Design for nine-square-feet house

Michael Jantzen designed a house (using Google SketchUp) with nine-square feet of floor space. It has room for a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, fold-down table, and storage. Where does the bed go? In the loft, which is part of the overhanging porch.

"I came up with the size by asking myself how what the absolute minimum amount of space would be needed for someone to live. I did a quick calculation in my head of the amount of space I took up while laying down and came up with nine square feet."
Nine Tiny Feet 3D model


  1. Looks more like 18 sq.ft. to me, if you’re including the loft area (which you should).

  2. I’m fascinated by minimalist living spaces (even moreso since I spent four months on the road living out of an 8,000 cubic inch trailer towed behind my ‘bent trike).

    For those who haven’t already seen it, the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company produces many fine examples of itty bitty dwellings, although their smallest is still more than seven times the square footage of Jantzen’s.

  3. Where would you put your record collection?

    What about books? Cookery? Where’s the fridge?

    How could anyone live like that?

  4. The design doesn’t actually INCLUDE a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, and fold-down table.

    I guess the plain cylinder could be a chair, and possibly double as a toilet…but the design shown in the video omits all of the above features. I’d love to see what it looked like when all of that stuff was actually included.

  5. sure beats a ragged piece of tarp after the earthquake, typhoon, flood or fire. Or nine square feet of pavement.

  6. I agree that the ‘loft’is a bit of a cheat in claiming it’s 9sq ft. I’ve lived in places in Japan that were about the real floor area (i.e.: 18) – where’s the bed in those places? Well, it folds up of course… no need for complicated mezzanine sections. The Japanese have mastered the art of small-scale living some time ago. There’s a great book called ‘Universe for Rent’ which is just pictures and brief descriptions of various tiny Tokyo apartments.

  7. Looks like a lil truck camper mated with a porta potty. Adjust the roof and you’ll have a Japanese shrine.

  8. It’s an 18 square foot outhouse.

    “It has room for a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, fold-down table, and storage.”
    (It has room for all these things, just not at the same time.)

  9. Combine this with textbooks available on a kindle, a rack to hold charging electronics, and access to a common room, and you have the least-sex-friendly college dorm complex ever. Probably cheap, too.

  10. I absolutely love sheds but what’s the value of the porch if you can’t sit on it without blocking the door.

  11. Something very similiar has already been build in Munich, Germany: the “Wohnwürfel”(“home cube”?), just hit google picture search with “wohnwürfel” and “München”). They are rented out to students of the university nearby, I’ve never been in one but they look quite fascinating. Not a home for the claustrophobic, though.
    BTW, I’m not saying anything like Jantzen ripped the idea off or something, some ideas hang around and manifest in different forms.

  12. but if you only ate and slept there, and everyone did the same, imagine the park spaces. huge expansive parks and public recreation facilities.

  13. Whilst i could cope with a small house, this one is insane

    The real thing that stands out to me though: If you’re creating such an incredibly tiny house, why on earth would you put a porch on it?
    It wastes approx 1/3 of the entire cubic volume of the house, in a house that small you can’t afford to have *any* wasted space, let alone such a huge percentage waste

  14. I vaguely remember an argument while reading about prison overcrowding that asserted that anything less than 6’x10′ or 60sqft. is dehumanizing. Of course that is prison not a shelter that you can leave when you like, but still worth noting.

  15. I’m assuming this is just a proof of concept, and not a proposed solution to an actual problem or a suggested actual place to live. Just good, ridiculous fun.

    Anyway, since he says 9 square feet and not 18, it seems he’s just worried about the footprint. But if that’s the case, then then a high-rise apartment building can beat this easily.

  16. 9 square feet is 3 ft by 3 ft. This is probably more like 18 or so, just for the loft space. You also need more room for plumbing infrastructure (might as well toss a shower into the downstairs… just flush the entire room.

    Be sure to build ladder into wall. Desktop could be built into back of front door, but the sink (If separate from seat/toilet) is missing.
    Privacy shields built into windows. Being a slave to space building covers is actually increasing costs per square foot. Also allow for some storage for some belongings (food, clothes)

    There are plenty of better examples of the same design idea, from hotels in Japanese subways, to NYC hotels converted to Train or Shipboard reductionism. In this design, which would not even work as a toll booth, there would be savings in expanding the square footage.

    Does floor fold down upstairs? Better design would allow six feet of loft BEYOND hole in upstairs floor.

