Actually, this article is not about living in a tent but living in a structure that uses fabric for roofing. Although in the past, skins have been used in structures like tepees and yurts, now modern fabrics are being used in even large scale structures like airports and stadiums.
Since we know that modern versions of yurts use modern fabrics, then why is it not possible to build a tiny house utilizing the current materials available?
From the outset, the sophisticated materials contained in a modern fabric, large scale construction is not necessary to consider. Generally, they require special glues or radio frequency applications to seal seams. They also can require high tension. If you are interested in a discussion of the various sorts of architectural fabrics, check out the link to FabricArchitect.
We will discuss the material accepted for the making of yurts as the possible material for a tiny structure. In most cases, fabric covering yurts consists of a tightly woven, heavy canvas or cotton duck material with a coating of some sort such as acrylic polyurethane. Then will come an insulation layer of, say, felt and then a lining material usually of a polyester fabric. The main outside layer almost always consist of a canvas material whether cotton or a blend of cotton, nylon, polyester, etc…
Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some videos that will give you some ideas.
To give an idea of how the concept of the use of tent roofing in constructing a small inexpensive dwelling. Take a look at the design of this A-frame. Instead of more expensive materials and a longer construction time of building roofing in a traditional way, canvas tent material is stretched over the frame. Insulation and lining, such as included in a yurt can be utilized here.
One can readily see that such a structure would not only be relatively easily built but with much less expense as well.
By looking at the design above, the imagination could turn the A-frame into a cylindrical structure or even a more gabled pattern. As long as the shape could take a stretched fabric, almost anything is possible.
I started to write an article on basic framing for those who are very much into a do it yourself construction of a tiny house. I have learned first hand many of the concepts involved, some by trial and error. In order that walls, openings, windows, and doors are properly fit together, one needs to know some of the methods involved. For instance, do you know the three major ways in which corners are joined together in framing? Not only does the framing need to account for the connection of interior and exterior surfaces but also how the roof attached to the frames and the strategies for the connection of interior and exterior walls.
Nevertheless, as I was doing a little research on the subject, I realized that I would be repeating what is already available and it might be better to simply point the reader to some excellent information that explains everything so concisely. Not only would all this information be of benefit to those deciding whether to build their own tiny house but also those who would like to construct a cabin, shed, or other small building.
(Since I will be including links to various resources, please let me know if any of these links get broken.)
The deck is what your structure will sit on. We will keep things to the basics, here. Obviously, foundations can get a bit more complicated, especially with basements.
Walls are different thicknesses as the result of the methods and orientation in using them. For instance, in a stick frame building in contemporary America, exterior walls can be composed of 2 x 6 lumber with 2 x 4 lumber for interior compartmentalization. Furthermore, walls made of brick, concrete, or concrete block will be of various sizes. Also, residential structures, as with any structure, can vary the materials used for walls based upon elevation or aspect.
The easiest and most common method of building walls in a residential environment is stick framing. One of the things to take most note of is the framing involved in corners, windows, and in the attachment of the floor and roof systems.
The above video is in parts. Watching all parts will give you a much better understanding of framing.
The video above has some interesting things to consider when framing a structure.
Of course, much more goes on besides framing. Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, venting, and other technologies go into building a house, studio, or advanced shed. However, as daunting as it seems, with just a little bit of knowledge, it really is not all that difficult. It’s more hard work than mentally taxing.
The Pyramid House design was based upon a longstanding pleasure of basic geometric forms, the square and the isosceles triangle. The house is a perfect square at 20′ x 20′ and, therefore, near 400 square feet after deducting the thickness of the walls. The corners sport triangular windows that give the feeling that the roof is balanced in the middle like a teeter-totter. The angles of the non-glass triangles harken back to the angle of the pyramids at Giza in Egypt.
Unfortunately, further consideration should be made regarding the support of the roof. It might be necessary to engineer a less fragile way to carry the weight of the roof such as vertical mullions as well as the horizontal ones or corner mullions perhaps on the inside of the glass to keep the sleek look of the corners from the outside. The weight of the roof is not that great considering the overall dimensions of the building. However, the roof is not supported on the inside by load bearing walls but spans the entire width and length of the space.
As you proceed through the images in this design article, you will notice the finishes and materials change. This is simply to illustrate the many choices available in the design of this house.
Due to the small size of this house, certain symmetries such as the placement of the back door to one side becomes necessary. If placed in the middle then the bed area on the inside would narrow.
