Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tiny houses

At the library I work at we have all sorts of books related to tiny houses. The tiny house movement was not just a response to America's super sizing culture, but it was also a response to our persistent cultural assumptions that everyone is fabulously wealthy, has their own personal architect, and wouldn't think twice about having to have a fleet of drivable floor cleaners and a team of maids to operate them. But not only can not everyone afford a one million square foot home, but many people, it turns out, actually prefer not having to choose amongst 20 bathrooms when they just want to take a quick pee.

As positive as this movement might be, the choice of the term "tiny" can be quite extreme in what it allows for. I have seen house designs, even pictures of actual houses that presumably people somehow manage to live in, that are under 10,000 square feet. Not having to choose amongst 20 bathrooms is one thing, but what does a person in a tiny house do when all four of their bathrooms are occupied and yet they have to go? Living more modestly and consciously and green and tiny is great and noble, but we are modern people accustomed to certain standards, certain comforts of personal space. We are not equipped to roll back the clock a hundred years to where we have only a few personal rooms per household member and most of the house staff is forced to live off premises. Luckily, as I peruse the literature, I find many of these tiny houses do not take things to such an extreme. And also fortunately I am a man of modest means who gets by on less than a million a year (it is possible!) and who also lives in a tiny house. Therefore I am here to give you some insight on how one can make it work.

1. Guest Rooms

Yes, our tiny house has just two guest rooms, and if we are entertaining there is quite a tussle for the one with the balcony overlooking the rose garden. Does all this make us less popular among our set? On the contrary. I think people take us less for granted and are more careful in the arrangement of their visits. Plus it makes it much easier to leverage out the long term unwanted guests. Furthermore it seems to keep down the number of mysterious drawing room murders that big crowds so attract. While it is engaging enough to see a brilliant detective at work, when it starts happening like clockwork every Christmas it all gets a bit tiresome.

2. Bathrooms

We don't discuss bathrooms, but, oh, fine! Six is enough. I know you will argue, but done properly and with unstinting thoroughness, six is enough. Please consider the ecology and global warming and all that stuff!

3. The Library

You know me well enough to understand that here I have not made any great sacrifices. A great  library with all the bells and whistles and first editions is the cultural soul of the home. Nevertheless combining the Observatory with the Library was a natural choice and greatly reduced our tiny home's footprint.

4. The Kitchens

Perhaps you will think me mad to say we have but the two kitchens. But then we just have Cook and Cook's assistant. With so many wonderful restaurants in our city we have been able to cut all the way to the bone here. These are different times. Why, my man Thomas rather fancies himself a bit of a study with the frittata and never minds if we ask for one in the middle of the night. This is not the Gentleman's Gentleman of my father's day and I think we are all the better for it. Nevertheless I recognize the advantages of city living, and my tiny house in the country does have a more flexible three kitchens.

5. Recreation

Laugh all you like at my two indoor paddle tennis courts, but I argue that the smaller, quicker game, a reduced version of tennis, is more engaging anyway, and easier to grow old with. Likewise the lack of an indoor Olympic Size pool. One can only swim in one lane at a time and I love the simplicity of my lap pool. Plus it makes for a clear separation from our recreational pool in the atrium. All this economy allowed for that charming little boat ride I put in off the recreational pool while still keeping the whole collection of features to a fraction the size of your average house.

6. The Studies

One for me, one for my wife, and a guest study. I somewhat regret we didn't go even more modest on this as guests rarely use the guest study, but my man Thomas quite enjoys making use of the guest study so fortunately it has not gone to waste. I know a lot of you are wondering how I get by on just the one study, but honestly, if I need a change my office is good enough, and I spend most of my time in my tinkering room (The Lab) anyway.

Of course, this isn't everything, but it gives one an idea on how to make these tiny homes work. Not all of us have the means or inclination for The Estate or The Manor House, but that doesn't mean we can't live simple, decent, and intentional lives that are also a bit more luxurious than one might think is possible. I'm not saying this humbleness is required to be a good person, but, if one has the inclination one may just find a little goodness pays some surprising dividends in happiness.

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