Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

August 2, 2019 by  
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Minimalist living is as old as time, but the tiny house trend sweeping across North America and Europe has influenced many people to downsize, declutter and live simply. A new investigation into the habits of tiny house residents reveals that living in smaller houses encourages people to adopt more sustainable habits across the board. What are tiny houses? The unofficial definition of a tiny house is typically any single housing unit under 500 square feet. Many tiny houses are on wheels to get around state and federal government laws that limit the minimum habitable dwelling size. Because of this restriction, tiny house owners often own the transportable housing unit but not necessarily the land that it is on. Related: Is a tiny home right for you? The media and tiny house designers market the micro-dwellings as environmentally friendly alternatives to large family homes. Sellers encourage prospective buyers to downsize their possessions and kiss their mortgages goodbye in exchange for experiential riches like travel and financial freedom. Though they take up less space and store less junk, few studies exist that actually prove that living in tiny houses is more sustainable. Little house habits Maria Saxton, an environmental design and planning PhD candidate, studied the impact that downsizing into a tiny house had on inhabitants’ sustainable behaviors. She conducted surveys and in-depth interviews of 80 downsizers who had been living in their new tiny homes for at least a year. She calculated their individual ecological footprints before and after the move and examined which behaviors changed for the better and which changed for the worse. Her research discovered that on average, residents reduced their individual footprints by 45 percent after they settled into a tiny home, which is a huge reduction. She also found that the move and new lifestyle impacted other aspects and behaviors even without the inhabitants realizing it. Ecological footprint is usually calculated by determining the amount of land that it would take every year to support an individual’s consumption. The average American’s footprint is 8.4 hectares per person per year. That’s about the equivalent of eight football fields per person. Among those who downsized to tiny houses, the average footprint was approximately 3.87 hectares per person compared to a per-person average of 7 hectares before the move. How tiny houses encourage sustainable living Remarkably, housing-related behaviors and consumption patterns weren’t the only changes that the residents experienced. Of more than 100 individual behaviors examined, about 86 percent changed to become more environmentally friendly. For example, tiny house residents tended to shop and buy significantly less than the average American and less than they themselves did previously. Without room to store additional items, tiny house inhabitants simply could not support their old consumption habits. While 86 percent of behaviors changed for the better, about 13 percent changed for the worse. For example, tiny house residents tended to eat out more to avoid the frustration of cooking in a cramped kitchen. These residents recycled less because they had limited space for sorting and storing recyclable materials. They also tended to travel more, including both adventure trips and traveling further for basic items, likely because many tiny houses are located in more rural areas than where the owners previously lived. According to a separate investigation into the habits and motivations of tiny house dwellers, the majority of downsizers simply kept a storage unit. So, while they had fewer items within an arm’s reach, they hadn’t really committed to a minimalist lifestyle, and they could still support the overflow of their overconsumption. Smarter designs to support sustainability According to Saxton, the results of this study are critical for tiny house designers as well as to influence archaic laws that restrict tiny houses. If tiny house inhabitants truly do live more sustainably, towns and cities should be encouraging residents to make the move. Related: 7 tips for decorating a tiny home Architects and designers of the little abodes can also use the results of the research to integrate designs that address the prohibitive factors causing that 13 percent shift to less sustainable behaviors. For example — how can the kitchens be larger and more functional? How can trash and recycling storage be expanded to accommodate proper sorting of recyclable materials? Despite the tiny trend, housing is growing in size and destruction In 1973, the average house was 1,660 square feet, but by 2017, the average house sold was 2,631 square feet . This represents a 63 percent increase in the average size of a house in just 45 years. Although the tiny house trend skyrocketed among a niche corner of the population in over-industrialized countries, the majority of people still think bigger is better, which comes at a cost to the environment . The construction of oversized houses means loss of natural habitat and biodiversity , including the fragmentation of ecosystems to clear the way for new housing developments. In addition, the carbon footprint of the materials and construction industry is enormous. Commercial and residential buildings together contribute 39 percent of the U.S.’s total carbon emissions. This includes the transportation and sourcing of the building materials, the energy needed for construction and the environmental cost of maintenance. Maybe they are just another trend, but maybe tiny houses can be a small solution to global warming on an individual and community level. At the very least, the research concludes that cities and towns should re-examine existing laws that discourage tiny house dwellers from owning land or remove the wheels to at least allow residents to feel a sense of permanence. One town, Spur, Texas, adjusted its laws and sells itself as the first tiny home town in America. As the trend continues, other towns and cities would be wise to follow suit. Via The Conversation Images via Paul VanDerWerf , Christoph Scholz and Nicolás Boullosa ( 1 , 2 )