The north side of the house features a built-in cement sink and stove top.
The outdoor chairs are of my design and can be seen on diymodernfuniture.com at E-Chair.
The kitchen is on the immediate left while the bathroom is toward the back on the left. The sleeping area is on the right and out of view is the living area on the right.
We see a small kitchen with island bar with a small dining area in the windowed corner.
The bathroom is separated from the rest of the house by 8′ walls on two sides. The interior walls of this house are 12′. Therefore, the bathroom has no independent ceiling.
This square tiny house design utilizes high ceilings and an open floor plan to create a sense of spaciousness. The basic forms used allows for an almost unlimited combination of colors, textures, finishes, fixtures, and materials.
I thought I might write an article on the methods and procedures for building houses from shipping containers. I live in a city where a large project of condominiums utilizing shipper containers was quite successful and inspiring. Nevertheless, I can not compete with some of the information available on the Internet and so have decided to provide some useful links that one might explore how to build them as well as the various configurations and design ideas.
Now, I do not like to use too many links because they tend to disappear over time. However, I will make an exception this time and hope that you, the reader, will be helpful and let me know when they no longer work.
First of all, one of the best explanations of the various things needed for construction of a container house comes from Tin Can Cabin. This website covers many of the basic details of putting containers together and offers excellent advice on safety. There are aspects to the proper outfitting of a container home that might not be readily apparent. Yet this site covers them.
Another essential article to read is “5 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Shipping Container Home.” This covers the necessity of checking local building codes as well as something I have read over and over again; that of the removal of too much structural steel. When designing a container house, as part of the design, one must include strategies for reinforcing large areas removed for doors and windows or when removing an entire side to affix to another container, for instance. As a general rule, easy designing is hard constructing.
Even though quite negative, this article, “What’s Wrong With Shipping Container Housing? Everything”, and considering this article mainly refers to mass housing, provides some insight into things to consider. One thing in the article, though, not accurate is the dimensions of a shipping container. Some shipping containers are higher than those mentioned, although the width is the same. The width is not necessarily restricted depending on the design.
Another excellent list of what one needs to do to build a container home is on Residential Shipping Container Primer. This post covers subjects such as structural integrity, foundations, and permitting, for instance.
The above link purports to be the ultimate guide to shipping container homes on the website, Home TuneUp.
And, of course, a couple of videos will help, as well:
This link leads to a site that contains 10 films on the construction of container homes.
Obviously, many find a fascination with the many designs coming from the use of shipping containers. Yet there are pros and cons in utilizing them. Hopefully, this article provides a starting point for information in pursuing such an unusual building.
Through all the “ism” in art and architecture, modernist design in architecture refers to the mid-century of the 20th century. So many buildings and residences set the stage for contemporary modern designs. Many of the iconic places so familiar to us have exerted incredible influences on current design to such a degree, that the postmodernist reaction has been to take its elements and add complexity and elaboration similar to the Baroque and Rococo changes from the Renaissance. In terms of modern style, modernist design suits small and tiny houses much more so than the flamboyance of the contemporary due to the emphasis on what I call direct design; that is, avoidance of unnecessary complications and details.
Of that stated above, not all is entirely true. Due to the fact that the modernist impulse leads to experimentation and groundbreaking designs, not all modernist fabrications strictly adhered to the International Style such as in the design of the Glass House or the Farnsworth House.
Significantly different to the Internationalists, Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs clearly differ to the more rectilinear edifices of the Internationalists such as Mies van der Rohe’s creations.
Since this is not a scholarly examination of all the types and elements of all modern architecture, for our purposes we will stick to some of the elements of the International Style.
One always hears or reads the phrase, “…clean lines…” I prefer unadorned or unbroken lines. Modernists seek to find elemental geometry in their vision of the residences they build. The cube, the circle, the triangle becomes their palette. The most important and well-known houses built by modernists possess a Zen-like quality when combined with their surrounding environment.
This brings us to the first modernist element. The house should create an atmosphere when combined with its surrounding landscape. This means that those inside feel the influence of the outside landscape through walls of glass, sliding glass doors, large windows, even walls that move to allow access to patios or verandas. Any room might be exposed in some way to views or have access to the outdoors.
Many times, where there are no windows or glass walls, modernist architects used clerestory windows and skylights to bring in natural light.
