Call them survivalist, eco-friendly, or just plain space-efficient—these tiny homes make the most of a modest footprint in ingenious ways.
NOA Cabin concept in Virumaa, Estonia
A rhombic dodecahedron may not sound cozy, but the Estonian designer-inventor Jaanus Orgusaar makes this shape the basis of his intriguing housing concept. Inspired by iterations of the form found in nature—including garnet, honeybee hives, and diamonds—the 270-square-foot modules can be used singly, or linked together to form a larger structure. Orgusaar built the structure a few years ago, in a clearing near a pine and fir forest in the Virumaa region of Estonia, as a summer home for his family.
Jaanus Orgusaar's NOA cabin in the Virumaa region of northeast Estonia. The structure rests on three feet, so it doesn't require a foundation.
Inside, the structure's obtuse angles give it a rounded interior that's capacious and positively inviting despite its dimunuitive size; wide, circular windows provide a view to the outdoors. The cabin also rests on three feet, so it doesn't require a foundation, and is made from sustainable materials by the Woodland Homes construction company.
The interior of Jaanus Orgusaar's NOA cabin in the Virumaa region of Estonia. The wide windows provide a great view of the surroundings.
Stonorov Residence in Oakland, California
In Oakland, California, two designers transformed a 100-year-old, 400-square-foot barn into a (very) cozy home of their own by redefining the functionality of walls and windowsills. Outside, the couple clad the house with a rain screen of 1.5-by-1.5-inch strips of spruce to create a “modern rustic barn.” The extra-deep sills of the first-floor window also double as a bench or shelf.
Outside, the couple clad the house with a rain screen of 1.5-by-1.5-inch strips of spruce to create a “modern rustic barn.” The extra-deep sills of the first-floor window become a bench on the outside and a shelf on the inside.
In the main living area, a simple, compact kitchen island—purchased from online restaurant supplier Serv-U—is essential in freeing up some much-needed counter space. The bottom shelf creates additional storage and the outlets mounted underneath allow it to become a coffee and toast center. Because it’s made of stainless steel, the family can put a hot pan right on the surface without worrying about trivets—–which are hard to keep handy in such a small place.
Even in the Stonorovs’ tiny first-floor room, the curse of the kitchen as the inevitable gathering place lives on—–though the two-foot space between the sink and metal island is less than ideal for the family of three and their blue heeler, Oscar.
Cabin Loft in Hollywood Hills, California
Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser has all he needs in his compact, 580-square-foot Hollywood abode. Renovated by designer and builder Funn Roberts in 2010, its wooden front door was replaced by steel-and-glass panels, setting the tone for the home in what Kartheiser calls a “Japanese-industrial” style.
“I believe that whenever you’re hiring an artist, and Funn is an artist, he’s going to do his best work if he’s trusted,” says Kartheiser.
Roberts also worked with Kartheiser to introduce several space-saving features, including a bed that hangs from the ceiling and can be hoisted up and pulled down as needed. When not in use as the headboard, the large redwood slab folds down to become a desk.
When not in use as the headboard, the large redwood slab folds down to become a desk.
Miller Residence in Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho–based architectural designer Macy Miller repurposed a mobile home to build her own 196-square-foot abode, which she shares with her partner, James Herndon, their newborn, Hazel, and the family’s Great Dane, Denver. The exterior cladding, which Miller stained for a uniform effect, is a mix of nearly a dozen types of wood plank, including poplar, oak, and fir.
Boise, Idaho–based architectural designer Macy Miller built her own 196-square-foot home, which she shares with her partner, James Herndon, their newborn, Hazel, and the family’s Great Dane, Denver. The exterior cladding, which Miller stained for a uniform effect, is a mix of nearly a dozen types of wood plank, including poplar, oak, and fir.
"Ultimately, it’s about exploring how you live, what you need, and what’s comfortable," says Miller. An enthusiastic cook, Miller says she can easily work in the galley-style kitchen, which optimizes the home's long, narrow structure. The reclaimed-wood surround echoes the exterior cladding.
An enthusiastic cook, Miller says she can easily work in the galley-style kitchen. The reclaimed-wood surround echoes the exterior cladding.
The Watershed in Wren, Oregon
The Watershed is an off-the-grid writer’s retreat that architect Erin Moore designed for her mother, nature writer Kathleen Dean Moore. A short hike from the street, the 70-square-foot structure is accessible only by foot. Constructed using a prefabricated steel frame, the materials—a tongue-and-groove red cedar enclosure, glass, and concrete—were carried out to the site by hand, while the frame came out in the bucket of a front loader.
Erin Moore of FLOAT Architectural Research and Design, based in Tucson, Arizona, designed a 70-square-foot writer’s retreat in Wren, Oregon, for her mother, Kathleen Dean Moore, a nature writer and professor of philosophy at nearby Oregon State University. The elder Moore wanted a small studio in which to work and observe the delicate wetland ecosystem on the banks of the Marys River. Enlisting her daughter’s design expertise, her professor husband’s carpentry savoir faire, the aid of friends, and a front loader, Kathleen and her crew erected the structure in September 2007. Photo by Gary Tarleton. Totally off the grid—–Kathleen forgoes the computer and writes by hand when there—–the Watershed was designed to tread as lightly on the fragile ecosystem as the wild turkeys and Western pond turtles that live nearby. “
When she visits the Watershed, Kathleen's writing accoutrements are limited to paper and pencil. Choosing to go totally off the grid, she forgoes the computer in favor of taking in the site's beautiful surroundings.
When she visits the Watershed, Kathleen's writing accoutrements are limited to paper and pencil.