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Do you think you could live in a 400 s.f. house?

Magzilla 2008/08/08 19:38:50
There is no way I can live in a house that small.
I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
I could do it easy
I live in small house right now!
They make homes that small?
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The 400-square-foot dream home

Teeny-tiny houses are the next big thing on the horizon. Those who've downsized say you can save a ton of money and time -- if you can handle the challenges of living small.

By Christopher Solomon


Could you live in a home that's 400 square feet? How about less than 200 square feet?



Greg Johnson does. His house in Iowa City, Iowa, is 140 square feet -- a mere 7 feet by 10 feet. It's just large enough for a little kitchen on one side, across from a desk where Johnson can work and eat. Upstairs is a loft that fits a queen-sized bed and is "just big enough to crawl upstairs and go to sleep. It's cozy," says Johnson, co-founder and coordinator of the Small House Society, which encourages people to get interested in living small -- and he means really small.

"I think it's the ideal size, at least for me," he says of his domicile.



Tiny is getting big
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a growing number of Americans are intrigued by so-called "micro-homes." Call it a fringe offshoot of the anti-McMansion trend. (Praise for the cute and small Katrina cottage has also helped. Read more here.) Johnson says his monthly e-newsletter has grown to 477 recipients from just a handful since the Small House Society began in 2002.



A variety of companies, sensing the growing interest -- and potential future need -- for compact housing offer interesting tiny homes. For example:


• Central Virginia's Tiny House Co. sells a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom log cabin with a covered porch that starts at $36,900, and offers plans for the Weekender, a 12-by-24-foot gabled-roof cabin with a kitchen, bath and storage loft.


• Phoenix's v2world goes a different route, using stackable, welded, steel-frame modules to create living spaces. Its 448-square-foot v2flat model is a 16-by-16-foot box connected to a 16-by-20-foot box. The v2flat is a high-design, customizable space -- and includes all furniture and high-end shrunken fixtures that maximize space. The steel-frame design means that floor-to-ceiling windows can be added on multiple sides to make the space feel larger without losing strength.


• For its, ahem, small size, Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., with some 15 different models and variations of mini-homes, is a big source of inspiration and homes for tiny home lovers. Shafer helped Johnson design his Iowa City home and now sells plans, consultations and homes on his site.


• Perhaps the most mainstream person to bring attention to the tiny-house trend is nationally lauded Pacific Northwest architect Ross Chapin, who has made a reputation for building smaller homes around community-fostering spaces. In the Backyard Neighborhood he designed in Langley, Wash., Chapin built two smaller homes on each lot -- a 1,200-square-foot home and a 425-square-foot backyard cottage -- and placed them on a shared alley. Though the latter is often used as a studio by its owner, Chapin calls it a "relatively fully livable cottage" that could be used by, say, a mother-in-law or a return-to-the-nest child.



Prices of tiny homes can vary wildly, with some going for as little as $20,000 or $30,000. But architect Dennis Fukai points out that even a tiny home still keeps the spaces that are most expensive on a per-square-foot basis in a home -- bathrooms and kitchens. He estimates that even a tiny house might cost $75 a square foot in an inexpensive area, "and you could double that, easily, for a custom home" with lots of nice touches and amenities, from space-saving built-in cabinets to a Murphy bed to granite countertops. (Johnson's home is an exception here in that it omits the restroom altogether; it's designed to rely on the facilities of an adjacent home.)

The advantages
Tiny houses are hardly a new idea. Henry David Thoreau lived in one on the banks of Walden Pond. And Thomas Jefferson lived in an 18-foot-by-18-foot, two-story, 648-square-foot box with his new wife while building his grand Monticello. Today's tiny-house advocates extol their virtues, including:



• Time for what you love. Johnson says he started the Small House Society after seeing that if people bought and lived in smaller, less expensive spaces, they'd have more time to get out in their communities and do the things they love to help affect society. "I'm looking at ways to empower activists," he explains. A smaller home "saves incredible amounts of time. It saves incredible dollars."


