Old house versus tiny house

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips, House Styles

For many, the dream of owning an old house can't be replaced with anything else. It's all about the layers of history, the old architecture, and the little details that can't be replicated. There is a certain 'feel' to an old house, one that charms you so thoroughly that you can't imagine living in anything modern.

But there is also another way of looking at old houses, and that's the act of being good to the environment, of choosing a space that is 'just enough' but never 'too much,' and of creating a place that is entirely your own -- something that has a stamp of personal creativity.

So what about a tiny house?

Tiny houses and old house living

The tiny house movement seems new, but it's based on an old premise: back in 1950, the average size of a home was 983 square feet. And remember, that's the average. That means there were many houses much smaller than that. Today's tiny house movement goes back to that idea with homes that range anywhere from 60 to 1,500 square feet -- a far cry from the almost 2,600 square feet that most of us are accustomed to these days.

Many old houses are very small, which means that proper utilization of every square inch is the key to comfortable living. It also often means giving up a few conveniences. How many tiny old houses have the room for a dryer? That's why there's a clothesline out back. A dishwasher in that that tiny kitchen? No way -- it's all done by hand. And forget a king-size bed in that little bedroom. It won't even fit through the door!

In other words, one of the charms of an old house is that it forces us to get back to basics. It's made of high-quality materials designed to stand the test of time. It was created only as large as it needed to be, and many rooms did double-duty. There were some modern conveniences, but the homeowners had to pick and choose which ones they wanted, thanks to space being at such a premium.

But they were also a way of life, something that seems to have gotten lost in today's world. Families were in constant contact inside the walls of the tiny old house -- no cell phones required! Slowing down to do the dishes or hang the clothes on the line offered time to reflect. When a new baby came, the solution was to build a new addition on the old house, not go out and buy a new one.

So much of that old-fashioned philosophy is captured in today's tiny houses!

One big consideration for tiny houses

There is another point to be made about tiny houses, and that is the affordability. Old houses that are ready to move into can cost a pretty penny; old houses that need serious work are much more affordable initially, but can cost even more in the long run. When purchasing a tiny house, there is much less of a financial burden. In fact, the average price of a tiny house is only $23,000. Most vehicles these days cost more than that.

There are all the other financial benefits as well, such as much lower utility bills, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less building materials (which means those materials can be more high-end), or the use of recycled materials, like reclaimed wood.

But in the end, remember that home is what you make it. Those who choose tiny house living are often living by the same spirit as those who buy old houses -- the desire to simply have enough, not too much, and to carve out a place in the world that can hold their own history. That makes tiny houses, just like old houses, a noble pursuit.