Want to Live in Paradise? Here Are 15 Ways to Start Small

Tiny Paradise homesteaders know that the size of a perfect spot matters far less than the fact that it's, well, perfect. Looking for a space that fits your wildest dreams? Consider a few of their guiding principles.

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If You've Got It, Flaunt It

It’s your prerogative to build and live in a windowless cube in the mountains above a lake, of course, but shouldn’t you serve your slice of paradise on the good china? This bamboo overhang frames its priceless Costa Rican view perfectly.

Don't Need to Fill a Space? Then Don't

In a home where every object serves a dozen purposes and one’s footprint is the size of a (tropical postcard) stamp, the greatest luxury is...blank space. Sure, this open-plan Costa Rican ecosphere boasts gorgeous natural wood, a bamboo art installation and a cheese-making station(!), but its most notable detail is the spot where there’s nothing at all.

Deem "Decorative" a Noble Purpose

This diminutive rooftop garden in Salmon, Idaho, features three flower beds and a deck where its newlywed owners can sigh over spectacular sunsets. Could this spot have sustained herbs and vegetables that would make said newlyweds more self-sufficient? Sure. Would they love it any more if it did? We doubt it.

Don't Overthink Outdoor Seating

When your yard is a borderless Mexican jungle full of banana plants, skip chaises and throw pillows. Drive a few stakes into the earth, hang a couple of hammocks and call it a day (in the hammocks.)

Do You—Let the Woods Do ‘Woodsy’

This paradise enthusiast’s particular slice of heaven sits near the Continental Divide—an outdoorsman’s dream—in Black Hawk, Colo., but its interior finishes and accessories would look right at home in an urban apartment. Going metro isn’t a sin against nature: You don’t have to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder because your little house is in the big woods, as it were. (Bonus: The white finishes in this tiny house make the space look huge. How many cabins can say that?)

Think WAY Outside the Box

Want to live like a hobbit in an environmentally-friendly earthwork? Go for it—your tiny alternahouse might be better-suited to paradise than a conventional one! (Also note that hobbits eat six meals a day. You now have a great excuse to start eating 'second breakfast.')

Hang on to Your Vision

The Colorado couple that built this shepherd’s-wagon tiny house dreamed of a mobile dwelling that would complement their outdoor lifestyle. A setup of that sort was easy to put together a century ago, but traditional wheeled homes are hard to come by these days. The cozy outcome of their quest demonstrates that patience and persistence are the true foundations of a place in paradise.

Think of Your Home as a Clubhouse

Sometimes living your best life means revisiting the sweetest parts of the forts you fantasized about a child. For one visionary homeowner in Hilo, that means connecting a solar-powered hot tub to her tiny house with a swinging bridge. One suspects her ten-year-old self would be terribly proud of the way she turned out.

Spread Beauty

Why can’t a corrugated metal water-catchment tank be just as lovely as the bamboo building it supplies? In Pahoa, Hawaii, one homesteader’s friend added a mural to her tropical home.

Stick With an Open Floor Plan

This Hawaiian home’s airy interior makes the most of every inch of space. Sure, you can lock eyes with someone in the sleeping loft from the front door—but you can also lie in bed and see the tropical countryside out the window. (Freedom of movement is worth sacrificing a bit of privacy.)

Reconsider Traditional Furnishings

The shelves in this tropical kitchen do a fine job of supporting dishes and manage to look like installation art, thanks to their unusual shapes. The jewel-bright bowl sink, in turn, takes the place of tchotchkes.

Two Words: Glass Walls

This ultramodern jewel in Tulum slides open to give its inhabitants fresh air—and slides shut to give them a 180-degree view sans mosquitoes.

Indulge Your Spiritual Side

On Maui, a 'heart of the earth' home celebrates a region its owners consider pure paradise: Hand-carved wooden figures adorn Balinese-inspired architecture, and sustainable materials abound. Thanks to the tiny temple’s miniscule scale, it’s possible to make every structure supportive of family harmony.

Stake Out a Yard

At Boston Harbor Marina on Puget Sound, this tiny home’s outdoor areas boast Adirondack chairs with an unbeatable view, a raised planting bed, a covered porch and a greenhouse featuring an aquaponic system (where fish and plants are raised together). Given all that, its indoor space is practically beside the point.

Give Yourself Sun

In Washington State, a covered deck is a necessity—as is an awning that admits every last drop of available light. The custom octagonal window, in turn, gives the sleeping loft a bird’s-eye view each morning.