Tiny Houses: Living Large in a Small Space

Think you know what it means to downsize? Get an eyeful of these miniature houses on the leading edge of a new approach to living with less.

By: Lisa Frederick
Related To:

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

©Tammy Strobel

©Tammy Strobel

©Matthew Wolpe

©Tammy Strobel

©Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Small House Movement

The small house movement started roughly a decade ago, but the economic crisis rapidly accelerated its growth as people began to re-evaluate their lifestyles, craving the simplicity that comes with scaling down. At a fraction of the average house price (some a mere $20,000), these structures eliminate the hassle and potential pitfalls of a mortgage. Plus, they force their occupants to pare down their belongings to the essentials and devise innovative solutions to make the most of every inch.

Architectural Details

Just because a home is Lilliputian doesn't mean it has to be devoid of character. There may not be much room for frills on the inside, but the outside can have all of the flourishes that highlight a more traditional home, such as a gable, dormers, turned posts and railings or a decorative roof.

Carefully Chosen Furnishings

Those who inhabit tiny houses don't have the luxury of expansive sofas, clusters of chairs and nests of tables, so what they do have needs to count. Tucked into a bright, sunlit nook, this chair can act as a solo reading retreat, a spot for guests to sit, a perch for doing office work on the computer and much more.


Tiny houses redefine the term "mobile home." For lifelong nomads, one of the most enticing factors of these structures is their potential for portability — many are outfitted with wheels that allow them to be pulled behind a vehicle then parked at the next destination.

Indoor-Outdoor Connections

Because interior square footage is so limited, outdoor spaces become an integral part of a tiny home's living area. Patios, gardens and other alfresco spots help to expand the amount of usable space. In this beachfront house, a wall of sliding doors opens directly to the sand, lending the illusion of ample room.

Modular and Folding Furniture

Furnishings that can be collapsed or tucked away when they're not in use give a small home the flexibility it needs. The drop leaf on this table, which sits snug with the wall so as not to waste floor area, folds up or down depending on the homeowners' needs.

Efficient Storage

When square footage shrinks, it's time to get creative, as those who live in scaled-down houses know all too well. Every inch is an opportunity — for example, shallow drawers tucked into these cabinet toe kicks might hold dish towels and sponges, table linens, utensils and more.

Petite Appliances

Full-size ranges, double-bowl sinks and side-by-side refrigerators simply won't fit. In their place: mini versions that don't hog space, such as this two-burner stove stacked on top of an oven (with storage tucked behind, to boot).

Slimmed-Down Structural Elements

In a tiny house, there's no room for a sweeping staircase, broad beams or heavy railings. Instead, homeowners rely on the bare minimum. For example, this narrow staircase tucked against the wall provides access to the sleeping loft without swallowing excess space.


Maximizing vertical space in a tiny home is crucial. Enter the loft, which often is used as a sleeping area — some have built-in beds that fold up during the day to make room for an office or play area, and others hold inflatable mattresses or futons.

Reflective Surfaces

Mirrors, aluminum, stainless steel and other shiny elements help to bounce light around, which makes a tiny home feel bigger. Diamond-plate walls amplify the light streaming in from the window in this compact shower, preventing it from feeling cramped (even if it means giving up a bit of privacy).

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