who would use your small house?

To plan for a tiny or small home takes conscious effort. It helps to consider questions which clarify your needs and desires.  Let’s start with a simple, key question…who?

Here's a beautiful, 140 sq. ft. craftsman bungalito. Is it a place for you or your family? (Red River Restorations)

Here’s a beautiful 140 sq. ft. craftsman bungalito. Is it a place for you or your family? (Red River Restorations)

Today’s Question: Who would use your tiny or small house?

Envision your place now, as well as in five and ten years. Try to identify WHO uses the house with a twist of WHY tossed into the mix. We’ll share a range of possibilities below, to get this party started.

1. Personal need or desire

  • for your home office
  • for your place of business
  • for your escape, man/woman cave
  • for your art, music or exercise space
  • for full-time living

2. Family and friends

  • for your teenagers
  • for your adult children
  • for your parents, part-time
  • for your parents, full-time
  • for short-term guests
  • for longer-term guests

3. Peace of mind

  • for you, to save money now
  • for you, to save money later
  • for you, to make money now
  • for you, to make money later
  • for you, to live with a lighter footprint

4. Alternative or new location

  • for your vacation travels
  • for your getaway place
  • for your retirement travels
  • for your retirement, period

Feel free to declare your house wishes for yourself or other occupants. You may want to share and refine your ideas with supportive listeners — or even comment below.

tiny houses, cool dogs

We think tiny houses are appealing to dogs because they love cozy dens. Let’s take a little time to honor pooches who give “four paws up” about houses on wheels. Apart from our presidential dogs, the other canines are full-time tiny housers.

Presidential dogs: La Petite Maison was built by Sicily, an amazing 13 year old. She and her mother, Suzannah, were invited to display La Maison at the White House’s Maker Faire. During set-up, Bo and Sunny Obama stopped by.

Bo and Sunny are milling about La Petite Maison, with Sunny ready to jump inside. The house is parked under the East Wing portico and entry to the White House. (Suzannah Kolbeck)

Bo and Sunny are milling about La Petite Maison, with Sunny ready to jump inside. The house is parked under the East Wing portico and entry to the White House. (Suzannah Kolbeck)

La Petite Maison looks great in blue and white, with a natural wood door. Originally built in Georgia, the tiny house recently relocated to Delaware. (La Petite Maison)

La Petite Maison looks great in blue and white, with a natural wood door. Built in Georgia, the tiny house recently relocated to Delaware. (La Petite Maison)

Happy herder: Jenna and Guillaume brought Salies into their tiny house under construction. She is learning the ropes about living and traveling, as the three soon hit the road for a Tiny House Giant Journey.

Salies is a natural diva and photo bomber! She appears in front of nice reclaimed wood siding that's been nailed to her tiny home exterior. (Tiny House Giant Journey)

Salies is a natural diva and photo bomber! She appears in front of nice reclaimed wood siding that’s been nailed to her tiny home exterior. (Tiny House Giant Journey)

During dramatic stormy weather, Salies' house looks lovely. On a more practical note, it appears well-built and sealed up from the rain. (Tiny House Giant Journey)

During dramatic stormy weather, Salies’ house looks lovely. On a more practical note, it appears well-built and sealed up from the rain. (Tiny House Giant Journey)

Beach pup: Ella and Zac live in Little Yellow, sited on the Northern California coast. They discovered and adopted Lobster over the winter, and he relaxes perfectly at home. We believe he also takes ocean swims with Ella.

"Lobster totally gets the tiny thing," says Ella. "He only seems interested in his two happy places: on the bench or on the mat by the door when the bench is taken."

“Lobster totally gets the tiny thing,” says Ella. “He only seems interested in his two happy places: on the bench or on the mat by the door when the bench is taken.” (Little Yellow)

Here's the sweet tiny cottage where Lobster lives with his folks. It is an ideal coastal spot with plenty of land and even a horse paddock nearby. (Little Yellow)

Here’s the sweet tiny cottage where Lobster lives with his folks. It is an ideal coastal spot with plenty of land and even a horse paddock nearby. (Little Yellow)

Four dog family: Heather lives with her fur babies in a tiny house delivered last year. While dogs breathe like humans, a dehumidifier helps reduce humidity during an Alaskan winter. Surprisingly, room for four dogs isn’t an issue!

In this Alaskan tiny house, four dogs are very happy and comfortable. Three sleep on the great room floor, while one has the lucky chair. (Tiny House, Big Adventures)

In this Alaskan tiny house, four dogs are very happy and comfortable. Three sleep on the great room floor, while one has the lucky chair. (Tiny House, Big Adventures)

Over the summer, this Tumbleweed Cypress house looks so welcoming! A brand-new front deck expands the living space, even for the dogs. (Tiny House, Big Adventures)

Over the summer, this Tumbleweed Cypress house looks so welcoming! A brand-new front deck expands the living space, even for the dogs. (Tiny House, Big Adventures)

video touring the tiniest houses

The smallest tiny houses are on wheels, built for longevity and licensed as RVs. With increasing demand for part-time or full-time living, we think it’s useful to see the tinies. Some full-timers have open their doors and you may watch videos below. Afterwards, also take a look at two tiny house documentaries.