This brings us to another important element of modern residences. Often times the walls of glass and sliding glass doors were on the sides of the house not facing the street. When, indeed, the front facing the street had considerable glass, screens of sculpted cement block, wood or metal blocked a direct view.
Rather than walls, screens were also used for spatial arrangements in the interior as well.
Probably the most noticeable and prevalent feature of a modernist, post and lintel dwelling is the exposed skeletal structure. Large beams supporting the roof are left to be admired.
Proudly exposing the structure of a building was thought of as an asset, many times, and not to be bashful about. This notion carries over from commercial buildings and high-rises such as the Seagram Building in New York.
Of course, when dealing with the International Style modernists, they reveled in using steel for the framework of a residence. This didn’t always carry over from commercial to residential. Besides the more famous structures, most modern houses are framed in wood, especially those made in a modern American Style. At any rate, the readily visible frame claimed a poetic beauty among modern houses.
Not all modernist houses in the International Style sported flat roofs. Butterfly, saw-tooth, shed and other unique shapes, such as the hyperbolic parabolic figure into modernist designs.
Decorative elements became frowned upon in the International Style. However, simple sculptural elements, especially those which supported or supplied a function found their way into their architectural palette. Included among these decorative elements, designers created walls of natural stone or wood that continued from the inside to the outside, repeated arches and columns and simple porticoes or decks that continued and accented the rectilinear quality of the form of the rest of the house.
Although the above example of repeated columns is not a family residence, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts provides an excellent illustration of how a simple element presents an appealing architectural feature.
However, a second article will forward the basic ideas of design and, then, digitally build a modernist tiny house inculcating many of the elements above. Possibly, sometime in the future we will venture a try at tiny, modern organic houses utilizing the elements such as those used by Bruce Goff or Frank Lloyd Wright.
Although you might not find use for the information below, you might at least be interested in the creative ways people come up with to construct houses. In a previous post, I examined so-called 3D printing techniques. In the below videos we will see all sorts of sundry methods. Since a video might be better than the written word in this case, I have embedded videos that explain the various methods. If for some reason a link is missing–videos appear and disappear so frequently–let us know and we will try to fix it.
It should be mentioned that expense is not the only reason for using alternative methods. Instead, someone might consider the ongoing use of energy or other resources as well as pure aesthetics. Nevertheless, any method must be stacked up against others based on its inherent cost, time and labor expenditures.
Lightweight Insulated Concrete Panels:
I grew up in Yuma, Arizona and remember a few of the adobe houses still remaining. They were made in the same way the old west icon, Yuma Territorial Prison, was made, from the clay and sand from the banks of the Colorado River. Yuma is true desert. There were no trees for wood construction and lumber was expensive coming from northern Arizona in high country.
My mother had a friend who we occasionally visited and what I remember of her adobe house was even in the scorching heat of the Arizona summer day, the house was amazingly cool. She had no air conditioning, nor needed any.
These are just a few of the different methods for putting a house together. Some of these methods probably lend themselves well to tiny houses, but regardless, for me, I will always prefer a modern style.
I have read interesting articles and reports, watched videos of “printed” structures, mostly as experiments as part of research at universities. The material used in producing these is usually a specialized concrete mixture that flows easily, yet has body and gains reasonable strength when cured.
I originally saw the video below on curbed.com at this link. I’ve included the video from YouTube due to its interesting nature, with the realization that this is a corporate film produced to promote a product, and therefore, may have a bit of puffery. Obviously, most people would not be able to rush out and order one of their own, but maybe sometime in the future such technology might be available.
As for now, I can imagine that the technologies displayed below would be a useful hybridization of current building techniques. For example, suppose the foundation or basement of a house were “printed” instead of laid out in block or poured with concrete forms. For that matter, anything that could be produced with this technique such as steps or a porch would save tremendous amounts of time and labor.
This is just a preliminary. I plan on a couple of articles on alternative building techniques such as these for the near future, along with another article on unusual prefab buildings.
In a post on midcenturymoderngroovy.com, I described the Aluminaire House, a prefabricated metal house that could be taken apart, packed up and moved to a different location. I am including the article here on Modern Tiny House because of the Aluminaire House when the garage and deck footage are excluded, is a relatively small house of just a few hundred square feet. Besides the Aluminaire House, I have included information on another modernist prefabricated house by Serge Binotto, an assistant of the famous French mid century modern architect, Jean Prouve. This is a circular house put together using pre-made insulated panels.
