Tiny Homes of the Future

A pair of New Yorkers living in a 175-square-foot studio might just be the wave of the future.

Zaarath and Christopher Prokop don't cook in their own kitchen. They "store" most of their clothes at dry cleaners. A cappuccino machine is their only kitchen appliance, and a cat-gym and a queen-sized bed are almost the only furniture. But the Prokops (shown left) say that they're happy with their home, which cost them $150,000 a few months ago. With two full-time jobs, they'll have paid off the mortgage in just two years, according to the New York Post.

The Prokop's lifestyle is not for everyone - it wouldn't work without nearby dry cleaners and restaurants. But with a little design help, tiny homes like the Prokop's -- or the wee Japanese single-family home pictured below --- could fill a big gap in the housing market, particularly for students and singles in expensive cities.
To get a sense of the problem, consider that the population of New York is projected to grow by another million or so people over the next couple of decades. Where will they fit? Will poor New Yorkers get priced out? Even after the real estate crash pummeled prices, the average person living in New York City still can't afford an average home.

Architects from all over the world found answers at a September symposium held in Manhattan by the Citizen's Housing Planning Council. They showed photos and floor plans of tiny homes - all full of light, fresh air, and clever built-ins. Because they are designed to be tiny -- as opposed to improvised slice-ups of existing buildings -- all the homes find room to hang a few suits and necessities. And they are much brighter than the Prokop's redeveloped Manhattan maid's room.

Check out the presentations: About four minutes into architect Azby Brown's talk, you'll see the 426-square-foot home of a 19th-century Japanese samurai, followed by modern Japanese single-family homes squeezed onto lots as small as a parking space (once the video loads up, you can fast forward). Other architects present San Diego apartments with shared kitchens, Italian apartments with shared gardens, and the Canadian Grow-Home, a compact townhouse. Finally, you'll hear a New York City code official try to address the archaic and sometimes foolish rules that keep our tiny homes from looking this good. Still, as these architects have shown, less can sometimes be more.
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