Living large in tiny houses

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Macy Miller's tiny house in Idaho.
The Sunday Times

SINGAPORE- When architecture intern Macy Miller, 30, lost her 2,500 sq ft home to a bank foreclosure, she decided to take things into her own hands.

She spent 18 months building her own 196 sq ft home by watching online videos and reading books, and for the last six months, has called a 196 sq ft cabin outside the town of Boise, Idaho, home.

While homes remain super-sized in America - the average was 2,300 sq ft in 2012 - Ms Miller is part of a growing community of people across the United States who are choosing to build and live in homes three times smaller than a three-room HDB flat in Singapore.

This movement, known as the tiny house movement, gained ground in the last few years following the financial crisis, with many "tinyhousers" citing a foreclosure on their home, their business, or the loss of a job as reasons for seeking a more debt-free life. Many were also drawn to the idea of a simpler life, less focused on material possessions.

Ms Dee Williams, 50, a tiny house owner since 2004, has witnessed the growth of the community.

This year, she says her company, Portland Alternative Dwellings, conducted workshops on how to build tiny houses for more than 1,000 students.

"The increase is exponential," says Ms Williams, who pursued a simpler life after a trip to Guatemala where she saw people living with much less.

"It seems like every year the numbers double, in part because of the economic downturn and general awareness."

Tiny house owner Andrew Odom, 36, who runs a website called Tiny r(E)volution, says the movement was popularised by Mr Jay Shafer, who built a 96 sq ft house, took it across the country and was interviewed by talk show host Oprah Winfrey in 2007.

"And with the advent of social media, it seems to be growing faster because we can see and hear about projects more directly," adds Mr Odom.

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