They might only number in the thousands, according to a 2014 Bloomberg Business article, but tiny houses could be the next big thing. The idea of fitting a whole house into the space many builders allot for a single room is attracting wide ranging demographics. Single homeowners are turning to inexpensive tiny houses for solvency and flexibility of location, while small families are ready for adventure and simplicity.
Tiny houses may not be for everyone, but the concept of living in fewer square can still apply to the average single-family home. College students moving in with their parents, aging adults moving in with their grown children, and more people working from home are all within the realm of current housing trends. And if family units are growing but home footprints are staying the same, that translates to fewer square feet per person. Beyond that, some homeowners are finding new revenue opportunities in renting out their own homes while they live in inexpensive tiny houses elsewhere on the property.
"When the housing market crashed, a lot of homeowners suddenly found that the houses they were in were too big for them," says designer Kim Lewis who has worked on shows like Tiny House Nation and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. "On top of that, in a few years, the number of people that work from home will increase by 60%, and baby boomers are coming back to live with their other family members. People are remodeling to make their homes work for them, and there are a number of design choices you can make to take better advantage of smaller spaces."
Here are 4 ideas to help accentuate and maximize your smaller-space designs, plus a roundup from our friends at Builder magazine of 9 tiny houses that are really living large.
Let in the Light. What feels smaller than a small room? A small, dark room. Lewis says putting cabinets and shelving on walls is an instinct to avoid in a small room. "Windows and natural play a really important role in a small space," she says, "so try not to put all your storage where your eyeline is. I use windows, transoms, and skylights to keep the space open and airy instead of feeling claustrophobic." Lewis often works with Ply Gem to bring curb appeal to the exterior of her tiny home designs, and is a regular contributor to Ply Gem's Pro Talk Blog. The brand also offers a wide range of windows, like the one pictured above, as well as sliding doors to brighten up small space interiors.
Store in the Floor - or the Sideboard. If windows are taking up space where shelving usually lives, designers need to find alternative areas to store homeowner belongings. In a tiny house, Lewis says she borrows space beneath floorboards or in ceiling rafters, but that's not always attractive or practical in a "normal" house. Try double-duty furniture instead.
"In a tiny house, drawers under the bed often serve as the closet, which can be a great solution for a small or makeshift bedroom," Lewis says.
Think Fabricate has recently launched a collection of compact furniture pieces called Kinetic in partnership with Resource Furniture. The collection includes Lift, a coffee table that morphs into a computer workstation; Hide & Seek, a modular, customizable wall cabinet; and the Slide credenza with a tucked-away mini fridge and storage drawers.
Rock the Pocket Doors. When every single inch matters, pocket- and barn-style doors can help a room reclaim as much as 14 square feet by some estimates. Unlike standard swinging doors, pocket doors take up no floor space, and many designers are finding that homeowners appreciate space and the aesthetic. "These days more than ever, clients are asking for pocket doors for their clean, unobtrusive look," says Bruce Avico, owner of Bruce Avico Architects in San Francisco. "As an architect, I like them for the exact same reasons." Avico opts for Johnson Hardware pocket door in this dining space project, as well as other rooms for his designs.
Rethink Small Appliances. Designing a small bedroom or office is a cinch compared to managing a kitchen with a small footprint. Even compact kitchens still need to allow for cooking, cleaning, refrigeration, storage, and high traffic, among other things.
With this in mind, GE's innovators are launching a "micro kitchen" concept that combines numerous functions in smaller packages. The designs are ideal for homeowners that live in urban environments.
“As we watch what’s happening in the U.S., there’s a clear trend toward smaller, more efficient living spaces,” said Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances. “There will always be a need for larger appliances for existing homes; however, we can’t ignore the growing need in urban environments. GE Appliances is excited to tackle the design challenge of creating micro-kitchen concepts that help people maintain or enhance their lifestyle in substantially less square footage.”
Micro kitchen concepts include the "monoblock," which integrates cooking, dishwashing, and refrigeration in a single enclosure. A second concept is based on a countertop-height 24-inch wide modular platform with a drawer-based systems. Homeowners can choose modules, including microwave and conventional ovens, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and more to fill the drawers. A wash-and-dry-in-one micro laundry concept rounds out the collection.