Henry David Thoreau's austere Walden Pond cabin weighs so heavily on the American premise of romantic solitude that we often forget about the more overt rumination regarding the micro-home set forth in Walden: namely what it's like to live in a 6-foot-by-3-foot box on the side of the road. "You could sit up as late as you pleased," he mused, "and, whenever you got up, go abroad without any landlord or house-lord dogging you for rent. Many a man is harassed to death to pay the rent of a larger and more luxurious box who would not have frozen to death in such a box as this." The allure of paring down pairs nicely with the draw of woodland solitude, and many designers have aimed at achieving both, with diminutive abodes worthy of Thoreau's treatise on living with less. An example: this one-room swimmer's cabin perched on a rock outcropping in the middle of Serbia's Drina River, whose builder Milija Mandi, is so committed to keeping the hut where it is that he's rebuilt it all six times after severe storms. Seven more hideaways below.
↑ As if the back-to-nature appeal of Hawk House weren't apparent enough—that's reclaimed redwood bark used in the siding—the roof is planted with grasses and wildflowers. Architect Alex Wyndham and builder John Grill left just enough room for a bed, a desk, and a chair. What more could you ask for in a hermit hut?
↑ Fashion designer Scott Newkirk built this svelte little number in Yulan, N.Y., where he goes without internet, like the philosophers of old, for entire weekends at a time. The place is off the grid in a few other senses too—no running water, no electricity—but with an adjoining guest room, he doesn't have to go it alone when getting back to nature.
↑ This log-shaped cabin that looks like it could roll away at a moment's notice is one of many oddly-shaped wooden micro homes French design collective Bruit du Frigo left in picturesque locales across the city of Bordeaux. It's surprisingly roomy inside, with a row of bunkbeds that sleeps up to nine.
↑ To put together this pint-sized desert home, Dave Frazee, a student at Taliesin, the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in Spring Green, Wis., attached oxidized steel panels, awning windows, and a glass door to a block of cement in the ruins of an abandoned mining site. The bare interior of his Miner's Shelter would make Thoreau proud, with little more than a mattress and a ledge for a few tea lights (a must-have for nighttime writing in the 19th-century fashion).
↑ Christened as Cactaceae, this small desert enclosure by Mexican architect Iván Juárez is based on the image of a cactus plant in bloom. While specific measurements aren't available, it's probably not far off in square footage from a transcendentalist's idealized live-in toolbox—though it boasts a transparent exterior punctured by flower-shaped pinpricks, which may be a little bit delicate for the type of rusticity Thoreau had in mind.
↑ This oddball pod from Belgian architectural firm dmvA was made by covering a timber frame in sanded down polyester to create an unbroken white exterior. The aptly named Blob vB3 has no windows—as HDT once said, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see"—though with one end folded up there's a makeshift porch of sorts.
↑ Massachusetts-based builder and micro-home proponent Derek "Deek" Diedricksen assembled his Gypsy Junker from old windows, shipping pallets, and disused kitchen cabinets. He was looking to sell it for $1,200 last Spring to make room for other projects; one hopes it's off in the woods somewhere around its Boston provenance, inspiring all kinds of introspective philosophizing.