Minimalism isn’t just about Marie Kondo anymore. Tiny houses are supposed to be the homes of the future. But what’s it like to live in a tiny house? I tried it.
As I wake up in the little bunk bed, it’s already 30°C. The cloth in front of the window next to me is lightly swept by the breeze. In a house that looks like a construction trailer, the only way to bear the heat is through constant ventilation. From where I’ve been sleeping, I can see green trees and a bright blue sky through the small kitchen windows. The silence makes me completely forget that I’m right in the heart of Berlin.
When I entered the premises the day before, the tiny houses seemed completely forlorn. My temporary tiny home is surrounded by the huge halls of what used to be a factory, next to which is the mobile office of the architect Van Bo Le-Mentzel. From the outside, the "Tiny Temple" looks like a white Brandenburg Gate. Between the Greek columns, there’s doors. Six rooms are spread over just eight square meters. To reach the living space on the second floor, I must climb a ladder. I feel like a child on a journey of discovery.
Van Bo Le-Mentzel, the architect of the “Tiny Temple”, has always followed an unconventional path with his creations. He gained recognition through his "Hartz IV furniture," a series of furniture that can be easily recreated at home from scratch. Van Bo provides the construction plans online free-of-charge. In the meantime, he has been busy building fully habitable houses in small format. The core idea, however, remains the same: build-it-yourself as a self-empowering strategy against consumption.
The “Tiny Temple” interiors have been kept minimalist. The ground floor consists of the so-called social kiosk, the freely accessible bookshelf, and a composting toilet. The social kiosk offers the option to sell drinks. The rooms create a social space and embed the residents of the flat above in society.
The flat located above is equipped with just the bare necessities: a kitchenette with a sink and a gas cooker, a sofa, a table, a bed, and two small cupboards. The mirrored wall and the strategically-placed windows create the illusion of a larger space. But, as my little experiment helped me realise, life in a tiny house takes place primarily outside. I enjoy my breakfast and read my newspaper at the table on my "terrace.” Preparing for my exams also takes place here, albeit there is a small disadvantage: no WiFi. This is due to the current location of the “Tiny Temple.” It dawns on me that internet access is a crucial part of my daily life. I therefore have to drive to various cafés on several days of my experiment so as to be able to work from there.
In the evening, a couple of friends are popping in and I proudly give them a tour of the house as if it were my own. With more than five people, however, it gets a bit cramped: a tiny house is definitely not the place for big parties. But on a lovely summer’s evening, it's much nicer outside anyway. But I otherwise manage pretty well in this small living space; though when I'm cooking, I feel like I’m lacking at least one more burner. Therefore, for the duration of my stay, my menu consists exclusively of pasta in all imaginable versions.
Many people dream of owning their own property, a.k.a. real estate. Van Bo Le-Mentzel is convinced that we should be questioning our housing concept. "If that's the real status, then I want to build the unreal status," he thought, and without further ado, he built his first tiny house, which he aptly named "Unreal Estate House.”
Van Bo doesn’t seem to be alone in his desire for unconventional living spaces. It's becoming more and more common to come across posts on social media about building tiny houses and turning them into homes. What excites me most about these houses is their individuality: the tiny house is perfectly adapted to the needs of its tenants. The current trend raises the question whether tiny houses will soon be commercialised. Van Bo leaves no room for doubt: “You can already order tiny houses from carpenters. It’s only a matter of time before you can buy cheap tiny houses that are made like the VW Beetle used to."
Tiny houses from the mail-order catalogue could therefore be the concept of the future. The construction of a tiny house currently costs well over 15,000 euros. By renting out the living space, this minimalist lifestyle could become more widely accessible, as in Van Bo's "Tiny100." The name of the house indicates its average rent per month. This could be an affordable housing alternative, especially for students. After my stay at “Tiny Temple,” I am enthusiastic about the idea and could definitely imagine living in a tiny house myself in the future.
Photo: COSIMA KOPP
Photo: COSIMA KOPP
Photo: COSIMA KOPP