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On Monday’s episode of Design Star, the three remaining hopefuls were challenged to create a functional home — complete with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living area — all in a “tiny house” of less than 100 square feet. (See the designers’ finished homes here.) That got the team here at HGTV.com thinking: What would it be like to live in a house smaller than some people’s closets? After all, it’s a growing trend. Lili wrote a post about the micro-house movement back in February.

Exterior of Jay Shafer's Home and KitchenThe kitchen and exterior of Jay Shafer’s tiny house.  Photos courtesy of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.

We asked Jay Shafer, who’s been living in a tiny house since 1997. He’s also the owner of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which builds several styles of ultra small-scale prefab homes (including the Box Bungalows used on Design Star.)

Want a peek inside his 100-square-foot home?

So, what qualifies as a tiny house? The term usually applies to homes that range anywhere from 65 to 500 square feet, though Shafer says he considers “any house where no square foot is being wasted” a tiny one. According to Shafer, one or two people could live comfortably in less than 100 square feet (yes, really), but for a family a better option is multiple tiny houses on the same lot.

For Shafer, the advantages to tiny homes are many, but a small environmental impact is at the top of the list.  “An average American household puts out 18 tons of greenhouses gases a year, while I use a fraction of that,” he says. Some companies, like Texas Tiny Houses, even make their mini-homes out of salvaged materials, further reducing the tiny environmental toll.

The homes also offer financial freedom: Once you pay for the initial cost of the home — anywhere from $12,000 to $90,000, depending on the style, size and company — you’re done. And if you want to shell out even less cash, most companies offer free or affordable plans to help you build your own tiny home. “You don’t have a mortgage, not to mention you’ll have lower utility costs,” says Shafer. “And it’s liberating not to have to spend time and money maintaining your home. It frees you up to do the things you really want to be doing.”

Box Bungalow Living Room
And for all your design lovers, living simply doesn’t mean living without style. In Jay Shafer’s living area, above, great design abounds. Check out the handmade tiles surrounding the tiny stove on the right.  And with less space, you literally only have room for things you can’t live without, so you won’t have the surface area to develop piles of papers or collect meaningless tchotchkes. Plus, you’ll be totally justified in saying, “Sorry, Mom, I just don’t have the space for that (insert name of gaudy item here).”

Missed the Tiny House episode of Design Star? Watch the full episode here >>

What do you think: Would you, could you live in a tiny house?

Tell us in the comments below.

130 Responses

  1. Karli_HGTV says:

    This was a great read. I'm still not sure if I could live in a tiny house, but I'm amazed at the people who do! The storage solutions and layout are so smart!

    • rmstockman says:

      We downsized a year ago; from a 3000 sf, 3 car garage to a 1200 sf cottage. My bedroom is as large as the bed alcove in my prior house! It works for the 3 of us living here but is difficult when we have company. The pro's outweigh the cons most of the time but one thing that is still an issue is when you bring in something extra or don't get something put away (groceries, suitcases, laundry) the house looks messy; there's no extra counter space or unused floor space. Best of all though, we have 90 feet of lake front and never want to move!

  2. anna@HGTV.com says:

    I would absolutely live in a tiny house like this if I could put it somewhere with big, fabulous views of the ocean or the mountains! Sounds like my retirement plan!

  3. lisa smith says:

    I would love to live in a tiny house. It would be myself and my cat. I wouldn't have to worry about a thing. I would put it near the beach in one of the islands and live there forever.

  4. [...] friend. Could You Live in a Tiny House? HGTV Design Happens Fri, September 9, 2011 2:00 PM UTC HGTV Design Happens Rate this story Share this story [...]

  5. lisa smith says:

    I would love to live in a tiny house. It would be myself and my cat. I wouldn't have to worry about a thing. I would put it near the beach in one of the islands and live there forever.

  6. blythe says:

    This would be perfect for my530sqft land. but do you ship plans in the philippines, or if i give you the exact area would you make a plan for me and send it over.

  7. Briana@HGTV says:

    Cool post! And I'm always surprised by how stylish these can be despite the space constraints. I do like to entertain though, and can't imagine inviting friends to dinner at my micro-house… :(

  8. Heather Bise says:

    I enjoyed this, thoroughly! Small spaces are very common in the area where I live/work, and it’s usually not by choice; but rather, supply, demand, $.

  9. like eye C it says:

    Wow! Great ideas. Anyone have decor ideas for a rented apt. that landlord doesn't want painted. Such as something to color white walls!

    • Anna@HGTV says:

      You're landlord won't do something where they pick a color from a range of options you like? If not, you could do a giant photo "wall" printed to a canvas (multiple pics or one giant one) that you pin up. If he's not ok with paint, but won't pin you for nail holes, do a massive framed art wall. (You can intersperse framed photos and art with framed scrapbook paper or wallpaper for interesting color and pattern).
      You could do removable vinyl decals in a pattern or as art (I see lots for sale on Etsy.) You could so removable wallpaper. Or if you live near an Ikea, you could rig fabric panels. Good luck!

    • Anna@HGTV says:

      Oh…also check out Briana's post – http://blog.hgtv.com/design/2011/09/01/daily-deli
      This can be done with rolls of wallpaper, whatever color/pattern you like!

    • Sarah says:

      Get a large blank canvas from your local art supply store and paint it. Not artistic? Get some fun fabric, wrap it around the canvas and staple to the back. Much cheaper than buying artwork, light, and easy to hang! Plus, it comes off when you're ready to move and you can change the fabric easily when your mood changes.

      This is also a good idea for a cheapo headboard!

    • Sarahbeth says:

      you can buy inexpensive fabric, put it on a small piece of wood (say a 1X1) and hang it down the wall from floor to ceiling, you don't end up with a bunch of holes in the wall since you just need a few at the ceiling to hold the wood strips in place. You can put a curtain pocket in at the bottom and put a curtain rod, so it rests on the floor, in to weight the fabric so it doesn't move around alot each time someone walks near the wall. Or if that creates too many holes just use curtain rods along the ceiling too.

    • Jann says:

      How creative can you be with fabric? It can hang from the ceiling…………………you can frame it……………I can see it being really unique……………have fun.

    • mlartist says:

      you can buy inexpensive sheets and hang them with push pins… if you leave a hole, fill it with toothpaste and wipe it off. Or you can buy fabric and hang it with a gathered effect using push pins.

  10. Megan says:

    I think I could live in one. It be nice to have in the woods near a beautiful creek and have a nice deck on it to enjoy the views.

Liz GrayLiz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on...


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