Small House Books

columbiascJune 19, 2010

As my screen name suggests, I live in Columbia, South Carolina. Our public library is a fabulous amenity. Just think about it. I go to their wesite, log in, search their inventory, request up to 10 books at one time, wait three of four days, I get an automated phone call telling me my items are ready at whichever of the 5 branches I ask them to send the items to, I drive over, walk to a special shelf, find my name, take my items to a self checkout station and in under 2 minutes I am out the door. Who could ask for more?

I've been working my way through the architecture/homes/design section. I'm only about one-fourth of the way through and have found a plethora of book titles devoted to small homes. There are the usual suspects like the Not So Big House but to my surprise, there are many other books devoted to the concept. Here are some of my favorites so far:

Tiny Tiny Houses by Lester Walker

Floor plans for many tiny houses, including ThoreauÂs cabin.

Blueprint Small by Michelle Kodis

More small floor plans.

The New Cottage Home by Jim Tolpin

A collection of small floor plans.

Haven; Cozy Hideaways and Dream Retreats by Allison Serrell

Photographs and descriptions of everything from tiny off-grid retreats to pool houses and backyard retreats to cabins.

Ideas for Great Backyard Retreats by Sunset Books

Photographs, descriptions and floor layouts for backyard retreats, pool houses, writing sheds, etc.

Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living by Michael Freeman

Photographs and descriptions of actual homes and apartments in modern day Japan.

Although I am in a small space now, my preferred goal is to design and build my own small space from the ground up so I can get all the features and energy efficiency in from the beginning. These books are a great inspiration and resource. They have been a great way for me to get through the extreme heat we have been experiencing. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


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Great list of books you have there, Scott!
Several of us who frequent this board are also interested in books. If you don't mind, let us know the strong points about the titles after you read them.

If you have not reached the "S" section of the subject in your library, you'll be pleased to read the book LITTLE HOUSE ON A SMALL PLANET by Salomon. And he really means LITTLE. You might discover a thread or two on this forum with other titles to pique your interest as well.

You seem to be exploring diminuative structures in general, not just primary dwellings. So I'll add another title to your list. Well worth reading is STYLISH SHEDS AND ELEGANT HIDEAWAYS by Debra Prinzing.

Michael Freeman's JAPANESE DESIGN SOLUTIONS FOR COMPACT LIVING is a title I'll be looking for. The Japanese pay attention to the details, and always have. For instance I'm looking at Tansu chests, or step chests. GREAT idea even building drawers beneath a free standing set of stairs so the drawers pull out from both sides. A 48 inch wide set of steps would yield standard depth kitchen cabinets beneath them, you know, on both side dining, one side kitchen....excellent storage!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 11:38AM
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Moccasin, how uncanny. That is the exact book I have next on my request list. They have two copies, both are checked out, one is overdue. I'm hoping the overdue holder will turn theirs in soon so I get my turn.

I flipped through Little House On a Small Planet but didn't check it out. I've also flipped through it in Barnes & Noble. Interesting book.

All the books I mentioned are worth taking a look at. I left out the ones that are more design studies than practical structures. I tried giving a brief description of each. They all explore the diminutive house from diverse angles. From impractical, toiletless cabins like Lincoln's boyhood home or Thoreau's cabin to architectural gems. I'll add more titles as I get through more books.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 9:04PM
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Scott, when you think of more books, please add them to this thread. I know you are also participating in the discussion about Pleased to Meet You, also on this forum, and you mention books on Japanese style there too.

Because of your list, I serendipitously discovered some books about using shipping containers as the building blocks for homes. In Costa Rica in 2006, I saw some folks living in the containers but in the most basic way.

A community of such containers stacked one on the next, doesn't it make you think of the cliff dwellers? The Anasazi? The Pueblo Indians/Native Americans? Old highway vans/trailers with their landing gear and wheels removed also make very large rooms. An interesting concept.

In another thread, I posted photos of a design for a metal building based living area, more vacation style, but it is on the grounds of the Shelburne Museum up in Vermont. I was fascinated by it. Do you mind if I repost it here?

