One of the things we have constantly asked ourselves during the course of Tiny House is, “How much do we really need? Do we think we need that because it seems like the smallest size we can remain sane in or because we actually need that space?” Then I typically end up thinking about the sizes of homes around the world I have seen pictures of or seen or some such documentary. I don’t think it is any secret that the size of a home varies around the world. Some families lives in one room huts while others live in gigantic homes with rooms like caverns.

Whatever the case though no home, shelter, mansion, castle, or camper has helped cement a definition for Tiny House.

Tiny means nothing more than diminutive or very small.  House, of course, is just a dwelling place for human beings. So it is obvious there are no specifics. No mandatory square footage. No set floor plan. No ordinance for building materials. So whatever a Tiny House is to each person it seems accurate to say that homes tend to grow with their owners prosperity. At least such has been the case since the early 1970s when the size of the average new American home began growing to what is not more than 50% in 1970. And the growth trend is similar in most westernized countries. The more money we make, the larger our house becomes; the more elaborate, too. But for every trend there is a counter-trend! In the case of the home, more and more people are choosing to downsize, minimize their expenses, and live in smaler homes; more modest quarters. And in this counter-trend we have begun to see homes as small as 90 sq. ft. complete with a bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, and living quarter. And thanks to several Interweb sources including the Tiny House blog, littlediggs, and designboom (amongst others) I present the following homes which provide a glimpse into these small shelters, from fixed homes to those with wheels and everything in between.


Reflection of Mineral is a 480-square-foot residence located in downtown Tokyo’s Nakano ward. Designed by architect Yasuhiro Yamashita, Reflection of Mineral has received wide architecture and design media attention and numerous international awards. Depending on ones viewpoint, the house looks like a bulky camper van about to take off. Or it seems to be the result of a giant’s frustrated attempt to fashion a house from a square box. Realizing that the site is too small and the wrong shape for his house, the giant just stuffed the house into the site by force. The whimsy of this beautiful residence is a big part of its charm. At the same time, the house is also an elegant expression of modern Japanese minimalism, and an example of brilliant use of a sparse site, a requirement in the tight space of downtown Tokyo.


Architect Stephen Atkinson designed this minimalist cabin for a client living in Durango, CO. The small, rather bland, white house features a kitchen and bathroom and open concept living area that holds the home’s wood stove. The front of the house has a covered patio which is the same size as the home’s interior. The resulting cabin is therefore 24′ feet square with a 12′ deck and 12′ interior, creating an oppositional balance between interior and exterior spaces.

Most notably is the sustainability of the cabin. Whenever possible the cabin utilized sustainable construction materials and local suppliers:  sustainably harvested framing lumber; low-VOC plywood and paints, lime-based exterior plaster; mud-based interior plaster; finish carpentry is constructed from downed trees on property; interior aspen paneling is locally sourced; fly-ash concrete; reclaimed and refurbished plumbing fixtures; linoleum flooring, point-of-use water heater; eco-resin doors; and an efficient wood stove.

For more information on Atkinson or his designs visit his website.


Perhaps if I ever build a small gardening shed or a writing studio or a guest cottage I will seriously consider something like the Studio Pod shown above or even the ecopod out of Canada. Of course I will want to build my own but with inspiration like these the job should be much easier.

Cargo (or shipping) container dwelling start their life as a shipping container on a cargo ship. They are sturdy and engineered to be weather tight. The imbalance of goods traveling from East to West has created a surplus of these containers in North America which means that the purchase price is only a fraction of the original manufacturing cost. The containers are 8′ x 20′ and made of welded steel.

The Studio Pod conceived, designed, and built by Alan Stulberg was a great concept for a backyard studio and is best explained not on the actual build blog but by the Flickr pics provided at this link.


A couple of years ago I attended an extended exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan on pre-fab homes. A couple of the homes on display were decidedly boxy and devoid of style. Not unlike the Boxhome designed by Sami Rintala. The Boxhome is a 205 sq. ft. dwelling that includes a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living area. The home is a modernist rectangular prism clad in metal and filled with natural wood on the inside. While there are plenty of windows the home appears to be quite dark and too much like a cave for most potential homeowners.


”Most people probably associate hermit living with mysticism and religion” says Mats Theselius. “But that is wrong. It’s rather about challenging the hectic city life and taking a natural step back. I want to show the possibilities to escape the urban life for a while. The cabin provokes questions around individuals versus society, and man’s need of solitude. For that reason we have filled the cabin with the few things you need. Here you can eat, sleep, read or just do nothing at all.”

Mats Theselius has together with Arvesund created the Hermit’s Cabin. It’s a small house intended for one person and is built and designed for all seasons, and can be placed where ever you want to create the little room for solitude and silence.


What child has not dreamed of living as the Swiss Family Robinson did? Or what about staying night after night in an Ewok village? Tree houses simply are not typically thought of as suitable for living. They are what daydreams and make believe sessions are made of. However, with a new crop of designers such as Free Spirit Spheres, anyone with the desire is now able to literally live amongst the trees.

The “Spherical Tree House” concept borrows heavily from sailboat construction and rigging practice. It’s a marriage of tree house and sailboat technology. Wooden spheres are built much like a cedar strip canoe or kayak. Suspension points are similar to the chain plate attachments on a sailboat. Stairways hang from a tree much like a sailboat shroud hangs from the mast.

Spherical architecture has many unconventional features. Conventional buildings separate walls, ceiling and floor with hard lines. In a sphere the walls and ceiling merge into one. The function changes but the form remains the same. It is a unified structure with one continuous wall.


Since ProtoHaus (shown above) is most like our own Tiny House I am naturally drawn to its construct and its charm. A stick-built structure completed in 2009, ProtoHaus emphasized sustainability, functionality, and aesthetics. Like many mobile dwellings it was fabricated primarily from recycled and reclaimed materials. The trailer bed itself is rated to withstand 14,000 pounds though the final structure should hardly exceeded 9,000 pounds even with a sleeping loft, a shower, a water holding unit, and several other large features. Separate fresh, grey, and black water systems were integrated into the design allowing for remote removal and disposal of waste. And finally, a solar and wind system power the house allowing it to be off grid.


Historically yurts are seasonal structures for nomads. But they are increasingly becoming dwelling options for even the more permanent of homeowners. The yurt is now being used in so many more places than Asia and the Middle East. Just ask Colorado Yurt Company! A circular home which completely disassembles and can be transported, the yurt is a wooden accordion skeleton skinned by a heavy-duty canvas tarp, which acts as a roof and walls. When equipped with a small, wood-burning stove, a Wi-Fi connection, and some solar power, the yurt is a pretty, perfect, small home.

So it is obvious that small homes are everywhere and come in more and more confusing and creative styles. What do you define a Tiny House as though? What is a small home for you? If you could live in a small home, what would it be and why? And as always, if you want to share this post on Facebook or Tweet about it, please use the social networking shortcuts below!