By Eva Bodenmüller
Is it a permanent dwelling, a weekend home or a tiny house for Thumbelina? Maybe it's a bit of everything and something for everyone, especially those who want to live in a proper house but still have the option of mobility. At least this is how Maxim Kurennoy, founder of Berlin-based Futteralhaus, envisioned it. He came up with the idea for the wooden houses when he was looking for an affordable living space for himself and his wife and child. That's when he drafted the design for his first minimalist home and placed it in his chosen location.
His Futteralhäuser ("case houses") offer people the possibility of flexible, movable and sustainable living: After building his first prototype, Kurennoy asked architect Nataliya Sukhova to design a minimalist house that could be mass-produced. She found a creative balance between comfort and minimalism by using a small number of materials to create continuity throughout the house, designing built-in furniture and sticking to a simple floor plan.
Houzz at a Glance
- Who lives here: Four people at most
- Location: Anywhere, in both urban and rural locales
- Size: Building footprint of 269 square feet (25 square meters), living space of 205 square feet (19 square meters), terrace of 194 square feet (18 square meters)
- Cost: Basic version with a bathroom about $52,300; optional extras include a kitchen, about $3,800; furniture, about $4,400; and floor heating, about $2,300
- Designer: Nataliya Sukhova of Transstruktura in Berlin
- Concept: Maxim Kurennoy of Futteralhaus
- Manufacturer: Futteralhaus
"The model with a floor space of [269 square feet] is the largest that can be built without a building permit in certain countries, such as Sweden," Sukhova says. However, it is possible to expand this design to as much as 1,075 square feet. "The prototype is painted with black paint manufactured by the Latvian Paint Eco. It is made of boiled linseed oil, mineral pigments and binders. It's a strong, distinctive color."
Sukhova's professional focus is on, among other things, recycling and the minimalist design of interior spaces. This was one of the reasons why Kurennoy, an architect himself, assigned her the task of implementing his idea of a simple but comfortable wooden house.
The house is a box with two compartments, separated by a bathroom unit. A glass facade makes the interior appear larger.
Sukhova's well-thought-out built-in components configure the rooms in such a way that the living space doesn't feel tight. There is enough storage space to accommodate essentials.
"We used white-stained coniferous wood for the whole interior: the ceiling, walls, floor and built-in furniture. This way the interior looks uniform and roomy," Sukhova says. The living space is designed to be a single continuous structure.
A kitchen sits just to the right of the entrance. It includes a small countertop between the cooking surface and the sink. The fridge, dishwasher and ventilation hood, as well as storage space for tableware, cutlery, cookware and food, are hidden behind the no-frills kitchen cabinet fronts. Also located here are the batteries for the solar energy system, which supplies the house with electricity, including powering the Möhlenhoff trench heating (a kind of convection heating) that runs along the window.
"A charging station for electric cars can even be added as an extra," Sukhova says.
The dining area is in the opposite corner. The table and chairs are complemented by a multifunctional bench along the wall. "The bench features a drawer to store things. It can also be transformed into a spare bed," says Sukhova, whose primary focus is designing for small spaces. There's additional storage space above and to the left of the bench.
The preassembled structure is delivered by truck. "The houses can be set up quickly and easily. They do not require any kind of complex foundation, and six isolated footings offer enough support," Sukhova says, referring to a type of foundation in which individual foundation pads transfer weight into the ground. A terrace in two parts and requiring three additional footings comes with the house. Sukhova says it needs to be at least 6 inches above the ground, which means that the entrance of the house is two or three steps up.
Inside the house, the bathroom stands wall to wall with the kitchen, without a threshold.
A walk-in shower is at the end of the small room and faces a sink with a wall mirror above it. The mirror makes the space look twice as large. The toilet is next to the door, which opens inward and closes flush with the wall.
"These houses are designed to be connected to the local sewage system, but it's also possible to use self-sufficient systems such as a composting toilet and a rainwater cistern," Sukhova says. A bathroom fan helps circulate the air.
Overall, the house is built in such a way that the air can circulate naturally. The insulation is wood fiber from Steico. The building fulfills the requirements of the German Energy Saving Ordinance of 2014 and has an energy performance certificate. The prototype is built out of triple-ply wooden panels and therefore equipped with a humidity barrier film, as this material does not keep humidity out on its own.
"Alternatively, there can also be an interior lining of Diagonalplatten," Sukhova says, referring to wooden panels connected mechanically by an airtight "dovetail" joint and arranged diagonally to increase their load-bearing capacity. "In that case, the humidity barrier is not necessary. That's why we find this material so great."
A large glass wall on the long side adds a sense of breadth to the small living space. When the house is placed in the right position — facing south and unshaded — it helps heat the living space. The wide sliding windows also allow air to pass through. Optional shading features can prevent overheating from the sun too.
The house is comfortable to sleep in and has beds for up to four people. The largest, in the bedroom, can be pulled out from a single to a double bed.
There is also a foldout bed that hangs from the wall. On the left side of the picture is a single bed and stowed hanging bed; on the right is a double bed and unfolded hanging bed. The third bed is, as previously noted, on the bench in the dining area.
Kurennoy complemented the architect's refined built-in components with sophisticated technologies, such as the optional charging station for electric vehicles, which is attached to the facade and powered by the solar system. Excess power can be sold over the internet to other Futteralhaus owners who have electric vehicles, using a custom-made app that also lets them offer their house as a vacation home or order food and other goods. Futteralhaus earns money whenever an owner sells power or rents out his or her home.
The thinking behind this is that minimalist living should be made to appeal to as many people as possible. A high degree of comfort within the smallest space possible is one incentive.
Support for furniture design and kitchen planning: architect Luigi Scapin
Production manager: Anete Leskevica of Futteralhaus