written by:
March 28, 2009

Living small is the new way to live big—whether within a tighter, more creatively written budget or physically in fewer square feet. In her new book Tiny Houses, Loud Paper Magazine founder and frequent Dwell contributor Mimi Zeiger compiled over 30 houses, many of them once featured in Dwell, that range from tree houses to floating houses to those with a sleeping loft squeezed in the space above the kitchen cabinets—and all of which measure under 1,000 square feet.

Tiny Houses Cover

Though they’re tiny, the houses don’t ask you to deny yourself the comforts of home, and in the small book—its own dimensions are just 6.75" by 6.75" (though with a thick 240 pages and 250 photos between its covers)—Zeiger explains how living smaller simply means living smarter, with benefits including better personal and planetary health.

Zeiger will be in the San Francisco Bay Area in early April to talk about Tiny Houses. On April 7, she will give a lecture followed by book signings at Builder’s Booksource in Berkeley. The next day, April 8, Zeiger will be signing copies at Rare Device in downtown San Francisco.

I spoke with Zeiger earlier this week about Tiny Houses and why in the country of more, more, more, we'd be wise to live with less.

How does small living translate to green living?
You become more efficient when you live small because you reduce heating and cooling loads, your carbon impact is much less because your building’s footprint is smaller, and you often use public transportation more frequently because a lot of people who live in small spaces live in urban environments, which have a green component already built into them.

Why else should we consider downsizing our living space?

In addition to the ecological climate, there’s the current economic climate that lends itself to downsizing. Everyone is making reference to the Great Depression and 1930s-type methods of coping such as planting a victory garden, saving plastic bags, buying things in bulk, and eating at home. Reducing your size goes along with that: you pay less in utilities, you don’t need as much furniture, and so on.

What inspired you to compile this book?

I was seeing more and more small houses appear in the media and there started to be a critical mass, enough to collect in a book—even before we had the subprime mortgage crisis or the economic downturn. It’s about bringing them all together and having a bulk of houses to talk about all in one place.

Do you have a favorite in the book?

I have different kinds of favorites. There are a couple houses in cities I like and then some in the country that I really like, too. Others I like because they are really functional but then there are also ones that are highly conceptual and are not necessarily the most inhabitable but really question the way in which we live.

Tiny Houses Slot House

What is your favorite functional house?

The Slot House in Brooklyn by noroof architects. The owners took an old house and renovated it in order to bring in more light and also divided the single house into two units: a 600-square-foot home and a 400-square-foot in-law. They created even more density in an already-dense place. They were really good about maximizing their space: They created a guest-sleeping loft in the space above the kitchen cabinets. It seems like a very strange place to put it but really optimizes the space. (Editor's note: Look for another noroof architects projects that will be featured in Dwell's June 2009 issue.)

What’s your favorite conceptual house?

The M-House, though I think architect Michael Jantzen thinks of it as a functional house. It’s a lot of fun: Not only does it have a solar power pack that clips into it but it looks like something out of Star Wars. It has all these shading devices to let in light and air but also block the sun for cooling.
Tiny Houses M House

Do you live in a small house?

I live in a studio apartment, which is really no surprise because I live in Brooklyn. There’s something nice though about having everything in a compact place. When I need a bigger space to stretch my wings I use common areas. I go up to the park, the farmers’ market, or the local café so not only am I living tiny but I’m living big in the real world.
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment living room vertical oak slats
For the modernists among us, these spare spaces are a dream come true.
February 08, 2016
The square fountain at the courtyard's center is a modern rendition of a very traditional feature in many Middle Eastern homes.
From a large gathering space for family or a tranquil sanctuary, these seven designs feature some very different takes on the ancient idea of a courtyard.
February 08, 2016
stdaluminum 021
Since windows and doors are such important aspects of your home, it’s always a good idea to take the time to evaluate how they fit within the lifestyle you want. Whether you’re in the middle of constructing a new home, or you’re considering replacing your current setup, there are multiple elements to consider when it comes time to make the final decisions. Milgard® Windows & Doors understands how vital these choices are to the well-being of your home and has developed ways to turn the process into a journey that can be just as enjoyable as it is fulfilling. Not sure where to start? We gathered some helpful insights from their team of experts to help us better understand what goes into the process of bringing your vision to life.
February 08, 2016
modern fire resistant green boulder loewen windows south facade triple planed low-e glass
These houses in Broncos Country prove modern design is alive in the Rocky Mountains.
February 08, 2016
french evolution paris daniel rozensztroch living area eames la chaise butterfly chair moroccan berber rug
A tastemaker brings his distinct vision to an industrial loft with a centuries-old pedigree.
February 07, 2016
senses touch products
The haptic impact can’t be underplayed. The tactility of a material—its temperature, its texture­—can make the difference between pleasure and discontent.
February 07, 2016