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Tiny houses in 2016: more tricked-out and eco-friendly

Possibilities are endless even in a tiny house

tiny house with fold-down deck
The Alpha Tiny Home from New Frontier Tiny Homes
Photo via New Frontier Tiny Homes

Another year in our housing-crunched yet sustainability-minded world means another year of folks exploring down-sized lifestyles in tiny homes. Used for everything from housing the homeless to short-term rentals to, yes, full-time residences, these under-400-square-foot dwellings still have momentum on their side.

Sure, there are a slew of regulatory hurdles surrounding tiny house ownership, but even that no longer seems impenetrable. In fact, earlier this month, a tiny house appendix was approved for inclusion in the newest edition of the national building code, giving tiny homes a crucial bit of legitimacy and a path forward.

But before any further deluge of new tiny homes, let’s first take a look back at all the incredible projects we saw this year. From a shipping container tiny house to several solar-powered stunners, these designs show how sophisticated micro home design has become and challenge our imaginations of what tiny houses can be.

1. Escape Vista, the tiny glass house

Photos via Escape Vista

Introduced in early 2016, the modern-style Escape Vista has quickly become a top-seller for Wisconsin-based Escape Homes. In addition to the original model, an 160-square-foot dwelling going for $46,600, the line now includes the 136-square-foot “Go” ($38,600) and 110-square-foot “Sport” ($29,800) options. All three have the signature large wrap-around windows, of course.

2. Zyl Vardos’s fantastical ‘Moon Dragon’

Photos via Zyl Vardos

The first thing to love about Washington builder Zyl Vardos’s “Moon Dragon” tiny house is its whimsical exterior, marked by curves, arches, and all sorts of unorthodox windows. The second, more practical thing to appreciate is that the house offers an unusually high five-and-a-half-foot sleeping loft, complete with double closets.

3. A minimalist ‘Walden Studio’ from the Netherlands

Photos by Walden Studio via ArchDaily

This airy 182-square-foot design hailing from the Netherlands demonstrates the magic of skylights and nooks. We wouldn’t mind hunkering down with a pile of good books in the Walden Studio.

4. A tiny house big enough for three dogs and so much stuff

Proving that you don’t have to shed everything to live tiny, the Basecamp tiny house from Oregon engineers Tina and Luke Orlando is a storage paradise that also accommodates the couple’s three dogs. Look for multiple kennels, built-in food and water bowls, and more in the 200-square-foot home with off-grid capability.

5. The ultra-Instagrammable ‘Alpha Tiny House’

Nashville-based New Frontier Tiny Homes’ flagship design is chock full of trendy features. You’ve got subway tiles, reclaimed barn wood, a big stainless steel farmhouse sink, not to mention room to sneak in some Edison bulbs and tons of houseplants. For all this and fancy touches like charred shou sugi ban cedar and a fold-down deck, you’d better be ready to pay up. The Alpha asks $95,000 as pictured.

6. An adorable tiny home for Detroit’s low-income population

Over in Detroit, poverty-fighting local organization CASS Community Social Services has been working on creating a two-block stretch of 250- to 400-square-foot fully-equipped micro dwellings for the low-income population. Tenants would pay a rent of roughly $300 a month on a rent-to-own model in this first-of-its-kind development in the city. The first tiny house opened in early September 2016, with goal set at 25 homes in total as additional funding comes in.

7. Sustainable ‘Greenmoxie’ with a drawbridge deck

Photos via Greenmoxie

Earlier this year, Canadian green living blog Greenmoxie unveiled its own 340-square-foot, off-grid tiny house and to no surprise, it pays a lot of attention to sustainability. Starting at $65,000, the Greenmoxie employs a 1 kW solar PV system with 11 kW storage capacity, roof water recovery system, and low-voltage LED lighting. The matching Baltic birch shelving and bench is also a nice touch.

8. The sneaky ‘shipping container tiny house’

Photos via Tiny House Listings

Readers simply loved this clever creation from Missouri-based Custom Contain Living. The 312-square-foot abode, available for $47,900, is crafted from a 40-foot shipping container, with about a third of the body carved out to form a covered porch.

9. A solar-powered award-winner built by college students

Photos by Joanne H. Lee/Santa Clara University

In October, the nation’s first tiny house competition for college students went down in Northern California, and Santa Clara University’s 238-square-foot rEvolve House took home the top honor. Built of energy-efficient Structural Insulated Panels, the off-grid design runs on eight 330w Sunmodule solar panels, stores energy in Cradle-to-Cradle-certified saltwater batteries, and can rotate on a Colossun solar tracking ring to follow the sun and maximize solar efficiency.

10. An eco-friendly DIY charmer

Photos via Tiny House Swoon

Built over the course of six months, the 200-square-foot “Little Lou” tiny house was built using many second-hand and reclaimed materials, such as recycled corrugated metal. The spiral staircase is definitely something you don’t see often in tiny house land.


Watch: Extreme tiny living spaces