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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. courtney says:

    Absolutely! I'd have to live alone, though. My husband and I would be divorced within a week if we lived there together ;)

  2. KIKI says:

    Who was your supplier for the little houses..I'd love to have one.

  3. Tinyzoey says:

    I've been living in my own 117 sq feet Lusby model Tumbleweed tiny house that I built myself for nearly 2 years now. I love it. I have a really hard time conceiving living any other way now. My living expenses are so low now that I basically don't have to work but I do because I enjoy it. Talk about a sense of freedom!

    I laid mine out with "entertaining" in mind and even have a 7 foot long couch that pulls out into a bed for guests. I have never felt like I don't have enough space.

  4. Jenni says:

    I want to live in a tiny house! I am working on plans to do so right now. Simplify, Simplify – my new mantra!

  5. Amy says:

    Would love to live in a tiny house! Maybe when our 3 boys are grown…

  6. Tinyzoey says:

    That's funny cuz I'm in the process of starting it up again! woo hoo. Stay tuned ^_^ (ps – Laska the wily weasel dog is so happy living with me. She NEVER runs away anymore and comes to me whenever I call her)^_^

  7. Timaree says:

    Me too!

  8. Teleia says:

    I'm currently saving up so I can buy land and build my ~175 ft2 house (12×12 with half loft). I cannot wait!

  9. Peter Pearson says:

    I purchased a Tumbleweed Fencl that will be delivered later this month and I'd like to see if I can live in it. I spent lots of time gathering STUFF, dusting STUFF, storing STUFF. I'm over it.

  10. Patricia says:

    Yes I could. And have been researching and planning doing this for a few months now. But, I would have to have more than one. One to live in, and one for my studio.

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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