Originally Published in Time Out New York, March 5, 2009
What the Dutch call gezellig (a feeling of coziness found in close quarters), New Yorkers call a studio apartment. But even if we wish for more storage space, most of us understand that choosing small living quarters over freestanding suburban homes and their bloated trappings (lawns, cars, lots of rooms to heat and cool) inherently reduces our impact on the environment. Now there’s another reason to be proud of your minuscule abode: In her adorably scaled-down coffee-table book, Tiny Houses, Mimi Zeiger (the founder of the architecture zine and blog loud paper) argues that living small isn’t just ecologically sound but aesthetically pleasing. An atlas of international residences under 1,000 square feet, the book is a beautifully designed argument for the simpler life. “By making a positive impact on the environment,” the small abodes here “dream big.”
Tiny Houses offers an overview of (and plans for) 35 high-concept and economical residences. Here, we tour the UNI Architects’ “XS House” in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a striking three-story structure with “every level rotated slightly to create corner skylights” for additional sunlight, and the Slot House in Fort Greene, a transformed historic row house featuring an “outdoor room” with a maple tree that cools the home on summer days. Then there is Lucky Drops, Atelier Tekuto’s long, narrow stretch of all-white reinforced plastic and perforated steel grating in Tokyo. This last space, a little too reminiscent of Catherine Deneuve’s claustrophobia-inducing haunted hallway in Repulsion, probably won’t convert diehard suburbanites. But most of the homes documented here are inspired and inviting enough that they could serve as blueprints for a much-needed national architectural trend: modesty.