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Living Tiny in the Big World

Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Four years ago, I stumbled across the tiny house movement purely by accident. I had just stepped onto the property ladder with my then partner and was working hard to pay the mortgage, which felt daunting at times. I was looking for a way I could lower our bills and outgoings, when I came across the Tiny House movement in a book called ‘You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap)’ by Tammy Strobel. The book spoke about a life that involved stepping off the treadmill of work, eat, sleep, repeat by downsizing your life and being part of the tiny house movement.

The tiny house movement is a new social and environmental movement that explores: a debt-free way of living, minimalism, lowering your carbon footprint and reconnecting with your community. I was shocked to find that the tiny house movement took downsizing to a whole new level. We are talking about compact living at its smallest. There is currently no set definition of what constitutes a tiny house; however, a residential structure under 500 square feet (46 m2) is generally accepted to be a tiny home, like the size of a large shed.

I understand this wouldn’t suit everyone but I was so fascinated by the concept behind the movement and wowed but the ingenious multipurpose design to make the most of such a small living space I decided this was what I wanted to do. I want to live in a tiny house in the UK. I didn’t know how it was going to happen but it was what I was going to do. I started a blog and set up a Facebook page, as well as following other tiny house bloggers such as Tiny House Giant Journey, Think Big Build Small and Tiny House Talk. These blogs feed my desire to live tiny but all the information was based on living in the USA and I felt no closer to finding out how plausible tiny living would be in the UK.

Then finally, I noticed that in last couple of years, the tiny house movement had started to take off in the UK. With TV programmes like George Clarke’s amazing spaces and documentaries on Netflix – such as We the Tiny House People; Tiny; Small is Beautiful; and Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, as well as Glamping experiences in tiny houses, or alternative living spaces popping up, and even a company – Tiny House UK, that builds tiny houses set up in the UK, all raising the profile of this movement and giving people an opportunity to experience living tiny even just for a long weekend.

I was looking into doing a course on ‘how to build a tiny house’ in America, when I read an article in the Guardian – Build it Tiny. I couldn’t believe it, there was a course available in Wales to do just that. In July 2017, I took the biggest step towards my dream of living tiny and attended the course ‘Build a Tiny House’ held at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The four-day course with tutor Carwyn Jones (Master craftsman and designer / builder of the Dragons eye) taught us how to make a beautiful and bespoke tiny house from the ground up including the timber frame structure, interior and relevant renewable energy systems by tutors: Luis Bateira.

The course covered:

  • Build a simple timber frame tiny house, approx. 6ft x 10ft and understand the advantages of different layouts

  • Clad the walls

  • Build different roof shapes

  • Install windows and doors

  • Fix the structure to a trailer

  • Create simple and functional fitted furniture

  • Harvest rainwater and include a compost toilet

  • Install basic plumbing

I had wondered if the tiny house movement would catch on in the UK like it had in the USA, as I feel the movement could possibly be a housing solution for the homeless, provide a more affordable accommodation for people on low wages / benefits, people affected by the bedroom tax or even student accommodation. So, I asked staff at the Centre for Alternative Technology how popular this course had been. Thanks to the article in the Guardian, they have been inundated with enquiries and the demand for the ‘Build a tiny house’ course was so great they had to add more dates which were selling out fast too. I found the course extremely useful and would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in building a tiny structure. I hope to put into practice the skills I acquired when I start on my own ‘tiny’ build. I just need to overcome the biggest barrier I face which is around finding land to put my tiny house on and the grey area around planning permission.

“I found the course extremely useful and would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in building a tiny structure. I hope to put into practice the skills I acquired when I start on my own ‘tiny’ build.”

I believe that the interest in this course is a good sign that this is a movement that people in England really are ready to embrace. The big question is: will local authorities and the government recognise the potential benefits this movement could have for us, our communities and our environment? And will they support those who choose to live tiny by removing the barriers faced around planning permission?


Community Champion

Useful links

Build a Tiny House Course - Centre for Alternative Technology


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