“It’s a very exciting moment,” said Shay Salomon, a green builder in Tucson, Ariz., and the author of “Little House on a Small Planet” (Lyons Press, 2006), “because it feels like a chapter of American history might be ending, the chapter called ‘Bigger is Better.’ I’m not the Gallup poll, but I hear the same story over and over: We got rid of that big house, and now I have time to see my husband. Before, we used to work all week and then we’d spend the weekend on the house.”I started titling this blog "little house on the" and then I was searching for something that recalled 'prarie' but was accurate to complete the reference. Then I realized the picture captioner from the New York Times had done the exact same thing, calling it "little house on the freeway." Shame on you, New York Times! You have to leave the easy references to us armchair commentors! Coming up with clever captions is your full time job!
I had a friend who bought a little house, a 'bungalow', in Ballard in the early 90s. It seemed a little nutty, but of course I was convinced that what everyone else saw as appreciation and free money was in fact a real estate bubble. Uh, time will tell -- Seattle certainly hasn't relaxed to 1993 prices yet. It was only big enough for him -- a bedroom, a kitchen, a dining room. I believe he had a crawlspace as well.
But, I would totally buy a house like that if I were to start a family. It would have to have a second bedroom, to stack the children in, but I'm really befuddled by the size of the houses people I know live in. Don't they know that if you can't use up all the space you have at home, you'll never participate in civic life?
Gregory Paul Johnson, a founder of the Small House Society in Iowa City, said that the notion of very small houses becoming popular was “an absurdity” five years ago. “But there are so many powerful forces at work right now,” he added, “like rising energy costs and the mortgage crisis. I think people want small homes because they cost less to purchase, maintain, heat.”OK. I think I'm going to start doing this with everything I spend over $100 on. Tow it around the area and give tours. There are a lot of details to work out, but that's the plan now.
In July, Mr. Johnson, who lives in a 140-square-foot house made by the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company of Sebastopol, Calif., took to the road to promote his vision of living small, along with Jay Shafer, Tumbleweed’s founder. The two men drove from Victoria, British Columbia, to San Diego, pulling Mr. Shafer’s house behind them on a trailer. (Tiny houses, which rarely have foundations, are often built on trailers.)
Along the way they stopped to hold workshops and give (very brief) home tours. Some events drew hundreds of people. “It seems like everybody is fascinated by the idea of living in a tiny house,” said Mr. Shafer, who started Tumbleweed eight years ago. “But for a long time, I was just selling the dream.”
“I’ll have a sense of where the balance is,” he added — a sense that he hopes will help his family decide on a reasonable goal for downsizing, something he is eager to do soon. “We bought this house, I think, for prestige,” he said, sounding chastened.Oh, did you see that coming? That's right, I'm talking about the housing bubble. Buyer's remorse is maybe too modest a phrase for the real estate hangover from the NEWCAG years. So, these huge houses will be foreclosed on, and eventually destroyed. They're just going to go away. I'm looking forward to a brighter future.