• Less of … everything. Fukai, a former Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D. in architecture and author of "Living Small: The Life of Small Houses" focuses on smaller building with his firm, Insitebuilders. "Almost all consumption becomes reduced" when you move to a very small house, Fukai explains -- even that extra pair of shoes gets tossed out. Fukai and his wife traded in a 3,000-square-foot home for an 800-square-foot house in Florida about 18 months ago -- and haven't looked back.


Besides paring down your own belongings, you can feel good about consuming less in other ways. In a small home, "automatically everything becomes less energy-demanding," Fukai says. Even pets and appliances such as computers suddenly heat the small spaces in winter. And since walls must be well insulated by general code today, heat doesn't penetrate the house in summer, Fukai has found. What's more, the rooms cool very quickly with just an open window.



• Little cleaning. A tiny space with less junk in it translates into less time spent cleaning and maintaining it, say owners.



• The rewards of intimacy. Humans gravitate toward small spaces if they're cozy and well-considered, says architect Chapin: "Benjamin Franklin used to say that the conversation around the table is much livelier when knees are touching, than at a formal dinner with proper distance."



The many challenges of living really small
So, small may be beautiful. But it also may not work for everyone, and it poses some unique challenges.



Johnson, of the Small House Society, says micro-homes seem best suited to "people under 25 and over 45" -- that is, people who haven't yet had children, and those whose children have left the nest. Patricia Foreman and Andy Lee, in their book "A Tiny Home to Call Your Own," suggest others, too: adult children returning to the nest; retirees; grandparents returning to live with the family; newlyweds who don't mind the very cozy quarters; people in transition; even "couples who make better neighbors than housemates."



Among the considerations:



• Accumulators, be wary. "They're not for people who really want to have a lot of stuff," says Foreman, president of Tiny House Co. (Foreman lives in a home with a footprint the size of a two-car garage and boasts that she can vacuum it without changing plugs.)


• Ditto party-throwers. Johnson, of the Small Home Society, finds that some owners of tiny homes get frustrated by the lack of room for socializing. In his house, for example, two is crowded, and "if it's three people, it's standing-room only," he says. That's why decks are often crucial on tiny homes.


• Land rich, house poor. Often, land simply costs too much for it to make sense to build a $15,000 home. "If you have a lot that's $30,000, or in Seattle it might be $300,000, you don't put a 300-square-foot house on it," says Fukai. "People who pay $300,000 for a lot don't live in that kind of house."


• Zoning rules. Sometimes, building codes and local zoning rules expressly prohibit homes under a certain size (often 600 square feet or 700 square feet), perhaps under the notion that larger homes will keep the neighborhoods looking nice.

• Financing. If financing is necessary, it can be tricky. Simply put, banks are wary of tiny homes, says Foreman, of Tiny House Co. Banks want to see something bigger than a one-bedroom house, she says, adding "they're concerned about resale value." For example, in Buena Vista, Va., where her company is located, you could build the company's log cabin, but you couldn't leave it on wheels because then the home would be classified as a single-wide trailer. Nor could you even leave it on the metal frame because then it would not be considered a standard home, which would create financing problems. "They treat it more or less like a car," Foreman says. As a result, many of the very small homes the Tiny House Co. has built have been financed with home-equity loans from the owner's existing home.



Good design is a must
If nothing else, the mini-house trend is cause to re-evaluate just how much space we really need. Architect Chapin thinks that 500 square feet is a minimum for one person. (Chapin's firm is starting on a new development of homes in Port Townsend, Wash., that will be 10 houses and cottages around a common area, starting at about 600 square feet.) Foreman says that about 700 square feet is optimal, for one person. That allows for an office, an open living area with kitchen and one or two bedrooms. A home needn't double in size to comfortably accommodate two people, or triple for three, however. Space efficiencies increase with the number of residents, so that three people could comfortably live in as little as 1,200-1,400 square feet.



