Who said that bigger is better? For some years now we have seen the expansion of the phenomenon of tiny houses. If we had to sum up the tiny trend in a few words, we could say that it is a matter of rethinking spaces for a simpler life. And that doesn’t mean giving up luxury at all.

The history of small houses is considerably long. So long that, according to its founders, its first examples date back to human settlements in caves. Speaking of more recent history, however, one of the very first to write about the beauty of living well with little was Henry David Thoreau. In 1845, in fact, his book Walden was published, in which he described his experience of living more than two years in a 14-square-metre cabin next to a pond in Concord, Massachusetts.

One of the book’s most famous quotes is: “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” A phrase that sums up Thoreau’s philosophy of life: it doesn’t matter how much you own, but rather how much you can be satisfied with. Despite Thoreau’s influence, it was only more than a century later that a significant social change took place.

In the 1970s and 1980s several books began to proliferate describing life inside and the design of small houses, but there was still no talk of a real movement. A turning point came in 1998, when the book The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Live by British architect Sarah Susanka was published. In short, Susanka asked to think about quality rather than quantity, maximizing, in a design sense, smaller spaces instead of buying bigger houses.

Jay Shafer was responsible for the creation of the tiny houses on wheels. He built his first small house of 10 square meters in 1999, where he lived for 5 years. The house began to enjoy a certain reputation thanks to the publication of an article introducing the tiny house lifestyle in the American newspaper Des Moines Register.

A tour inside the Tiny House by Jay Shafer

At the beginning of the new millennium, Shafer established himself as one of the first designers and makers of mini-houses, becoming part of the Small House Movement. Nothing in America happens without first passing through the big screen and Shafer’s baptism came in 2007, when he was invited to the Oprah Winfrey show. It was a golden opportunity for him to show the interior of his famous little house and give the movement more momentum.

Starting in the 1970s, but especially in the 1990s, Tiny Homes fans wrote books and blogs to popularize their new lifestyle and also founded design and construction companies. Despite their efforts, the event that definitively consecrated these small homes to the world was the real estate crisis that began in the United States in 2006 and ended, with a negative global impact, in 2009. In this way, what until a few years before was seen as an original choice, became an alternative, sometimes necessary, to traditionally built housing models.

Often experimental, but always extremely functional and designed for the well-being of its inhabitants, today’s tiny houses represent a modern lifestyle choice that reflects sensitivity to nature and attention to the issues of green building – a term that means building by drastically reducing the impact on the environment and using sustainable materials by reducing the consumption of non-renewable energy.

Often wood is the protagonist of these micro houses and not only in mountain areas. This material remains the most widespread for its ease of installation and processing, plus it is easy to transport and guarantees optimal resistance characteristics.
Another main actor is design, intended as a project capable of combining aesthetics, ethics and performance. In this sense it is the ability of those who design these small houses to combine comfort and functionality in every single centimetre available.

If designing the layout of a mini-home is simple, since, most of the time, it is enough to follow the contour of its trailer, what makes it complicated is to preserve the space without having to give up comfort and aesthetics.

In the coming weeks we will take you to the smallest houses in the world to discover stories, trends and designers that are changing the way of living and conceiving the house.