Friday, May 13, 2016

Tiny Houses are Fun But Not That Useful

I am a fan of tiny houses, and the idea of one for a cabin in the woods is kind of compelling, but they aren't really great ideas for real living.  This article tries to "make a case against" them, but such case is not really well made.

It's true that the tiny house is particularly bad for cities, but there are some cases for which it could be more useful: mother-in-law suites or rental units (zoning issues), park "cabins".  A lot of the actual stated use for these homes, however, could be equally well made for RV's and trailer/mobile homes. So what's the real deal?

I think there is a pretty big snob factor.  RV's and actual inexpensive houses in the country (whether trailer or prefab...or small old row homes, though that last has gotten trendy in the past 15 yrs or so) tend to carry a stigma, partly from their appearance but more from the people who use them, which in the former case tend to be old and the latter case poor.  Younger to middle aged people with middle incomes don't see themselves as part of the RV group or as trailer [trash] either.  Hence: tiny houses, that look a lot like regular houses, just shrunk down.

Really, though, other than bragging rights, there isn't really much benefit to shrinking down below a certain point--say 300 sq.ft. plus 100 sq.ft. per person. In fact a larger house with more people in it is likely to be more efficient than separate smaller houses for individual people, which shouldn't be surprising, as that explains why people get roommates...and why adding family members (having children) becomes cheaper (per child) as the # increases.

Still, they are cute, and it can be fun to envision that tiny house in some expansive setting: the ocean, mountains...but really, if you can afford the land, you can build a better, more efficient home, and if you just want to move it to different places: get an RV...some of those are pretty cute too.

Also, I appreciate the push-back against the gargantuan.  3000+ square foot homes are, frankly, insane, unless you have 7 kids.  Also, most of the really large homes are so full of useless space and awkward layouts, that a 3200 sq. ft. house is functionally equivalent to an efficiently laid out 1500 sq ft house. "Here we have a 150 sq. ft. entryway, where no one will ever hang out, that has vaulted ceilings and impossible to clean nooks, which still needs to be heated and cooled..." Lots of extra volume to heat and cool (and fill with crap, and clean).  I don't get it.  If you're going to have a house that size you should at least have secret passages/hidden rooms.  The amount of dead space and oversized rooms in modern mcmansions is just stupid.

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