Tiny houses, along with the urbanization of mid-density cities (like Tampa), may be coming to a block near you.
Somewhere between the mini mansion (low-moderate density like South Tampa and Palma Ceia) and a residential high-rise (high density like Downtown Tampa and the Channel District) is the tiny, single-family house, about four times the functional density of a standard single dwelling residential lot. A wave of new models are as rooted into dirt as any standard new construction, just a quarter the size.
No RVs or shipping containers here.
The example I toured is 365 sq. ft., with a layout of three 10 x 10 square boxes in line: (1) front entrance and living room, (2) kitchen and bathroom, and (3) bedroom and rear entrance. A bonus loft space above box two is afforded by the airy 14-foot vaulted ceiling, reachable by ladder.
With such limited square footage, there aren’t many nuances to describe about the layout. It’s cozy without feeling cramped, thanks to the vertical height, strategic window placement, and perhaps the choice of a light wall color. The kitchen is minimal, albeit reasonable for a single young person’s use. My generation is all about eating out, right?
What makes a minimalist space like this work is choosing possessions and fixtures thoughtfully, before and during ownership. Which pieces can serve multiple purposes? Is a full-size [anything] necessary?
I would gladly downsize my kitchen—I eat a standard, simple set of foods and beverages and prefer to consume everything I have each week or every few days than save over long periods. I would use as much space as possible for extra wardrobe storage, and I would want a full-size bed and as close to a full-size couch or chaise as possible.
Televisions, along with plenty of other things, can be mounted flush, freeing up space. Bikes can be hung from above. Tables are stowable.
Of course, with less space and fewer rooms to furnish, you can splurge on design options and key pieces of lighting or art that otherwise would be too costly to spread over a larger space.
David Bailey and Stephanie Harrison-Bailey’s tiny house in Ybor City is a tidy, charming initiation to Tampa for visitors seeking a unique experience in an authentic setting. They use it exclusively for airbnb guests, who have left handwritten notes about how much they liked their stay. The design of the space is contextually appropriate—lots of other houses in the neighborhood have a similar clapboard-“shotgun”-“Cracker cottage” style. It even has a small front stoop for watching the resident roosters and hens.
A tiny home of my design would be more modern, less rustic, but with a similar attention to thoughtful detail. David and his wife plan to build three more similar houses on the existing lot, now an impromptu parking area.
Tiny houses, like this quintessential “2.0” one, marry the best of efficient, small/studio living with the privacy and rapid access to the outdoors of a larger single-family. I have never liked living in a multifamily setting—getting in and out is a series of hallways, doors, locks, and garages, plus there are more dangers related to fire, gas, etc. Conversely, I have no interest in maintaining a large yard or cooling and cleaning superfluous space.
Tiny houses go against what so many Americans are conditioned to idealize. Most of my peers and friends were raised in, relative to global living standards, lavish spaces with ample room to spread out, with redundancy and enough storage space to hoard. As a corollary, many lived in gated communities, relied on cars for transportation, and often had overstuffed garages and little connection to the outdoors.
While not the attainment goal of my generation, it is still a popular form of living, especially as families expand and accumulation snowballs.
Tiny houses force a critical analysis of one’s activities, objects and possessions, and nudge occupants into the community. A friend of mine once said that San Francisco rents are so high and you get so little space, “the city is your living room!”
Over my 30 years, I have enjoyed the mental and physical process of purging, letting go of possessions (hard to avoid through multiple moves), and identifying what truly makes me happy. In the optimal situation, every single item I own makes me happy when I use it; there is nothing extraneous.
Why shouldn’t a house also reflect those principles?
Click here to read about the tiny apartments coming to Downtown Tampa.
Photography throughout, credit to Jeremy Scott & Rich Montalbano