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Mindful : June 2015
We know bigger isn’t always better. And when it comes to housing, a new breed of homeowner is opting for the freedom of simplicity over the luxury of big houses. By Sam Littlefair Wallace In 2008, during the financial collapse that followed the sub-prime mortgage debacle, mil- lions of Americans lost their jobs. They also lost their homes. But in the midst of it, a housing boom started that few people noticed: a really small housing boom. The average new home in 2013 was 2,600 square feet—the area of a tennis court. A typical tiny house is one tenth that size, between 100 and 300 square feet—the size of a parking space. Over the last seven years, tiny houses have exploded in popula rity. Homeowners, builders, planners, and bloggers love tiny houses—others love to hate them. Skeptics say tiny houses are misrepresented as functional, envi- ronmentally friendly, a nd affordable, when they’re actually an over-hyped trend. After all, why would anyone want to live in something that, well, tiny? For lots of reasons. In a weary economy and worn-out environment, tiny houses exemplify a new approach to living, founded on sustainability, versa- tility, and elegance—and they have the potential to revolutionize housing in a big way. Tiny houses ca n offer the density of apartment buildings with the charm of residential neighborhoods, they ca n alle- viate homelessness with inexpensive shelter, or sup- plement conventional housing by functioning as a n extra bedroom or office. They also promote broader innovations in housing, like renewable energy, com- pact desig n, and smarter community planning. But tiny house enthusiasts (and they are very enthusiastic) are not motivated by the greater good alone. Smaller houses are cheaper to maintain. And, because they cost less up front, buyers can splurge on inspired design and functional features— the marks of a true home. That’s the philosophy espoused by architect Sara h Susanka in her 1998 bestseller, The Not So Big House. Susa nka’s book inspired a mind shift in building. Her ra llying cry was “less is more,” and she challenged the sacred assumption that bigger is better. She did not men- tion tiny houses per se, but her argument inspired a n obvious inference: if smaller is better, maybe tiny will be amazing. Tiny houses certainly do a maze. They’ve broken most of the rules of conventional housing—and advocates say they could be a new staple of commu- nity planning. Amidst all the hubbub, an uncertainty pervades: can tiny houses have a future? → 200 Books The number of books in the Kasls’ tiny house. For more on what it’s really like to live in a tiny house, go to page 56 the joy of living small June 2015 mindful 51 home