Teeny Tiny Houses

Good morning, People of the Internet.

So I have a minor obsession with small houses. Now, I’ve mentioned before on here how our own cottage is pretty small, but it’s just the normal, acceptable range of small. It’s large enough that we don’t even consider it our “starter” home.

No, what I’m talking about is SMALL houses– houses built to fit into school buses or the backs of trucks, tiny guest houses that function as separate apartments, houses featuring berths tucked into boats or over tiny kitchens, an efficiency of space that defies conventional thoughts about home and hearth.

I think, for me, the appeal is that exquisite detailing of space, the thought put into how big a writing desk needs to be, how much storage you really need in your kitchen, how big a human body is, and what things and activities are the most important to you. At that small size, decisions need to be made. You have to think about the differences between needs and wants. You have to be deliberate in your living. It’s like a delicate, intricate puzzle, where everything important must be included and the rest must be discarded. Our house is the right size for us, but I can’t help but be fascinated and inspired by the pursuit of others for greater efficiency and purposefulness in their tiny, jewel-like designs.

Here are some of my favorites that I’ve found over the years:


Tumbleweed Tiny House Company


Tumbleweed House Company - Weebee design

Aaah– nothing like the open road. I mean “home sweet home”. Or both! Let’s do both. This is Tumbleweed’s Weebee design, with 102 square feet of living space. All photos are from the Tumbleweed House website.

In many ways, Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is synonymous with the tiny house movement. Their designs range from houses small enough to fit on flatbed trailers and towed by pickups, to larger designs meant to sit on a corner of your property as a guest house or a retreat. Because every single design includes heat, electricity, a bathroom, a kitchen, and space for sleeping, they can all be lived in full-time if that’s the lifestyle chosen. And best of all, you can buy some of them ready-made, others in kits, and plans for all of them on their website.  Or you can just browse, as I like to do, their photos and floorplans of such beautifully crafted little jewels of homes.

Some more pictures from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company:

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company: Fencl Kitchen

The kitchen in their Fencl design, which is 130 sq ft, quaintly has all the necessities and nothing more: a few cannisters of grains, some bowls and glassware for two, one electrical outlet. There’s even a little curtain covering the adorable window. The craftsmanship and materials are what make this little house into a well-crafted cabin and not simply a box.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company: Harbinger facade

This cottage, the Harbinger, at a minimum of 310 sq ft, represents Tumbleweed’s larger, permanent structure type cottages. The same principles of minimizing and deliberate planning apply to 310 square feet as they do to 100 square feet. The difference is a bit more usable space and possibly another sleeping area.

Tumbleweed Tiny House Company: Whidbey Interior

This interior shot of Tumbleweed’s Whidbey design, at 461 square feet, shows that “small” doesn’t have to mean “cramped”. With high ceilings, skylights, and an open floorplan, this entire cottage looks very comfortable, even though you see the entire house from this one photo. I love the rolling kitchen island and the white cupboards, and how the kitchen tucks neatly underneath the sleeping loft.



Katrina Cottages


Katrina Cottage by Eric Moser

This design, by Eric Moser, has a single living space below, with kitchen, and a sleeping loft above. In many ways, the Katrina Cottages are reminiscent of the Sears Roebuck houses of the 1920s, which would come delivered as a kit to be built and were sold in catalogs. Photo from HousePlans.com.

Originally published and sold through Lowe’s hardware store as a dignified alternative to FEMA trailers in post-Katrina New Orleans, these “Katrina Cottages” were designed to be fully functional, permanent scaled-down versions of New Orleans homes, intended to be built quickly and affordably while still providing the comforts, dignity, and facilities that a permanent home provides. What is so interesting is that the constraints on this project are very specific– to replace a permanent home at an affordable cost, while still fitting with the architectural vernacular of the area. No longer provided by Lowe’s, you can still buy the plans from HousePlans.com (scroll down their page a bit before you get to the houses) and view additional pictures on the designer’s own site, CusatoCottages.com.

Katrina Cottages: Jackson Barracks

Grouped together, the cottages can form villages. This photo is of the cottages used at Jackson Barracks, in New Orleans, LA. Photo taken from CusatoCottages.com.

