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Tiny House, big design…

As the Tiny Houses moved to Holland Marjolein in ‘t Klein was one of the first ones to succumb. The lifestyle of living smaller with less stuff in a house built of bio based materials and closer to nature appealed to her. Soon other Dutch people would follow in her footsteps, amongst whom Monique van Orden who wrote the book Tiny Houses – less house, more living. For this book she interviewed 25 people in The Netherlands and Belgium on their life in a tiny house.

The Dutch Tiny House-lifestyle

“There are some differences between the Tiny House-lifestyle here and in the USA,” Monique says. “For instance, the USA allows you to go on the road with a much heavier trailer. Here we’re only allowed to drive around with 3500 kilograms (7716 pounds), which basically means that people here leave their tiny houses where they are, while in the USA – which of course is a much bigger country – people move around with their tiny houses. Many of the Americans temporarily set up their tiny house at a ranch to do seasonal labor. They follow the sun around the country to avoid wintertime. If we want to travel around in Europe, we much rather use a camper or a small RV then dragging around our tiny houses.”

European design

The Netherlands was one of the early adapters to the Tiny House-lifestyle in Europe. But it’s also growing rapidly in Belgium, France and Germany. “The designs coming from France are incredible: they have such an eye for detail. A window with a nice round edge for instance: not necessary, but it makes it so beautiful. The Germans on the other hand are more practical and very efficient with the off grit technology. They’re testing everything to the max.”

International network

“Of course it would be very useful to exchange ideas and therefore I want to generate an international network in order to learn from each other’s knowledge on technology and design,” says Monique. “Japan, for instance, is very good at tiny living. They excel in multifunctionality: making a bed out of a closet and then making it look beautiful and simple. It’s no wonder that cleaning up and minimalizing as a lifestyle is coming from this country: they have such little space for so many people to live in. We have sort of a similar situation in The Netherlands, so we could and should learn from them.”

Personalise your space

In just a matter of a few years The Netherlands has gotten around a hundred Tiny Houses and amongst them are some pretty special designs.  “The nice thing about creating your own tiny house is that you can personalize your space. What you see on the outside often reflects who you are. So it’s no wonder that architects are getting more and more interested in designing these small houses.  They take this new way of living very seriously. It’s definitely more than just a temporary solution for starters looking for an affordable home. It’s a true lifestyle with a philosophy and design to match it.”

A skylight, roofterrace & climbing wall

Monique is pointing out some special examples of Tiny Houses that she’s seen over the years. “Elke for instance, who lives in Westbroek near Utrecht. She had three wishes for her tiny house: she wanted a climbing wall, a skylight through which she could gaze at the stars from her bed and a roof terrace. All of this was possible according to the architect who designed her home and now she can use her climbing wall on the outside of her house to go to her roof terrace or lay in bed and look at the stars. Her tiny house got featured in an American Magazine because of its design.”

A professional lightplan

“Another great example is the house of Wendy & Timothy, a couple living in Noordwijk near the beach. He is a designer himself, which resulted in a professional light plan for their tiny house and design wallpaper they imported from the USA. I have never seen a tiny house with wallpaper before! The finishing in their house is so detailed and nice that it could easily be featured in a magazine. They sleep downstairs and have a giant TV which gives it a feel of their own little home theater. And they also have a little piano in their tiny house, like the ones used on ships. And still their house looks spacious and not crammed.”

A painting studio

“The key to tiny living is making choices. You have a limited amount of space, so you have to prioritize and decide what’s really important to you. For my husband it was a studio where he could paint, so we decided to make it happen and compromise the space we reserved for the living room. Our tiny house was designed by an architect who is known for designing villa’s and houses, but he’s now designed three tiny houses and he’s taking all that experience into his next projects.”

A house from recycled card box

Like in ‘normal living’ people in tiny houses have their own wishes and demands. “Henny from Almere has a –what I call- wrapping around house, which is a Dutch design. It’s built from recycled card box and made out of separate elements that you can put together or pull apart in a matter of one day. So you can actually, literally easily pick up your house and move elsewhere.”

The future

According to Monique the future of tiny houses is bright. “The STEC-group did research on tiny houses and came to the conclusion that they’re not a hype, but they’re here to stay. Maybe it’s because more people than ever live on their own, but it’s also because lifestyle is becoming more important than possession. We’re also becoming more aware of the carbon footprint we’re leaving behind and a lot of people got scared by the economic crisis in 2008 and don’t want the burden of a heavy mortgage anymore. We want to be independent and free and no longer let the government or developers decide how and where we should live. We want to decide ourselves, whether it’s a castle or a tiny house.”

Wyke Potjer
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