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Do people in tiny houses live more sustainably?

Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

August 2, 2019 by  
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Plants from around the world are flourishing in four curved greenhouses in an unexpected place — directly behind the spectator stands of the new Simonne Mathieu tennis court at Roland-Garros, home of the French Open. Designed by the Paris-based studio Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés , the 5,000-seat sunken tennis court not only offers a strikingly modern space for the annual tournament but also offers a visual extension of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil botanical garden, where the stadium is located. The steel-and-glass greenhouses were built to reference the historical hothouses of the 19th century but feature a modern, energy-efficient design built to the highest technical specifications. Named after the famous tennis player who played at the Roland-Garros in the 1930s, the Simonne Mathieu tennis court is a new venue for hosting the international tennis championships hosted every year in Paris. Taking inspiration from Auteuil’s greenhouses designed by Jean Camille Formige in 1898, Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés introduced new public space around the partially sunken tennis court in the form of four modern, steel-and-glass greenhouses that are visible from the spectator stands. Related: Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year “These new greenhouses form a glass backdrop, a case within which plants from four continents can flourish,” the architects explained. “They refer to the design of the nearby hothouses and are inspired by, without imitating, architecture in metal that, since the construction of the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, still stands, with its delicate relationship between light and structure, as the perfect model of airiness and economy.” Sheathed in double-pane glass for superior insulation, these curved greenhouses feature flora from the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania. A meandering paved pathway traverses each greenhouse. Because the greenhouses are a new addition of public space, they will be accessible to visitors throughout the year, even outside of the two-week French Open tournament. + Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés Via ArchDaily Photography by Erieta Attali via Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés

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Energy-efficient greenhouses surround the new French Open tennis court

This development offers sustainable, affordable housing and tiny homes in Colorado

May 13, 2019 by  
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The small resort-town of Telluride in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is known for its world-class skiing, remote location and, until now, lack of low-cost housing. When the tourist numbers begin to pile up during the busy season, those working in the hospitality industry at restaurants, shops and resorts are often forced to endure a long commute from the areas outside of town, where prices are cheaper. The expensive hotel rooms and vacation homes are a dream for visitors, but when it comes to lower- to middle-class workers, affordable accommodations are scarce. Architecture firm Charles Cunniffe Architects out of Aspen recently completed a low-cost option for housing just outside of central Telluride, with rents as low as $385 per person. Related: COBE unveils LEED Gold-seeking affordable housing units in Toronto The complex consists of a boarding house with room for 46 tenants, another building with 18 separate apartments and three tiny homes . You wouldn’t know by looking at it that Virginia Placer is considered low-cost housing. The architects blended the structures among the plentiful high-end resorts and expensive housing for which Telluride is known. The buildings are placed at the base of a tree-covered mountain, and the exterior is made of high-quality wooden panels and a variety of metals, including steel. The apartment building utilizes open-air stairs and wooden balconies, while the boarding house has a huge deck with mountain views and a canopy for protection from the elements. Inside the boarding house, communal lounges and two kitchens are available for tenants to use. With a focus on sustainability, the designers installed oversized windows into the apartments for passive solar and ventilation. The tiny homes across the street from the main two buildings share the same design of metal and cedar and total 290 square feet of living space per dwelling. Scoring a spot in the development is a literal win — potential tenants are chosen through a lottery. Apartments range from  $850 to $1430 a month, while a tiny home costs $700 monthly. The cheapest option for individuals is the communal boarding house for $385 per month per person. + Charles Cunniffe Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Dallas & Harris Photography via Charles Cunniffe Architects

