Thursday, January 5, 2012

Future Trend: Tiny Houses

Future trend: Tiny houses

In my posts on how Japan is an early reflection of our future, I quoted an article that talked about Japan’s trend of tiny houses for a downwardly-mobile populace that is afraid of taking on large debt:
The downsizing of Japan’s ambitions can be seen on the streets of Tokyo, where concrete “microhouses” have become popular among younger Japanese who cannot afford even the famously cramped housing of their parents, or lack the job security to take out a traditional multidecade loan.

These matchbox-size homes stand on plots of land barely large enough to park a sport utility vehicle, yet have three stories of closet-size bedrooms, suitcase-size closets and a tiny kitchen that properly belongs on a submarine.

“This is how to own a house even when you are uneasy about the future,” said Kimiyo Kondo, general manager at Zaus, a Tokyo-based company that builds microhouses.
Now that basically describes the whole of the developed world, will we see residences shrinking in size in the rest of the world too? The answer appears to be a tentative yes:
Tiny Homes Provide Economic Relief (BBC)

And in Vancouver, Canada: ‘Micro-lofts’ are luxury shantytowns for hipsters (Grist)

Living with Less: 229 square foot lofts have everything you need to live

Vancouver has come up with a unique solution to the outrageous cost of housing in the city: Murphy everything. A local construction company is building a block of tiny apartments, each the size of a one-car garage, and making them livable by turning their walls into the domestic equivalents of pop-up books.

The "micro-lofts" are located in the century-old Burns Block building in Vancouver's Gastown neighborhood, and they can be had for $850 a month, a price I would have killed for when I was living in one of the many neighborhoods in New York that included the word "murder" or "die" in their informal nicknames and/or slogans.

Livability can be squeezed into such a tiny space by re-purposing it for all the functions of life. Everything in the apartment can be tucked away and taken out only when it's needed. It's the urban equivalent of a Tiny Home.

And another facet of this same trend is highly-portable, multi-use ‘transformer furniture’. See these posts:

And this:

And this:

The way we’re living in the future is changing – out with the big house, because no one will be able to afford it anymore, in with tiny, transformable lofts and multi-generational households. This is how we live in times of scarcity. As a personal note, I’ve lived in small upper flats for most of my adult life (<1500 s.f.). I have no need for massive amounts of space to store junk I don’t need and can’t afford; and who wants to pay for heating and cooling all that extra space anyway? These types of living arrangements are cheap and easy to find, especially in older eastern cities. I guess I'm a trendsetter.


  1. I've been consumed by this subject for a long time. When they ripped out all the trees on the hill above us and built McMansions, one phrase summed it up: wretched excess. One in particular is three stories with a huge basement, 40 or more windows, a three-car garage -- and two people. At the other end of the spectrum, I have a friend, who, after he became a widower, got rid of everything and now has twice as much room in his 900-square-foot home as he needs. Guess which one has a better handle on the future.

  2. The American desire for status just boggles my mind. I've finally come to the conclusion that it comes a mindset that I'll just never understand. Myself, I love elegance and efficiency, with minimal waste. That's the designer in me. It's also while I'll never be a corporate manager I guess, I don't have that lust for power and status, damn the consequences. The leaders of all our institutions do by definition, which may be why they can't tell which way the wind is blowing.


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