Never Too Small: Architects Give Tours of Tiny Homes in Paris, Melbourne, Milan, Hong Kong & Beyond

There was a time when few had a taste for tiny homes — indeed, a time when mil­lions of us tuned in to tele­vi­sion shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous express­ly to rev­el in res­i­den­tial expanse and opu­lence. This is not to say that such straight­for­ward “real estate porn” has van­ished: like all twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry media, it’s just tak­en a vari­ety of new forms. In its more than twen­ty-year run, HGTV’s House Hunters and its many spin-offs have catered to view­ers who slaver over man­sions, but also to those whose tastes run from house­boats and trop­i­cal islands to recre­ation­al vehi­cles and off-the-grid com­pounds. The inevitable debut of Tiny House Hunters came in 2014.

For a vari­ety of rea­sons, many mem­bers of the last cou­ple of gen­er­a­tions have come of age with­out the desire — and often, not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, with­out the means — for a large liv­ing space. Over the past fif­teen years or so, pop­u­lar cul­ture has metab­o­lized this con­di­tion into an enthu­si­asm, and for some an obses­sion.

The die-hard tiny-home enthu­si­ast watch­es Youtube chan­nels like Nev­er Too Small: since its launch five years ago, it has uploaded more than a hun­dred videos so far, each of which offers a brief guid­ed tour of a dif­fer­ent tiny home led by the archi­tect who designed it. These include diminu­tive res­i­dences in cities the world over, from Paris and Ams­ter­dam to Hong Kong and Tokyo to Mel­bourne and Syd­ney.

Based in Aus­tralia, Nev­er Too Small has pro­duced a great many episodes in that coun­try — a coun­try known, iron­i­cal­ly, for its vast tracts of unde­vel­oped land. But there, as every­where else, space in major cities comes at a pre­mi­um, and it falls to the tiny-house archi­tect to employ and artic­u­late that space with an absolute max­i­mum of effi­cien­cy. (They also face the same basic chal­lenge in the occa­sion­al rur­al set­ting, build­ing “tiny cab­ins” and repur­pos­ing ship­ping con­tain­ers.) The details may vary, but watch enough episodes in a row and you tend to notice that, locat­ed though they may be in New York, Buenos Aires, Antwerp, or Milan, these apart­ments have much in com­mon aes­thet­i­cal­ly.

No mat­ter their own cul­tur­al ori­gins, most of these archi­tects have evi­dent­ly looked for inspi­ra­tion to Japan, whose tra­di­tions of res­i­den­tial archi­tec­ture have long devel­oped with­in small plots of land. They also tend to make lib­er­al use of light wood and white paint, which make these spaces look more expan­sive than they are, as well as at once mod­ern and organ­ic. (These choic­es car­ry a degree of retro appeal as well, hark­ing back as they do to the design trends of the mid-six­ties.) The best of Nev­er Too Smal­l­’s videos pro­vide a clear view of its sub­jec­t’s con­text, whether it be a hip old urban neigh­bor­hood or a hill­side in the wilder­ness. There are many rea­sons to want a tiny home, none based on want­i­ng to stay inside it all the time.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Tiny Trans­form­ing Apart­ment: 8 Rooms in 420 Square Feet

An 18-Year-Old Spends a Year Alone Build­ing a Log Cab­in in the Swedish Wilder­ness: Watch from Start to Fin­ish

Vis­it the Homes That Great Archi­tects Designed for Them­selves: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Cor­busier, Wal­ter Gropius & Frank Gehry

The First House Pow­ered by Cof­fee

When Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Dog­house, His Small­est Archi­tec­tur­al Cre­ation (1956)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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  • Janess says:

    Tiny homes are def­i­nite­ly evolv­ing. And, even if one may not choose to live in 400 square feet or less home, one can still gath­er some great ideas for how to struc­ture your home using this min­i­mal­ist lifestyle. also has some great con­cepts.

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