The Millennial generation continues to redefine how they want to live and where, and this has brought a general shift away from suburban, single family homes to tinier, more creative abodes. This new approach to housing encompasses the younger generation’s concerns about sustainability, community involvement, living for the moment, and redefining personal success and satisfaction. Many Millennials would rather spend more for an experience than for a possession, and would rather live somewhere clean, in the middle of the action, and with good wi-fi than in a home with more space.
For decades, the real estate model of norms has been the same: first purchase a small starter home, then, as your family and income grow, save up for a more spacious house in the suburbs, and eventually, perhaps purchase a second vacation home or larger primary home. Today, more and more young adults and families are choosing an alternative path and a much smaller footprint, building and retrofitting spaces that are personalized to their needs and desires. This may mean crafting a tiny home out of prefabricated components or storage containers, choosing a smaller residence that capitalizes on community as part of a pocket neighborhood, or even renovating a vintage Airstream trailer and taking their lives to the road. While certainly not the majority, more and more people are embracing the tiny lifestyle, both in the United States and internationally.
This dramatic difference in style of living is in part linked to the harsh economic climate many Millennials faced upon graduation, leading to a stalled start in traditional career fields. After weathering financial uncertainty, Millennials are now choosing to savor each day as it comes and make due with less, rather than wait to reap the rewards in retirement.
With this frame of mind, it is far more appealing to simplify, downsize, and make a life that you can sustain and enjoy right now, whether that means purchasing a small plot of land and building an eco cabin by the river, or raising a family in a petite yet innovatively-appointed apartment or micro home in the city, where you can enjoy the culture and cuisine of urban life. Living small allows you to expand your lifestyle and reconnect, as the local coffee shop becomes your office, the pub down the block becomes your great room, and a picnic table under the stars becomes your dining room.
The Tiny House Movement has caught fire, and the desire for smaller, more thoughtful residences is not just limited to Millennials. Baby Boomers have also found satisfaction in hitching a cottage to a truck and traveling after retirement, or putting down (condensed) roots in a prefab cabin situated in wine country, near the beach, in the desert, or by a mountain lake.
Paintbrush - 440 square foot granny flat or cottage. Paintbrush
was designed by Bernie Kern of
Learn more about this plan in
Tiny homes typically boast floor plans well under 500 square feet—as opposed to the average single family home of 2500 square feet—and, depending on amenities, building, and material costs, can often be constructed for around $20,000-$70,000, making the idea of living rent and mortgage free a reality. Furthermore, due to the extremely low energy needs, if one should choose to use sustainable materials and invest in upgrades like solar panels, a pellet stove, graywater system, and a composting toilet, it is entirely possible to live off the grid.
Although the idea of such a miniature floor plan may seem limiting, those who take the plunge find it just the opposite. As long as you can avoid clutter, cleaning is a breeze, and getting creative with convertible furniture, hidden storage, and a plethora of hooks and mounted shelves allow you to keep everything you need in its place and within arms reach.
Architects, home designers, and builders are coming up with innovative new designs and ideas that make it easier than ever to imagine yourself in a micro dwelling. Prefabricated panels and plans that include smart features like pocket doors, murphy beds, hidden storage, and sleeping lofts ensure that not a cubic inch is wasted, and these can be purchased and assembled at a fraction of the cost of starting from scratch.
Pine - 648 square foot component, pre-fab home. Pine was
designed by Larry Gilland of
LGA Studios. Learn more about this plan in
Thinking in terms of simplified building blocks is also a way that makes the notion of the small home more approachable to those not willing to go quite so tiny and mobile. A self-contained, prefabricated unit for a full home can be purchased and installed on-site, and all it essentially needs is a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a live/work/sleep space. This is the idea behind our Pine plan. Pine is a rectangular starter unit that serves as a complete home, and many may be happy with it just as it is. However, Pine can also be built upon, with additional blocks artfully stacked or surrounding it to give you more space, for example, for a nursery, an artist’s studio, or a garage. By using prefabricated units, you can still enjoy the lower construction costs of small-scale living while creating a home that suits your needs and lifestyle.
Think you might enjoy life in a tiny home? Start by evaluating what truly matters to you and how you live, and then getting rid of the rest. Do you love photography, but could care less about entertaining? Get rid of those extra chairs and dishes (or buy stacking or folding chairs that stow away), keep your camera on display to serve as decor, print a few of your favorite images, and post the rest to your blog. Are you passionate about music? Hang your guitar on the wall as a practical art piece and have your record player console pull double duty as a storage cabinet (and put in on wheels!). For some, a kitchen can be as simple as a small refrigerator, an electric griddle, and a slow cooker.
Small-scale living is certainly not for everyone, but anyone can benefit from simplifying their life. For a radical take on spring cleaning this year, try a packing party. Pack up everything you own in clearly labeled boxes, and then give yourself a month. Anything that you didn’t need or want to take out of the boxes to enjoy your daily life, keep boxed up and donate or sell. You’ll be amazed at the freedom you find when you let go.
For more great tips and resources on simplifying your life, check out
And don’t forget to check out our newest plan book,
It’s coming out this Tuesday and includes five beautiful homes for the Millennial market, ranging from 450-1500 square feet, as well as four small homes ranging from 575-1300 that are perfectly suited to a pocket neighborhood.