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This development offers sustainable, affordable housing and tiny homes in Colorado

A pair of monochromatic cottages are tucked into the idyllic Canadian forestscape

May 13, 2019 by  
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An idyllic forestscape setting that lies deep within the Canadian wilderness has inspired Montreal-based firm Appareil Architecture to build a vacation home in the form of two jet-black, pitched-roofed cabins. The Grand-Pic Chalet is actually made up of two monochromatic cottages separated by a connecting wooden deck, which allows the beautiful family home to sit in serene harmony with the surrounding nature. When the homeowners tasked the Canadian firm to create a cabin that would be a welcoming space to host family and friends, the design team was immediately inspired by the building site. Surrounded by soaring evergreen trees and a rolling landscape, the designers were drawn to create a welcoming but sophisticated space that enjoys a strong connection between the home and the forest . Related: The Little House clad in black cedar is nestled among Washington’s evergreens The house is a total of 1,464 square feet separated into two cabins. The main cottage contains the living room and open kitchen area, while the smaller cabin is used as a guest house. In contrast to the black exteriors, the interiors are clad in light Russian plywood panels. The open layout is perfect for socializing, either with a large party or small family gathering. A series of tall, slender windows let optimal natural light into the interior living spaces as well as provide stunning views of the forestscape. Taking inspiration from Nordic traditions, the minimalist interior design is comprised of a neutral color palette and sparse contemporary furnishings. A simple wood-burning chimney sits in the corner to keep the living space warm and cozy. Meanwhile, the core of the design is the open kitchen, which features a large island with bar stool seating — the perfect space for catching up with friends and family. + APPAREIL Architecture Via Archdaily Photography by Félix Michaud via APPAREIL Architecture

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A pair of monochromatic cottages are tucked into the idyllic Canadian forestscape

Architect designs and builds his dream Passive House in New York

May 13, 2019 by  
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After three years of research and development, architect Wayne Turett of New York City-based architectural firm The Turett Collaborative has designed and built his long-awaited Passive House in the village of Greenport, New York. Built to the rigorous standards of the Passive House Institute, the airtight dwelling combines cutting-edge technologies with passive solar principles to minimize its energy footprint and meet Turett’s aspirations for a carbon-neutral design. Held as an example of energy-efficient construction that doesn’t compromise on appearance, the Greenport Passive House was designed to match the aesthetic of the surrounding vernacular with a contemporary twist. The two-story home features a historical barn exterior with ship-lapped gray cedar and cement, while the roof is made from aluminum. Inside, the modern house features clean lines and a light and neutral color palette. The open-plan layout and tall ceilings bring an urban, loft-like feel to the home. The three key aspects of the Greenport Passive House were an airtight envelope; superior insulation that includes triple-glazed windows to lock in heat and protect against cold drafts; and additions that block unwanted solar heat gain, such as roof overhangs. The all-electric home is heated and cooled with a duct mini-split system and is also equipped with an energy recovery ventilation system. As a result, Turett’s house, as with other Passive Houses, consumes approximately 90 percent less heating energy than existing buildings and 75 percent less energy than average new construction, according to his project’s press release. Related: This passive house in the Czech Republic uses technology to recycle heat Turett added, “Greenport is more than just an oasis for my family; it is a living model for clients and meant to inspire others, that despite costing a little more to build, the results of living in a Passive Home will more than pay for itself in energy savings and helping the environment .” + The Turett Collaborative Images via The Turett Collaborative

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Architect designs and builds his dream Passive House in New York

A tiny home on wheels with brilliant interiors and two lofts can be yours for $56K

