The Tiny House Movement

the-tiny-house-movementThe tiny house movement is holding steady. Birthed amidst a trifecta of events – tiny houses were inspired by the market crash of 2008, the uprising of new college grads that refuse to take on large mortgage debt when already up to their ears in school loans, and parallel conservation trends that look for ways to live large with less.

Want to work less and play more? Want to sacrifice some material goods in an effort to live sustainably? Interested in having a comfortable place to live while you slowly build a mortgage-free home? The tiny house movement makes all this possible.

Tiny House vs Big House – Fun Facts and Comparisons

Before we start fantasizing about HGTV-worthy tiny houses – and boy are they cute – let’s look at a few interesting facts.

According to

  • The cost of owning an average, single-family home (2100 sq ft) over 30-years is roughly $1,073,000 (that includes purchase price, loan interest, repairs, and maintenance, etc.
  • The cost of owning a tiny house for 30-years – assuming you buy a piece of land to put it on – can run about half the cost of a conventional home, but over the course of 30-years, you save hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes, HO insurance, utilities, and repairs.
  • 68% of tiny house homeowners are mortgage-free, compared with only 29.3% of all homeowners.
  • 89% of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American, and 65% of them are living debt free.

As you would assume from the name and the concept, those who get on board the tiny house train are innately drawn to getting more for less out of life – and keeping themselves detached from the American credit/debt consumption cycle.

Tiny Home Living Requires a Different Way of Being

Now, all that financial benefit is fantastic, but it comes at a price. For most of us, that is a complete restructuring of how we live our lives. The average tiny home is about 189-square feet, while the average American home is 2100 square feet. There are examples of families living in tiny homes, but realistically this way of life works best for singletons and couples. A moderate climate is also a good thing to aim for so substantial outdoor deck space can compensate for the lack of indoor square footage.

And, perhaps, what it really means is that we have to go back to how we lived before. When you consider that most people on the planet live in significantly less than 2100 square feet, perhaps the tiny house movement isn’t the movement at all – it’s the way things have mostly been; it is actually the “big house” movement that began sweeping the world by storm – specifically during the post-war era.

Even so, going from big to small requires a different way of planning, thinking and being. Here are things to consider if you’re thinking about building or buying a tiny house:

Does your city or town allow tiny houses?

If you want to build a tiny house as a guest space, office or studio, you may be able to fudge it without permits. However, if you plan to live in one, you want to make sure they are legal – or can be permitted – where you live. Otherwise, you can run into trouble with the building department.

Do you have a way to transport it legally?

While they do fall under recreational motor vehicles (the same way a motorhome or RV does) they aren’t designed to move around on a regular basis. And, after construction, yours may be slightly wider than the legal DMV width limit. Make sure you’ve dotted your “i”s and crossed your “t”s with the DMV before you haul yours on a major roadway.

Choose the smartest interior design you can find

Living in a tiny home is like living in a ship; there’s a place for everything, everything in its place, and it has to be very efficiently designed or you’ll have wasted precious inches that could have been more thoughtfully put to use. Spend a lot of time looking at various tiny house designs, like the ones here on, to find a plan that makes the most efficient use of space in a way that’s best for you.

I’m fascinated by the tiny house life – and I love the idea of owning one as a means of having a smaller primary home with additional space that is only consuming heating/cooling and other resources when in use. As for a primary living space – it’s not the answer for our household. It’s sure fun to fantasize, though.

Planning on building a tiny house? Why not schedule a design consultation with me here at Kristina Wolf Design. I’d love to help you use colors and accents that make the most of your small living space.

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Kristina Wolf Design, Inc., Interior Decorators & Designers, Berkeley, CA