Because we get excellent reader feedback on them, we feature a “Tiny House” in every issue of Natural Home & Garden. Generally under 500 square feet, these tiny houses run the gamut from woodland cottages designed to fit in with their landscape to modern urban nests tucked into city neighborhoods. I believe the extreme interest in the “tiny house movement” has less to do with the idea that a majority of us are actually going to live in these teeny spaces (not that I’m not tempted by many of them!) but more to do with the inspiration we can take for living simply and living well in a smaller space. As many of you have likely heard, the American mantra of bigger is better is finally receding in the world of housing.
In 2009, for the first time, the average size of the American home went down, and real estate agents expect the housing market to stay level for a while because there are many huge homes no one is interested in. Aging baby boomers are moving out of the family home and into something more manageable; meanwhile, young families don’t want the burden of a huge house, with its obligatory huge utility bills and hours of cleaning and maintenance (read the top 10 reasons for living in a tiny home). If you’re among the many who want to live large in a small space, take inspiration from those living in tiny homes on a grand scale with three of my favorite petite homes. Oh, and if you’d like to learn how to build your own tiny house, take a workshop from tiny house pioneer Jay Shafer this year!
1. The L41 Home
Designed by Vancouver, British Columbia-based architect Michael Katz, the L41 was envisioned as an affordable, small-space, low-energy design that could help house our growing population moving into the future.
“The major objective of the L41 home is to play a part in mass-producing houses that are so affordable that, before the end of this century, all the people in the world can have proper shelter,” Katz says.
Built in factory assembly lines, these homes reduce waste and maximize efficiency, then are delivered to their final destinations. Katz emphasizes alternative energy and space-saving techniques, creating highly livable homes in small spaces.
Small-space living lessons from the L-41:
Multifunctionality: In the 220-square-foot studio version, the living room sofa converts into a double bed. A light-blocking window screen transforms into a projector screen for watching movies. A convection stovetop is topped with a pull-out fan, and the convection oven also functions as a microwave.
Convertibility: The L41 was designed to meet many needs, as well as to be able to grow or shrink with personal and family changes. A 220-square-foot studio version is perfect for one or two people. For a little more space, Katz offers a 290-square-foot one-bedroom model and a 360-square-foot two-bedroom model. Any of the models can be stacked or‚ combined into almost limitless combinations for multifamily living.
Smart Energy: It’s easy to power such a small structure responsibly. Every L41 comes equipped to create and store energy onsite via photovoltaic and solar thermal heating and cooling cells on a planted green roof. A heat-recovery ventilator keeps indoor air fresh and improves efficiency.
Indoor-Outdoor Connection: One of the keys to living well in a small space is having a connection with the outdoors. On the L41, the front porch connects to the home via a three-panel sliding glass wall that retracts into an outdoor storage closet, allowing an entire wall to be opened to the outdoors.