The main reason for including such information on Modern Tiny House is the form and nature of these two houses lead to all sorts of interesting ideas in terms of designs for tiny houses. As a further bonus, I have generated a 3D model of a dwelling based upon the concepts embodied in these two houses and will post the article as soon as possible.
Early on in my post secondary education I studied architecture. The notion that one can, in artistic fulfillment, create a work that not only others see, but also encapsulates them usefully for work, endeavors or domestic desires, brings a different sort of satisfaction over the embellishments that painting or other two-dimensional productions provide. In my nascent understanding of architecture the lofty goal of the modernists to design an inexpensive and quickly built dwelling that satisfies economic and social needs of the ordinary person, grabbed me as it has many an architect such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller and for differing reasons.
The concept of a prefabricated house built of mass-produced and industrial materials that can be packed up and reassembled like a factory made doll house without a lot of consumed time or resources certainly garners fascination and experimentation.
Asked by Walter Street of the Allied Arts and Industries and the Architectural League of NY exhibition in 1930, A. Lawrence Kocher, who was the managing editor of Architectural Record, enlisted Albert Frey, a 28-year-old Swedish architect that had migrated to the US to help in developing a modern design for a house using off the shelf materials. Albert Frey was imbued with the Internationalist Style due to his experience with Le Corbusier’s office. The influence of American manufacture in the ready availability of materials that went into Aluminaire House also strongly pointed Kocher and Frey in the direction of metal and prefabrication.
After this experimental house was displayed at the shows the house sold to architect Wallace K. Harrison for $1000 and was moved to his property on Long Island, NY. There it remained until 1987 when the New York Institute of Technology accepted it to prevent its demolition and for its reassembly next to the School of Architecture by students. Although, annual lectures and events surrounded the Aluminaire House, plans to move the house to a location in New York City were not approved and the house, through the auspices of the Aluminaire House Foundation, was set to be moved to Palm Springs across from the Art Museum in 2017.
The Aluminaire House incorporated mostly aluminum and steel for the skin and framing of the building. Wood in certain places allowed for the attachment of insulation board and the floors were linoleum. At the time, the designers thought that aluminum would become ever cheaper and abundant and quite useful for building construction.
One of the most appealing qualities of the Aluminaire House comes from an overall design that seems in place at a more advanced stage of modernism. In fact, with little modification, this house could be built today and stand critical scrutiny. Of course, the use of steel instead of aluminum and a few other small changes would also result in a dwelling not all that expensive to produce.
It is fitting that the Aluminaire House will exist happily in Palm Springs, California where Albert Frey created notable work.
A future article will include further information on Albert Frey and his unique designs.
For more detailed information about the Aluminaire House visit these websites:
I call this design Cleopatra’s Tiny House because of the easy recognition of this figure in history as an Egyptian Pharaoh. However, this design is inspired by the design of Egyptian temples such as the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut.
Although massive and overbearing, I have always admired the towering vertical lines and the strong horizontals of Egyptian architectural design. Even though the Egyptians knew of the arch as early as the fourth dynasty, they prefered the monumental effect of post and lintel construction when using stone for their religious buildings.
Of course, we are talking about a residence here. The Egyptians, as with any warm or desert climate people, built dwellings to provide a respite from the heat. The strategies used are still used today and can be traced from the Romans to the Arabs to the Spanish and Italians.
With Cleopatra’s Tiny House, we have a covered entrance leading to a house in three sections. The tallest section encloses the living room and kitchen with a wall of folding doors that opens onto a central courtyard. On the other side of the courtyard are two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. Each bedroom has sliding glass doors on the side facing the courtyard. Because of all the glass doors, the courtyard becomes an intimate and private extension of the entire house and with this space centrally located and almost entirely shaded, it provides a cool place to dine or relax.
In this particular design the house maximizes privacy. No exterior walls have windows to look out upon the exterior landscape. Nevertheless, plenty of light comes in from the tall clerestory windows at the front and light pouring in from the courtyard.
The front boasts four large, square columns wrapped in galvanized, corrugated steel. These columns support a shade over the front entrance, but is independent of the house and does not touch the front.
The front porch as well as the rest of the roofs are covered in corrugated steel.
On this side is a barn door like gate that provides another exit as well as a means to move wider objects in and out.
The front door is to the left, while the courtyard is on the right.
