Deciding to live in a tiny house involves making some big lifestyle choices. You'll need to be happy with minimal belongings (hoarders need not apply) and have maximum tolerance for intimacy if others will be sharing the space. And you'll need to check your local laws to make sure you abide by building codes.
But cozy quarters also offer huge advantages. Tiny houses are far more affordable than standard-size houses. Most tiny-home owners live mortgage-free. The lower building costs allow many people to pay cash up front, but mortgages are tougher to get for these homes because the homes are unique and hard to compare with other properties. Plus, they would require smaller loans, which banks are less inclined to give right now. Monthly costs -- such as for heating, cooling and lighting -- are relatively low. And your environmental footprint will be equivalent to a toddler’s flip-flop.
Browse through these ten houses under 500 square feet, and see how some people fit their lives into these small spaces. You might even find one to be the right size for you.
Owners: Charles “Dale” Campbell and Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell
Area: 480 square feet
Location: Yellville, Ark.
Cost to build: $47,000
Kerri and Dale did not intend to live in their tiny house full time. At first, they used it as a vacation home, and they planned to make it a guest house after retirement once they built a 1,000-square-foot main home on their ten acres. But when the economy and their investments went south, their plans changed.
They have found it was all for the best. “The smallish space and moving to this area really fit in with our lifestyle,” says Kerri. She and her husband consider themselves outdoor types, who enjoy boating, fishing and hiking. So the little house, situated in the Ozark Mountains on Bull Shoals Lake, suits them well, with its front covered porch and large back deck allowing them to enjoy nature at home.
Inside, the house is fully equipped with a refrigerator, stove, double sink and garbage disposal in the kitchen, as well as a washer and dryer, and a full bathroom. In the summer, the couple stays cool with a small window air conditioning unit. And in the winter, the whole house is heated by their wood stove. Kerri estimates that they save $50 a month in the summer and $100 a month in the winter on electric bills. For extra work space, they built a separate 320-square-foot office for Kerri, who is a freelance journalist, and a 600-square-foot metal garage or “man cave” for Dale, who is a mechanic. (See Living Well in a Little House for more from Kerri and their tiny home.)
Designer: Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.
Studio/1BA: 261 square feet
1BR/1BA: 356 square feet
Estimated cost to build yourself: $22,500 for the 261-square-foot plan; $29,500 for the 356-square-foot plan
Construction plans: $695
The smaller plan for the 261-square-foot Bodega offers a full bath, kitchen and fireplace, while the less-small, 356-square-foot option includes a bedroom in addition to the loft. In both versions, the kitchen has a dishwasher, full-size range with oven, and built in microwave. The smaller version also has a washer-dryer combo; in the larger plan, you’ll have a closet for a stackable washer and dryer. The tankless water heater provides plenty of hot water.
Owners: Ann Holley and Darren Macca
Area: 125 square feet
Location: Longmont, Colo.
Cost to build: $25,000
In the summer of 2009, Ann, a sculptor, and her fiancé, Darren, an industrial designer, designed and built their ProtoHaus with the help of friends and family (Ann’s family includes contractors and carpenters) in Boulder, Colo. The house was built on a trailer bed and made mainly from recycled materials. It is powered by solar panels and propane, making it “off the grid.” The bathroom includes a small shower and a composting toilet. The kitchen has a propane refrigerator, stove, oven and double sink. The loft bedroom fits a queen-size mattress.
The couple drove their house to upstate New York for the 2009-10 school year. They had special permission to live on the campus of Alfred University, where Ann was getting a master’s degree in fine arts. The ProtoHaus was a part of her graduate work, which she hoped would promote sustainability in modern housing. Once she finished her program, the couple drove the house back to Colorado, where they currently reside.