Where space and flexibility are at a premium, traditional homes soon hit their limits. The following ten tiny houses prove just how little space it takes to create a full-featured, comfortable home.

Movable walls

In its current use, the term “stopgap” doesn’t really carry any positive connotations, but that’s something Tokyo’s Shoji House aims to change. Tailored by architect Yoshiaki Yamashita to fit all those tiny gaps dotted around the mega city, it is based on an extremely flexible system inspired by Japan’s traditional sliding paper walls (shojis).

minimalistic, blace facade of the Shoji House
The Shoji House in Tokyo.
Photo: Eiji Tomita

To protect the house from the elements, outer walls are made from Perspex. Just like layering in fashion, this particular creative architectural vision toys with the interplay of levels, layers, and transparency, putting a new spin on the idea of privacy in semi-public space.

minimalistic interior of the Shoji House
Minimalist interior with flexible walls.
Photo: Eiji Tomita

Live where others park

Marco Casagrande always thinks a few steps ahead: Since tomorrow’s city will have fewer – and smaller – cars, he’s already planning what to do with all those unused parking spaces. To the Finnish architect, they’d make the perfect spot for his “Tikku” micro homes: At a footprint of just 2.5 by 5 meters, they’d be the perfect fit for any standard parking space, feeling right at home on the tarmac.

Casagrande’s prototype took pride of place at the 2017 Helsinki Design Week, erected overnight from an extremely lightweight, well-insulating solid wood called CLT. The result covered three levels and came equipped with solar panels. In other words: a self-contained, 38-square-meter modern paradise.

“Tikku” micro homes : a self-contained micro home
Tikku – microliving on three floors.
Photo: Nikita Wu

3D printing booths

New homes at the push of the button? According to British-Malay architecture student Haseef Rafiei, such a Pod Vending Machine could soon change the city as we know it. His vision resembles high-rise scaffolding that is topped with a huge 3D printer fitted to produce residential living modules – once ordered by a future home owner, these modules are manufactured and then dropped into an empty slot by a crane.

For inspiration for his high-tech vision, Rafiei looked no further than the popular gaming and vending machines found all across Asia; it’s even designed to resemble a giant robot. At the same time, the construction machine makes clever use of the ongoing 3D printing trend, which has already produced some urban structures like bicycle bridges.

Floating tent

Will there ever be a time when we, once again, live in the trees? If Bruno de Grunne and Nicolas d’Ursel get their way, this will soon be the case. The passionate architects and nature lovers have designed a bespoke, 16-square-meter Dom’Up Treehouse fashioned from sturdy tent material.

All the single-room apartment needs is two trees for stability. And it even includes little luxuries like windows, awning, and a patio. Once disassembled, the temporary living quarters easily fit into a pick-up truck, ready to transform another part of the forest into a magical retreat.

Dom’Up Treehouse: a tree house made of sturdy tent material
Treehouse tent or one room apartment? Both!
Photo: Dom’Up

Cardboard and plastics

Temporary homes are needed almost everywhere – not just in major metropolises. For the past two decades, Japanese star architect Shigeru Ban has been building solutions for refugees and other people in need. Recently, the UN asked him to help create homes for 20,000 refugees in Kenya.

Once again, Ban faces the challenge of sourcing his materials locally and making sure that they are recyclable and sustainable. It’s likely the architect will once again opt for his favorite affordable choices: a foundation of beer crates, walls made from cardboard tubes, and plastic tarpaulin for the roof.

Space-art vacation homes

The 1960s were an age of big dreams and radical change. Now three of the era’s most out-there dream castles are once again open for exploration: the Friche de l’escalette sculpture park near Marseille plays host to the Future House by Matti Suuronen, the Bulle Six Coques by Jean-Benjamin Maneval, and the Hexacube by George Candilis and Anja Blomsted.

Despite their designation as vacation homes, none of the three late-1960s buildings resemble your average camping cabin. Instead, prepare yourself for stilt-based structures, flying saucer shapes, crazy designs, and futuristic interiors.

three futuristic micro homes as Friche de l’escalette
Back to the future: Marseille bungalows from the space-age.
Photo: Friche de L’escalette

Stacked paper rings

What happens when you ask three architects to go wild with paper and scissors? Studio 3A ended up with a poetic structure fashioned from interlocking laminated and slit paper sheets. Shaped into cylinders, these were stacked like igloo ice blocks to create a beautiful “Paper Cloud.” Supported by neither glue nor screws, the transparent wall structure excels at holding everything together – and creating a dreamy light mood in the structure’s interior.

a micro house made from paper
Paper Cloud: a lofty study made from paper.
Photo: Studio 3A

Archaic cave

Architect Shailesh Devi from India might have taken inspiration from the Teletubbies’ home for her cave-like “Gumpha House“: the semi-buried home boasts organically curved stone walls, round doors, and skylights.

exterior view of Gumpha House
The Gumpha House in India.
Photo: Vikrant Dashputre

Yet unlike the toddler-friendly TV series, this house is not designed to kindle spurts of child-like imagination, but to serve as a soothing retreat for stressed urbanites. With her tiny, super-simple Gumpha House, Devi wants to give people the opportunity to focus on simplicity and reconnect with nature again.

interior of the Gumpha House
Half underground and more cave than house.
Photo: Vikrant Dashputre

Stress-busting wood cabin

The 72h Cabins are hardly larger than the size of a double bed – and that’s almost all they contain. It’s a deliberate choice and hint for future renters since these vacation retreats are designed for people looking to unwind. Built from mostly untreated fir wood, all houses exude an irresistible woodland scent and offer sensational views of the surrounding nature thanks to glass inserts in the walls and roofs.

Swedish architect Jeanne Berger tailor-made these huts for the private island of Henriksholm. The name, 72h Cabins, was the result of a quick field test: After just 72 hours in one of the huts, stress levels began to drop dramatically.

micro home 72h Cabins with glas walls
Stress-free living: a micro home by 72h Cabins.
Photo: Maja Flink

Efficient system

All packed up, the Nomad House is hardly larger than a DIY wardrobe kit from your nearest furniture store – the lightweight metal home is even suitable for regular shipping. Once erected, it contains everything you’d expect from a proper home, including living space, bedroom, kitchen, and bath.

To facilitate this impressive feat, Canadian architect Ian Kent not only came up with an innovative floor plan, but also designed all interior elements. Now, the staircase houses the kitchen while a clever daylight distribution system ensures that, despite its tiny size, the micro home always feels bright and airy.