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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. Suzanne D. says:

    Absolutely! We are three people in 750 square feet with low ceilings. You have to consider personal space. One person in a 400 square ft home isn't really small. I love the tumbleweed homes because they really demonstrate truly small living!

  2. Wendi says:

    We are in the process of planning and building ours, downsizing for when our kids are grown. We currently live in less than 900 square feet for four people, and I look forward to condencing even further.

    • Marry says:

      My husband and I raised our 2 children in a 945 sq ft house. It had and upstairs and a partial basement. very crowded to say the least!!!!!!! now with just the two of us it might be doable.

  3. Karen says:

    I watched the design star with the tiny house's. I loved it. I am in a wheel chair so I would never be abel to have such a wonderful unclopicated life. I would like two in my back yard. I have my son living with me. He has not been able to find work for the last two years. I current husband is very teritoral and we are to the point of seperation over the fact we have two of my adult children living with us and he feels the invassion has gone on long enough. I had him watch the show and he stated that if we had that then he would feel less stressed. I think now a days every family should have these little house simply to let adult children have their space and parents have their own home back.

    • Mary says:

      kids these days have it too easy. can always come back home when stuff doesn't work out for them. but then they never learn responsibility. get out and stay out!!!!!! a visit now and then is fine, but PLEASE, get a life!!!!!!!

  4. Alan White says:

    This a grate efficient design for a home, But I don't know if I would like to live there, I like my space. I could see it as a cabin, or vacation getaway. I think that the space is very well used, and organized though, good job and grate design. I have an article available about more ideas for your home as well, it can be found at http://EzineArticles.com/6287572 please be my guest. Have fun designing your dreams.

  5. This was an awesome post, great write up and excellent photos too!

  6. Carolyn says:

    I find it interesting that most people on this blog are associating where it is placed, by a lake, ocean, forest, etc. That probably means you wouldn't be spending a whole lot of time living in it but would be in the outdoors. Would you live in one of these in a city? Because we do have studio apartments in most cities and a lot of people will not consider living in them because they are so small and mulipurposed.

  7. Michelle says:

    I would love to live in a small/tiny house (maybe 400-500 sq ft) but I just can't get my husband to give up on having a separate bedroom. I think it's such a waste to have a whole room set aside just for the 8 hours we are asleep. I've been comfortable in studio apartments. But he doesn't like having a bed in the living room… If I ever end up alone again, I will live in a small cabin or a yurt!

    • Marna says:

      I live in a home just over 430 feet…originally 399 and took in part of a porch to add a bit of room just for heck of it. The 399 has a seperate bedroom, great size bath with large shower, lot and lots of storage, dining area with ample kitchen, stack laundry area, huge pantry and good size living area. Second bedroom…sleeper sofa solves that problem. My husband and I have a queen bed in our bedroom and still have walking room. Only way to retire..paid for….low taxes…low utilities…low upkeep.

      Some counties do not even tax the unit.

  8. Sherry says:

    Since my husband died, I have been trying to downsize, and am slowly doing it. Living in this tiny home would be a great way to downsize. As I get older I find I don't need all the stuff I have, it's just doing it and this home would be idea to sort out what is important and needed, from what is just stuff. So YES, I could live in one of these small houses.

  9. Pam says:

    In a heartbeat. I live on Social Security and part time employment. I would love to have a tiny house. I live in a small house now but my utilities are still too high. Having a tiny house would be absolutely wonderful! I live by myself with 2 dogs and 2 cats. How cozy would that be!

  10. ghita says:

    That is awesomel living in small space. I think i could. I am at age that i cant clean anymore. The only problem maybe the bedroom. Need to be on the ground level.

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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