The floor plan of this house is relatively simple and organized with three sections. The central courtyard becomes the unifying detail of the other two sections, yet defines the private, sleeping areas from the communal living and kitchen areas. Even with all the glass, this house is insular and private. Though this house has only around 600 sq. ft. interior space, each bedroom provides a secure, restful nest easily closed off from the rest of the house.
If made of cinderblock and stained cement floors, and without many windows, this house also would not demand any great expense. Standard, off-the-shelf materials could be used, with no need whatsoever for expensive or custom finishes.
Dana’s tiny house is one that uses many features from the mid-century and takes in influences from the orient. The use of brick and stone were quite familiar during the time for modern residences. Also, this house promotes a sense of solitude and seclusion with a front courtyard meant for relaxation in a private environment.
Dana’s includes many elements that I use over and over in architectural design such as multiple flat roofs at different elevations, clerestory windows just under the roof, and extensive outdoor space to supplement the interior space. As with the mid-century modern designers, I look to keep a close relationship between the indoors and outdoors.
The red metal screens that reside between the brick walls, not only breaks up the expanse of the wall, but also furnishes to lighten the heft of the barrier with enough openings to provide a look into and out of the courtyard space. Only one screen, which is also the gate, is not red in color, leading one to the front entrance.
One of the most intriguing and pleasurable aspects of mid-century modern houses is the adaptation of materials into modern forms. The inculcation of Chinese patterns into a modern structure lends itself to the international appeal of modernist structures. In fact, a great impulse among the modernists derives from the compulsion to boast at the technological advancement in the production and manipulation of materials, especially in large numbers. Unfortunately, the modernists only succeeding in satisfying this impulse with objects and furnishings in terms of widespread acceptance.
The main living area in this version is entirely open and serves space for the kitchen/dining area and the living room. The smaller version of this house has a pullout sofa for sleeping, with a wardrobe for clothes storage. The bathroom, behind the door that is seen in this picture, also has a wardrobe for more items.
In the above view, we see the alternative configuration of windows. In the first iteration, there are glass blocks above the large glass windows. We will see the alternative version, which is bigger and with a bedroom, after we see the smaller house.
Alternate Plan #2:
These two versions of a modern tiny house has many features usually reserved for much larger dwellings. With a courtyard in the front and a patio in the back, plenty of outdoor living is provided. The simple, basic design of the floor plans readily fit all sorts of changes in materials and colors. For instance, instead of brick, the front courtyard enclosure could be surrounded by a metal fence with wood screens of abstract patterns in place of the Chinese screens.
I remember as a child traveling in the car with my parents in the direction of what are called the Foothills in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma, situated on the Colorado River on the border with California and a stone’s throw from Mexico, was only around 14,000 people at the time and surrounded by a true desert landscape. As we passed along the road toward the barren mountains to the east of Yuma, we would pass the Marine Corps Air Station where flyers from around the world would come to learn military flying. During World War II, the base was an Army flying training center. It was at this time Quonset huts were built for shelter for the troops training at the base. The huts remained there at the time of our passing by. These semicircular buildings seemed like a wonderful, exciting place to live, especially for a child enamored with their inimitable look.
The Quonset hut got its name from the place they were first manufactured, Quonset Point, at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville, Rhode Island on the east coast of the United States. The design came from a structure very familiar to those in the British Commonwealth called the Nissen Hut used during World War I and designed by Major Peter Norman Nissen. Later during World War II, the design was improved upon and became the Romney Hut in Britain and the Quonset Hut in the United States. After the war, many in Britain, the United States and elsewhere were either torn down, used for commercial or agricultural purposes or converted to housing, with housing being the smallest percentage of reuse.
The biggest advantage of the Quonset Hut and its other manifestations is the speed at which the manufactured shelter could be constructed. Six men could construct a Nissen Hut in about four hours, with a slightly longer time for the other iterations. The reason for the quick construction time results from the simplicity of the parts and how they go together. In the basic form, the Quonset Hut is made of a curved form covered in corrugated steel. To make the walls and the roof, one only need repeat placing metal panels to a curved frame.
Quonset Hut at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona
Of course, the World War consumed materials, shipping, manufacturing and man-hours. So the design of the Quonset Hut had to be one that used as few of these things as possible. For the very same reasons, the Quonset Hut today requires a lot less money to purchase than any other sort of residential structure. Much like the geodesic dome and the A-frame, since the roof and the walls compose the same architectural feature, maintenance is also reduced. Large amounts of space are easily covered with this semicircular building and the addition of doors and windows do not amount to anything close to difficulty.