May 3, 2019 by  
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Although tiny homes  comes in many shapes and sizes, Canada-based Mint Tiny House Company has managed to create one of the most eye-pleasing tiny houses we’ve ever seen. In addition to its spacious interior design, which features dual loft spaces, the Napa tiny home also includes several sustainable elements, such as LED lighting and a composting toilet. Based in Canada, Mint Tiny House Company is known for its incredible talent at constructing customized tiny homes. Its latest model, the Napa, comes in two sizes, either 22 feet or 26 feet in length. Both options feature cedar siding exteriors with metal roofing. The pitched roof creates a homey feel and adds more space on the interior to accommodate two loft spaces. Related: Gorgeous cedar-clad tiny home designed to withstands Ontario’s frigid winters Inside, the Napa uses a crisp, white interior lit by LED lighting and an abundance of natural light to create a bright, modern living space. This light-filled interior is contrasted nicely with a rustic, stained timber ceiling and dark wood laminate flooring. The living area is located on one end of the tiny home and features enough space for a sofa that folds out to a guest bed. Home chefs will love the incredible full-sized kitchen with ample butcher block countertops and full-depth kitchen cabinets. Past the kitchen is a roomy bathroom, which has a stacked washer and dryer combo, a stand-up shower and a  composting toilet . On either side of the home is a  sleeping loft , accessed by a wall ladder on one side and stairs on the other. Like the rest of the abode, these lofts are bright and airy and have plenty of space. One can easily be used as the master bedroom while the other could be used as a guest room or repurposed into an office space, storage area, art studio and more. + Mint Tiny House Company Via Dwell Images via Mint Tiny House Company

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A tiny home on wheels with brilliant interiors and two lofts can be yours for $56K

Is a tiny home right for you?

February 4, 2019 by  
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Tiny house living is obviously more affordable compared to living in a traditional home, and it offers mobility and a smaller carbon footprint. The visible drawbacks are lack of storage space and fewer amenities, but there are more pros and cons to tiny house living that you might not have thought of. And what is a good thing today might end up being a negative down the road. Here are some expected — and not so expected — pros and cons to tiny house living that you should know if you are considering joining the tiny house community. Pros Less to clean Of course, less space means fewer things for you to clean in your tiny home . So, you can do everything you need to do in just minutes to make sure your home is clean and organized. Even a deep clean will only take you a couple of hours. Mobility Tiny house living combines the best parts of living in a traditional house with the best of living in a travel trailer or camper. You can have those must-have comforts like a washer and dryer or heat and AC, but you are also able to easily travel at the same time. You can place them on a trailer and go wherever you want, whenever you want — especially when your tiny home is custom built for travel. You can work from home and be on the road at the same time. Money The rate of home ownership in the tiny house community is 78 percent, compared to 65 percent for traditional homeownership. On top of that, 68 percent of tiny homeowners don’t have a mortgage, and that can free up a lot of cash. One out of three tiny house owners have at least $10,000 saved for retirement. Maintenance and utility costs are low, and renting a spot at an RV park or campground is much cheaper than paying rent for an apartment. Another pro is that you can splurge on upgrades in your home since you are building such a small space. Think hardwood or bamboo floors or exotic interior woods. Related: This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes Less consumption When you only have about 300 square feet to work with, you are forced to consume less. If you can’t fit things into your cupboards and closets, you will have to buy fewer items when you go to the grocery store — and that means less waste. Also, since you can’t store food, you will buy fresh veggies, fruits, and seafood, which means healthier cooking . Energy efficiency Heating and cooling a small space can be done with a small window unit and propane tanks, or you can opt for solar panels. So, tiny house living automatically means built-in energy efficiency. But depending on where you live, the summer heat might be tough competition for a small window AC unit. No septic system required If you build a tiny home in the city, you can connect to a sewer system to enjoy modern plumbing. Remote tiny houses don’t require a septic system because you can use a composting toilet that will need cleaned about once every six weeks. You could also install a black water tank and plumbing for traditional flushing on a portable home if a composting toilet doesn’t sound like an attractive option. Cons The legal gray areas With tiny house living still being relatively new, you can find yourself in a legal gray area in many parts of the country. Some places might classify you as an RV, so you will need to park your tiny home in an RV park . But some places don’t consider tiny homes RVs, and instead, classify them as a house. And, depending on if you are traveling or looking for a permanent spot, you can end up in a legal black hole or have a lot of red tape to deal with. If you are wanting to build a tiny home in a permanent location, some communities and neighborhoods have building codes that dictate the minimum size of a home, so a tiny home might not be approved. Cleaning more often There might not be a lot to clean, which saves you time. But, the tiniest bit of disorganization can feel like a disaster in 250 square feet. So, you will need to clean your tiny home more often if you want to avoid a constant mess. Related: Potato peels offer a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials Unsustainable packaging Living in a tiny home makes it extremely difficult to buy items in bulk and use sustainable packaging. If you have zero storage space for those items, or if you are parked in a location that doesn’t have easy access to sustainable products, this means you might have to buy more items in unsustainable packaging. Towing challenges If you want to move to a tiny house so you can easily travel, that means that you will need to buy a large truck for towing. This will mean lower gas mileage and the smaller carbon footprint from your tiny house will be offset by the emissions from your big pickup truck. Accessible storage You can design your tiny home to have more storage than most people would expect. The problem is that those areas might not be very easy to reach. You can’t put everything in dressers or on counters. So, if you need to access things that are in those built-in storage spaces, it can be difficult or frustrating. Images via WinnieC , Shutterstock

