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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. Paul says:

    I love the tiny house concept. I would reduce my possessions to the minimum and live in one IF out municipality would allow such small square footage. Some years ago I wanted to build very efficient cluster housing for senior citizens. Not allowed. I also struggle with local building codes when national building codes allow newer technologies and local codes do not. We have the ability to build homes that can be heated for next to no cost and foot prints that would minimize water run off and facilitate soil conservation. I currently own a duplex, side by side units with a cottage in the back yard. I am not allowed to restore that unit to a dwelling. We have municipal water and sewer. It would be a wonderful cottage for a Sr. or a young couple just starting out. What a shame. Blending in smaller cottages with other more traditional homes just makes sense to me. Keep Seniors in afordable housing near their extended families. Over a period of decades the small houses could host several different family members in different phases of life.

  2. Paul says:

    What will happen to the housed designed in the segment? I liked each one and found the critiques fair and reasonable. They were very individual.

  3. kathy says:

    I live in a tiny house and I absolutely love it. My son Dan built it for me and it is the most wonderful gift a mom could ever get! Whether you live in a mansion or one room, your body takes up just so much room…the rest is wasted.. Can you imagine living in Florida and having a $25.00 electric bill for the month? Well, I can!

  4. granny from atlanta says:

    you will not allow me to comment on you blog i have tried many times and i do not think it is fair. i know you are going to come back and say it is not allowed. and i am upset because i love hgtv

  5. Robbie says:

    I would love to live in a small house like this one, just me and my dog. Maybe this will hint to the kids to hold on to their jobs because there is "no place at home".

  6. Martha says:

    Being not so young anymore, we had a bunk bed for our child and let me tell you they are a pain to deal with when you have to change sheets or make the bed. Not to mention having to get up at night to use the bathroom, are you kidding me? Try going down that ladder at 3 am and then back up, or like several others who get up a few times a night. I would be sleeping on the couch! What if you're tall? Hmmm, they should make some that are just a bit larger, that would be nice.

  7. MountainLesli says:

    Karen, my sweet, get rid of the "adult children", and try to enjoy your life with your "territorial" husband, before you end up alone. Deciding to live in one of these "tiny" houses would be a perfect reason to get rid of them…so that they can be "adults".

  8. MountainLesli says:

    When my husband and I got together in 1975, we purchased 5 acres in the mountains, with a 20 X 20 "garage". The man built the garage to keep his tools in it while building a house. When his wife and he got divorced before building, we snatched it up. We made it our own, using many of the ideas that these tiny houses demonstrate, and those were such fond memories for me. We eventually built a log house on the property, and this is a perfect guest house. I think that we "Americans" live too extravagantly with so much wasted space…I wouldn't mind living in there today!

  9. Alicia Ortiz says:

    I would love to have a tiny house. Looks like a getaway to me. I would add a tiny porch in the back of the house, to watch the sunsets, or the ocean, or the mountains. Wonderful idea!

  10. Deborah says:

    Tiny houses have always been on my wish list. My dream is to have a main house with several tiny houses decorated in different styles for my family and friends to stay in durring visits to my Florida home. The problem is finding these tiny houses that meet the strict codes of the East Coast Florida building laws. I would always want the homes to be safe.

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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