I recently downsized from a four-story, 2,400-square-foot home to a one-story home about half the size.
To make the transition, I held estate sales on two weekends, gave numerous bags of clothing, household items and small furnishings to charity, and shifted some items to my beach house. Yet even with all that paring down I still have so much stuff in my garage that a car won’t fit.
So I got up early one day, feeling pumped about getting organized. I went down to the garage, picked up a box, found I had nowhere else to put it while emptying the contents, and looked around to realize that everything that I wanted on the left side of the garage was currently on the right, with no path to get from one side to the other.
The prospect of unloading everything into the driveway to make some sense of things before putting it all back in its proper place was so daunting that I returned to the living room, tuned the cable channel to HGTV and watched four hours of “Tiny House, Big Living.”
In some respects, I envy the people on that show who have collected so little or disposed of so much that they can comfortably live in 150-300 square feet. And I absolutely love the way every item inside these homes is designed to serve a dual purpose for the most efficient use of minimal space.
Still, although I no longer have the collection of clothing and shoes I once had, I wondered, exposing my priorities, where my four dogs would fit and where in the heck I would put a home office? I also developed an odd fascination with how a couple might successfully do the nasty in one of those sleeping lofts without serious injury.
Nonetheless, I can see the appeal of plunking one of these babies down on the beach, or tying it to a barge as a do-it-yourself floating home. And tiny houses can also be a great, low cost (at least by D.C. standards) way to get junior out of the basement after college.
Until living smaller became the craze, the tiny homes I knew were primarily studios, efficiencies, carriage houses and English basements, but there are actually more tinyhouses in D.C. than you might think.
The smallest house I’m aware of was once owned by a colleague. Located on Capitol Hill, it’s a one-story, semi-detached rowhouse with one bedroom and one bath, consisting of a whopping 252 square feet, which is actually somewhat large by tiny house standards.
Moving up to the “under 500-square-feet” category you can actually find five homes in Georgetown and northwest, 10 in Deanwood and northeast, six in the southeast community of Marshall Heights, and nine more in Capitol Hill, one of which I bought, renovated and flipped in 2001.
Mine was a single-story home and perfect for someone with a large dog and a small budget. After a gut-renovation, it ended up as 371 square feet of cute: an efficiency housewith a full-service kitchen, a dining area, an office nook, a full bath, a respectable closet and a living room that doubled as a bedroom, not to mention a fenced, rear yard with a brick patio and parking.
D.C. also established the tiny home community of Boneyard Studio in 2012, later renamed Micro Showcase, but neighborhood disputes and sanitation concerns thwarted this initiative — until now. Come September, changes in the new zoning code may make approval for tiny homes, micro-homes and two-story carriage houses easier to obtain, although building permits will still be required.
I recently sold an efficiency condo in Adams Morgan that was so well designed that you could live comfortably in about 315 square feet, with high-end appliances and fixtures, exquisite tile work and a sofa that doubles as a Murphy bed. In this era where people travel a lot, prefer restaurants to hosting Thanksgiving dinner and want to save money on housing so they can pursue other interests, these alternatives make sense.
So what’s next? A dumpster home à la Two Broke Girls? Will livin’ lean replace the concept of livin’ large? Will our choices of housing include a metal container used for shipping cargo?
Bring it on! At least I’ll have a place to store all the stuff in my garage.