When starting a family, most people will think of moving into a bigger space, rather than moving into a smaller one. That's one of the supposed caveats underlying tiny houses: great for singles, workable for couples, but difficult for families, prompting the innocent (yet a little short-sighted) question of whether living in small spaces is cruel to children. Yet, we've seen numerous examples to the contrary -- families of three, four and even five -- living quite contentedly in tiny dwellings.
With the birth of their third child and after a summer spent with the whole family travelling in a camper van and volunteering at organic farms, English architect Tim Francis and his wife, teacher Laura Hubbard-Miles, decided to actually downsize. They moved from London and out into the countryside of Gloucestershire, renovating a small, Victorian stone building on Francis' parents' property that once stored fruit. Francis explains to The Guardian why they chose to go even smaller:
The [London] flat was enormous, but there was no outdoor space and just taking the boys to the park was a real expedition. We knew there was no way we could afford anything bigger and after eight years in London we were getting really frustrated.
After convincing his parents of the scheme, Francis got permission from the county and masterminded the new interior design of the Fruit Store (as they like to call their tiny home). The minimalist design includes an upstairs loft that the children can sleep and play in, while the built-in benches downstairs can either be seating or transform into a bed for the parents. There doesn't seem to be an indoor toilet, though the house does have running water and electricity. Whittling their possessions down to the essentials was made easier by their practice run during their summer volunteering abroad.
The move has given Francis time to jumpstart his own design firm, Rural Workshop. The whole family is spending a lot more time outdoors together, gardening and doing other outdoor activities. While they are keeping an open mind about the experimental nature of their living situation and know things will most probably change once the kids hit adolescence, overall, it's brought them a sense of contentment and closeness as a family, says Francis:
I asked [my son] what he thought about us living here the other day, and he said: ‘I like it. We’re like a herd,’ which I thought was a nice way of looking at it. As an architect you tend to work on the assumption that a family house is X number of bedrooms, arranged in this particular way to a particular set of measurements, but those are quite sloppy assumptions about what a home is or should be. Trying out living on this scale allows us to test what we really need to live.