Quonset Hut in Arizona
Is the Quonset hut a modern building? Actually it is a product of the mid-century and has clean lines and a basic form. It uses modern materials and modern techniques for production and construction. It does not require traditional carpentry or building methods. It lends itself to open spaces, without the fractured nature of other types of housing. Missing, however, are the extensive use of glass and the close relationship between indoors and outdoors. Yet not all modern dwellings and structures during the mid-century professed to perpetuate the two concepts. Some Organic and Brutalist architecture ignored the aesthetic of walls of glass and extended outdoor areas. Not all modern design can be defined by just an International Style such as found among the works of Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson or Richard Neutra.
Singleton House in Los Angeles, California by Richard Neutra 1959
So, can a Quonset hut look and feel modern? Here are some examples:
Quonset hut designed by the Charles and Ray Eames Office in 1951.
Robert Daniels House by James W. Fitzgibbon, completed in 1950. (This image was made after extensive renovations that included a new roof. The old roof was corrugated metal.)
Although technically not a Quonset hut, the Robert Daniels House was constructed using the hut frame and shows what can happen when following the basic shape. The addition of stone, leaving the frame exposed and uncovered on the side allowing large areas of glass, brought this semicircular building to a modern aesthetic.
Robert Daniels House with the corrugated metal roof.
Interior view of Robert Daniels House
Arc House in East Hampton, New York by Maziar Behrooz Architecture.
Obviously, the arc of a Quonset hut can vary in height and width creating different looks and designs. The frame can be exposed to make glass areas more available. Additions and the use of natural materials can add contrasts to the dominating semi cylindrical roof.
Office building for Tangipahoa Consolidated Gravity and Drainage District No. 1 in Tickfaw, Louisiana.
Some random examples:
As one can see, the design possibilities of a Quonset hut are enormous. The construction of a modern dwelling using the semi cylindrical form is indisputable, while at the same time avoiding the expensive, traditional building techniques and materials. Innumerable companies sell kits and materials for Quonset hut construction, which are found widely on the Internet. A little imagination and not a lot of money can put together a modern Quonset hut home.
As for the Quonset hut as a possibility for a tiny house, the idea of a scaled down version from what we have seen above should take very little mental effort:
It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out, that as a modern tiny house, the Quonset hut is easily adaptable to a modern structure as well as a small or tiny house. For those interested in a tiny house, the Quonset hut should very much be considered.
Peter’s Tiny House is one based on my favorite geometric shape, the square. Although a great part of this square belongs to the outdoors, this tiny house has a substantial feeling of space. The house occupies 469 sq. ft. of enclosed space with 256 sq. ft. of covered patio.
The floor plan consists of 3 distinct architectural areas: the living room and bathroom area, the kitchen and dining area and the bedroom. The living room/bathroom and the bedroom radiate from the central kitchen in rectangles, whereas the kitchen maintains a square mimicking the overall shape of the entire structure.
Each section maintains a different roofline, with the kitchen area the highest at 12 feet. The various areas gather further distinction by the use of different materials. The kitchen square brandishes a natural stone covering, while the rest of the house is sheathed in steel, except for the patio which introduces bleached wood siding. The use of different materials serves to accent different aspects of the architecture. The stone covering around the kitchen continues inside to accentuate the central nature of this room.
Diversion from the square occurs along the roofline of the bedroom and patio. It extends out to accommodate the modern column providing support. On the matter of the column, the pure blue of the column provides a color contrast to the warmer colors in the stone and to enhance the effect of the steel and bleached wood. It also provides a balance with the brighter colors inside, granting the blue part of the primary colors from the yellow on the walls and the red floor in the kitchen.
This design puts forth the strong idea that a modern look at the simplest geometric forms leads to an infinite number of possibilities. As can be seen in the main floor-plan, the foot print of this house forms a perfect square, which is hardly creatively restrictive. By switching sections of this design, by making the patio in the area of the bedroom and visa versa, for instance, one could free up space for a two bedroom house or a much larger bedroom. Even so, this house occupies less than 500 sq. ft., yet is quite spacious.
This is a little video I made of this house design:
When thinking of the mid-century, one rarely thinks of the A-frame. Yet the A-frame was a familiar notion at the time, mainly as a mountain getaway. Indeed, even to this day, the A-frame’s association with the woods and mountain cabins, strikes people as unusual when seen in other environments. Nevertheless, the A-frame has certain advantages over traditional forms.
The A-frame became very popular around 1957 after an article in the New York Times appeared about a beach house built by the modernist architect, Andrew Geller, on Long Island known as the Elizabeth Reese House.
The main interest of an A-frame house comes from the ease and inexpensive construction. Like a dome, the A-frame forms the roof at the same time as the walls, thereby, making the building quicker and less costly. A little time after the publication of the New York Times article, even Macy’s got in on the act and began offering A-frame kits. In fact, purchasing in kit form was quite common as the A-frame reached a peak in popularity.
In 1950, San Francisco architect, John Campbell, designed and built the 540 square foot Leisure House. This led to kits for sale for $5000 and acclaim for his design, further fueling the modernist interest in this type of building on the west coast.
Modernists enjoyed working with the A-frame because of its basic artistic nature. The triangle finds a supreme place in the arts. From the pediment of the Parthenon to the design of a Renaissance painting, the triangle, along with the rectangle and circle, forms one the simplest and fundamental shapes.
The A-frame, as the result of odd space near the bottom sides and at the very top, were incorporated into larger structures in hotels, resorts, shops and gas stations. Many times the triangle formed a central area with an extension or extensions radiating outward. The most iconic image of the A-frame in the United States is the lodge or hotel cabin.
Because of the unique space of the A-frame, most usually have a loft, typically a sleeping area.
The A-frame is extremely simple to construct and kits are still available.
The A-frame can have a very modern look with plenty of glass and some slight modifications to the basic design.
Or one can settle for a rather plain, common look for the A-frame.
Here are some mid-century A-frame designs:
The A-frame makes a good fit for a tiny house. The open plan and the lack of expensive and time-consuming labor, allow for a modern house requiring less maintenance. The fact that the roof is the walls means less painting, for example. For a house off the grid, the angle of the roof permits the perfect collection of solar energy if pointed in the right direction.
The construction of an A-frame house does not demand sophisticated knowledge of techniques as used in an average house. Rather, it is like two lean-tos built against each other or a hard shell “tent”. Once the few angles are known, the building becomes rather simple.
Artistically, a modern style comes just as easy as the construction. Roofing made of modern materials such as steel and interiors utilizing the many modern surfaces available today, plus the edition of mid-century modern furniture, takes the A-frame from backwoods cabin to modern dwelling.
Just a treat, if you are from the US, especially from the western US, you remember the ubiquitous at the time Der Weinerschnitzel:
The subject of prefab houses may seem out of the realm of modern tiny houses, but the designs and the notion of producing a house in a factory is not. The last article on this website, Mobile Home Conversion, featured changing a mobile home into a modern small house. Of course, the ultimate in prefabricated housing is an RV, mobile home or tiny house on wheels. The whole concept of prefabrication should hit at least one of the buttons that tiny house fans have regarding expense or impact on the environment.
Many of the construction philosophies involved in the production of tiny houses find a place among those producing prefabricated houses. The embrace of modern materials such as steel and composite materials, engineered woods and laminates, and recycled goods delivers the same design elements in a tiny house as they do in a larger dwelling. This is one of the best features of modern architecture; that the design of a museum or an office building on a large-scale can have the same valid artistic expression as in a smaller structure using the same or similar components.
The design of this “cabin” is actually straightforward, using the linear quality of the building to emphasize the interior design. Although, for me, I could use the addition of some color, many people find this neutral scheme relaxing.
On Mobile Home Living an article describes Modern Green PreFab Homes. Also mentioned is Blu Homes which have some marvelous designs and a Origin Pod only 633 sq. ft., self-contained with a kitchenette, living and sleeping quarters.
Here is an article on Dwell about a modern mobile home with an absolutely gorgeous kitchen.
PAD Studio Prefabricated House.
Prefabricated houses come in all sizes. Some companies offer smaller designs that might suit the needs of the tiny house searcher. Yet, unfortunately, many companies create structures on the high-end of the scale, with expensive finishes and a large dollar to square footage price. Some prefabricated houses can reach as high as the $300,000 – $500,000 range for an average size house. Some, though, benefit from factory production and are quite reasonable in cost. There are many companies out there that are willing to offer one with custom as well as manufactured housing in a smaller size. It is just a matter of looking.