What is a tiny house? Here’s what I think.

When talking to friends it became clear that there was a surprising amount of confusion about what a tiny house actually is.

Pictured above is a tiny house on a trailer
Tiny house on a trailer

Living in Scotland, and rarely watching TV, I was only vaguely aware of the phenomenon of the USA style tiny houses which are built on trailers and can be towed around.

When people talk about tiny houses, I suspect it is this sort of house which people now think of.

I sometimes find it helpful to refer to my tiny house as a cabin. It’s easier than saying “tiny house” all the time and people know, more or less, what I am talking about. Though while cabins could be lived in full time and may be even quite large and comfortable, I think they are generally perceived as being somewhat rudimentary.

Pictured above is a wooden chalet
Wooden Chalet

In France, when I talked about my project to the neighbours, they would say “oh, like a chalet?”. They mean a small alpine or Scandanavian style building typically with from interlocking wooden walls. These are quite a common sight and people would often assume I was going to buy such a house in kit form.

Pictured above is a typical garden summerhouse
Typical summerhouse

In the UK people are quite familiar with the idea of a summerhouse. As the name implies, these are small buildings (probably at the bottom of the garden) that would typically be enjoyed during the summer. Perhaps somewhere to read or relax when the weather is nice. Construction wise, they are likely to be made from wood and unlikely to be insulated. As they are something of a feature, they look a bit prettier than a garden shed.

In his introduction to “The tiny book of tiny houses”, Lester Walker said the book began when he wanted to illustrate “affordable build it yourself vacation homes”.

OK, so here is my take on it …

My definition is that a tiny house must be:

  1. Tiny
  2. A house!

By that I mean, yes, it is very small but it must also be a real house too. In other words you should be able to live in it all year round, just like any other house. So that means good insulation and glazing, some means of cooking and washing and somewhere to sleep and sit.

It could be on wheels (though mine is not) and could be made of any material. It could be cheap or expensive, self-built or built by others. It could be used for holidays or lived in full time.

My own tiny house looks a bit like a garden shed because, according to my planning application, it is! (more of this later). But it does have (or will have) the previously mentioned features of a real house.

So that’s it. Tiny House = Real House but smaller. Simple!

4 thoughts on “What is a tiny house? Here’s what I think.”

  1. This really brings a smile. Fundamentals of building and planning being considered with a sense of humour firmly switched on. Entertaining and informative! Thank you!

  2. Really enjoyed reading your website, Gary. I’ve also built a tiny house/cabin/shed/whatever at my property close to Riberac. You can see a short video of the build on the home page of the greengorillas.eco website. It’s been an amazing experience and will continue to be a project for a while longer. But I now live in there during the colder winter months.

    • Hello Howard! Thanks for your feedback. I’ve got lots more to add to the website after this summer’s build. It’s interesting to know that there is someone close by who is doing the same sort of thing. I will check out your website and maybe we could meet for a chat one of these days? Bon continuation!


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