Small house movement: five of the world’s quirkiest homes (it’s Grand Designs and DIY in minature)

Living in the smallest home possible is part of a growing social movement. It could be perfect for you if you’re an empty nester, ready to downsize or want to make your life simpler

Five years ago, if somebody said the words ‘small house movement’, most of us would have furrowed our brows, tilted our heads and grunted in confusion. “What on earth is the small house movement?” we might have asked.

Well, the small house movement is simple: it is an architectural and social movement that promotes a simpler lifestyle, in smaller homes.

These five small homes, in five very different settings around the world, contain the bare minimum needed to live in a fully functioning home. They go against the grain of what we’d normally consider a desirable home. They give an insight into how popular the small home movement has become, and how little space is needed for a beautiful and functional home.

If the kids have flown the nest, or you’re considering downsizing for whatever reason, you might be thinking about joining the small house movement. Or maybe you’re just curious to see how some people are living in a variety of tiny, functional dwellings.

The Exbury Egg, Southampton, UK

English artist Stephen Turner has chosen to spend the next 12 months living in The Exbury Egg; an energy efficient, self-sustaining work and living space. The Egg, made by Spud Group, proves that a combined living and work space can be as small as a single room of a house, and illustrates what little is really needed to live.

Turner will spend a year in his egg studying the life of a tidal creek off the Beaulieu River, near Southhampton. His aim is to raise awareness for climate change and rising sea levels, and the inevitable implications on flora and fauna.

Tree Snake Houses, northern Portugal

Small house movement Tree Snake Houses, northern Portugal . Courtesy of Homify
Use of native materials, slate and wood integrate the tree houses with their surroundings. Photo courtesy of Homify

Treehouses such as this one in Portugal prove that they can be for both the young and the young at heart. The Tree Snake Houses by Architectural & Design Studio are in Pedras Salgadas, a small town in the north of Portugal famous for its mineral waters. This group of studios is set among the tree tops, offering small and unique spaces for living.

It seems the owners of the Tree Snake Houses never outgrew their desires to live in their dream treehouse, and have created fully functional homes built from natural materials and sustainable practices, two key elements of the small house movement.

Boulder, near Verbier in the Swiss Alps

Small house movement Boulder, near Verbier in the Swiss Alps. Courtesy of Homify
The Swiss Alps mountain shelter was was built by hand then transported to the site. Photo courtesy of Homify

At first glance, the landscape here looks like any other rocky mountainside. Upon closer inspection, you begin to realise this is no ordinary boulder. Inconspicuously hidden inside this huge rock-shaped structure is a living space; an installation and tribute to the long Swiss tradition of hidden bunkers.

The boulder, by Bureau A, sits in the Alps above the the famous ski resort of Verbier. The concrete shell looks like a rock, and conceals a wooden cabin that includes a bed, a fireplace, a table, stool and a window. Though not designed for living in long-term, the bunker shows we can easily survive in a space with the bare minimum.

A modern home in traditional Slovenian style

Small house movement A modern home in traditional Slovenian style. Courtesy of Homify
This stone house is built to the traditional Slovenian design but is thoroughly modern inside. Photo courtesy of Homify

Traditional homes of many Eastern European countries are simple stone dwellings much like the one seen here. In a nod to the heritage of the homes of the region, a young Slovenian family built their new home in a traditional style, but complete with all the mod cons of a 21st-century home. With a time-honoured exterior and a contrasting, ultra-modern interior, this tiny home, by Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti, addresses the relationship between modern living, and the traditions of this part of Europe.

The Pobble House, Dungeness, Kent

Small house movement. The Pobble House, Dungeness, Kent. Courtesy of Homify
The Pobble House is the newest of Dungeness’s curious buildings, and is a family home. Photo by Charles Hosea Photography, courtesy of Homify

The beaches along the coastline in Kent are dotted with weathered shacks, and their gracefully aged facades were the inspiration for the Pobble House, a modern home designed by architect Guy Hollaway. It is built from larch wood and Corten steel, materials specifically chosen for their aesthetic properties. As the exterior ages naturally, it will begin to look old and rustic, yet it will retain as much strength as the day it was built.

Local building restrictions only allow new builds to be constructed in place of another, and of roughly the same size and proportion. This means that as time goes by, the Pobble House will begin to look more and more like the existing small homes of the surrounding beaches and countryside.

For more creative living ideas, inspiration or guides on how to downsize or make the most of your space visit Homify