Discover what defines a tiny house and if you should consider one for yourself
New American homes increase in size on average each year according to census data from the last 100 years. That may qualify once modest-sized houses as tiny in relative terms, making the definition of a little house subjective. To place perspective on this question, consider that 1,000 square feet can accommodate two average-sized bedrooms, two small bathrooms and a modest kitchen and living area. A tiny house is anything under 500 sq ft according to the tiny house movement. At that threshold, it becomes difficult to meet minimum spatial building code requirements in the United States. If the house is on wheels, which is a tiny house trend, it loses the definition of a house and becomes closer to a recreational vehicle. Regulation of these wheeled dwellings fall under different rules and considered as temporary housing.
Affection for tiny houses may relate to several recent cultural circumstances. Negative associations with bloated and poorly designed large new houses; referred to as McMansions, align the ideology for efficient small-scale dwellings. The Great Recession, instigated by the collapse of ill-conceived and complicated mortgages wrapped in confusing banking securities, threw millions of people into foreclosure and lowered homeownership across the country, resulting in an increased need for more affordable housing for those displaced. As well, the success of publications on smaller houses mushroomed over that last two decades, and recent television programs about tiny houses draw tens of thousands of viewers. These trends provide an enthusiastic audience for tiny and small houses, even though the average home size continues to increase. Since WWII, the average new home size went from about 1,200 square feet to nearly 2,600 square feet in 2015. The increases may indicate that those who can afford to build larger houses will construct much more space than ever before. Add the statistic that we have fewer people per household than in the past, and we now live in much more space per person.
Should you consider a tiny or small house for yourself, become aware of the distinctions between legally defined houses and portable dwellings and how regulations affect the classifications. Zoning ordinances, enforced by local Planning Departments, restrict the shape and size of buildings and also mandate minimum square footages in many places. Building codes affect this circumstance too. As an example, current regulations require bedrooms to be at least 7 feet wide by 10 feet long, which makes them about 80 sq ft including walls. They also need permanent foundations, not wheels, for residential building classification. Tiny houses usually will not meet these requirements. Wheeled dwellings or recreational vehicles meant for temporary or transitory housing are not governed by standard building codes and, therefore, not classified as houses. Local regulations stipulate whether or not a wheeled dwelling may be used as permanent housing, though mobile home parks provide a place for some types of these homes.
Take into account how much space you realistically need. If you are considering a tiny house, you may want to rent a recreational vehicle for a month to find out if residing in one feels right. For small houses around 1,000 square feet, assess whether or not your lifestyle fits this type of space. Small living rooms around 12 feet by 12 feet, about 160 sq ft including walls, provide minimum space for a small-scale sofa, a couple of chairs, a television and a pair of occasional tables. You can fit a 48-inch round dining table with four chairs in an 8-foot by 8-foot room, but that is tight. As mentioned, a 1,000 square foot house allows two bedrooms at most unless they are the minimum 7 feet by 10 feet, which is about the size of a large walk-in closet. To comfortably place a full-size bed, a dresser, and a nightstand in a bedroom, allow 10 feet by 10 feet at a minimum. Small bathrooms measure 5 feet wide and 8 feet long, which accounts for at least another 50 square feet including the walls. Then, there is storage. As Americans, we tend to accumulate lots of stuff, and you must consider this carefully. Minimalist living suits those who sort out possessions to bare necessity. At the minimum, you need five linear feet per person for a clothes closet. Linen storage, kitchen storage, supply storage and mechanical systems need at least another 100 square feet. Combine these measurements to arrive at your minimum square footage.
Consider your lifestyle. Since tiny homes minimize your domestic existence, single people cope more easily than families. Human nature demands privacy, so a two-person household needs space for each to be separate from the other. Entertaining requires space for furniture and accessories, and having overnight guests requires even more. Your future may bring more people into your life, so you want to be prepared for that also. Compare if you will tire more quickly of less space or less stuff, and then assess if living small fits your personality.
Whether the vagabond lifestyle attracts you or you desire economy and minimalist accommodations, tiny houses and small homes challenge design ingenuity and creativity. The exercise of examining your spatial requirements helps you consider important lifestyle concerns. The tiny house movement maintains a fraction of the housing market, but the attraction indicates interesting cultural trends that contradict the continuing rise in the average new home square footage. You may want to give the question of space the lotto fantasy. If you could have anything that you want, would you become a minimalist and build a small, efficient house or go for the mansion on the top of the hill?