Katrina Cottage by Marianne Cusato

Even apart from disaster relief, the Katrina Cottages have a design focused on practicality of living and an appealing aesthetic that makes them appropriate for guest houses or even main houses elsewhere.



A Steampunk Bus Renovation


Steampunk Bus Renovation by Jake Von Slatt

Almost everything in this bus was salvaged, which makes it cooler.  Bus photos taken from SteampunkWorkshop.com

This refurbished school bus, created by Jake Von Slatt from The Steampunk Workshop, was one of my first introductions to the steampunk aesthetic and is still one of my favorite “tiny house” renovations on the Internet.

For this particular example, Jake used an old yellow school bus, which he painted and retrofitted the inside in a way that appealed to his Victorian aesthetic. The result, with creamy green paneling, retrofitted gas lamps, and a tiny galley kitchen, feels more like a ship than an RV, and is a reminder than you can pretty much do small in any style.

Steampunk Bus Renovation: Kitchen Storage

While it is not as stereotypically “steampunk” as goggles and gears, this bus definitely fits the steampunk ethos. Wood paneling takes precedence over a cheaper, lighter-weight material. Intricate trim and paneled doors line the interior. Brass hinges and knobs are salvaged to enhance an older look. Most of the interior comes from salvage work of some kind. You can even catch a glimpse in this photo of the bunk room beyond– one of two bedrooms they managed to fit inside this old school bus.

Check out Jake Von Slatt’s website for a video tour, in-progress articles and photos, and a lot of other steampunk projects he’s made over the years as he’s helped define the genre.


Things to Turn Into Houses


There is something amazingly fascinating about taking an item not designed for living and turning it into a home. I’ve seen this done with concrete pipes, with shipping containers, and with old train cabooses, and there’s something endlessly wonderful about the whole concept. How do we change a space to make it habitable?


It reminds me of being a kid, finding nooks in the bookshelf for my toys to live in, creating habitable spaces out of the things I found around the house.

Did you know you can buy old ships and turn them into houses? Or old train cars? (This site lists several links for buying train cars, along with a few words on converting them.) You can even buy an old missile silo and have it turned into a house, although this may be anything but tiny.

And see, there is room to expand off to the left, there, if they have more kids or a missile.

And see, there is room to expand off to the left, there, if they have more kids, an entire army, or, you know,  a missile. Photo from Realtor.com.

Still, the idea is the same– what makes a space livable? What changes have to be made to turn something from an object into a home? When we look at an object and think, “You know, I could live in that,” what is it that we are seeing?

The possibilities are endless.


Tiny House Blog by Kent Griswold



And you know what is super exciting? In the course of writing this post and finding the right pictures for it, I discovered the Tiny House Blog by Kent Griswold! This is an entire blog dedicated to pictures and articles of tiny houses just like the other ones in this post. While ad-heavy, they have a lot of great pictures, lengthy original articles, and sooo much information for people interested in this kind of thing. While I did not get my examples from there, they are probably on there somewhere. I’m looking forward to reading it.


So… how is this relevant?

Most of us are not about to sell everything we have and live in a portable house, or are even in the market for a guest cabin. But the relevance goes beyond my own fascination.

For one thing, homes like this show us that there are many expected ways of living that we take for granted. For example, roommates can feel cramped if too many people share a bathroom, or parents expect to find a home where children don’t have to share a room. In today’s economy, it’s refreshing to realize that a lot of times, these are trappings of a luxurious society, and not the necessities we’ve come to believe they are.

Neeland Cottage at dusk, with a Christmas Tree

Behold, our ridiculously enormous palace, at dusk. It’s full of storage and things we suddenly realize we don’t need nearly as much as we thought, and books.

Our own home is 944 square feet. The kitchen is small, and there is one bathroom. But houses like those featured in this post remind us that we have everything we need. In fact, in the future, when we have kids, we are not planning on moving to a bigger house. If finances allow, we may add on, but that is a luxury, not a necessity.  That is why we do not view this as our “starter” home. Instead of quickly fixing up our shabby bathroom to look good for a realtor in a few years, we are putting our time and energy into de-cluttering, building patios, and planting the garden: things that will greatly affect our use of the property and our quality of life rather than living up to an external standard that ultimately is less relevant to our lifestyle.

Besides all that, I just really like looking at houses.


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