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Is a tiny home right for you?

A dull, 26-year-old Airstream becomes a bright, cozy home on wheels

November 16, 2018 by  
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While they were dating, travel-loving couple Nate and Taylor Lavender bonded over their shared dream of tiny home living. Years after they met, the ambitious duo decided to bring that dream to fruition by converting a 1992 Airstream into a bohemian, light-filled home on wheels, renamed Augustine the Airstream . Today, the couple, along with their incredibly cute dog Summit, are enjoying the freedom of life on the road. The couple did most of the renovation work themselves , starting with the exterior. Airstreams are known for their shiny aluminum cladding, but Augustine’s nearly-30-year-old exterior had a dull, weathered appearance. To restore its luster, the Lavenders used two rounds of paint stripper before buffing and polishing it back to its shiny gleam. Related: A 1972 Airstream becomes a bright, 198-square-foot home for a family of four Renovating the Airstream ‘s interior, which was pretty shabby, was also quite an arduous task. Stripping the interior to the bone, the couple began to create a new layout that would work best for their lifestyle. They both work from home, so it was essential to create a work space and plenty of storage to keep the interior clutter-free. The couple decided to keep the interior’s color palette neutral with just hints of color. They painted the walls white and installed lightweight, peel-and-stick vinyl plank flooring. To make the most of the compact space, Nate custom-built most of the furniture, including the booth table in the kitchen, the side table next to the sofa, a shelving unit and the bed frame. The best part of the tiny home is the kitchen, which was completely redone to create a simple and clean aesthetic. From there, Nate and Taylor added fun texture with a pressed tin backsplash and hanging plants. The couple also installed a working/dining cubical that faces the kitchen. A beautiful tabletop made out of reclaimed wood pulls double duty as a dining table and work space. A comfortable loveseat was placed in the living room, book-ended by a side table and shelving unit. The dark wood on the tables, along with colorful pillows and a pendant light, give the space a welcoming, bohemian feel. A free-standing fireplace creates a warm and cozy atmosphere during frigid winters. + Augustine the Airstream Via Dwell Images via Nate and Taylor Lavender

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A dull, 26-year-old Airstream becomes a bright, cozy home on wheels

