Where and How Did the Tiny House Movement Originate?

Are you looking for a comfortable and affordable living situation?

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a place to settle down in your old age, a place to retire to after doing your fair share of labor, or somewhere to call home while you’re out there pursuing your dream, a house should fulfill 2 things. Living in it should make you feel comfortable and it should be affordable.

The problem of real estate today is that land property can be as expensive as having a house made, especially in California. In an effort to cut costs, the tiny house trend is something a lot of people look into.

Tiny houses are the main focus of a popular trend that prides itself on being a friend to the environment and the solution for middle-class homebuyers. How did this trend start though? Let’s take a look.

1. The Original Blueprint

Ever seen a granny flat, also known as an Accessory Dwelling Unit? These are units built right next to a house, functioning as both an extension and as a separate home. It’s possible that tiny houses originated from ADUs.

There’s a lot of debate as to when the first ever recorded, modern tiny living situation was in pre-revolutionary France. And believe it or not, a lot of people argue that it was Marie Antoinette who boasted the first, modern small housing. You heard that right. And while it’s true, her 255 square foot boudoir was smaller than the houses nobles had back in her time, she still led a lavish lifestyle as an archduchess.

Pretty interesting right? The fact is, the tiny house movement encourages living in a modest home and living a modest lifestyle to go with it as well. Considering Marie Antoinette’s lifestyle, the community obviously never considered her a part of them. Instead, for another notable example, look at Henry David Thoreau’s small house.

Back in 1854, Thoreau published Walden, a book about Thoreau’s thoughts and musing while experiencing life in the wilderness and in a small cabin. Walden detailed how he spent 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days in the small cabin by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. He also listed the merits of living in a small space and even praised them with enthusiasm.

Little to Henry David’s knowledge, his writings would inspire not just the people of his time, to the whole world even today. Thoreau’s is actually considered to be one of the biggest influences of the tiny house movement today. People also celebrate the merits he listed to be what every tiny household should aspire to follow.

Today, you can find a replica of his cabin on Walden pond, along with a statue of Henry himself.

2. The Influence Spreads

Following the inspiration of Henry David Thoreau, a lot of authors also wrote books about tiny houses, many of which wrote about tiny house living and what it entailed decades after Thoreau released his book.

Lloyd Khan and Bob Easton were among these authors. Shelter, the book they wrote, depicted the residential design of former and current houses. The book also depicted the construction methods of small houses across the globe. They meant for their book to be a sourcebook to promote, sustainable, harmonious living.

More than a decade later, Thoreau’s work was again quoted by another author. Lester Walker was the first person to use the words “tiny houses” in a cover for his own book. Walker’s work serves as a tribute to the ideology of Thoreau and is also a source for many, practical tiny house tips.

The influence of his book spread across the country since its release. It even played a hand in influencing Portland to allow accessible dwelling units on private properties even without a special permit.

1998 was also a big year for the movement as Sarah Susanka published her book The Not So Big House. She gave the community a big boost as people all over the country loved her work. In fact, the support her book received from readers prompted her to launch a franchise.

3. The Need Arises

Near the end of the 20th century, the need for affordable living situations increased dramatically as real estate prices in the California cities soared. Without suitable housings, families gave up a lot to cover their living expenses and keep enough money for bills.

It was around this time that Jay Shafer wrote his first article about the merits of tiny housings. Shafer argued that tiny houses solved the problems of a lot of people, and jumpstarted the movement, propelling the popularity of tiny houses today. His success was substantial enough to help him open a company for tiny mobile homes.

Later in 2002, Shafer, along with other influential names such as Shay Salomon, teamed up to form a “small” society. They dedicated their time in this group to support more research and development for more efficient living spaces.

After 5 years of research, Shafer was ready to show the nation his findings. He was invited to be a guest on Oprah Winfrey’s show where he gave the audience a tour of his small house. With Oprah giving people advice on how to save space at the end of the show, Shafer’s campaign to start the movement again was a huge success.

4. A Way of Life is Born

After Shafer’s resounding success with Oprah, tiny houses became the craze people started looking into. It wasn’t long before Kent Griswold rode the wave and opened the first blog dedicated to tiny houses, a guide that gives people designs and tips for downsizing their lives.

And no surprise, traffic going to Griswold’s site boomed in 2008 during the mortgage crisis..

Only a few years later, and a show called Tiny House Nation dedicated to showing off those who downsized their homes was aired. The show celebrated the creative ways people all across the country live in their tiny houses, and sparked a national interest. The following was so large that it inspired another show called Tiny House World with the same core.

Tiny House World focused on families and individuals looking to downsize. The inspired the leadership of Texas offered hundreds of vacant lots for sale. These lots had the sole purpose of accommodating those who wanted to build tiny houses and ADUs.

The town then proclaimed it as the country’s first community for tiny houses. Soon enough, more states saw the success of the trend and relaxed their regulations as well. With that, the movement for tiny housings started to shape today’s living situations.

Get Yourself a Tiny House Today

The tiny house trend is now more than a trend today. It’s a way of life for some people, a community, and an art form, too. And though accessory dwelling units differ in lots of ways form tiny houses, the same spirit of downsizing and affordable homes right in your backyard resonates.

If you need help planning and building an ADU, and not simply a tiny house, we’re happy to help. Don’t hesitate to contact us here. We can help you ask the right questions, determine if your property would be a good fit for a backyard home, and get your ready to move in from design to construction. We even offer financing.

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