Tricks of the Trade: Tiny House Nation

John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin from FYI's Tiny House Nation.
Tiny House Nation (Photo: Zach Dilgard / FYI)

The new FYI network’s renovation rock block on Wednesdays also features the show Tiny House Nation, which explores extreme domestic downsizing.

Tiny House Nation travels the country to help people downsize from normal houses to spaces that are economical in all ways, particularly space. While a typical house is somewhere around 2,000 square-feet, a tiny house is 10% of that size. Is this style of living right for you? If not, what tips and tricks can we take away to help with space-saving?

How Tiny are Tiny House Nation Houses?

If your frame of reference for a Tiny House is the Little House on the Prairie, you’re in the minor league ballpark (but need to downsize to little league). If you recall the Ingalls’ house, it had the shelf where Carrie lived, the hearth/dining/living/Pa’s fiddling concert room, the kitchen nook, Ma and Pa’s bedroom, and the loft where Mary and Laura would sleep. That would be spacious by Tiny House Nation standards. The houses we’re talking about here are in the 150-200 square feet range.1

WHY?!

The reasons seem to vary, at least according to the intro package. Some people like the portability, since you can probably place the house on a flatbed or get a drunken frat house to lift and carry your place to a new location. Others may enjoy the simplicity of living in a space where you won’t acquire a bunch of stuff because you have no place to put it. For the Hoarders fans among us, there is a decluttering segment, even though the clients would not register on the hoarding spectrum. Thirdly, a small space would be rather inexpensive. Utilities would be minimal, the space would probably have heating/cooling efficiency, and construction costs would be quite low—a 288 square-foot shed is only $8,000 and would be a mansion in this world.2

How?

This is where the show finds its universality. No matter where you live, space can and will be an issue particularly when it comes to storage. The best idea: a couch that doubles as a storage bin. I know! If your couch doesn’t have a pull-out bed, that is so much square footage that could be put to better use. If your cushions are firm enough, you will not be sacrificing any of your comfort.

Another tactic often employed is folding furniture. Murphy and trundle beds will be popular, but so will tables the fold out of the wall, sliding panels, and maximizing your wall space with magnets and hooks. One item I loved was a dishwasher about the size of a dresser drawer. It was more efficient than washing dishes by hand.3

Some of the other ideas may have varying degrees of attractiveness. I am not a bath person, so having just a shower stall in the bathroom would be ideal. Not so ideal: a composting toilet, a waterless device incorporating a hand crank that reminds one of an ice cream churner.4 Also, you won’t have a washer or dryer, so either you’ll be spending time at a laundromat or doing quite a bit of laundry by hand.

And the show?

Tiny House Nation is a bit of a sales pitch for the TH movement, which can get a little grating. If you are able to look past that aspect, it is an intriguing look into the hows and whys of downsizing. There is some artificial building of stakes—a self-imposed deadline with minimal consequences; the drumming up conflict to illustrate how tight quarters may not be best if more than one person lives there—but the meat of the show is still tasty. The show does check in with the clients after a couple months to see how things are going and does a good job of presenting the pros and the cons.

Tiny House living is not for everybody, but Tiny House Nation should have enough general audience appeal.

  1. This isn’t the usable square footage, this is TOTAL.  
  2. Mooch has a shed that’s 12×16, which cost around $2500 sans interior elements like electric, appliances, etc.  
  3. 2 gallons of water vs. 6 gallons  
  4. I was on-boardish with the tiny house idea until I saw that.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv