Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Book Review: Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter: Scaling Back In The 21st Century

Much like this web site, Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter is a compilation of like-minded people’s stories. The common thread that weaves between the stories is the builders’ immense pride of place, a drive for independence and a vision that, when little goes to waste, life can have greater meaning.

From the Introduction:

In 1973, we published Shelter, an oversized offspring of the Whole Earth Catalog, with 1000 photos of buildings around the world. At the heart of the book were designs for five different tiny homes, with drawings by Bob Easton.

In those days, many people were looking for ways to escape the conventional suit/job, bank/mortgage, or rent/landlord approach to housing. In Shelter, we encouraged people to use their hands in creating living space, to be creative, to scale back, to start small.

Like a lot of other ideas from the ‘60s, this concept is popular once again. Tiny homes have been discovered not just by the public, but also by the media.

For one thing, the mortgage crisis has devastated housing in North America. Huge homes along with huge mortgages were, in the end result, unsustainable. Millions of people have had the rug pulled out from under them.

In addition, wages are down, jobs increasingly scarce, and rents even higher. We’ve gone through a long period of over-consumption, of people living beyond their means, of houses too big and incomes too small.

As we witness the end of a pie-in-the-sky housing boom, and enter an era of increasing costs for that most basic of human needs, shelter, there’s a grassroots movement to scale things back.

It may strike some that the tiny house movement is a group of near fanatics: They’ll spend hours tooling and re-thinking the use of their space; Efficiency is of utmost importance; and they’ve turned it into a kind of competitive sport. But when you think about their motivations for going tiny, these folks end up looking pretty darn smart.

Imagine yourself with a small spot of land. Now imagine that you are able to have a home on this land with far less investment than a traditional house would require. Maybe even without a mortgage. Then ask yourself: Do I really need a dining room if I always eat in the kitchen? Is entertaining outside a better option? What worldly possessions do I really need to be fulfilled?

Leafing through the stories in Tiny Homes Simple Shelter may help many feel that the dream of owning a reasonable, livable space is within reach.

While some of these spaces are artfully designed and lovingly adorned – fitting for any home décor magazine — others are built strictly for function with heaving shelves, overloaded storage compartments and hanging pots and pans. Regardless, the message is the same: a tiny house is an affordable, comfortable option for those looking to carve out their own space. One is only limited by imagination (and common-sense building principles).

The book is broken into the following topic areas:

Tiny Homes on Foundations – including the dreamy, lovely Kim and Jonny’s Cabin once featured on Design*Sponge.

Tiny Homes on Wheels – a clever way of skirting zoning and building regulations, and also (as something we think a lot about here) an opportunity for sheltering beginning farmers working leased or temporary land.

Tiny Homes By Architects – this is the jackpot for high design nerds.

Prefabs and Kits – Tiny is a huge industry!

Earthy Materials – Like cob, straw bale, rammed earth, driftwood and urbanite. These stories showcase some incredible low-tech skills.

Treehouses – Who wouldn’t want to sleep in the trees??

On The Road – Campers, busses, caravans and gypsy wagons fit to join the circus with.

On The Water – Boats and floating homesteads.

So…now that you’re a tiny house enthusiast, too, we want to ask a question in the spirit of HOMEGROWN: What five kitchen items would you fit into your tiny kitchen? The assumed kitchen items are already there (stove, fridge, sink), so tell us what you can’t live without! A commenter will be chosen at random to receive a copy of Tiny Homes Simple Shelter on Friday March 16th at noon ET.

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24 Responses to “Book Review: Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter: Scaling Back In The 21st Century”

  1. What 5 items would need to fit into my tiny kitchen? Hmmm…

    1) Immersion Blender – a magic wand in my kitchen

    2) Food Processor – beyond handy

    3) Spice Rack – keeps all my spices organized

    4) (SHARP) Knife Set – ’nuff said

    5) Cast-Iron Skillet – can’t go wrong with a classic cast-iron

  2. 1) KitchenAid stand mixer
    2) Immersion Blender
    3) Pressure Canner
    4) Spice Rack/Storage (good idea Caroline!)
    5) Baking Supplies

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  3. Miss Phanie Says:

    1. Coffee Bean Grinder: my first critical daily kitchen ritual is bonding with this device.

    2. Melitta Cone: gets coffee from Point A to Point B.

    3. Dutch Oven: moves from stove top to oven with the greatest of ease.

    4. One Good Chef’s Knife: if you keep one sharp, it will do the trick, many tricks.

    5. Vegetable Peeler: I use a sturdy one for peeling not just carrots, but parmesan and nutmeg. It’s my most versatile tool.

  4. 1) cast iron cookware (especially a cast iron dutch oven)
    2) very sharp knife (I like a slightly long serrated one, multi use)
    3) food processor (hard to live without)
    4) cutting board (You would be surprised, I use mine for everything)
    5) Unfiltered olive oil (if I were stranded on a desert island, I would want a bottle with me)

    P.S.= all of us that have replied must spend a lot of time in our small kitchens! Good luck everyone.

  5. 5 must have items for my tiny kitchen.
    I got rid of all my big electric space takers years ago, these items are my have to haves.
    1) Knife
    2) Large Pyrex Bowl
    3) 12″ Cast iron skillet
    4) Can opener- hand held not electric
    5) Large stainless steel soup pot

  6. 1. Crockpot
    2. Cutting Board
    3. Chef’s Knife
    4. Skillet
    5. Kettle

    We really rely on the crockpot, I don’t know what I’d do without it. Also, sometimes I use my oven as a convection oven by putting an item
    directly on the rack w/ a skillet or drip pan under it.

  7. So glad this is working now!
    I would need:
    1. Good sharp knife (set)
    2. Cast iron skillet
    3.Cast iron stock pot/dutch oven
    4. Strainer
    5. Blender/Vitamix/Food Processor

  8. I would need:

    1. Cast iron skillet
    2. wooden spoons
    3. set of mixing bowls
    4. sharp knife
    5. wooden cutting board

    Keep it simple in a tiny kitchen!

  9. 1) Toaster
    2) Coffee Maker
    3) Blender
    4) Kettle
    5) Whisk

  10. michelle davis Says:

    1) bamboo spoons
    2) standing mixer
    3) cast iron skillet
    4) bamboo cutting board
    5) cast iron dutch oven

    wooo that is tough… I think I can do it with that.

  11. Gabrielle Gervilla Says:

    really awesome article! I hope to one day have a home like this some day
    5 items:
    1. big cast iron skillet
    2. french press
    3. cutting board
    4. tea kettle
    5. good knives

  12. Carri Ann Says:

    My 5 items would be:

    1. 12 in. cast iron pan
    2. Immersion blender
    3. KitchenAid Mixer
    4. Pressure canner
    5. large Pyrex mixing bowl

  13. I can’t wait to read this book! I’m getting to the point of frustration with our under-600 sq. ft, one-bedroom apartment and would love to learn more about other tiny homes and the families who live in them.

    My five can’t-live-without kitchen items, that are currently awarded valuable space in our 39 sq. ft kitchen:
    1. my Vitamix
    2. a set of sharp knives (boring, but basic!)
    3. tea kettle
    4. stock pot or dutch oven
    5. a set of wooden spoons (another boring one, but I use them all the time!)

  14. 1. pressure canner (you “can” make stews too)
    2. knives (a must!)
    3. cast iron skillet
    4. stainless steel spatula
    5. stainless steel colander

  15. Lori Crockett Says:

    1. food processor
    2. blender
    3. chopping board
    4. chopping knife
    5. coffee maker

  16. Marissa W Says:

    I love this piece! I’ve helped build a couple little dwellings on my parents property and the next project my dad is taking on is the house of tree. These are inspiring!
    The 5 things I would have to have in my kitchen are:
    1) cast iron dutch oven (love mine!)
    2) glass jars/containers
    3) wooden cutting board
    4) good knife set
    5) big cast iron skillet

  17. Mostly on track with everybody else…

    1. vitamix
    2. cast iron skillet
    3. good knives
    4. cutting board
    5. cast iron loaf pans

  18. 1. A big pot (cast iron dutch oven works too)
    2. A big bowl
    3. A sharp knife
    4. A set of measuring spoons/cups
    5. A big spoon

    Those are the five I couldn’t live without. Everything else can be finagled with varying degrees of creativity and time. 🙂

  19. 1. Chef’s knife
    2. cutting board
    3. cast iron pot
    4. spatula spoon (flat edge on spoon bowl)
    5. 8 cup measuring/mixing bowl with pour spout

  20. 1. Coffee Maker

    2. Bread Maker

    3. Hot Water Bath

    4. Pressure Cooker

    5. Rice Cooker

  21. 1. tea kettle
    2. pyrex bowl set
    3. knife block
    4. cast iron fryer
    5. crock of utensils

  22. My tiny kitchen is not complete without:

    1) my kitchen aid mixer
    2) cast iron skillet
    3) good, sharp knife
    4) My canning set up (that pot does double duty!
    5) my wooden spoon

  23. 1. ninja ( juicer, food processor, etc.)

    2. my small batch baking cook book along with my small batch pans (is that one or 2 items?)

    3. knife set

    4. cutting board

    5. crock pot

  24. 1: Canning pot
    2: Sharp high quality chef’s knife
    3: Large wooden cutting board/flat surface to kneed dough
    4: Instant read digital probe thermometer
    5: a fine mesh stainless steel strainer/sifter

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