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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.

117 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    You could by yards and yards of a light weight fabric and dip it in liquid starch and apply like wallpaper. When you leave, it peels right off. No worse for the wear.

  2. Patty says:

    I also live in a tiny house of sorts. I moved back into the mobile home I grew up in in the 50's. It's a 1959 Smoker 10' X 55' with an 8' X 30' room built on for guests. The mobile home is on it's own lot and a half that I own with an oversized 2 car garage. I love it! I'd like to know what happened to the tiny homes that were on the show.Will they be sold? I'd love to have one of them.

  3. jeanne says:

    get a bucket of fabric softner wet fabric in it and put it on the walls like wallpaper. just peel it off when you move. this idea was on HGTV when the Chanel first came out.

  4. guest says:

    i realize this was 29 weeks ago but the studio apartment around me cost $300-350. A one bedroom cost 450-550 and that is in the low income housing.

  5. Cynthia A Williams says:

    Well I do live in a very small house it is only 475 square feet,and I have 2 daughters with no closets what so ever-its pethedic but we do it,I dont have the money to gut my house,but will find a place to make a closet I have to…Anyone have any ideas please let me know.

  6. Cathy says:

    My family loves this show but some of the homes are photographed in a way that makes us dizzy. I'd love to have the photographer slow down and stop jumping around so we can actually see the houses. I don't know if others feel this way but I wanted to let you know that some homes are almost impossible to see because of the popping from place to place that occurs.

  7. Jae says:

    I want a free tiny house. We went from 3000 sq ft loft with 18 ft ceilings to an 1000 sq ft house. The house we are in is still too big. Personally I can’t even afford a tiny house. If any body wants to come to East Texas build us a house, we would love it.

  8. Informative post, just what I was looking for.

  9. gwalt says:

    Use fabric – wrap the ends around yardsticks and tack them to the wall. I did this once with burlap and got a very cool look. You could also combine 3 plain colors in a row – I did this once to match a logo.

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Liz GrayLiz is a Senior Editor at HGTV.com. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on remodeling projects with her boyfriend and...

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