  17. Aha! Michael Jantzen lives in Los Angeles!

    He’s forgotten how cold it is in Illinois (or Canada), and how much time you have to spend indoors in the Winter, eh?

  18. I like the idea that the sleeping area is over the porch. That opens a lot of possibilities for small houses.

  19. It’s a fascinating thought experiment, and if it could be made into something flat-packable, with minimal tools for set-up (ikea-style) it could be very useful in a disaster or as temporary housing.

    Myhab is a recyclable temporary housing idea for music festivals, uses about as much space really

  20. This isn’t actually a smaller per-person footprint than most apartment buildings.

    If the aim is to save space (e.g., like Cpt. Tim said: “imagine the park spaces. huge expansive parks and public recreation facilities”), then you are better off just doing what we do now: build sky scrapers.

    The Empire State Building has a footprint of 87,123 square feet. It has 2,158,000 square feet of office space. If we give every resident a luxurious 30 square feet of space (well, luxurious by the above’s standards) we can fit 71,933 people in it. This gives us a total of 1.2 square feet of footprint per inhabitant.

    Really, though, this idea is interesting. The lack of stackability, however, really limits its potential as a space-saver.

  21. Wait a second… I thought we were supposed to come out of the closet. Now he wants everyone to go back in and set up permanent residence? HOMOPHOBE!!!!

  22. This is so poorly thought out as to be laughable. Where’s the actual implements for living that would turn this from an outhouse into a home? Why on earth are the walls a foot thick? The loft over the porch is a nifty idea, but is ruined by the steeply pitched roof which cuts into the living space.

    I love small houses and cottages and the like, but this is next to useless, even as a pure thought exercise.

  23. I’m giant. Like Penn Jillette giant. THis is the stuff of my nightmares (i.e. the night train from Rome to Zurich whenre I had to press into a 1.5’x6′ bunk at the top of the compartment we were in while some Romanian urchins played squaking Romaninan pop & performed oral sex on each other & everyone else in the compartment eventually yelled at them to stop in 5 different languages, all of which the Romaians were indifferent to. But I digress. This cabin seems to include no horny Romanians)

  24. I don’t mean to seem like I care about material things or my social stats, I just want four walls and adobe slats for my girls.

  25. #24 paulr: heating system would go on the roof or underground obviously. Triple-paned windows, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to heat that thing than any bedroom I’ve ever seen; hell, even easier to heat than my travel trailer.

    I rather like that he thought to include dormers.

  26. But where do I put the christmas tree?

    Plant it outside. Plant five more while you’re at it.

  27. Where the fark is the refrigerator or stove? Or do I replace those with a rifle, hunt small game, and cook it on a firepit outside?

    If we’re going to export basic services to shared resources, then all you really need is a sleeping tube, and have a shared communal kitchen, shared laundry, shared internet connection. If that’s the case, then I ahve a design that will house 1 person in a few square feet of a tiny mattress.

    I don’t even think this thing has room to hang my cape and goggles, and I think if I tethered my balloon to the roof, the whole thing would fly away.

    lastly, this thing doesn’t look like it would last one halloween before it got tp’ed and tipped over.

  28. at 6ft 4. At say a foot and a half wide that’s already over 9 square feet. I wouldn’t even be able to lay down with my legs straight in that “house.”

  29. I’ve seen this before, and it’s just asking for trouble. At some point a balloon piloted by henchmen from Vulgaria will snatch your little house, confusing you for your genius inventor son Caractacus.

  30. Interesting concept, but it’d stink in there before long. And if you want minimal space, presumably, you can share lavatory facilities with others. Presumably, you’re already doing that with a food prep area anyhow.

  31. A place to prepare food is a need. As are ventilation and heating (of water at a minimum).

    I’d prefer an igloo, personally.

  32. So aside from the whole “being allowed to go outside at will” aspect, what differentiates this from a prison cell?

  33. Thank you, GRIMC! My sister and I were singing “P-O-S-H” over our pancakes just the other morning.

    But I think an overlooked solution–in addition to using more skyscrapers as housing–is to look at resources that can be shared. Communal toilet/kitchens, or perhaps even living rooms, are something that could be generalized beyond college dorms.

  34. More accurately, it is a house with a 9 square foot footprint.

    Funny how the model of a person he used for scale was next to the house, instead of inside it.

    I think the model shows us just how psychologically important having enough space.

