Red fox in front of a Swedish house. Credit: Jonn Leffmann
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
~ William Morris
Tiny house design forces you to consider every square inch. If you’re going to live in something smaller than a parking space, each structural element and object needs to be there for a reason. There’s not a lot of room for that broken vacuum cleaner gathering dust in the basement, that unused dining room, or that guilt-producing Wii fitness program that seemed like a good idea at the time.
As I’ve embarked on the design for my tiny house, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of spare. It’s an awesome word, one of those rare cases where it means both one thing as well as its opposite. Scant, frugal, economical, minimal, but also: being in excess of present need, to give or to lend without inconvenience or loss, such as “spare change” or “spare time”.
All of these meanings apply to tiny housers who downsize to small, simple dwellings, often built on very tight budgets. At the same time, without soul-crushing mortgages and high monthly utility bills, they have more time and money to pursue the lives and careers they really love, to connect with those they care about.
Even better is the obsolete word spareful. Last spotted in the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, it means prudent and restrained in the use of resources. Many tiny housers are motivated by a desire to leave a smaller footprint on the earth. Much thought is given to building highly efficient tiny green homes to reduce energy consumption and carbon production. Materials are selected based on the least chemicals and lowest environmental impact in their manufacture. Roadsides and salvage stores are scoured for siding, windows and other items that can be reused.
Let’s dust the cobwebs off spareful and give it the honor it deserves! Breaking it down into its component parts, spare + full, gives a glimpse of just how meaningful the word can be. The pop phrase “Less is More” is similar, but what does it really mean and how can it guide us in our design choices? Let’s plumb the depths a little. Continue reading →