Art Cormier:  House behind his business

Art is a Louisiana lifer, who brought building skills and reclaimed cypress, oak and pine to make a special home. He used SIPs rather than traditional stick (wood frame) built walls here, which is unusual. The best decision by far? Art lives right next to his business, a large climbing gym.

For a high-speed version of Art’s morning rituals and commute, watch this video that features a non-explicit shower scene. Also read more about his home and southern heritage here. And check out Art’s climbing prowess in a chair traverse video.

Ella Jenkins:  Time for art and music pursuits

Ella graduated from college, knowing that she wanted to take control of her life and pursue her artistic muses. She built her home, called Little Yellow, with a country cottage appeal. Inside are branches for jewelry and copper touches everywhere. Her harp also sits in a separate back room.

Since this video, Ella moved her home to the Northern California coast and lives well with her boyfriend, dog, harp, banjo and guitar. See glamor shots from a Sierra Club article, an updated video tour, and Ella’s music video that’s not to be missed.

Dee Williams:  Pioneer triggered by health scare

Ten years ago, Dee lived in a cute Portland (OR) home that took all her time and money. She thought she was happy until having congestive heart failure at age 40. After visiting Guatemala and learning about tiny living, she built her own home and currently lives in an Olympia (WA) backyard.

Tiny houses have become Dee’s life, and she helps others via Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD). Watch Dee’s “day in the life” video and profound TedX talk. She also wrote The Big Tiny, which shares insights about time, nature and more community.

Tiny Houses: Two Documentaries

We The Tiny House People documents people living in tiny houses and small apartments, while sharing pros and cons. Filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen meets them in Northern California, New York City, Hawaii, Idaho and Europe. She’s hopeful about paring excess living space, though leaves the future uncertain.

Filmmakers Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller crowd-funded TINY and it became a film festival darling. This documentary not only follows Christopher’s build but also seeks out tiny house influencers. The film trailer is shown above, and a complete DVD or stream may be purchased here.

tiny river house, fantasy and reality

If you dream about tiny houses, then our Drina River icon should mesmerize you. Built by local boys in the 1960s, the shelter has been lovingly maintained for 40 years. Today it’s part of Tara National Park, in Serbia.

Let’s share this Serbian river house in glamorous and less-glamorous poses. Meet the loyal owner, watch the river flood and also check Tara Mountain tourist info. Even with reality-checking, our icon remains wonderful to see.

Fantasy Images

The Drina River flows down a gorgeous canyon, as seen in this Tara National Park viewpoint, Serbia. (Irene Becker)

The Drina River flows down a gorgeous canyon, as seen in this Tara National Park viewpoint, Serbia. (Irene Becker)

Down on the Drina River, we can see the tiny house ahead. It’s a calm day on the river. (Vlada Marinkovic)

Down on the Drina River, we can see the tiny house ahead. It’s a calm day on the river. (Vlada Marinkovic)

Now we’ll introduce the iconic image of “tiny house on a rock,” which is downright drool-worthy. (Irene Becker)

Now we’ll introduce the iconic image of “tiny house on a rock,” which is downright drool-worthy. (Irene Becker)

In celebration, here's an impressionist painting of the tiny house perched on its island site. (Kucica na Steni, facebook)

In celebration, here’s an impressionist painting of the tiny house perched on its island site. (Kucica na Steni, facebook)

Reality Images

How about a destructive flood? The Drina River runs high and right past the tiny house. (Kucica na Steni, youtube)

How about a destructive flood? The Drina River runs high and right past the tiny house. (Kucica na Steni, youtube)

One of the original builders, and its  current owner, maintains the tiny house. He’s taking us on a video tour. (CCTV)

One of the original builders, and its current owner, maintains the tiny house. He’s taking us on a video tour. (CCTV)

Okay, the Serbian river house isn’t exactly a secret. It’s a lovely place to visit, filled with tourists. (Tara Mountain)

Okay, the Serbian river house isn’t exactly a secret. It’s a lovely place to visit, filled with tourists. (Tara Mountain)

smaller houses, antidotes to debt

Smaller houses should be a logical economic and green choice, saving buyers on their purchase prices and beyond. Yet even the nicest places are viewed as starter or vacation homes. It’s time to change.

Renting or buying:  More American homes are owned and occupied than rented. However the percentage of owner-occupied homes peaked in 2004 and has continued on a quick descent. Of course, renters are filling them.

Last year, 65.2% of U.S. homes were occupied by owners. That's a pretty rapid decline of 4.2% from the 69.4% peak in mid-2004. Interestingly, the owned and occupied rate seems on course to return to mid-1990s levels. (Pew Research)

Last year, 65.2% of U.S. homes were occupied by owners. That’s a pretty rapid decline of 4.2% from the 69.4% peak in mid-2004. Interestingly, the owned and occupied rate seems on course to return to mid-1990s levels. (Pew Research)

Everyone with cold feet:  American renters up to age 64 have shied away from jumping into the home ownership pool. From 2001 to 2011, the annual shift plummeted by nearly 43 percent.

