The best tiny houses wring big luxury from little spaces with smart design

best tiny houses

Whether you’re living in a treehouseshipping container home, or houseboat, your lifestyle is going to undergo some adjustments. In the case of tiny homes, less is more — it has to be. The miniature dwellings have been cropping up across the United States and abroad for decades now, providing sleek and streamlined living quarters on a smaller footprint than is typical of most master bedrooms. The bulk of them still manage to provide all the amenities you’d expect in a full-size home though, offering enough room for a bathroom, kitchen, and bed regardless if they’re rolling on wheels or firmly rooted in an urban metropolis or mountainside. The best tiny houses also avoid that prison-cell claustrophobia you might associate with your brief college stint, and usually cost less than than a college degree (though not always).

Brick House 1908 (San Francisco, CA)

If you’re not planning on moving in permanently, perhaps an 88-square-foot guest house would make a nice place to spend a few days. Architect Christi Azevedo renovated a former laundry boiler room into a tiny space full of reclaimed wood, brick, and glass. The stairs are actually made from a ship’s ladder and lead up to a mezzanine. There, you’ll find a built-in walnut wardrobe and mini bathroom that has a toilet, medicine cabinet, shower valve, and drain. (It seems like it would be similar to washing up in an airplane bathroom.) The loft has a queen-sized mattress and bookshelves. Ikea provided the kitchen space, which has a decent amount of storage. It definitely gives a whole new perspective on the term “boiler room.”

Eagle Point (San Juan Islands, WA)

The finest things in life aren’t always cheap — take this quaint cabin nestled on the west coast of Washington’s San Juan Islands, for example. Designed with the help of Prentiss Architects, the 688-square-foot space quietly rests between a rock outcrop and a windswept thicket of vegetation, which helps shelter the dwelling and allows for expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby Olympics. The rectangular structure features a host of cornerstone windows and high-end appliances, along with a sod roof designed to naturally blend into the surrounding environment. The custom cabinetry and four-piece bath round out its hallmarks, but you’ll have to pony up just shy of $2 million if you hope to soak in the frigid rays off the coast of Washington.

Fire Relief Cottage (Chicago, IL)

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire left 100,000 Chicagoans homeless. To help alleviate the problem, the Chicago Relief and Aid Society started giving out kits to make relief shelters. This 780-square-foot, one-bedroom home is still standing more than 100 years later. Inside is a fireplace, renovated bathroom, washer and dryer, walk-in closet, HVAC, and 10-foot-by-10-foot kitchen. It’s been extended and renovated over the years, but the original kit cost $100. Back in September 2015, the house went for $785,000.

The Shack at Hinkle Farm (Upper Tract, WV)

It should go without saying that Washington D.C. can wear on you, whether you’re a politician or a blue-collar worker in the vein of Springsteen. Understandably, the Shack at Hinkle Farm was designed as a retreat for a family looking to escape the suburbs of our nation’s capital, one situated on a 27-acre plot of land located on the southern slope of South Fork Mountain and amid the Virginian foothills. Unlike other tiny homes on our list, though, the bucolic location is completely void of electricity. A network of oil lamps provide all the necessary lighting for the basic structure when needed, a wood stove the necessary heat in winter, and a hand-powered bilge pump the water. A wood deck and glass garage door even provide expansive views surrounding pasture and cows, so you can take in the sights, sounds, and smells from above.

Steve Areen’s Dome Home (Thailand)

It took six weeks and about $9,000 to build Steve Areen’s dome home on a mango farm in northeast Thailand. Made of cement blocks and clay, the home is actually several domes. Off the main one are the spherical bathroom and bedroom domes. The kitchen has a sink and swing-out stove and fridge behind the counter. The home has plenty of light from skylights. Unique touches include the man-made pond, stone shower, bamboo faucet, circular windows, reclaimed mahogany door, and the wooden steps that lead up to the grass-roofed gazebo. Though he doesn’t offer blueprints at the moment, Steve and his building partner are hoping to come up with more sustainable, better-insulated designs for those who want to a dome home somewhere less sweltering than Thailand.

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