    The porch is a very important part of the design, IMO, because it allows the resident to essentially steal space from the property next door. Which brings up the question, what is surrounding this house? It would be one thing in the middle of a field or some woods, and something else completely if it was in the middle of an acre of similar houses, with say a 2 foot setback around each.

  35. clothing? where would one keep an outfit change?

    i lived several months in a 9 by 11 foot cabin…about 100 square feet. add the sleeping loft and it’s about 140. it wasn’t spacious, but it was certainly an adequate, livable place. were i going to build my own, i would hire a shipwright to design it

  36. I built a 32 square foot cabin to thumb my nose at the local building code requiring a permit for any structure over 32 sq. ft.
    It is too small, and there is no porch or wasted space. I would say 48 sq ft might be the smallest livable space, and I plan to have an outdoor locker for necessary gear.
    Maybe an urban dweller could eat out all the time and get by with less.

  37. A fun project, but it is kind of like those contests for squeezing as much functionality as possible into a line of Perl code.

    I’ve seen plans for cabins not much bigger that are much more liveable. They’re generally intended as “sleepers” — mini guest cottages — rather than primary dwellings.

    I was thinking the other day about how small a studio apartment could be without feeling like a cell. Something like a Motel 6 room with some shelves and cabinets and a minimal kitchen (dorm fridge at the bottom, counter with a toaster oven and hot plate, microwave overhead with a vent hood underneath) might do.

  38. Does floor fold down upstairs? Better design would allow six feet of loft BEYOND hole in upstairs floor.

    I’m glad someone else noticed this! The first thing I thought is what sort of a bed/mattress has a large gaping hole in the middle of it!

    It has room for a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, fold-down table, and storage

    Where? All I see is a small cylinder that could be a chair.

  39. This is not a dwelling in which one can live a life, it’s more along the lines of temporary shelter or emergency shelter.

    I live in an efficiency apartment of less than 300 square feet in an urban area, having moved here from a large 1-bedroom apartment (600 feet), and I’m quite happy and cozy. I don’t have the luxury of a loft, so I use a futon chair as my sleeping space. I’ve been able to create “rooms” through the smart utilization of furniture that defines spaces. But I don’t think I could live comfortably with much less space, unless I drastically modified my lifestyle. I like to spend a lot of time at home, doing crafts and hobbies and watching DVDs, so the my apartment is not just a “waystation”.

  40. Why have a porch? It doesn’t change the footprint of the house to just include the area of the porch in the house.

  41. Hey, I lived in 9 square feet before. It’s called a circus train. Converted Pullman car. It ain’t pretty.

  42. Maybe it’s intended in a purely hypothetical sense
    and not actually meant to be lived in.

  43. Since the designer has taken liberties on the actual ‘floor space’ A more relevant question might be: “What is the minumum number of CUBIC feet of space that a person needs to live in?”

  44. In “a purely hypothetical sense” we could also all sleep like bats upside down in a closet.

    Then you’d have even more space for a porch!

  45. This house is perfect for trapping David Blaine in and then wrapping with duct tape and then putting on the back of a truck and then driving the truck into a bigger shack and then wrapping that shack in razor wire and then using a bulldozer to push the shack into a lake and then freezing the lake with some very cold technology and then paving over the frozen lake and then going back to work.

    For that, yeah. I buy it.

    Anything else, though? No way. Who the hell would live in a house that tight with windows that big? You’d either fall over and slit your own throat or be right up in it, your face 2″ away from all the smeary, snotty, breathy crap. Sitting there looking at huge windows like that… that close to you… bad, bad, bad.

    Oh, and if you got a leg cramp and had to stretch your leg out, you’d open the front door, and then everyone would think you just kicked your dog out (they’re not bright; they don’t get that your place is too small for a dog), and they’d be all like, “Dude! Don’t kick dogs! That’s cruel!” And you’d get a rap as the guy in the tiny house who kicks dogs, and nobody would be your friend.

    So that’s why it would work (for taking care of David Blaine), but everything else would be ruined by hyper-window-schmutz and leg cramps and assumptions.

    1. Can I have David Blaine when you’re done with him, because I have a few potential uses for him.

  46. Regardless of how stupid I personally am, is anyone else having trouble understanding the design from that video alone?

  47. John Raabe has been designing small cottages and homes, and encouraging people to design and build their own using minimally cut dimensional lumber from his site for years. I’ve always appreciated his presence on the web, especially his forums for builders and wannabe builders. Many discussions, pictures, plans, and ideas can be found there.

    He recently ran a contest for under 20sq ft designs:

    Cool stuff.

