Wednesdays @ the West: Go tiny & go home

Note: The  Think Big, Go Small: The Tale of a Massachusetts Tiny House program at the West Branch has been rescheduled for Thursday, August 6th at 7pm.

Whether you currently live in a 800 square foot apartment, a 1,400 square foot townhouse or a 2,600 square foot house, would you ever consider downsizing to a home of 84, 116, 210 or even 360 square feet?  A growing number of people are doing just that and in the process becoming part of what’s known as the tiny house movement.

Who exactly would want to live in a tiny house (and the definition of tiny varies, but is usually considered under 400 or 500 sq feet)?  This infographic from 2013 provides one of the first and only snapshots of the people who currently make up the tiny house community.  But their numbers are growing.  And they are attracting attention.  There are now two television shows dedicated to houses of the tiny variety:  the FYI network has Tiny House Nation and HGTV has debuted Tiny House Hunters.


Chris Page’s tiny house

Since the Peabody Institute Library is on a quest to make sure that you, our beloved community, are kept well informed about all matters important, interesting and fun, the West Branch is hosting its own tiny house event.  Chris Page of Andover will be at the West on Thursday, July 16th at 7 pm for Think Big, Go Small: The Tale of a Massachusetts Tiny House.  The owner of a 210 square foot home, Chris will talk about his process of researching, building and living in a tiny house.  Chris will discuss building costs, systems, and lessons learned over the course of the project.  A question and answer period will follow.  If you’d like to join us for this event, you can sign up at the West Branch events calendar.

How did tiny houses first cross our radar?  Well, your friendly West Branch Librarian (i.e. me) is, unabashedly, a huge tiny house geek.  While the tiny house movement has really been gaining steam over the past few years, I was first intrigued ten years ago when I came across a company selling tiny houses.  These particular homes were called wee houses and looked very much like a shipping container converted into a house (and there is a type of tiny house now that is exactly that).  Then Jay Shafer started Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, which despite their diminutive size, actually look like real houses.  And the Tiny House Blog was launched and fed my obsession even more.  Today, tiny house enthusiasts, and there are more than you might think, can lose entire days to websites like Tiny House Swoon or Tiny House Listings.  Not that I’ve ever done that.

Motivations for going tiny vary depending on the individual’s or family’s situation.  Often cited reasons include the desire to not have a mortgage payment, the freedom to move your house at will and/or concern about your environmental impact.  Noble goals, all of them, but jumping into tiny house living isn’t easy.  One of the major stumbling blocks for potential tiny housers is the issue of where to park their domiciles.  Most tiny houses are on wheels and are legally considered RVs.  In fact part of Chris Page’s tiny living story is his search for a community that will legally allow him to live in his 200 square foot home.  Perhaps now that he’s gotten some ink in the Boston Globe about his search, he will find his dream location.  The newly formed American Tiny House Association, which advocates to change local zoning laws, is also hoping to help tiny house dwellers like Chris.

And in fact, Chris Page isn’t the only tiny houser with local ties.  The Greater Boston Tiny House Enthusiasts Meetup Group has 624 members.  And one teacher from St. John’s Prep is actually living the tiny dream.  His story was also shared this year in the Globe.

Anyway, if you are as intrigued by small space living as I am, you will, of course, wish to dive into the available media.  You could start with  the “classics” of tiny houses: Tiny, tiny houses by Lester Walker (published back in 1987) or Tiny Homes: simple shelters by Lloyd Kahn.

Then you may wish to move on to the stories of people who have taken the plunge and gone tiny themselves.  For this, you should start with:

bigtinyThe Big Tiny a memoir by Dee Williams




tinythemovieAnd then you’ll want to move on to the documentary about tiny house living: Tiny: a story about living small


One you’re ready to join the fun personally, and start dreaming and living tiny, check out:

tinyhousefloorplansTiny House Floor Plans by Michael Janzen




tinyhouselivingTiny House Living: ideas for building and living well in less than 400 square feet by Ryan Mitchell



tinyhomesonthemoveTiny Homes on the Move: wheels and water by Lloyd Kahn



If nothing else, you’ll be well informed when tiny houses start appearing in a neighborhood near you.

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