allotted for outdoor living
Where can you find these tiny house villages, you ask? Take a look at some of the ones we found.
Individual tiny houses can easily be found scattered in different towns and cities while tiny communities or villages are starting to show real uptrend.
Although most popular in the United States, other countries like Canada, New Zealand and Japan are starting to pick up on this popular trend.
“The tiny house movement is growing,” says Amy Turnbull, a state chapter leader and one of the directors of the American Tiny House Association, to Spruce. “As more people advocate their acceptance, more areas will allow them.”
Considered as a move to eco-friendly living, tiny house communities range from permanent homes to vacation retreats where varying types of amenities are included.
Many tiny house communities are also created for the society’s working poor or homeless, or veterans. In these cases, tiny villages provide shelter and create an opportunity for them to build a socially balanced life. They are encouraged to engage in different activities individually or with other tiny house dwellers in their area.
Photo source: Pexels | Adriaan Greyling
1. Spur, Texas, USA
In 2014, the city council resolution was passed, declaring this small town the first tiny house-friendly town in the country.
Spur’s driving motivation is to provide more freedom while offering a new, unique way to increase a sense of community and self-sufficiency. On top of that, these developments aim to preserve rural living and emphasize connection with nature.
Growing as one unit, Spur’s tiny houses maintain certain aesthetics such as wood and metal framing. House are equipped with flush toilets that connect to city utilities, proper electrical work and fibre-optics to ensure dwellers remain connected.
Best of all, tiny house villages in the area give dwellers another chance to cope and explore new ways to flourish in an ever-increasingly urbanized and competitive America.
Photo source: Sustainable Development Code
2. San Diego, California, USA
Pulling away from technology and truly embracing the idea of community and nature appreciation, Tiny Block House outside of San Diego is the place to reconnect with yourself and natural spaces.
If you’re looking for a quick break from the city, this is a good spot. These houses serve more as vacation rentals for short or long-term retreats. With its proximity to mountains and several hiking trails, as well as having its own on-site restaurant and tavern, it is a fitting escape from the modern world for a bit of fresh air and relaxation.
To encourage real disconnecting, the houses do not offer TVs, instead they have board games, books and private backyards with fire pits that allow for real, face-to-face conversations.
Photo source: Tiny House Blog
3. Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
While Spur might be the first tiny house town in the United States, in Canada, it’s Bluegrass Meadows Micro Village in Terrace, British Columbia.
With the lack of affordable housing rentals in Terrace, Bluegrass created this tiny community with rentals starting at only $700 a month. Located in a remote area and surrounded by mountains and a river, there is almost unlimited access to nature, guaranteeing plenty of choices for outdoor activities for you and the community.
For the community’s basic amenities, Bluegrass created a community cabin, a laundry area, BBQ pit, fire area and a communal garden. Other services like internet, power, recycling, snow removal, are also provided for the whole community. The village also has empty lots that allow tiny home owners to bring and park their own.
Photo source: Tiny House Blog
4. Kurkku Fields, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
As a result of unaffordable property prices and Zen ideologies, kyosho jutaku, the distinctly Japanese version of a micro home, is seeing renewed acceptance. With stressed out Japanese urbanites looking for nature escapes and forest bathing (or shinrin-yoku), you can expect to see more tiny homes on wheels around the country.
Tiny house builder Yuichi Takeuchi uses his own as a mobile office and vacation home for his family to relax in the countryside. He also started a tiny home building company, Tree Heads & Co, and is a passionate advocate for what he coins, living at “human scale.”
“People in the countryside have more relaxed lives. In the city, I was too busy for that,” he says in an interview, “Here I can design and build things for my neighbors in exchange for vegetables. We swap rather than relying on cash – life is much easier and more enjoyable.”
Kurkku Fields takes sustainable living to a whole new level.
Located in Chiba Prefecture, Kurkku Fields sits on 30-hectares of sustainable farming with an organic vegetable farm and a free-range chicken ranch. Best of all, you can get all these at their farm to table restaurant. The whole farm uses solar energy with a big geo filter for additional power. Here, Takeuchi built five tiny houses for travelers to rent.
The farm boasts outdoor art installations from renowned artists like Yayoi Kusama, Anish Kapoor and Camille Henrot. This unique, sustainable farm was made possible by music producer Takeshi Kobayashi.
Photo source: TimeOut
5. Muriwai, New Zealand
Pioneered by entrepreneur and property investor, Kyron Gosse, the first tiny homes village in New Zealand will be on the site of the former Murawai campground and lodge, on Auckland’s West Coast.
While Gosse creates the infrastructure, the tiny houses in the village will be built by their owners. There will be 18 owner-built tiny homes on wheels. In the middle of the village, he will put a plant-based cafe and a co-working space to create a sense of community.
Gosse envisions this micro collective to not just provide a solution to affordable housing problems but also build a community that lives and works together.
Photo source: OneRoof (developer perspectives)
6. Calgary, Alberta, Canada
With their affordability and ability to provide a complete living situation, tiny homes are a great housing alternative for the working poor and homeless.
Driven by a singular purpose, the Homes for Heroes Foundation created the “Homes for Heroes” tiny homes village in Calgary, Canada to give veterans a fresh start and help them get back on their feet.
With this direction and inspiration, the village amenities and services are also more distinctive compared to other tiny communities. It is equipped with special programs and services such as mentoring, case management and counselling.
Each tiny house is equipped with a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, living space, work station, full utilities and internet. Additionally, landscaping designs of the village gives it a park-like relaxing ambience and encourages the community to get together and foster connections.
Photo source: Insider
Photo source: CTV News Canada. The complex comprising of 15 tiny homes is ready and residents are set to move in