Big may be beautiful to some, but in a world of dwindling space and resources, it makes far more sense to downsize one's home whenever possible. Gizmag doffs its cap to 10 recent architectural examples of utilizing space to its utmost potential, from tiny micro-homes on wheels that resemble large sheds, to slightly larger brick-and-mortar houses sporting ingeniously flexible interior layouts. One thing they all have in common though, is an distinct effort to make the most of what space is available.
Diogene Micro Home
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Renzo Piano is best known for London's Shard building, but the Italian architect recently turned his hand to making something much smaller. The Diogene Micro Home measures just 7.5 sq m (81 sq ft), but still contains all the basics.
The small dwelling sports a living area, with folding desk and chair, a sofa bed and kitchen unit with built-in sink and a refrigerator. There's a composting toilet on-board for when nature calls, and more storage space than you might expect. Solar panels, rainwater collection, and filtration services have also been added for good measure.
The Diogene Micro Home is currently undergoing testing and is expected to be available in 2014.
The Keret House
Reckoned to be quite possibly the "world's narrowest house," the Keret House is located in the former Jewish Ghetto district of Warsaw, Poland. Though difficult to verify, the "narrowest" claim is certainly plausible, as the entire home was built within a former alley. The Keret House measures just 122 cm (48 in) at its widest interior point, and 72 cm (28 in) at its narrowest.
Probably not the best location to host a soiree then, but Centrala Architects still managed to squeeze in a serviceable kitchen, dining room, WC and shower room, in addition to a bedroom with single bed.
No prize for guessing how large this Wroclaw, Poland, based apartment by 3XA Architects is, but for those who shun the metric system, the 29 sq m home also works out at roughly 316 sq ft.
3XA maximized the space available in this small urban apartment by creating a "semi-mezzanine," as the designers like to describe it. This was necessary as the ceiling height of 3.7 m (12 ft) didn't allow a proper second floor, or indeed, mezzanine.
Therefore, the designers fitted a bed area over the main wardrobe, which is accessible via a small wooden staircase. The kitchen and dining area are also combined into one, and a blind door was also fitted to a spare wall, in a bid to increase the feeling of space.
The apartment was completed in 2012.
Mushroom Tiny House
Let's be frank, the Mushroom Tiny House by Evocative Design doesn't look like much more than a shed on wheels – and that's because it isn't, essentially. However, this fact belies some serious under-the-hood innovation that just might revolutionize tiny home building.
The innovation in question revolves around fungi, of the mycelium (mushroom root) variety. This mycelium was used by Ecovative Design as a basis for a new insulation material, used in the construction of the Mushroom Tiny House. It works just like the usual bog-standard insulation, except contains no harmful toxins and is environmentally-friendly to grow.
The insulation used in Mushroom Tiny House is available for purchase now, at a price of US$8 per cubic ft.
The ÁPH80, by Spanish architectural firm ÁBATON is an attractive prefabricated and portable micro-home suitable for up to two people (as long as they don't mind sharing a bed). Erected in just a day, the mostly wood-based residence is built using sustainably-sourced timber, and measures a total of 27 sq m (290 sq ft).
The interior layout is based around three interior spaces, which comprise a lounge and kitchen space, a bathroom, and a generous bedroom. ÁPH80 also sports a ventilated facade, and amenities like a hob, refrigerator, sink and hot water shower. The home can be transported via truck.
ÁPH80 is available from €32,000 (US$42,000).
Finnish micro house
Another small and arguably impractical home? Well, yes, but the Finnish micro house by designer Robin Falck has an ace up its sleeve. The home is so small that it can be built without a permit in its native country of Finland. Finnish authorities allow structures smaller than either 8.9 or 11.8 sq m (96 or 128 sq ft), depending on location, to bypass the permit process entirely.
Dubbed Nido, the house comprises two levels and features a modest bedroom, lounge, and some storage space – though no WC or washing facilities, so there's definitely going to be some sacrifices. Still, if you could live with regular visits outside to the often chilly Finnish climate, you'll be rewarded with amazing views, and a genuinely tangible connection with the surrounding nature.
This micro house isn't for sale, but Falck reports it cost him roughly US$10,500 to build.
Big & Small House
The Big & Small House, by Anonymous Architects is definitely on the larger side of the small houses we're covering here, but it still comes in at under half the size of a typical Los Angeles home and so warrants a mention. The house is placed atop four concrete stilts, thus reducing the footprint of the building’s foundations to under 1.85 sq m (20 sq ft), and freeing a little space beneath.
The single story (plus loft) property is asymmetric, making for a challenging palette for Anonymous Architects when designing the interior, but the firm used folding furniture and partitions to help impart a feeling of there being more space than there actually is.
NOMAD Micro Home
Canada-based NOMAD Homes recently unveiled a new concept micro-home. Measuring just 9.2 sq m (100 sq ft), the house looks – from the early renders at least – to be a nice compromise between size and space, offering enough space for comfort, while still being a true micro home.
Further to this, the NOMAD Micro Home will be sold in flat-pack form, can operate on or off-grid, promises to be easy-to-build, and features a living area, kitchen, bathroom, and upstairs sleeping area as standard.
As of writing, it's still subject to a crowd funding campaign, but the NOMAD Micro Home is expected to fetch just under US$25,000 for the basic model when made available for purchase.
Fans of Transformers will likely appreciate the aesthetic behind the DALE micro-home concept. Designed by students from SCI-Arc and Caltech for the Solar Decathlon competition, the futuristic house not only operates off-grid, but also handily expands in size to increase the useable interior space from 55 sq m to almost 167 sq m (600-1,800 sq ft) by utilizing a system of rails.
The house contains two bedrooms, a living room, and a multipurpose space, in addition to a kitchen and bathroom. Sustainable tech slated for the house includes a solar hot water tank, solar panels, and an energy monitoring system.
House in Chayagasaka
With a timely reminder that choosing to have children doesn't necessarily require a dramatic increase in space, the Aichi, Japan-based House in Chayagasaka takes a different approach to family living. Tetsuo Kondo Architects built the one-room property for a young couple and their two children. Well, mostly one room anyway, as there appears to be some partitioned sections added for the sake of privacy.
Naturally, this common layout has some drawbacks but what the family lost in privacy, it gained in shared space. The interior offers a degree of personal space by being arranged in box shapes, with a mezzanine also going some way to impart a greater sense of separation.
That rounds out our top ten recent examples of micro homes. Countless more examples are cropping up around the world, so if you've encountered any other notable examples, we'd love to hear about them in the comments.