logo image

Tiny Houses in Idaho and Elsewhere

Tiny House in Idaho designed and constructed by Macy Miller. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.

Tiny House in Idaho designed and constructed by Macy Miller. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.

NPR had a feature on architect Macy Miller and her 200-s.f. house last week. Although neither the concept nor execution is new, it’s always good to see examples of well built, livable houses in the mainstream media. In this particular house I really like the use of salvaged wood from shipping pallets for the siding, which was evidently a time-consuming process. The rough, textured wood contrasts nicely with the clean, white detailing inside.

Interior of the house. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.

Interior of the house. Photo courtesy of Inhabitat.

 

Miller built the house for $11,000 using only her own labor. This is inexpensive, even by Tiny House standards, but one can see how a house like this would be a great option if you’re looking to avoid a mortgage and can deal with a significant change in lifestyle. See the NPR or Inhabitat links ¬†for more photos of this¬†house.

When I describe this project to people they often ask me if I’m looking at Tiny Houses, with a capital T-H. Generally I’m not, even though I think they’re great in a lot of ways. They’re compact, typically mobile, sustainable, cheap, DIY-friendly, and can be individualized. Also, there’s something intrinsically appealing in the miniaturization of anything, especially a house, where elements like doors and windows can’t be shrunk by the same scale, which is one reason why the facial features of a baby or a panda make it cute.

One of the reasons Tiny Houses aren’t a central feature of this project that examines all sorts of small houses is that they’re typically built and parked in rural settings, from what I can tell. I haven’t seen many examples of them playing a part in systemic densification of an urban area. There are a few one-off examples, which often mean constructing a Tiny House and parking it in someone else’s backyard or driveway. Zoning in a lot of cities exclude small homes below a certain square footage, but building on trailer beds often gets around this requirement.

This isn’t to say Tiny Houses can’t and won’t be part of a larger urban context. Plenty of cities zone for RV parks, and one could easily imagine a tight community made of Tiny Houses, with or without the trailer beds in the middle of a city, or perhaps in place of a downtown parking lot like Portland’s Food Truck lots.

Could you replicate Food Truck lots with Tiny Houses in a downtown parking lot? Photo via Paul Riismandel / Creative Commons.

Could you replicate Food Truck lots with Tiny Houses in a downtown parking lot? Photo via Paul Riismandel / Creative Commons.

 

The best example I’ve seen of an attempt to inject the Tiny House ethic into a city environment is Boneyard Studio’s infill of an empty block in Washington DC. This is more of a concept project, but like all Tiny Houses, the individual dwellings are created by their owners in a variety of styles.

Tiny Houses as part of Boneyard Studio's project in Washington, DC. Photo via Creative Commons / Boneyard Studios.

Tiny Houses as part of Boneyard Studio’s project in Washington, DC. Photo via Creative Commons / Boneyard Studios.

One can easily see how a critical mass of these houses could create a real community on the block, perhaps much more easily than standard condos that could give the same density. Everyone has a porch on the common space, which actually gives a small-town or suburban feel in the middle of a city block. I’ll be looking forward to the progress of this project in the future.

Leave a Reply