Strategically slanted walls squeeze extra space out of a small guesthouse

November 9, 2018 by  
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Strict building restrictions often dictate the design of home additions, but in certain cases, savvy architects know just how to work around them. Case in point is architect Nicole Blair, head of Austin-based Studio 512 , who has just unveiled The Hive guesthouse, a tiny home that expands as it rises upward, evoking the shape of a beehive. Built as a guest house for a residence in Austin, The Hive’s unusual shape is a solution to local building codes that required that the footprint of structure be confined to a maximum of 320 square feet. Not one to be limited by such regulations, architect Nicole Blair found a smart way to abide by the rules while still creating a gorgeous extension. Inspired by the shape of a beehive, Blair simply added a second story using walls that slant upward and outward from the base. This way, the walls expand as they rise, providing extra space to the second floor. Related: This swanky desert guesthouse was fashioned out of a former horse barn Clad in large cedar shake siding  repurposed from old roofing material, the charming tiny home with a very unusual shape is certainly eye-catching. The dramatically slanted walls and large windows framed in white add a touch of fairytale whimsy to the dynamic design. From the tilted kitchen walls to the spacious, angular bathroom to the sloping bedroom, the structure’s geometric character — and quirky personality — is evident. The small, covered entrance features an outdoor shower installed adjacent to the front door. Inside, the living space and kitchen are found on the first floor, where an open layout seamlessly connects the two spaces. In the kitchen, the angled walls also provide more counter space. Between the kitchen and living room, a wall of multiple glass panels bring in  natural light . A set of dark wooden stairs leads up to the second level, which houses the bedroom, bathroom and a small work space. Throughout the tiny home, bright white walls and ample natural light lend to the vibrant, modern aesthetic. The neutral color palette is contrasted nicely with a smart collection of modern furnishings and a mix of unique features such exposed copper pipes, blackened wood flooring and kitchen cabinetry made from  reclaimed longleaf pine . + Studio 512 Via Dezeen Photography by Casey Dunn and Whit Preston via Studio 512

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Strategically slanted walls squeeze extra space out of a small guesthouse

The peaceful Micro House serves as an artist’s refuge in Vermont

October 29, 2018 by  
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Tucked into a hilly landscape in a remote area of Vermont, a 430-square-foot tiny home holds court among the wildflowers. Designed by Vermont-based Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design in collaboration with the artistic homeowner, the cabin-like Micro House is a sophisticated, minimalist structure with a design inspired by the works of Henri Matisse. Initially, the client contacted Herrmann to create his dream home set deep within the idyllic Vermont mountains; however, after much debate and a few obstacles presented by the original design, Herrmann came up with the Micro House. According to the homeowner, the inspiration behind the design comes from the work of renowned French artist, Henri Matisse. “Matisse wanted you to walk around his sculptures and be surprised [about] what would happen,” he said. “And, in a way, that’s what I wanted to have happen with my house. The house [looks so different] from the four sides and angles. It’s shocking to me and that has always made me happy.” Related: How high-tech Kasita microhomes could revolutionize homeownership At just 430 square feet, the volume is quite compact, but sculptural features including sharp angles, a shed roof and large square windows override its tiny presence. Clad in cedar panels stained a light gray, the home has a neutral tone that blends into its natural setting most days but stands out in certain seasons. The sunflower-yellow front door along with a few restrained splashes of color on the interior add a sense of welcoming whimsy to the home. The interior is an open layout, with the living and dining room defined as one space. Various square windows were placed strategically throughout to not only let in light but to frame the stunning views as if they were works of art. The windows were also specifically arranged to optimize natural ventilation and airflow in the warmer months. Locally-sourced maple flooring runs throughout the house and complements the all-white walls. In the center of the  tiny home , a small dining table sits under the large window in the living room, allowing for optimal views of the mountains in the distance. Throughout the space, similar practical features such as a built-in sofa, a small sleeping loft, a simple bathroom and attractive storage solutions give the home a serene, no-fuss atmosphere. The homeowner and guests can simply focus their attention on the incredible Vermont landscape that surrounds the Micro House. As the artist explained, “You know what’s amazing about this house? The view you get out of the different windows. You can lie in the bathtub, and when put your head [down] and look out the window, you can see the moon.” + Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design Via Curbed Images via Elizabeth Herrmann Architecture + Design

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The peaceful Micro House serves as an artist’s refuge in Vermont

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