architecture design simple living

Building of the week – the tiny house

In Britain, the pressure of the current housing crisis has led to smaller homes. Developers are packing more homes into the same space, and the average house size is shrinking. In some cases, especially for families on lower incomes, this can lead to overcrowding and that can be serious. More often it’s just an inconvenience. According to the Royal Institute of British Architects, half of those moving into a new build house say they can’t fit all their furniture into it, and 57% say they have trouble storing all their stuff.

tiny houseTo RIBA, this is a problem and a reason to appeal to policymakers to encourage larger houses. But there is another way of looking at it. If we can’t fit all our stuff in our houses, is that because houses are too small, or because we have too much stuff?

That’s a question for each of us to answer, but in the US there is a whole movement of people who would firmly choose the latter. The problem is the other way round in the States and houses are getting bigger – and with bigger houses come greater carbon emissions, higher prices, and more time cleaning and maintaining them. In response, the ‘tiny house movement‘ is demonstrating a radical alternative, with people choosing to slim down their possessions and live in the tiniest houses they can get away with. You don’t need a big mortgage, and that means you can work less and enjoy a wealth of time.

Tiny houses are not for everyone. They are a lifestyle choice and there are pros and cons, but a dramatic downsizing is not just about reducing our environmental impact. It can be a hugely liberating thing too.

They can also be a first step into home ownership, with the Tiny Home Foundation building them for the homeless in Australia.

There are lots of examples I could choose. I’m going to post this one because it’s the subject of a documentary, so you can see how it was built and why its creators chose to live that way. And if you’ve got any questions about tiny houses and what it’s like to live in one, you can always go and ask d’Arcy. He’s got one.


  1. Actually I have two tiny Happy, simply homes! Thanks for the shout out in the tiny home piece and Happy, simply (a sustainable lifestyle model and education project) has been a wonderful way for me to not only discover that less is more but to live it… If I happen to get a scholarship in the UK next year I could be tempted for a third tiny home…
    Legislation is slow so as one of the founders of the new tiny house movement says: ‘seek forgiveness not permission!’

  2. I love the tiny houses. My only problem is I don’t drive and the somehow still wangle it here you need planning permission for a permanent structure. When I can afford some land I will be getting my tiny house.

    See the video before amazing movement !

    1. You’ll notice that many tiny houses are built on trailers. That’s partly so they can be towed into position or moved, but also because then they don’t count as permanent structures and don’t need planning permission.

      But you would need a friend to help you move it!

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