If you’ve been interested in minimalism and simple living for a while, no doubt you’ll have come across the phenomenon of tiny house living where homes are typically less than 400 square feet or 37 m2.
The tiny house movement is most popular in the United States, but is gaining traction in other countries (including the UK) as these affordable homes offer an alternative to traditional bricks and mortar.
Tammy Strobel’s blog (as well as her book, You Can Buy Happiness and it’s Cheap), gives an insight into what life in a tiny home is really like. Likewise, Instagrammers such as tinyhouseblog give us an insight into the innovative and beautiful designs available.
We’ve been living in little houses for years
Here in the UK, we’ve been living in small homes for centuries. Throughout history, our particular type of micro-homes have come in many different forms.
Consider the humble cottage with its low ceilings and compact rooms or the terraced house that saw an increase in the industrial revolution to provide much-needed housing for workers. Mind you, let’s not get romantic about this. Overcrowding and poor living standards meant that many such dwellings were demolished in the post war period, giving way to high-rise tower blocks. These offered a different type of small home in the form of apartments or flats.
Near to us, there are some quirky examples of tiny house living within an hour’s drive. The rock houses at Kinver Edge offered residents a very unusual form of tiny house living. Built into the sandstone, these ‘cave houses’ were inhabited until the 1960’s but are now maintained by the National Trust.
Likewise, Birmingham’s back-to-back houses were truly small, sometimes with only one room upstairs and one downstairs. Each dwelling shared 3 of its 4 walls with another building, so would have no ‘back yard’. Imagine hanging your washing on a line that crossed the street!
These days, many of us still choose to live in a variety of tiny homes including park homes (static caravans), apartments (flats), cottages and terraced houses.
Friendly canal folk
A recent email exchange between me and community member, Susan, prompted me to reflect on another type of ‘tiny houses’: living on a narrowboat.
Susan explained that you have to maintain a minimalist approach when your home afloat is only 45′ (just under 14 m) long.
She and her husband do this in two key ways: they use the ‘one in, one out’ rule and have a twice-yearly purge of their cupboards to remove anything they no longer need.
These two rules could be a useful guide for any of us, no matter the size of our home.
I first learned about living afloat when we re-homed our first dog, Lilly. Lilly’s owners had moved to a bespoke-built narrowboat on the River Severn. Oak-lined, light and airy, this dwelling was really beautiful!
Lovely Lilly, a gorgeous golden-retriever, suffered from epilepsy and didn’t enjoy life on board. So, she came to live with us until her poor health took her to Rainbow Bridge.
Last autumn, an article in the Financial Times stated that 26% of today’s 33,000 boats throughout England and Wales’ waterways are used as primary residences.
In the capital, over 10,000 people now live on boats. The 100 miles of canals that run throughout London (including some highly desirable locations) are lined with vessels, from narrow boats to converted lifeboats. When a second-hand narrow boat costs the equivalent in pounds to a tiny house in the US, you can see their attraction.
Stairway to Heaven
Our walk this morning took us to Hatton Locks, a series of 21 locks known locally as the Stairway to Heaven. As well as observing the morning traffic going up and down the series of locks, we also spotted some tiny dwellings alongside the canal. I suspect these are summer houses, but I’d like to think you could actually live there.
Do you aspire to live in a tiny house? Perhaps you already do? Have you ever lived on a boat or are considering the idea yourself? I’d love to know!
My perfect tiny house
My perfect tiny house would probably be a beach hut. During my childhood summers, my family would hire a chalet with a sea-view frontage and a rear veranda where you could sit to catch the evening sun, overlooking the resort’s bowling green and garden cafe. It wasn’t permissible to sleep in the chalet but it was our home-from-home during the day and I have many happy memories of our time there.
Whatever you’re doing this Bank Holiday weekend, I hope you have a good one (especially if it’s on the water, in the water or overlooking the water). Life doesn’t get much better than that.
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