Tiny Houses May Not Be the Future of Housing but They Can Be a Gateway Drug to Simpler Life

The first time I came across the Tiny House Movement on an architecture blog about 15 years ago, I was equally charmed and turned off. The blog post said that a new wave of minimalists is encouraged to live a modest lifestyle while conserving resources, in what is pretty much everyone’s childhood dream: An adorable playhouse with a loft bed. Can living in a toy version of a “real” house – I wondered – really be a long-term lifestyle choice of a grown-up? How comfortably does one live on 400 square feet without a washing machine and bathtub and just enough storage space to stow away a carry-on suitcase worth of stuff?

Ironically, that was precisely how I was living in Manhattan at that time – I just never questioned it. Just like everyone else there, who is not a multi-millionaire, I lived in a shoebox. My bedroom door opened only one-third of the way because I had the crazy idea of putting a bed in there. The steady stream of overnight guests camped out on the living room floor. (Nobody feels like spending several hundred dollars a night on a hotel room when they have a friend with an apartment, who can’t say no.) In the mornings, I had to climb over sleeping bodies to get out of the door. A friend of mine slept in her shared apartment’s entryway; her bed was shielded off by a curtain. We never questioned any of it, because that’s Manhattan. And any other densely populated city in the world for that matter.

Humans have always been able to adapt quickly to their environment. Maybe that explains why going small has become so huge. The once so radical seeming shift to a simpler life, to getting rid of stuff, lowering one’s square footage, and carbon footprint is seeping into the mainstream. Anyone who has KonMari‘ed their apartment knows how much joy it sparks to live with less. Unfortunately, those adorable Tiny Houses that have become the most striking symbol of the downsizing movement are not the future of housing, according to journalist Arielle Milkman

Reasons for the shortage of affordable housing are not the building costs but the rising property prices. The last thing anyone will build on a million-dollar parking spot in Hong Kong is a Tiny House when 30 cost-efficient micro-apartments can be stacked on top of each other.

High land prices and zoning laws are the reason why we see tiny houses more often in coffee table books and on Instagram than in real life.  

Tiny Houses may not be the solution to our future housing problems. Still, they can be a gateway drug to a modest lifestyle, and an increasing number of people are willing to try them – if only for a vacation. Small accommodations are seeing a spike in popularity among travelers.

In 2019 Airbnb registered a 125 % increase in Tiny House bookings.

No wonder, many Tiny Houses feature sleek designs to maximize even the smallest of spaces. And because of their small size, they are often situated in gorgeous natural settings where “actual” houses can’t be built. We highly recommend stepping into that coffee table book childhood dream of sleeping in a treehouse, a loft bed, or a teepee!

Here is a selection of Tiny House rentals that we would love to try on our next vacation: