Tour of a sub-100 sqft house

Here's Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Houses taking you on a tour of his clever, 100-square-foot house, which reminds me of a wooden, super-luxury first-class plane-seat on the flagship airline of some oil-soaked, cash-infused land.

Living in the Smallest House in the World (Thanks, Pddro, via Submitterator!)


  1. This house was featured in the book “Little House on a Small Planet”. It’s a great book, full of beautiful illustrations that make me want to throw out all my stuff and live in a little tiny cob house somewhere…

    If I recall rightly, Mr. Shafer also took the tiny scale of the house as an opportunity to fit in some little flourishes that would have been insanely inefficient if he’d also been trying to build a large house – e.g. I seem to recall he hand-forged the hinges for the front door – just because he felt like it.

  2. I’m not really sold on living on the second floor if you don’t absolutely have to. As a long term living solution I think you’d be better off with two units, one for kitchen/living room, and a second for bed/bath, spaced 15′ apart and the space inbetween enclosed with glass or netting for a larger living space. This seems to be the favored solution, because just about every cheap living solution that comes out of architecture school seems to land on this idea. I have yet to meet an architect who gushes over the idea of the 100-200 sq ft house idea for anything longer than a weekend.

  3. I love highly-engineered homes and Shafer’s are beautiful.

    One thing which occurs to me though: it seems like a great way for a single person to Stay Single.

    One thing the tiny homes don’t accommodate easily is a spouse or a pet or a second roll of toilet paper, for that matter.


    1. Exactly.

      Reading “I hope to retire in one someday” paints a sad picture indeed . . . while a single, minimalist type person might do well in one of these, there would literally not be enough room for more than one person to be standing and / or moving about at a given time.

  4. Very cool…but I think doubling the size would make the house more than twice as livable and be much more comfortable.

  5. My first thought was – what would be wicked would be to put that thing on a flatbed trailer. Then the camera pulled back and bingo.

  6. I love this. Interesting, though – the big dictionary is striking; as is the huge collection of glasses. I wonder if there’s some sentimental value behind those items that makes him hang on to that kind of thing, while simultaneously p00ping in his shower.

  7. Is he not counting the loft as part of the sq footage and only counting the footprint? I would think the loft is 70-80 sq feet on its own.

  8. Is no one going to comment on the cute bit at the end? Love the house and all, but the cat crawl thing and the woman giggling made this video for me. :)

  9. So, say you build one.
    Where do you park it / live out of it and still participate in your current work/life situation?

  10. I love his comment about being green and keeping those green house gases to a minimum…yet he tows his home around behind a truck…

    I think it’s a “cute” idea, but nothing more than a place to get away for me. I have way to much stuff, and I’m not giving it up to live in something like this. What does he do if the truck breaks down or a piece of the roofing breaks? Tools? I don’t see a place for that…

    My dream single person home would what is sometimes referred to as a “garlow” Part bungalow part garage. With a foot print of about 500 sq ft it has a two car garage (or storage space…I suppose if it’s only one person you could shrink that down to 350.) on the main floor and you live/sleep upstairs.

    1. A garlow? Is it healthy to live over garaged cars? They give off toxic fumes for hours after being parked. Safer to let them cool off for a few hours in the fresh air, before parking them in your house/garage.

      1. Anon #40: I once read about feng shui, and IIRC one recommendation made in the book was not to have the bedroom over the garage. The “chi” (or ‘energy’), according to the author, generated by the coming and going of the vehicles, would permeate the room above, and result in restlessness and bad sleep, and that it would also be bad for one’s marriage.

        All nonsense, I thought then – and still do – but the toxic fumes you mention the autos giving off after they have been parked – and of which I was not really aware – serves now to perhaps give that feng shui advice a whiff of truth.


  11. Is that Mark Walberg?

    He must be planning on living alone for a while cause there is definately no room for a 2nd person in there.

  12. Having the double burner stove underneath the window AND without a clear 40cm of worktop space on either side is going to affect his insurance premiums.

  13. Wow. The comments so far have a very American/European/”Western”/First-world sensibility to them, where everyone has to have “their space”. There is enough room in this home for two adults and a five-year-old / six-year-old child to live, comfortably, so long as the climate is reasonably tolerable (Where I currently live, the fireplace would be done away with and replaced by an air conditioner).

    I’d install a trapdoor for the upstairs and take out the shelving, increasing the usable sqftage upstairs, and there is (i believe) a TV and TV cabinet off to the right as you come in (which could go to the recyclers as far as I’m concerned), and a lot of those books could be stored digitally — to increase useful space. Those puffy chairs could go and be replaced by a couchbed/futon/storage seat because to my mind, that concession to luxury is verrah expensive in terms of cubic footage.

    I should also point out that while the house is a 100 sqft footprint, it has effectively 200 sqft of space because of the loft (but that may not get introduced into the calculations because it’s not a full-height space).

    1. That’s funny, because people who live in third world countries outside of cities have more living space than this.

    2. “There is enough room in this home for two adults and a five-year-old / six-year-old child to live, comfortably”

      Comfortably is clearly a very, very subjective term. I never considered myself claustrophobic before, but the thought of having to crawl up into the crawlspace so my girlfriend could get from the bathroom to the kitchen without me blocking her way gives me the creeps somehow…

  14. As mentioned before … where do you put your CHILDREN???

    I love many things about that, but even thinking back about my NYC days (where my apt was probably smaller) .. this is a hermit’s home …. all it needs now is a fold out screen outside, like a sailing ship and a projector :)

    1. “Kids, go outside and play.”

      My wife and I seriously considered getting one of these and parking it next to our house for when my mother-in-law visits. She’d spend most of her day in the main house, playing with her grandchildren, but she’d probably sleep more comfortably in the tiny house than in our living room. This would be a halfway viable solution for us as a guest room since our house proper has no real room for sleepover guests.

      This might conceivably be a tad cheaper than adding on to our house, but not enough for us to go through with it, although I am thoroughly charmed by it.

  15. Dont all homes have to meet local codes? I find it hard to believe that place does. If there is a fire in the kitchen and he is in bed, no way he’s getting out that tiny bedroom window. seems like a deathtrap to me.

  16. “Wow. The comments so far have a very American/European/”Western”/First-world sensibility to them, where everyone has to have “their space”.”

    Nice Condescension you got there. All humans need space..not just us “Westerners”. The only reason that the Third-World is the way it is, is because they have no space and the majority of people are forced to live together because of poverty. It’s not some altruistic, we’re-more-worthy-of-the-planet sensibility. They would do pretty much what we would do given half a chance.

    If I wanted to live in a third-world cardboard in 200 sq ft, box, with a screaming kid and a pissed-off wife I’ll wait until the Apocalypse comes to put me in that situation or move to Sub-Sahara Africa or India for a taste.

    As for the building, it’s nice but as other people have said, if you want to actually have a family, good luck.

    1. I think it’s a neat experiment, but I really feel as you do that normal people need space, not just westerners. Third world is messed up for all sorts of reasons. Lack of space isn’t the one that springs to mind for say South America.

  17. Plenty of people live and have kids (and happy lives) on boats that are little bigger than this. The wheels on this house also give the same sort of feeling of mobility, which I think makes it seem less claustrophobic. This being Boing Boing, I want someone to find a link to a version built on a hovercraft….

    1. Hovercraft? Uh uh dude, zeppelin.

      If I did a heat map of time spent on particular square feet of my own much larger home, it would probably indicate I’m only using about 100 square feet of it 95% of the time anyway.

  18. According to the Tiny House Blog, you can now pay $250/night (two night minimum) for the privilege of staying in Jay Shafer’s tiny house. Though i have long admired Jay’s work, shilling tiny houses to rich folks seems antithetical to the movement for low-cost, flexible, and sustainable housing. I built my tiny house (54 sq. ft.) for less than what it would cost to rent his abode for a week. Makers–save your money and build your own!

    1. I love your gypsy wagon, but if you’re going to compare it to my living space you have to add in the amount of space you use at the laundromat, since I’ve got a laundry. And the amount of space you use at your mechanic’s shop, since I’ve got a garage & shop.

      If you don’t use cars or clean clothing, then never mind.

      Seriously, though, I LOVE your wagon. It’s very aesthetically pleasing at multiple levels, thanks for showing it off!

      1. Why yes, for a complete comparison, one has to factor in the outsourced spaces like laundromat which you mentioned.

        But keep in mind that laundromat space can be used 24/7 by many people, while your laundy space and machine get used (a hypothetical) 4 hours a week.

        And a garage is not really necessary to store a car – these things are waterproof.

  19. … and at the end of This video, Jay Shafly admits that when he and his wife wanted to have a baby, they built a 500 Sq Ft house next door to his 100 Sq Foot house, since “100 Sq Ft for 3 people was a bit tight.”


  20. I got to see this fine fellow give lecture while I attended U of Iowa, very interesting stuff. While I don’t think I could feel comfortable in such a small space, I did use many of his concepts to build a lovely little cabin.

  21. So, it’s a wooden trailer.

    People have used trailers for a while.

    For that matter, people have lived on small boats too.

    The toilet in the shower isn’t that unusual either.

  22. Re a couple of comments on codes – it’s not a “house”, it’s a “trailer.” That’s how he gets away with lots of the space saving things he did.

    Even if it is never towed from place to place, the fact that it could be qualifies it as a bona fide trailer, not subject to building code for houses.

  23. I feel the need to “repaint my picture” of retiring in one so that it isn’t so “sad.”

    I hope to retire in one of these someday, on a mountain or the edge of the desert, where there is lots of land and not so many people. I want to raise chickens, and have an outbuilding/shed where my husband can fiddle with his woodworking projects and I can have my spinning wheel and loom. We will have a vegetable garden, and maybe some sheep too, and will spend a lot more time outside than we do now, busy with our desk jobs and our children.
    When the children come to visit with their children, they can camp on our land and chase the chickens and we can have bbq and sit outside until late at night and look at the stars.

    Is that a less sad picture?

  24. I’m a small person…and seeing that small house made me very claustrophobic. I need a bit of space about me, or I’ll feel closed in and trapped.

    My idea of perfect living quarters, is a warehouse type space, converted into living, art-working, and car-working areas. But primarily open spaces, separated by some amount of walls, for privacy and practicality (cars are a love of mine, but I’d rather not smell them in my living area), but not cut up into little boxes of rooms.

    Space. Give me open space, kthnx.

  25. I love it, although I do like the “Domestic Transformer” even more. I’m actually rather jealous, because the 204 sq ft room I live in (I’m in a residential building composed mostly of room and small apartments) doesn’t have a sink, shower or bathroom – they’re down the hall from me.

  26. A tiny house on wheels would be good insurance, and a versatile shelter.

    It could serve as a ‘starter’ house. If someone ended up with a family, and moved to a bigger house they could use the trailer as a guest house or external studio.

    Or, it could be turned into a cottage. If you wanted you could take a holiday in one.

    And, if built off grid, could form as some sort of survivalist fall back when the apocalypse comes, provided adequate growing land.

    Although not as small, or affordable as the tumbleweed homes, the “miniHome” has similar appeal. — Canadian, but not exactly what you’d see on Trailer Park Boys.

  27. If I lived alone, I think I wouldn’t need much more space than that. My family of two adults and one child is currently living in a 59.5 square meter (640 square feet) apartment fairly comfortably. If we got rid of all the crap we didn’t need, we would fit even better.

  28. Got me with the loft. My first house was an energy efficient design, with about 24 square metres of living area. The idea I had at the time was to build an alpine hut. I had seen them while cross country skiing, with the bed in the loft just like this house.

    One day when I am retired and my son has moved out of home this is the house I would like to own.

  29. Very cool and great use of space. He still seems to want to hang on to “things”, which probably makes it feel a bit tighter overall. When I got divorced, I live in my Casita travel trailer for 3 years. It’s about 98 square feet and while I felt claustrophobic at first, I grew to appreciate the minimalistic lifestyle it forced on me. I still had my gadgets, but I had to really think hard if I wanted to buy something new. Do I really need that? Do I have the room for it? (usually the answer was no). I was the butt of many jokes at work, but also admired a bit for my inexpensive lifestyle. I met the love of my life and got an apartment together with her, but I still have the Casita… You know, just in case.

  30. I looked into this for my area. I as far as I can tell, it would have to stay on wheels. If it went on a foundation, it would be subject to the local building codes, which it absolutely will not comply with.
    Short of finding an undersized lot, or a friend’s place to park it on, you’d be stuck in a trailer park, because most jurisdictions here have laws against sleeping in a vehicle.

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