The ‘Practical’ Tiny Home Soldiers On As The ‘Romantic’ Tiny Home Falters

Small groups of curious people mill around two tiny houses.
Designer Eco Tiny Homes photo by MK · Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The crowds aren't as big as they used to be . . .

Let us generally discard mobile tow-trailers and motorized caravans as ‘camping adventures’ and focus instead on the idea of a true home, but a ‘tiny’ one. Over the last few years, they’ve earned attention from three distinct directions.

The first is the present day stepchild of an ugly stepmother: the ‘manufactured home’ — in America this is a cleaned up version of that venerable trailer park denizen — the lightly-built storm-vulnerable single-wide. Quasi-mobile single-wides invaded trailer parks by masquerading as trailers — towed in and parked, generally never to move again.

In this first case, neither single-wides nor their larger siblings — double-wides — can be considered truly ‘tiny’ but have long had, and continue to have, limited floor space. They are a supremely practical answer to a demand of maximum space for minimum expenditure. Today they live on with improved construction, though changes in trailer park land ownership are threatening sites that were once substantially affordable. Similar modular construction is being used to build smaller structures. These techniques continue to provide ‘tiny’ practical solutions for uses such as transitional housing for people who are homeless.

The second kind of tiny home is one that is becoming so common it deserves a category of its own. It is based on the shipping container, which is generally retired from seaborne service well before its land-based lifespan has expired. “Tiny” describes exactly the space that is offered up by the container. Also modular, their convenient, corrugated inexpensive future is at least as bright as more traditionally built modular houses. They are often used for the similar purposes such as transitional housing, and have the added advantage of being stackable.

The third tiny home is a romantic vision of life distilled to its essence and lived out in a microspace of artistic ingenuity. It is this kind of tiny home that has provoked a rush of interest in the possibilities of life in closet-sized spaces — an idea that has found considerable room in the imagination, rather less in real life.

Read more about the expectations and disappointments of the ‘romantic’ tiny home in ArchDaily: The Life and Death of the Tiny Home Trend