Thursday, January 17, 2013

Review: Tiny Homes by Lloyd Kahn

These days, homeowners, designers, architects (no less), road gypsies, water dwellers, dreamers, people of all ages, all over the world are making do creatively with under-500 sq. ft. shelters. This is a real and powerful alternative to high rents, or a lifelong obligation to a bank on an overpriced home.

The heart of our 1973 book Shelter was on small buildings, which we recommended as a starting point in providing one's own living space. Now, almost 40 years later, there's a significant tiny house movement all over the world -which we've been tracking over the past year.

John Field sold his 2800 sq. ft. house in upstate New York and built a 128 ft. cabin in the high Texas desert. The "Lady on the Road" (who wishes to remain anonymous), has been living full-time in a highly decorated bus since she was 51 (she's now 72). A couple in British Columbia have a houseboat with adjacent floating garden. A rustic cabin has been built on a remote beach in Mendocino, inspired by our book Shelter, and reachable only by boat. A lot of small houses have been built on trailers, so they can be moved around and don't necessarily require land ownership.
More and more people are living in buses, trucks, houseboats, and other movable shelters. There are a large number of prefabs and kits now available. There are innovative solutions in cities, such as the "capsules" in Tokyo. There are numerous websites with news, photos, and/or plans for tiny houses.

Received for review.

I have loved the idea of a tiny home since I read The Wind in the Willows as a little girl. The idea seemed so warm and cozy. That's not to say that I grew up in mausoleum – I just liked the idea that a space a little larger than my bedroom could be at home. My parents actually built me a small playhouse in our backyard and I would spend hours in it (reading, of course).

However they were always two things that are essential to a home – a bathroom and a kitchen. While I liked the idea of many of these homes most were simply too small to be practical. Most had composting toilets (if any) And rudimentary cooking areas parentheses at best parentheses. I mean, there's crunchy granola and then there's Crunchy Granola! As a New Englander I simply cannot envision a lifetime spent trekking through snow to an outhouse or not being able to bake a batch of cookies for want of an oven.

So, yes, this was a fascinating intellectual exercise, but unless you enjoy camping 365 days a year in a moderate climate, 99.9% of these homes are not for you.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It


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