But whatever the bare minimum, good design is crucial, says Tim Russell, CEO of v2world. If you ask people whether they could ever live in 400 square feet they "categorically" say "no way," he says. Yet visitors to the company's 384-square-foot model often think it's 700 square feet or 800 square feet, Russell says, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and smaller appliances that are unobtrusive.

feet 800 square feet russell floor-to-ceiling windows smaller appliances unobtrusive
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  • ☮~♥ashley nicole♥~☮ 2008/11/04 01:21:13
    They make homes that small?
    ☮~♥ashley nicole♥~☮
    +1
    ummm homes ummm m.........NO WAY!!!!!!! this is my house below
  • kevracer 2008/11/03 23:51:31
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    kevracer
    +1
    WIll you give me one?
  • Magzilla kevracer 2008/11/03 23:54:46
    Magzilla
    Nope
  • Warren - Novus Ordo Seclorum 2008/08/11 16:28:32
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    Warren - Novus Ordo Seclorum
    +2
    Still better than these "capsule hotels" in Tokyo:

    require personal adjustments capsule hotels tokyo
  • jfjfjfjfjfjfj 2008/08/11 11:04:00
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    jfjfjfjfjfjfj
    Sorry.. not gonna happen..would rather go live w/mom again..lol.. and trust me, that's saying a lot...but seriously, there's no in hell I could fit my stuff in there....
  • iowastate 2008/08/09 19:43:24
    I could do it easy
    iowastate
    +1
    Not a problem. Have none of you ever lived in a small trailer?

    you don't have a lot of cash you make do.

    My place now is nice - bit i've lived in a one room tiny shack and you make do with what you have
  • ChloeNAydensmom 2008/08/09 14:23:32
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    ChloeNAydensmom
    +1
    Maybe if it were just me I'd have a different opinion, but with 2 adults and 2 kids no way in hell would we all be able to live in something that small. Right now we are in something that is approx 1000 S.F (maybe a little less) and it feels kind of cramped...
  • E.G. 2008/08/09 13:51:56
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    E.G.
    +1
    Where would my wife and 2 dogs, ferrets, snake, turtles, and a lizard live while my cat and I were living in an over-sized closet with a built-in toilet? *grin*

    We downsized from a 3 BR with attic and shed storage up north to a 2/2 trailer in FL. That's probably about as small as we're going to go.
  • ..... 2008/08/09 11:30:20
    I could do it easy
    .....
    +3
    Actually, I do it all the time. Almost 75% of my life is spent in an area about the size of what you're describing. I do just fine with it. Creative space management is the key.
  • River Rat 2008/08/09 08:28:05
  • brozak River Rat 2008/08/09 08:32:35
    brozak
    +2
    A steel roof... lol
    My whole cabin cost less than 2,000
    Nice to have the ability isn't it?
  • rmcfarclark 2008/08/09 07:15:32
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    rmcfarclark
    +1
    thatd be interesting
  • SouthernB 2008/08/09 06:38:28
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    SouthernB
    +1
    If it was a necessity of course I could live in a house that small. We're spoiled in modern society. After having to live on the street for a few days I suspect that a (very) small house would like very inviting to most.
  • Tarryn 2008/08/09 05:28:14
    They make homes that small?
    Tarryn
    +2
    NOT A BLOODY CHANCE!!!! I HAVE KIDS I LIKE MY SPACE..... homes bloody chance kids space
  • brozak Tarryn 2008/08/09 08:30:18
  • brozak 2008/08/09 05:09:54
    I live in small house right now!
    brozak
    +3
    My apartment is 520 square feet, my cabin is 750 square feet.
    Cozy, easy to heat, easy to clean, perfect.
    If I had children, that would be a whole different story...lol
  • concerned 2008/08/09 04:08:30
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    concerned
    +1
    because oatmeal is better than no meal ...so we do what the hell we have to ...
  • upthecreek 2008/08/09 03:57:13
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    upthecreek
    +2
    I enjoy my 2800 Sf home but it feels like a 400 Sf with all my wifes stuff.
  • The Beaver 2008/08/09 03:46:11
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    The Beaver
    +1
    I couldn't do it, I have too much stuff and I don't want to get rid of my 3 dogs.
    I think I would be claustrophobic!
  • loky 2008/08/09 03:37:29
    They make homes that small?
    loky
    +1
    My out building is bigger than that. I would have to get a separate one for my clothes. lol...
  • Kanaka Rican - Now's the ti... 2008/08/09 03:34:43
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    Kanaka Rican - Now's the time for ACTION
    +1
    I need my space....
    live house space
  • BAMAGIRL 2008/08/09 03:30:04
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    BAMAGIRL
    +1
    If it were just the hubby and me. I'd organize & have an open, free flowing floorplan. And I think I'd love it:)
  • Sarah 2008/08/09 03:26:34
    I could do it easy
    Sarah
    +2
    I don't need much.
  • Wilson 2008/08/09 03:08:32
    I could do it easy
    Wilson
    +2
    I would like it but my wife wouldn't. I would like to see if I could actually erase my utility bills. To me it would be freedom.
  • Neo 2008/08/09 02:44:57
  • Care Care 101 2008/08/09 00:27:29
    I could do it easy
    Care Care 101
    +2
    YEAH as long as i have a bathroom im go to go

