Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Small-Space Manifesto

Image via Refinery29

I think people are getting sick of small-space stuff. After ages of worshipping at the feet expansive mansions (and McMansions), small homes are finally getting their due from the design world. They’re showing up in mainstream design blogs, getting their own magazine issues, their own TV shows, and their own movements.

But there’s been a backlash a-brewing. Mostly, small space homes are being maligned as twee, hipster, and self-congratulatory. Maybe you’ve rolled your eyes at someone bragging about all their worldly possessions fitting inside a suitcase (guilty), marveled at the lack of self-awareness of small space dwellers who pat themselves on the back for somehow managing to do what people have done for decades, or just plain poked fun at the trend through parody. And along with the cultural equivalent of a side-eye, the trend of tiny homes is facing some real growing pains. Cities debate whether they should be even be built (note: San Francisco did approve the micro-apartment plans), and even if you’re building it yourself, there’s the issue of where your home is going to go.

I get being over it. I also understand the logistical problems. But the fact is, there’s no turning back. Small homes are not only here to stay, but they’re going to continue to take over.

The reasons tiny homes are gaining dominance are plentiful. First up is the economic: young people first striking out on their own are able to afford less. Whether it’s because of a bad job market or burdensome student loans, the new generation of young adults has less money in their bank accounts. The idea of owning a home before you’re 30 — even 40 — is a joke in most parts of the country. (Thankfully — I guess? — the ages of getting married and becoming a parent are rising, so you probably don’t need all that much space before you’re 40 anyway.)

There’s also the lack of housing, and space on which to build new housing, in desirable urban areas. I live in the Bay Area, trust me on this one. When a region becomes popular because of available jobs, or just because it’s awesome, more people want to live there than there is space to live. Apartments that become available don’t stay available for very long. I’ve seen firsthand 30 people show up to an open house for a one-bedroom in Oakland; everyone ready to turn in a check and a pre-filled application. This is only exacerbated by cities’ reluctance to authorize new construction — unless it’s luxury condos, go figure. Politicians worry about the unpopularity of the construction itself, the increased traffic, the heavier demand on public resources. Citizen NIMBYs, who already got their piece of the pie, worry about their neighborhoods becoming too crowded if more housing is built. They don’t want things to change. So no new homes are built, the ones that exist skyrocket in price, and again a renter’s dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did.

Environmental concerns also influence the decision to choose a smaller home. California is in a historic drought, so the idea of a big house with an expansive lawn is ludicrous to anyone aware of the situation. People are also more aware of where their energy comes from, and prefer not to suck up more than they need. (Also helps keep that power bill low!) Even when it comes to the building materials themselves, there is increased interest in recycled and sustainable structures. Basically, more people want to use less — of everything.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. One of the biggest reasons tiny homes are more popular than ever is because… they’re awesome! Not having too-big houses with too-big bills leaves small-home residents free. They can do more with what they’ve got, and truly tailor their tiny home to their tastes. And because of the increased attention from, oh, I don’t know, blogs about small homes and stuff, more people realize that living in a small space isn’t impossible. They swap ideas on Pinterest and share articles on Facebook and Twitter, learning how very realistic even the tiniest of homes can be. A peaceful sanctuary in the space the size of a closet is totally doable. Not even just doable: actually pretty fun. And exciting! Once you’ve faced and overcome the challenges of a small home, cavernous houses actually seem pretty boring.

So thanks for letting me get all verbose on ya. When I started this blog in 2010 (Jesus Christ), finding small space solutions to share with you wasn’t easy. It was slim pickin’s out there in the design sphere. Now, I’ve got more articles bookmarked than I can ever read, and more pins on my boards than I could ever properly write about. I’ll try and keep up here on this blog (when I have some time uninterrupted by Real Life), but I’m happy to say that living in a tiny-ass apartment is something more people are excited about.


  1. Obviously very soon all over populated areas need to adopt such policies of small space manifestos due to the less availability of space. I can see the future room space in the pictorial representation given above.

  2. No way! Not me anyway. I live in a smaller house (900 upstairs, 400 downstairs)..ok comparatively speaking that's freaking palatial...but the rooms are not ideally sized, and in some cases have idiotic doorways and arrangement. So I ADORE small space blogs, small space design ideas. It gives me ideas on how the hell I can arrange and store things.

    (PS I am so glad you're back to posting. I fell off the planet but whatever.)

  3. It's nice to see some interesting set ups with furniture such as this! A very interesting layout choice!

  4. I love small spaces, but as I get older I find I need a little space to walk around beds to make them. At some point you need space to get around when you can't bend over or reach up any longer.


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