The Enduring Appeal of Micro Living

Brent Heavener was 10 years old in 2008, when the real estate market crashed and a national passion for cheap, tiny houses went into overdrive. He was 16 when his father shared with him a picture of a renovated shipping container, which taught him that homes could be fashioned from unexpected objects. This inspired @tinyhouse, an Instagram feed for which he aggregates photographs of Lilliputian domiciles from around the world.

2008年的时候,布伦特·希夫纳(Brent Heavener)10岁。那时房地产市场崩盘,全国上下对廉价小户型住宅的热情高涨。16岁那年,父亲与他分享了一张集装箱改造房屋的照片,让他了解到,房子可以用意想不到的东西来建造。这激发了@tinyhouse的诞生,在这个Instagram账号上,他收集了全世界“小人国”居所的照片。

Now 21, and with 708,000 followers, Mr. Heavener has published 250 of those photos in a book due out Sept. 10 called “Tiny House: Live Small, Dream Big” (Clarkson Potter, $18).

现在,21岁的希夫纳有70.8万粉丝,他在9月10日出版了一本书,精选了250张这种照片发表,书名叫《小房子:生活要小,梦想要大》(Tiny House: Live Small, Dream Big,Clarkson Potter出版社,18美元)。

Mr. Heavener has barely reached the legal drinking age, much less the age when most people put down roots. Speaking from an undisclosed location in Central America (he declined to say where for the record, but divulged that it’s a not-tiny place where he does some cattle ranching while working as a self-described digital entrepreneur), he talked about tiny houses as machines for living spontaneously. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)


It’s been more than a decade — at least since the great recession — that tiny houses became big HGTV and internet stars. What do you think is the attraction?


It can be brought down to one word: freedom. Whether we’re talking about a millennial or an empty-nester, they’re looking at the current housing situation, and they’re at a crossroads. The millennial is trying to figure out whether they should do what their parents did and get a mortgage and try to pay off debt their entire life. The empty-nester is figuring out whether to go into retirement, and the best way to age. Tiny houses are creative and strategic alternatives that keep you from falling into a societal trap and ending up like a lot of people around you.


Your book shows a number of places I would describe as retreats more than homes — things like tree houses and mountain huts. Also, you have a whole section of vehicles that are in dubious possession of bathrooms. How do you define a tiny home?


A tiny home is anything that declutters your life and simplifies what you have to the point where you are no longer serving your stuff, and your stuff is no longer controlling you. Whether that’s an R.V. or a container home or a renovated dumpster, it’s what you make of it. You can’t box tiny homes in, as ironic as that sounds. And by the way, I’ve spent long amounts of time living and working in a tree house.


More than a few people have run screaming from their tiny houses. Even Thoreau managed life on Walden Pond for only two years, during which time he took his laundry home for his mother to wash. Do you think tiny living can be sustained over the long term?


I appreciate that question. It’s a great fantasy, but like anything in life — marriage, a job, your future — you have to have the right expectations. The important thing is to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “How much space do I really need? How can I build my home around my lifestyle instead of building my lifestyle around my home?” Get a pen and paper and write down what you need to live. Then get another piece of paper and eliminate the things you still can live without, and compare what’s left with what can be managed in a tiny house. If you’re scared about taking the plunge, I would recommend taking it slow. Go to half the size of your existing living space before scaling down to the ultimate vision.


Your book is itself quite small — less than 7 by 8 inches. But it is a material object and it does take up room. Am I right in imagining it’s for dreamers rather than owners of tiny houses?


This book is just as much for somebody who has lived in a tiny home for 20 years as somebody looking for inspiration. If it takes up too much space in your home, your home is too small.


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