    yeah bathroom
  • dnanna 2008/08/09 00:14:50
    I could do it, but it is going to require some personal adjustments
    dnanna
    +5
    now that's what I call simplify
  • Craig 2008/08/09 00:11:17
    I could do it easy
    Craig
    +5
    I've lived in a 700sq ft trailer before for 10 years. I could handle 400sq ft if arranged properly.
  • marquise 2008/08/08 21:46:06
    I could do it easy
    marquise
    +11
    It is not about where ....but with whom.....
  • Craig marquise 2008/08/09 00:13:18
    Craig
    +4
    Great answer, that's my tinkiewinkie !! LOL
  • marquise Craig 2008/08/09 00:17:27
    marquise
    +6
    Lol Craig....it is true....whatz the use of a big house if you are not happy inside ?!
  • Craig marquise 2008/08/09 00:22:09
    Craig
    +4
    I know exactly what you mean, I live in a 2100sq ft house now alone, 4bedrooms 3 baths, my private office. Way to much room for me. I normally rent out the spare rooms to tenants, but unfortunately both the rental rooms are vacant right now and I'm going crazy in this big place by myself. HELP !!!! LOL
  • marquise Craig 2008/08/09 05:25:32
    marquise
    +3
    Wow....throw a SH party ;)
  • Craig marquise 2008/08/09 16:54:00
    Craig
    +1
    Ok, but only if my favorite TinkieWinkie will come. LOL
  • marquise Craig 2008/08/09 16:57:19
    marquise
    +1
    Of course I will!!! ;)
  • Craig marquise 2008/08/09 17:25:39
    Craig
    OK, when will the party be ? Suggestions.............
  • Carol 2008/08/08 21:38:54
    I could do it easy
    Carol
    +4
    I'd just have to get rid of all my stuff. Pare down to the bare essentials. I think it would be a great way to get a whole lot more spiritual.
  • Angel 2008/08/08 21:21:59
    There is no way I can live in a house that small.
    Angel
    +4
    I couldn't do it unless I planed never to have a family...i have been stuck in the house with kids before , and you don't wont to be stuck with them in a house that small
  • Sajama 2008/08/08 21:11:31
  • Magzilla Sajama 2008/08/08 23:47:10
    Magzilla
    +5
    Are you a clutter bug too? I know I am LOL It would be a great excuse to get rid of everything!

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2014/09/18 21:46:49

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