  48. Put two of these together and you could make the ultimate version of that Tiny House Geico ad.

  49. It has room for a lavatory, sink, heater, bed, chair, fold-down table, and storage.

    where? this is more like disproof of concept. I live in a 15-floor apartment block and I have a smaller footprint-per-person than this rotating cartoon.

  50. Just for reference: the average coffin is over 14 sq ft. A Japanese capsule hotel room – where you do NOTHING but sleep and maybe watch TV – is something like 18. A twin mattress is over 20. 9 square feet is not even enough space to lay down comfortably, let alone keep your stuff in. A small studio apartment – with kitchen and bathroom – still has to be a good 150 sq ft to even begin to be functional if you have a normal amount of stuff and want to sit anywhere.

    This is not a liveable space even with a communal kitchen and bathroom. Not even for emergency usage – you can’t even have a cot mattress and a footlocker, or a sleeping bag and a camping pack in that, and that’s really the bare minimum for even short term use. I think the smallest space usage I’ve ever seen is something like 4 people in 60 square feet by using two bunk beds, and that’s a hostel room with shared bathrooms and shared/no kitchens. And none of those is remotely comfortable to live in long term.

  51. At least if you hung a noose from the center roof beam you’d have the perfect space to hang yourself… because you live in a house that is shittier than prison.

  52. As far as I can see it is a pretty bad design.

    If you have a very limited space why make half of it porch?

    When every inch counts it seems a lousy idea.

  53. The guy in the picture (and possibly the creator of this design) would have to be about 5 feet tall for the scale to be right. Without pulling up the file and looking at the dimensions, the building looks to be maybe 5 feet long by just under 2 feet wide. I can’t imagine being able to even lay down in that. That assumes the walls have nearly 0 thinkness as well….

  54. Half of the area if porch because that part doesn’t have to be heated. This is intended to be the smallest house with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

    It seems to me that anyone using anything more than the absolute minimum required needs to think long and hard about why.

  55. Good feedback… yes Nine Tiny Feet is a bit small to be the ideal home but it should be workable. We’ll see after I build it :-)

    The square footage is calculated just like every home. Bay windows and short lofts are not included.

    BTW… it’s Janzen… no ‘t’

    Follow my progress; here’s the blog:

    Oh… and yes this is serious and I am crazy.

  56. “Half of the area if porch because that part doesn’t have to be heated. This is intended to be the smallest house with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

    It seems to me that anyone using anything more than the absolute minimum required needs to think long and hard about why.”

    I’m guessing that in terms of carbon footprint, a highrise apartment still has it beat. A tiny structure like this has an extremely high surface area to volume ratio, meaning, ironically, that it’s probably pretty inefficient to heat (or cool), especially with big windows.

    An apartment in a large building, in contrast, likely only has 1 out of 6 sides bordering on the outside air, which would be a couple feet thick out of structural necessity. So, perhaps counterintuitively, *bigger* buildings mean smaller carbon footprints. Ponder the fact that the Mall of America is totally unheated except for the entrances. In Minnesota.

  57. This is a good article. For a tip on how to get even smaller. Check out the work done by the Navy for their enlisted quarters. That is a measure of how little space is actually needed by a person.

  58. The Boy Scouts of America has a standard for how much tent space is needed per person:

    “BSA Long-Term Camping Tent Policy. Long-term camping is defined as five or more consecutive nights of camping. The Camp Health & Safety standards of the Boy Scouts of America require that ‘each camper is provided with a minimum of 30 sq.ft. of sheltered space for sleeping and storing personal gear.’ Please note, some states may require more square footage per camper.”

    And that’s just for *camping*, not a semi-permanent residence – and latrine, cleaning, and cooking areas are extra. Yes, it’s possible to get a lot smaller – but after a while you need space to air out something that’s gotten wet, or just go batshit crazy because you can’t stretch. There’s purely physical limits, and then there’s psychological limits.

    @75: Re: Navy submarines – note that things like the head, the mess, and so on, are in addition to where you actually sleep – so you probably have a bit more square footage available. And submariners are batshit crazy to start, so there’s no issue there. ;)

  59. Good luck to you Mr. Jantzen! I bet it will be fun to build.

    Tip: don’t put it under a nut tree, in the summertime the sound of nuts falling on the roof will drive you sane.

  60. i’d rather live in a tent.

    if i was forced to live in this then the first thing i would do would be to put walls around the ‘porch’ and double the inside space.

    stupid design.

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