Micro-Community of Tiny Homes Flourishes on Rehabilitated Vacant Lot

A community of tiny homes bunched close together

Inhabitat / Flickr

Will tiny houses be the next big thing? We've outlined before some of the barriers that might be keeping tiny houses from becoming mainstream -- one of big obstacles being access to land, even under-utilized urban land, despite the fact that there would be a real market for them in city centres. Hoping to demonstrate the possibilities of the tiny house lifestyle, especially on under-used urban lots, a small collective of tiny home owners joined forces in 2012 to form Boneyard Studios, a micro-village of tiny homes located on a rehabilitated vacant lot in the Washington DC area. Check out the visual tour of this remarkable tiny community.

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"Creative urban infill"

credit: Inhabitat via Flickr

According to the website, tiny house owners Brian Levy, Lee Pera, Jay Austin and Elaine have built their homes together on a triangular alley lot that once was populated with "overgrown grass, broken concrete, pooling water, garbage, illegal parking, and occasional criminal activity (e.g. a dumped stolen vehicle).” Through this project, they are aiming to

(1) demonstrate creative urban infill on one of many vacant city lots, (2) promote the benefits of tiny houses: highly affordable, green, simple, and attractive, (3) model what a tiny house community could look like, (4) build capacity of tiny house designers and builders and (5) advocate for DC zoning/code changes to allow construction and habitation of accessory dwelling units and tiny houses.
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Minim House

credit: Inhabitat via Flickr

Each of the houses has its own character and charm; Brian Levy's is the contemporary Minim House, designed by Foundry Architects and Brian Levy, and built by David Bamford. Clad with wood siding and black metal trim, it features a metal roof outfitted with solar panels.

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Minim House

True to its name, the interior is minimalist and maximizes the minimum as a living space with smart storage and a pull-down projection screen for entertainment.

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Tumbleweed Lusby

credit: Inhabitat via Flickr

On the other end of the aesthetic spectrum, Elaine's cottage-like Tumbleweed Lusby is based on a design by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company founder Jay Shafer.

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Tumbleweed Lusby

The Tumbleweed Lusby's interior is warm and rustic, inviting you to make meals in the homey kitchen or rest in its lofted sleeping space.

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Pera House

Lee's Pera House is actually a remodel of an existing 16-foot tiny house on an 18-foot trailer that she found on Craigslist. Working with builder Tony Gilchries and Ronnie, plus architect Matt Battin and designer Robin Hayes, Pera added on a removable 4-foot deck, rain catchment, pumps, filters and a system for greywater.

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Matchbox House

Jay Austin's Matchbox is a 140-square-foot house that will be an off-grid, zero-waste, self-sustaining home.

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Matchbox House

It features rain chains for harvesting rainwater, skylights, wide windows for passive cooling, and traditional building methods like earth plaster for humidity control and charred wood siding (shou sugi ban or a scorched-wood technique from Japan) for better protection against the elements.

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Becoming part of the neighborhood

credit: Inhabitat via Flickr

Since its inception, the owners have planted fruit trees, a small community garden, brought in and converted a shipping container into a bike workshop and storage. Though they've had to face down some skepticsone of the homes actually won a recent AIA Excellence in Design Award. In addition to holding regular open houses and tiny house building workshops, they are now collaborating with neighbours, local councillors and realtors to work on issues of zoning reform and affordable housing. Since last year, Boneyard Studios has garnered a lot of attention, and no wonder: communities like these could show that a different way of living fully and sustainably is truly possible. To catch a televised tour of the lot, check out this Al Jazeera America documentary airing this week; otherwise, there's more over at Boneyard Studios.