In crowded cities where space is a premium, shoebox apartments are a reality for many people. But what about going further and living in a house that is barely larger than the size of a bedroom? Call it the humblest of abodes. Dramatic downsizing of one’s home has become a phenomenon in recent years, spreading first from the United States, after the subprime mortgage crisis, to the rest of the world.
Called the “tiny house” movement, the trend is to live in houses no larger than 400 sq ft or about the size of the master bedroom of a Housing Board flat. Some people started building these miniature houses themselves, customising them to their own preferences. But then businesses started to catch on to the demand and began specialising in making these homes as prefabricated units, from practical micro-homes in dense city areas to eco-friendly cabins in far-flung, off-the-grid places.
In recent months, a few Singapore-based companies have been getting in on the act. One of them is Big Tiny, founded by three Singaporean entrepreneurs in March last year. It sells eco-friendly houses on wheels in scenic locations in Australia for $80,000 a pop. When the owners are not staying in them, Big Tiny will help rent out the houses for between $150 and $250 a night. The properties will be listed on online accommodation booking sites Airbnb and Booking.com.
They are parked on land owned by farmers or vineyard owners, who get a slice of the rental profits. The landlords also meet guests when they arrive and help them settle in. The houses’ floor areas range from 161 sq ft – which can comfortably house two people – to 240 sq ft, which houses four people. The latter comes with a loft bedroom. The prefabricated houses are assembled using machinery and can be yoked to a four-wheel-drive and transported to various locations.
Each house comes with solar panels, a rainwater collection system and a composting toilet. Nearly 30 people have bought these houses. Big Tiny co-founder Adrian Chia, 37, says: “People are downsizing their houses to simplify their lives. In Big Tiny, we pair tiny houses with a spectacular rural setting.”
Mr Chia, a former government scholar with the Singapore Land Authority, is also the founder of a systems and tech company. The first two houses have been launched in New South Wales – on the edge of the Blue Mountains – and in Victoria. Five more are in the pipeline and Big Tiny will expand to Brisbane and New Zealand by the end of the year. Big Tiny hopes to build these homes in Singapore. It wants to approach the Urban Redevelopment Authority to discuss the possibility of parking Big Tiny homes in scenic spots such as East Coast Park and Marina Barrage.