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Jay Shafer and one of his mini-housesMy name is Jay Shafer and since 1997 I have been living in a house smaller than some people's closets. I call the first of my little hand-built houses Tumbleweed. My decision to inhabit just 96 square feet arose from some concerns I had about the impact a larger house would have on the environment, and because I do not want to maintain a lot of unused or unusable space. My houses have met all of my domestic needs without demanding much in return. The simple, slower lifestyle my homes have afforded is a luxury for which I am continually grateful.

Since completing Tumbleweed, I have continued to make little buildings. How each house gets used depends on the occupant's particular needs. What one person would enjoy as a quiet studio in their backyard, another couple might choose to inhabit as a full-time residence. What some people see as the perfect weekend hideaway in the country, others will use as a beautiful free-standing addition to their existing home for accommodating an elderly parent, an adult child, guests, or as office space. My houses have been composed with meticulous attention to light, warmth, energy efficiency, and proportion. I have made the most of each cozy interior by minimizing transitional areas like hallways and stairwells and by using otherwise unusable space as storage. The simple, formal designs that have resulted are the best way I have found to order most any space and make it beautiful.

I hope you enjoy viewing these tiny houses as much as I have enjoyed making them.

[See also this recent coverage in the New York Times.]


See original story:  
Related reading:
  "What is the use of a House if you haven't got a ..." (Jul-12-2009)
  Financing Efficiency and Renewable Energy (Apr-3-2009)
  Recycled Houses (Nov-12-2008)
  Digging In For Comfort (Oct-22-2008)
  A Good Life in Trying Times (Sep-25-2008)

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Comment by: City Worker (Sep-13-2008)   
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Sep-13-2008)   Web site

Let's agree that claustrophobes (is that a word?) should have somewhat bigger homes - or share a large home with a group of friends....
Comment by: City Worker (Sep-13-2008)   

I think extremely small houses would be most disturbing to /claustrophobic for people who must remain housebound or limit their time communing with nature due to such things as illnesses or allergies. However, relatively small houses do have several advantages, such as maintenance and energy conservation.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Sep-13-2008)   Web site

Interesting observation - imagine lots of those little houses jammed one against another: not so appealing, is it?

Still, I think there could be significant benefit if one is on a normal plot of land and decides to keep it open except for one of these very small houses. I think this makes the most difference in places where people tend to take wide open spaces (as in California's fire alley) and build giant mansions while clearing additional space around the mansions. This is an alternative, low-impact concept.

And one of the biggest benefits is the low cost of maintenance and the low amount of time needed to perform maintenance. Three cheers for that.
Comment by: City Worker (Sep-13-2008)   

I’m not saying that someone should live in a huge house, or live in several houses which require the expenditure of huge quantities of energy/materials. I am not saying that no one can live happily like Jay is. I am not saying that there are no people who can live perfectly happy and have a clear mind, without feeling claustrophobic, although they live in extremely confined spaces, or are surrounded by tons of people, with barely room to move, etc. But I’ve personally noticed that having more space can also help one keep organized and clear the mind. I do notice that Jay has lots of open space/ land around his house. So, he has decided he needs space, in some form.

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