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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. Kari says:

    I could NOT live in a tiny house. The minimum size I feel comfortable in is about 800 sq ft. But I am a big fan of large rooms and a spacious home. I think the best sized home is anywhere from 1500 sq ft up to 3,000.00 sq ft. I think anything larger is a waste unless you have an extremely large family.

  2. Creative Crafter says:

    Even IF I lived alone, I could NOT stand it! I can't even stand a SMALL work studio. I live in an (almost 5,100 sp. ft. house, and it it low ceilings instead of high ones, and din't have floor-to-ceiling sliding doors on one wall in each room, I would be claustrophobic!! I grew up in apartments and boarding-rooms, duplexes and tri-plexes, and I HATED it. Because I am creative, as well, if I didn't havve room for my sewing machine, serger, embroidery machine, knitting machine, computer, printer, piano, organ and keyboard, and materials to USE on each of these, I'd go nuts!!!

  3. I want to live in a tiny house! I live in a single room with kitchen and bath privileges now, but it'd be easier, I think, to have all that in one little house. And to be able to pick up and GO, if I wanted to? even better.

  4. Ruby P Mason says:

    If it were just myself,it would be great,but I want to keep my Husband and 2 little Dogs,so it would not work for us.Ruby

  5. Sue says:

    My husband and I lived in a motorhome for several years. It was about 500 sq. ft. I think it made us closer and more appreciative of each other. It proved to me that I didn't need that big house.

  6. Evelyn says:

    I would not want to live in such a small house since we have 15 grandchildren and enjoy having them visit with us. As stated by others for a vacation area not needing to be indoors except to sleep it would be just fine.

  7. Linda says:

    Get a large painting which is nonobjective and in colors you love. Wall hangings in World Bazaar style. Be sure it isn't noticeable, that is, don't have bright color or detail in excess. You have to live with it. It should be calming or meditative IMHO. Don't impress anyone but yourself.

    • LInda says:

      Also, you can have a large painting of a realistic scene like a field, trees, and a river like a large window.

  8. jeri says:

    awesome. my husband and i could easily live in one of these guys…in 17 years when our boys are gone to college :) wed put a few on our family farm somewhere in iowa- one for us, one for our guests …and then a decent size workshop for our art and music studios which by nature cannot be small ;) either way, owning a home on some real land is always better than this apartment renting grad school business :)

  9. Shawn says:

    Pick up a canvas and some plastic sheeting the size of said wall at a big box store and a few 2x4s use your own imagination and taste to color the canvas; dye, draw, splatter, paint, stamp, texture treat, whatever but attach at both top and bottom and consider the sides too. A wet canvas (be it primer sizing paint water or etc.) will usually shrink enough to become taut and be almost as hard as a wall. Before you hang your canvas, hang plastic!! If the canvas is wet it may get up against the exact wall that you weren't supposed to paint.

  10. Shawn says:

    cont'd: Use painter's tape to hold the plastic to the wall and drill the 2x4s with the canvas wrapped once and stapled to the 2×4 directly into the studs so there are no screws showing. The holes in the wall are reasonably simple to spackle and fix- just be judicial; one long screw every 2 studs should be fine.
    Once you've hung your canvas and let it dry and "stabilize" (harden) decorate away- you can even hang things on it-easiest to use christmas bulb hooks and poke them through (don't cut!), also sticky velcro and curtain wire (Ikea) can be used as hangers- get creativ- just never forget that you have a very lightly protected wall behind! This can also be used in basements and garages where you feel the need to be artistic.
    If you are confused by any term or procedure used here got to HGTV or INSTRUCTABLES.com for help, learn BEFORE you try it!
    Best of luck and have fun!!!

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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