Small Homes On the Move
On land, at sea and in the air, these homes are a moveable feast of small-space design ideas.
Chalk it up to wanderlust, a spirit of adventure, or just the desire to live more simply and less expensively. Whatever the motivations, a growing number of Americans are choosing to live in homes that move when they do: houseboats, Airstreams and tiny homes that can be hitched to the back of a car.
Life On the Road
While not everyone could live in spaces that small, the on-the-go homeowners we spoke to believe that the benefits of their life-as-a-road-trip homes outweigh the challenges by far.
Airstream living. Interior designer Amy Carman's family spends most of their summers in this 128-square-foot vintage Airstream Caravel. "When we stay in it, we live much more efficiently and simply," says Carman. "I'm always reminded that we can enjoy a very rich quality of life even though we are living in a tiny space. From a design standpoint, working with a small space forces you to be very resourceful. But we love how clean and modern the interior feels, and we never get tired of being in the camper."
Tiny traveling homes. At just 84 square feet, Dee Williams' movable house by Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) is smaller than many contemporary bathrooms — but that suits her just fine.
What the home lacks in space, it makes up in portability, charm and affordability. "What surprises me," says Williams, who usually parks her cottage on a friend’s property, along with a few other PAD dwellers, "is how much I still love it after eight years, and how much larger and more engaged I feel with my life. I've also saved a lot of money by living debt free."
Trendy trailers. Courtney Trent of Courtney's Good Cottage designs trailer interiors for movie stars and high-powered executives. She insists that you don't have to sacrifice comfort or luxury to live in a small, moveable space — you just have to figure out how to get the most out of every square inch.
"On most of my 'cottages' I remove the bed and one of the wardrobes to increase the usable space," Trent says. "That extra space becomes, essentially, a third living/work area." Putting some of the furniture on sliders — as she did to the table in this 200-square-foot trailer so that it could be both a dining surface near the kitchenette and a work surface near the couch — maximizes function and flexibility.
This Gulfstream jet was designed as a party plane — and there's no denying that being in motion makes occupying a small space seem like an adventure, rather than an inconvenience.
To make the most of plane's 120-square-foot interior, designer Havilande Whitcomb of Aviation Aesthetics used several strategies that could be applied to decorating a trailer, small cottage or houseboat, as well. "In an aircraft, the aisle is so important," says Whitcomb. "Translate that to space-planning a room and look at the major pathway into or out of a seating group. I don't usually like furniture pushed against walls," she says, "But in a very small space like an airplane, it makes sense to put some furniture against the walls and have central circulation in the middle."
If the ceilings of your space are low, as they are inside this plane, says Whitcomb, keep it a light hue. But for the rest of the space, don't be afraid of color. "It's the easiest way to create drama," she says. “So choose a shade you like – and then, be brave."
The smell of salt air, the sound of lapping waves against the shore. Living on a houseboat makes everyday feel like vacation. But that’s not the only reason Mike Auderer of Olympia Construction in Washington decided to move onto "Sweetpea", which he built himself. "My overhead's about half what it would be in a city apartment of the same size," he says of the 500-square-foot structure. "And it feels good to be living without so much stuff."
Another reason Auderer chose to live on the water is to avoid the over development that's crowding out so much of the land in big cities. In keeping with the green philosophy, all the appliances in his tiny kitchen are energy efficient.
Small and Smaller: Extreme Living
How do these homeowners live large in 400, 200 and even less than 100 square feet?