These days, homeowners, designers, architects ( less), road gypsies, water dwellers, dreamers, people of all ages, all over the world are making do creatively with under-500 sq. ft. shelters. This is a real and powerful alternative to high rents, or a lifelong obligation to a bank on an overpriced home. The heart of our 1973 book Shelter was on small buildings, which we recommended as a starting point in providing one's own living space. Now, almost 40 years later, there's a significant tiny house movement all over the world -which we've been tracking over the past year. John Field sold his 2800 sq. ft. house in upstate New York and built a 128 ft. cabin in the high Texas desert. The Lady on the Road (who wishes to remain anymous), has been living full-time in a highly decorated bus since she was 51 (she's w 72). A couple in British Columbia have a houseboat with adjacent floating garden. A rustic cabin has been built on a remote beach in Mendoci, inspired by our book Shelter, and reachable only by boat. A lot of small houses have been built on trailers, so they can be moved around and don't necessarily require land ownership.More and more people are living in buses, trucks, houseboats, and other movable shelters. There are a large number of prefabs and kits w available. There are invative solutions in cities, such as the capsules in Tokyo. There are numerous websites with news, photos, and/or plans for tiny houses. This is going to be a spectacular book, kidding! It will be our first major building block since Builders of the Pacific Coast was published in 2008. Like our other building books, it will have at least 1000 photos, along with stories, interviews, and insights from people who have chosen to scale back in the 21st century.
I started building almost 50 years ago, and have lived in a self-built home ever since. If I'd been able to buy a wonderful old good-feeling house, I might have never started building. But it was always cheaper to build than to buy, and by building myself, I could design what I wanted and use materials I wanted to live with. I set off to learn the art of building in 1960. I liked the whole process immensely. Hammering nails. Framing -- delineating space. Nailing down the sub-floor, the roof decking. It's a thrill when you first step on the floor you've just created. Ideally I'd have worked with a master carpenter long enough to learn the basics, but there was never time. I learned from friends and books and by blundering my way into a process that required a certain amount of competence. My perspective was that of a novice, a homeowner -- rather than a pro. As I learned, I felt that I could tell others how to build, or at least get them started on the path to creating their own homes. Through the years I've personally gone from post and beam to geodesic domes to stud frame construction. It's been a constant learning process, and this has led me into investigating many methods of construction -- I'm interested in them all. For five years, the late '60s to early '70s, I built geodesic domes. I got into being a publisher by producing Domebook One in 1970 and Domebook 2 in 1971. I then gave up on domes (as homes) and published our namesake Shelter in 1973. We've published books on a variety of subjects over the years, and returned to our roots with Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter in 2004, Builders of the Pacific Coast, and The Barefoot Architect in 2008. Building is my favorite subject. Even in this day and age, building a house with your own hands can save you a ton of money (I've never had a mortgage) and -- if you follow it through -- you can get what you want in a home. --Lloyd Kahn