Airstream-Inspired Apartments Offer Tiny Luxury Homes on a Budget

Fair Companies/Video screen capture

From Graham Hill's LifeEdited project to transformer apartments with moving walls, TreeHugger has featured many a dwelling from the less-is-more school of design. What stands out in these examples is the use of smart design, creativity and order to deliver the same function and even atmosphere that would previously have been delivered by simply throwing more square footage into a home. Just as fossil fuels are the enemy of creativity, it seems that over-sized homes are the enemy of smart design.

Fair Companies/Video screen capture

That lesson is evident in this latest dispatch from Fair Companies—the folks who brought us this 78 square foot apartment in Manhattan and an incredible old garage turned tiny house in France. This time we take a visit to San Francisco developer Patrick Kennedy who shows us a prototype for the smallest legal apartment in San Francisco which he intends to develop as prefab units.

Fair Companies/Video screen capture

As witnessed in the video, SmartSpace 1.0 is very much a prototype with as many mistakes as there are victories. From the slide-out induction cook top ("too clever") through the undersized round sink ("too cool") to the solartube to the bathroom ("not worth the headache"), Kennedy shares much of what they have learned. But mistakes aside, I'm still struck by the thought that has to go into designing a room like this by default—there's just very little room to do anything but optimize the space.

Fair Companies/Video screen capture

The focus on quality of materials, including luxury touches like stainless steel baseboards and quality, bamboo doors, is also important. While tiny houses as punk rock may appeal to some, if we want smaller homes to reach their full potential, they need to appeal to a mainstream audience that is as interested in the lifestyle, premium address and cost-effectiveness that they can offer as they are any ecological benefits or Thoreau-style efforts at simpler living.

Just as ZipCar became a major business on the back of urbanites interested in mobility not ownership, so too tiny homes have the potential to meet a common need among young, single urbanites.

Patrick Kennedy's SmartSpace concept offers some signposts on how that might happen.

Tags: Architecture | Green Building | Less Is More | San Francisco | United States

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