Bailiwick Interior Design


Tiny Homes – Why We Love Them

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been infatuated with personal living spaces – the home environment. Whether it was my room as a child or our house as a whole – I’ve always been aware of the space I live in.

My mother is amazed how I can give her an exact layout of my childhood home in Queens, NY; I can picture the floor plan exactly. And even though I was only four years old when my father renovated the attic of our Cape Cod into two bedrooms for my siblings and me, I remember all the details vividly. We moved from that house before I turned five, but the transformation of that space into something functional, rather than just a scary storage place, left a lasting impression on me.

This early awareness of space and the ability to envision change is obviously a huge factor in my career as an interior designer. But I think the love of the old adage “a place for everything, and everything in its place” resonates in all of us. We all have the innate desire for order, it’s just that some people carry that into our homes and workplaces while others are so overwhelmed with the magnitude of material things that the need for order falls to the wayside.

I am always looking for ways to work through the clutter for my clients, as well. Through the years I have found that our society’s housing habits are cyclical. We have gone from small houses to McMansions and back again. And the locations of our homes have gone from urban living to suburbia, then back to city living a as preference for many – including myself. 

It’s these factors and more that lead us to the love of the new “Tiny Home" craze that is sweeping the nation and the HGTV channel. We are fascinated with the desire for order and simplicity while we subconsciously revert back to the safety and comfort of our “Mother’s womb” - small spaces that make us feel secure. How society chooses to live seems to change with the tides.

The Tiny Home Movement consists of people choosing to downsize the space they live in. An average American home is 2,400 square feet where a tiny home is around 100-400 square feet. This movement allows people to live a more efficient and simpler life. A few of the biggest reasons we see people joining this movement are environmental concerns, and allowing people to have more freedom by not being financially strapped living beyond their means. 

Personally it's the creativity involved in designing things that have multiple functions that appeals to me most. The framed chalkboard that folds down into a dining table, the stairs to the lofted bed that are actually storage drawers -  the list of multi-functional pieces that make a Tiny Home livable are endless! 

Another aspect that is a basis for many Tiny Home love-affairs is the connection to our childhood and whimsy. Just like those forts we made out of sheets and pillows as a kid, or our infatuation with tree houses (I told my parents I wanted to go on a cruise and get shipwrecked so I could live like the Swiss Family Robinsons), these tiny spaces lure us back to simpler times when we had time to let our minds wander and imagine!

No one demonstrates this better than Able Zimmerman Zyl, a Tiny Home builder, whose Computer Numeric Control (CNC) woodworking machine creates amazing curved tiny structures that emulate the Hobbit Holes of fairytales. Homes with no corners may appeal to the whimsy in us all, (and be much easier to keep clean) but I for one, love to stand up tall inside my house, too.

For many the mobility of a Tiny Home is what appeals most. As a child, I remember my infatuation with the idea of living in a mobile home. The freedom of living in something you can pack up and hit the road whenever the wind changes direction is certainly romantic. There are many beautiful destinations in our country that most people only dream of seeing, and the fact that many people now work from home and the internet is readily available in most places make this dream a reality. But the ability to move something that large is mainly contingent on the weight of the load and the size of the vehicle doing the towing. This load limit not only affects the amount of belongs you can cram into your Tiny House but also the materials you want to use in your design.

The concept of "off-grid" living is what appeals most to environmentally conscious Tiny Homeowners. Modern technology - and a few solar panels - certainly help make this possible. However I think it's the availability of so many miniature versions of everything from wood burning stoves to combination washer/dryers that makes this feasible and satisfies our need for modern conveniences, as well. 

Finally, one of the main factors in the success of the Tiny Home craze is the ability for anyone with a little skill and/or the strong support of family and friends to build their own Tiny Home on a shoestring budget. (This also includes the availability You-Tube instructional videos!) Converted School buses top the list of re-purposed vehicles that have been creatively converted into unique miniature homes on wheels. 

Which leads me to one aspect of Tiny Home which may very well be the best argument for many people – there are NO rules! Just like any other anomaly out there, when something new arrives on the market there are no standards or regulations yet in place. As an educated interior design professional, I like the rules and regulations of standard home building codes that ensure our safety. But others may not like the idea of being told how and where they can construct their homes. And even though Tiny Homes make sense in many ways and unusual situations, sooner or later Uncle Sam and state and local officials may catch up to you as it has for one homeless pastor in NJ. A documentary on this crucial topic will be released in August; - but other states like Oregon have already implemented Tiny Home concepts into housing their homeless.
So why don't we all live in these Tiny Homes? Privacy and the need for a full-size bathroom would top my list. But for the majority of Americans, our love of “stuff” leads to the cold hard reality that although these Tiny Homes appeal to our inner beings - it's just not gonna happen! (Not to mention the average American woman owns 19 pairs of shoes!) But for some adventurous souls, a few months and some big ideas could make their Tiny House dreams a reality.

Carrie OesmannComment