Lilliputian Living

Small spaces, and the storage solutions they require, are the next big (little?) thing in building

Economist E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 book, Small Is Beautiful, encouraged “enoughness” and warned, among other things, that living in a space with boundless square footage inspires more frustration than happiness. Centuries earlier, Leonardo da Vinci felt similarly, writing, “Small rooms and dwellings set the mind on the right path; large ones cause it to go astray.” And let’s not forget Henry David Thoreau, who lived and worked, deliberately, in a 150-square-foot cabin that cost him $28 to build.

Even so, the ’90s and early 2000s gave rise to the lavish McMansion, which collapsed right along with the housing market in more recent years. If today’s proliferation of miniature houses is any indication, lots of modern architects and developers are harkening back to a minimalist philosophy—erecting tiny spaces to suit all sorts of purposes. Called the tiny house movement, the trend is being led by a California builder and designer who dubs pre-recession mansions “debtors’ prisons for the 21st century.”

Inspired by the compact Airstream trailer he employed for family vacations, one designer masterminded a 160-square-foot apartment, the smallest allowed by California building code, that features a bench used also as a dining room table and guest bed. Not only a sign of our tightened belts and desire for low-impact living (as well as a potential solution to the affordable-housing crisis?), we think this trend—which has gone viral on account of all its charming details—is proof that the allure of childhood cubbyholes and tree houses trails us on into adulthood.

Image credit: Creative Commons/


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