They are adorably wee.
They come in all shapes and forms, they command their own television shows, hundreds of thousands of social media followers and they are better for the environment. They also mean freedom from a mortgage — well, mostly. Most importantly, they mean simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.
Tiny houses are having a moment.
Who would’ve thought, asks Michelle de la Vega, a Seattle artist who custom built her tiny home almost 10 years ago?
“When I started building my (tiny) house, it was just starting,” she says. “I read a couple of books. I didn’t know much about it but just went ahead. It’s a community now, there are so many of us.”
Her house is a converted garage of only 250 square feet (23 square metres) that includes an open living-kitchen, a spacious bathroom with a bedroom in the alcove and French doors that open into the yard.
De la Vega says she can’t think of anything wrong with her house. “It is perfect for me.”
The tiny house movement, as it has come to be known, is about downsizing. The standard American home is about 2,300 square feet (215 square metres). The average Canadian house is 1,950 square feet. Meanwhile, the typical tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet.
It might be a house in the ground, on wheels or even in a shipping container. And they can cost anywhere upward of $20,000.
This movement is being propelled by millennials discovering that traditional homes are out of their reach and by baby boomers who are retiring and scaling back. Some traditional homeowners are adding to the trend by building tiny houses in their backyards for guests, family or caregivers.
TV shows like Tiny House Nation, Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Builders have also made the idea an appealing proposition. There are books that promote tiny living. Glossy magazines regularly feature pretty tiny homes as well as mansions.
The quality of life improves in tiny houses, says Christoph Kesting, who wrote How to Build a Container House after transforming one for himself in a Guelph alley about three years ago. He has since helped more than a dozen people build their dream tiny homes.
“People are redrawing their values … they are shifting back to lower levels of stress, more family time and more time outdoors,” says Kesting, who now lives in Vancouver.
Tiny homes, he says, are a luxury.
“The luxury of having a home which is lighter on the pocket, on the Earth, ultimately feels very good.”
In the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Getaway rents tiny houses for $99 for a night and has drawn visitors from all over the U.S. — many just to sample life in a 160-square-foot house.
Getaway, which started at Harvard University, is the first project from the school’s Millennial Housing Lab.
There are tiny homeowners’ associations and conferences — one is in Asheville, N.C., in early April.
Meanwhile in Seattle, Michelle de la Vega has no reason to move out of her tiny home.
She loves it, her cat loves it, her parents, when they visit, love it.
Of course, she can’t host Christmas dinner, but she entertains frequently and says “no one has said that my home is so small that they can’t handle it.”