French Tiny House is Crisply Modern

Baluchon builds another beautiful little box out of sustainable materials.

End of unit in vinyard

Vincent Bouhours - Tiny House Baluchon

French tiny house builder Baluchon has just completed "Ala Köl" which they describe as displaying "a resolutely contemporary architecture. Its off-center ridge, the facade entirely dressed in black aluminum, the large joinery on the skeleton cladding give it a clean and modern look."

Years ago this Treehugger got in trouble with readers for asking why so many tiny houses are "cutesy and ugly and derivative" – because they all looked like, well, tiny houses with gables and lofts with tiny windows and no headroom. That is how tiny houses started; as pioneer Jay Shafer told Treehugger, "I wanted to make something with universal appeal. Something that would be house-like in proportions and not perceived as a trailer."

Side of unit
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

Laëtitia, Baluchon co-founder and designer, takes a different approach, and sees the tiny house as a "formidable field of experimentation and creativity, halfway between the design of objects and architecture." Treehugger emeritus Kimberly Mok previously showed their Essen’Ciel, Ostara, L'Odysée, and my favorite, the Intrepide – and they are all modern gems.

View from end toward kitchen
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

French tiny homes are generally smaller than their North American counterparts; they are limited to 8 feet in width and 3.5 tonnes (7716 pounds), but they have packed a lot on to this 20-foot trailer. In this view from the living area, one can see the storage stair leading up to the loft.

Loft bedroom
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

The loft looks like you can sit up in bed without banging your head, thanks to the eccentric peak of the roof. It also has a very large sliding window, important for both ventilation (it can get really hot in lofts when the warm air rises) and also safety, as an emergency exit.

View from loft
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

A nice view down from the loft, showing the comfortably sized dining table and sofa.

view from kitchen
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

The kitchen is modest by American standards. I have often complained that using full-sized American appliances leaves almost no room to sit down and eat; here, there is an under-counter fridge and euro-sized gas range, and a modest but sufficient amount of counter-space made from French walnut.

view of kitchen sink
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

Baluchon co-founder, Vincent, studied "eco-construction" in Paris, "in order to obtain a very good knowledge of materials, their environmental footprint and their properties." His bio continues:

"He loves our planet and its inhabitants, today he wants to offer homes that reconcile the two. Eco-construction is therefore at the heart of his concerns and he intends to demonstrate that it is possible to live differently."
Kitchen range
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

This is clearly demonstrated in the choice of materials and equipment; the house is insulated with cotton, linen, and hemp for floors and walls, with wood fiber in the ceilings, and it is all built out of local wood. It is sufficiently insulated that it needs very little heat. There is even a Lunos dual-flow heat recovery ventilator for fresh air. Perhaps the only discordant note in the entire project is the use of a gas stove without an exhaust hood, but there is a big window right next to it.

Toilet in bathroom
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

There is a full shower, a washer/dryer and a dry toilet with chip storage beside. Baluchon explains:

"Dry toilets are indeed an essential part of our tiny houses. It is a very effective means of "returning to the Earth" and of not polluting enormous quantities of drinking water by supplying a simple flush of water ... (as a reminder of conventional toilets, connected to the main sewer pollute on average 36L of water per day and per person)."
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

This is common in tiny homes; septic systems are expensive and really tie you down. In North America it is often called the "humanure system," essentially a bucket and sawdust that prevents odor and absorbs moisture. For people who do not want to sit on a bucket of poop, Baluchon offers fancier "automatic composting" toilets as well. Gray water from sinks, shower, and washer can be handled by small filtering systems.

Cladding on exterior
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

The exterior is cedar cladding with anti-UV treatment or aluminum with standing-seam joints, on top of the best Passivhaus-quality moisture control layers of Proclimat rain screen on the exterior and a OuatEco moisture control layer on the inside. (I have tried to explain how these "hygrovariable" membranes work here) None of this stuff is cheap, but moisture can build up quickly in a tiny house, and has to be managed carefully.

unit sitting in field
Vincent Bouhours - Tiny house Baluchon

I have often been skeptical about tiny homes, especially after being in the business and owning one. It is a particularly hard business when you are building extremely high quality, healthy, and efficient tiny homes like Baluchon is doing; people often cannot see the value of the stuff inside the walls. But it appears that having those French size and weight limitations really concentrate the mind; the Ala Köl looks like the perfect mix of design and quality. Last word to Baluchon and their motto:

"When designing a tiny house it is important to take care of the details, because in a mini house it is the smallest things that stand out the most."