Never too small: Architects give tours of tiny houses in Paris, Melbourne, Milan, Hong Kong and beyond

There was a time when few cared for tiny houses – indeed, a time when millions of us tuned in to television shows like Lifestyles of the rich and famous expressly to enjoy residential expanse and opulence. This is not to say that such straightforward “real estate porn” has disappeared: like all media in the twenty-first century, it has simply taken on various new forms. In its more than twenty-year run, HGTV’s House hunters and its many spin-offs have catered to viewers slaving over mansions, as well as those whose tastes range from houseboats and tropical islands to recreational vehicles and off-the-grid connections. The inevitable debut of Tiny House Hunters came in 2014.

For various reasons, many members of the last few generations have come of age without the desire – and often, not coincidentally, without the means – for a large living space. Over the past fifteen years, popular culture has turned this condition into an enthusiasm and, for some, an obsession.

The die-hard tiny home enthusiast watches YouTube channels like Never Too Small: Since launching five years ago, it has uploaded more than a hundred videos to date, each offering a short tour of a different tiny home led by the architect who designed it. These include small homes in cities around the world, from Paris and Amsterdam to Hong Kong and Tokyo to Melbourne and Sydney.

Based in Australia, Never Too Small has produced a large number of episodes in that country – a country ironically known for its vast tracts of undeveloped land. But there, as everywhere else, space in the big cities is precious, and it’s up to the architect of a tiny house to use and articulate that space with absolute maximum efficiency. (They also face the same fundamental challenge in an occasional rural setting, building “little cabins” and reusing shipping containers.) The details may vary, but wwatch enough episodes in a row and you will notice it often, although they may be in it New York, Buenos Aires, Antwerpor Milanthese apartments have a lot in common aesthetically.

Regardless of their own cultural origins, most of these architects apparently sought inspiration from Japan, whose traditions of residential architecture have long developed on small lots. They also tend to make liberal use of light woods and white paint, making these spaces look more spacious than they are, yet modern and organic at the same time. (These picks also have a certain retro appeal, as they hark back to the design trends of the mid-1960s.) Never Too Small’s best videos give a clear sense of the subject’s context, whether it’s a groovy old urban neighborhood or a hill in the wilderness. There are many reasons to want a tiny house, none based on a desire to stay in it all the time.

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An 18-year-old spends a year alone building a log cabin in the Swedish wilderness: watch from start to finish

Visit the homes that great architects designed for themselves: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Gehry

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When Frank Lloyd Wright designed a dog house, his smallest architectural creation (1956)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts about cities, language and culture. His projects include the Substack Newsletter books about cities, the book The Stateless City: A Walk Through 21st Century Los Angeles and the video series The city in the cinema. Follow him on Twitter @colinmarshallon Facebook or on Instagram.

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