These steps are the same type they use on offshore oil platforms, where you look down and see the waves rolling beneath you.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 12:22PM
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Scott, a comment about Thoreau's cabin.
It is AWESOME. I actually visited it, and stood inside it.
And I walked to the edge of Walden Pond.

For someone like myself from the great state of Alabama, visiting New England was like....going to church. All the names so prominent in our American history are a part of the everyday world up there. I loved visiting Boston too, but what they don't tell you is that it has hills...exhausting to someone from a flatland. And they have ROCKS EVERYWHERE.

But back to Thoreau. His cabin is TINY. It is not my dream house by any means, but it is as compact and complete as you can get for the time period and the location which was wilderness in those days.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 11:43AM
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Sing it with me......Sweeet home Ala Bama....Lord I'm comng home to you.....

What an interesting house you have pictured here Moccassin. I really enjoy seeing people let their creativity run wild. Designs like these exude energy. The open treads on the oil platforms are probably designed like that for practical reasons like less resistance to waves and wind but they make for interesting design elements when used out of whimsy.

I really believe there is a market for a small homes magazine. Too bad no one is publishing one. Dwell leans more toward smaller structures than most mags but I find most of their designs too urban for my taste. Still, I'd much rather look at attainable structures like this than those enormous mansions in the usual mags. But magazines rely on advertising to survive, not subscribers. I don't suppose too many of us Right Sized Dwellers would be interested in $50,000 automobiles or $10,000 watches so advertising revenue might be a challenge.

Thoreau's cabin is about as small as you can go and still remain somewhat practical, even for one person. And don't forget, Thoreau, like Jay Shaffer, didn't have a true, working potty. In my mind, that alone makes such a structure impractical. You could get away with an outhouse and no bathing space in Thoreau's days, but not today. And even if you could get away with it, would you want to? I like bathing on a regular basis. :) Creativity - yes. Stinky - no.

BTW Moccassin, I do hope your screen name refers to footware and not water snakes.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 8:57PM
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Scott says: "BTW Moccassin, I do hope your screen name refers to footware and not water snakes. "

I'm glad you asked, Scott.
Actually it refers to both.
I was gone for months at a time working, and my house sat alone. I was concerned about vandalism or whatever, since it was on a small bayou in the city. It is not right to tempt folks, I felt.

So I picked a name which symbolized my moccasins rested here. But also, it implied that the very ill tempered and dangerous water moccasins came around in the tall grass down by the water.

I painted the name MOCCASINLANDING on an old paddle, and hung it over my carport. It had a snake slithering in the grass. Also, down at my tiny little dock, I hung a board up with lettering as suggested by a man I met down in Texas: MOCCASIN LANDING--PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE SNAKES.

To further this mental image of snakes, while I was working in Louisiana, I picked up a 6 foot long dead snake (road kill) which I mounted on a board and covered with a fiberglas resin. It lasted for years swinging from the tree closest to the water. If a person thought it was killed in my yard, that was an impression I never bothered to correct.

I never had any problems in the 18 years I lived there with invasion of my space. Except we did cut up a couple of snakes in the grass catcher of the lawn mower. I was really surprised when the body parts fell out. Spooky, yes?

Where I am now, we have a nicer kind of snake--the King snake and the rat snake. The king eats the bad snakes, among other things. And I'm sure the rat snake earns his keep too.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 11:00PM
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Good list there

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:02AM
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Table guy. Registered today. Again.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:25AM
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We just got back from VT, and saw that house at Shelburne Museum (along with countless other stuff; Electra Webb was the original 'hoarder'). I'm fascinated by smaller homes, both because that's all I can afford, and because I've come around to the realization that small homes are better in many ways than big houses. I devour every issue of 'Cottages and Bungalows' that comes out, although they tend to stretch my definition of what a 'cottage' is. I lean toward the traditional, old-fashioned, and downright antique, so the vintage homes they show give me lots of ideas. I wish I had the wherewithal to start a true small house magazine!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 4:56PM
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