Look at households switching from renting to owning homes over the prior year. In 2011, some 4% bought homes as compared to 7%  in 2001. While under 44 year olds drove the trend, each age group slowed ownership. (Pew Research)

Look at households switching from renting to owning homes over the prior year. In 2011, 4% bought homes as compared to 7% in 2001. While under 44 year olds drove the trend, each age group slowed ownership. (Pew Research)

College loan pressure:  Some 37 percent of young households shouldered school loans, in the latest Pew statistics.  That’s a large group of would-be home buyers, mostly sitting on the sidelines!

Households are saddled with student loans. For heads of households under 40 years old, 37% were paying or deferring their school debts in 2010, a big leap from the 22% in 2001. (Pew Research)

Households are saddled with student loans. For heads of households under 40 years old, 37% were paying or deferring their school debts in 2010, a big leap from the 22% in 2001. (Pew Research)

Income high, net worth low:  How will the under-40 year olds decide to live? For those paying school loans, assets are scarce to fund a large down payment and home. It’s not all doom and gloom, with smaller home options out there.

College-educated Americans do earn 79% more than their high-school grad counterparts. Still college grads have limited net worth due to their loans, which drive up all forms of debt. (Pew Research)

College-educated Americans do earn 79% more than their high-school grad counterparts. Still college grads have limited net worth due to their loans, which drive up all forms of debt. (Pew Research)

tiny house with or without garage

Tiny and small houses typically lack attached garages. You park a car or truck outside, under some shelter or in a separate garage. Would you appreciate a fully attached, enclosed garage?

With garage:  There are some tiny house plans available with garages. Perfect Little House, for example, offers Salal Studio. From the outside, it looks like a full cottage and neatly encloses its studio and garage.

The Salal Studio features a 240 sq. ft.  upstairs studio with bath. Downstairs is a 338 sq. ft. garage and inside staircase. (Perfect Little House)

The Salal Studio features a 240 sq. ft. upstairs studio with bath. Downstairs is a 338 sq. ft. garage and inside staircase. (Perfect Little House)

Without garage:  Of course, tiny cottages are designed to maximize living space. Perfect Little House’s Woodland model offers curb appeal with its wrap-around porch. There’s space to sleep four people, cook, dine, bathe and hang out.

The Woodland has open-space living, two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. This popular home measures 950 sq. ft. (Perfect Little Home)

The Woodland has open-space living, two bedrooms and 1.5 baths. This popular home measures 950 sq. ft. (Perfect Little Home)

Garage theories:  Tiny house design and ethos likely drive down the demand for garages, and here are some reasons we’ve heard.

  • Seen as less green or sustainable design
  • Considered out-of-fashion these days
  • Takes up too much prime living space
  • Not worth spending money on garage

It’s possible that garages could become more desirable, depending on how tiny or small houses get used. If built as as secondary or rental unit, then a garage might be a nice extra lure for its occupants. In a single primary unit, the garage might be welcomed for extreme weather, safety reasons or storage.

We’re interested in learning more, from you.

shed ready: six ways to buy them

Congratulations! You have decided to buy a backyard shed, as a new personal office and hang-out area. It should be easy on the eyes, and wired for lights. You are considering adding heat and air-conditioning.

Yet there’s a major hurdle: you recoil at the idea of assembling children’s toys and furniture, let alone a full shed. Someone else is going to have to build this structure for you, while you somehow pay and support their efforts.

Let’s start by looking at pre-fabs, one of six ways to buy a shed. Here are three Modern-Shed examples, pretty much the same structures with different siding and placements. Pretty sweet, no?

Is this the shed of your dreams? This Moraga, CA owner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

Is this the shed of your dreams? A Moraga, CA homeowner had been thinking about a shed for years. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In the San Juan Islands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, one couple uses a cedar-clad shed. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

In Seattle, a felt artisan was fed up with working in her family kitchen and this craft shed fits perfectly. (Modern-Shed)

Six ways to buy sheds

With only a little tongue-in-cheek, we identified six approaches to buying and building your shed. Your decision naturally depends on trade-offs of time and money. The list is ordered from priciest, sky’s the limit to perhaps a couple grand. Which approach would you take?

  1. The Ultimate:  Get an architect who will deal with everything, along with their hired construction crew. It’s your dream, fulfilled.

  2. The Practical:  Go to a garden place where you see nice sheds and gazebos built. Talk with the builders, place an order and await delivery and set-up.

  3. The Possible:  Pre-fab and kit sheds look awfully nice, and get shipped to your door. You pay extra for their assembly team or hire someone local.

  4. The Good Enough: You head to a place selling sheds and gazebos (see #2) and pick something that’s already built. It is good enough for now.

  5. The Active:  You find a great set of plans online and buy them! Now turn to friends and family to get materials. Hire someone local to build it.

  6. The Almost DIY:  You have plans in hand, hunt for salvaged materials, widen your circle of friends and family, and arrange weekend-only work parties.