/ Home & Energy

Micro homes: would you live in a house like this?

Leonardo Di Chiara / mediadrumworld.com

It’s been dubbed the ‘Swiss Army’ micro home, squeezing a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen into just nine square metres. Called the aVoid, would you do just that or could you embrace its minimalist living?

One can just imagine how an estate agent would market the 9 sq m (97 sq ft) that makes up the ‘Swiss Army’ aVoid micro-home. It would probably read something like:

Bijou pied-a-terre with all mod-cons and easily maintained garden. Located in a sought-after area with excellent transport links, this quirky home is perfectly suited to the single, first-time buyer. Viewing recommended.’

And they’d be telling the truth. Mostly.

Multifunctional – but micro – space

From the outside, the aVoid looks like it might be a horse box or perhaps one of those trendy food trailers serving up pulled pork baps or smashed avocado on something.

Inside though, there’s everything you need for modern living, including a fold-down bed, a wardrobe, a dining table with seating for four, a kitchenette with a small refrigerator, induction hob and sink, and a bathroom with a shower and composting toilet. There’s even a ladder to access the ‘roof garden’.

It’s just that these features aren’t at all apparent when you first enter. In fact, it looks like an empty space.

Is this the ultimate tiny home?

With the aVoid, you have to tap the bare-white walls to reveal the warm wooden room features hidden behind them. It’s only then that it looks vaguely like somewhere you could rest your head. You then fold these rooms back away again when you aren’t using them.

So, for instance, once you’ve finished cooking and dining, done the washing-up and put everything away, you can tuck the kitchen away, then get out your bedroom for the night. If you’re finding it hard to visualise, watch this video to get the gist:

Costing just £35,000 to build, this ingenious design is the brainchild of Leonardo Di Chiara, in collaboration with Tinyhouse University in Berlin. He says his multifunctional room design was inspired by his tiny childhood bedroom in Italy:

‘I grew up with a minimalistic lifestyle, which certainly influences my design. This is why I started developing transformable furniture where everything can be hidden into the wall surface when it is not in use, having as a result “a void” ready to be used again.’

Micro home living – could you do it?

aVoid is conceived as a terraced house, with windows at the front and back, so that it can be placed alongside other units. And as it’s also on wheels and comes with a tow bar, you could, in theory, up-sticks at any given moment.

Although I admire how innovative the design of aVoid is, I would probably do just that if tasked to actually live in it for any length of time. Just watching the video makes me come over all claustrophobic.

How would you ever manage to entertain? For me, it would mean a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, decluttering and learning to put things away immediately. But I guess that’s the point.

Could you handle living in a micro home?


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duncan, can you explain the comments about US utilitiess?

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We are short of land, so putting a single storey dwelling of any size on a plot is wasteful. Multi-storey makes far better use of limited space. Studio flats fulfil this requirement.

What we need are the traditional council houses for those unable to buy or pay commercial rents. But ones that are not sold off under any right to buy; what we need most is right to a home. So when the tenant has the means to move on, release the house for another needy family (or single person). Those with the ability to pay would then be helping those without to meet a basic need.

There is no shortage of land but people do want to live where there is plenty available There are many empty properties some of which have been empty for years But people do not want to live where they are Use these properties before building on greenfield sites but greenfield builds are where most people want to move to and live far away from the places the work and spend hours commuting every day

It’s nice to live near a cashpoint 😀

There is no problem with selling off council houses if the same number or more are built to replace them, but that did not happen.

Why sell council houses at discounted prices when we have far fewer than ever before, and ever more people needing accommodation? They are financed and subsidised from the public purse and I want my taxes used to help needy people get homes, not make profits for those then in a position to buy them. They often apparently end up in the hands of private landlords.

Council houses should provide a home for people who cannot afford market rents. We do not have enough and should build more. Once tenants are on their feet financially they should find accommodation on the open market and release the subsidised house for someone else, who is in real need, to use.

I fully agree Malcolm, and at the risk of introducing a political note, I feel it was a great shame that intervening governments did nothing to reverse the right-to-buy policy or amend it to require replacement public provision. They should also have had a method of recovering any betterment in resale value to be shared with the public purse. It seems to me that good municipal landlords operating an exchange system for those families whose needs change have been replaced by unregulated private landlords who are not addressing housing needs and increasingly housing those who are not in desperate housing need to the detriment of those who are.

I think I can answer that initial point, John – at least partly. Councils operated at that time under the RSG – the Rate Support Grant. This exceeded income from rates and formed the bulk of the money needed to purchase land and build new council properties. However, the right to buy was only good for the tenants making a quick buck; once the house was sold, it no longer appeared as an asset on the council’s books, and was thus ineligible for financial support, which is what makes council housing viable. Not only that, but the formula on which RSG was awarded made the assumption that as the tenants sold the houses the councils needed less RSG and thus they lost the money they needed to build more homes. As councils were also forbidden to raise money on the open markets council house building almost dried up.

The final nail in the coffin was delivered because Thatcher – the PM responsible for the right to buy policy – believed councils were not the right people to maintain or build houses, so more funds were withdrawn and the creation of Housing Associations began.

Now, in fact Thatcher was almost certainly correct that local councils generally are only able to cope with rubbish collections, and that stretches them. But in diverting the flow of funds to housing associations the amounts did not appear to be a straight swap from council to Housing association; the amounts dropped.

So the government cut its costs, councils became unable to build new houses and housing associations became the flavour of the month.

It’s really hard to know which was worse: the right to buy policy itself, the diversion of funds, the sheer duplicity and avarice of the Thatcher government (with one notable exception), the emasculation of the Councils or the feeding of the rich by selling back to people what they already owned in terms of the nationalised industries.

Please don’t take my comment out of context folks. I’m opposed to sale of council houses too, but had it been done properly and maintained or increased the stock it would have allowed long-term tenants the opportunity to own their homes even if they could not afford a deposit.

There are “other governments” who could have changed the policy.

Getting the public to buy from the state something they already “owned”seems a good way to raise money :-). Far better than PFI.

No council homes should have been sold, in my view, to any tenant – long term or not. If someone can afford the money to buy a house they should not be living in subsidised accommodation. We spend. apparently, huge amounts on bed and breakfast, renting privately, to help those in need have somewhere to shelter, and on housing allowance to people in privately rented accommodation. Surely it would be better to allow councils to borrow money, at the very low rates they can, to build their own properties on land where they can give appropriate planning consent. .

Thank you for your explanation, Ian. It was clearly an act of intricate prestidigitation. In principle, switching from municipal to social landlords might not have been a bad thing if the money mechanisms had not been cynically altered to dispossess councils of their freedoms to acquire more properties to meet the basic housing needs straight off the top of the waiting list. I am not satisfied that housing associations are sufficiently in pursuit of that objective.

I remain disappointed that successor governments did virtually nothing to remedy the imbalances brought in by Prime Minister Thatcher when they had the chance . . . or did they have the chance? They were fixated on PFI for schools and hospitals and didn’t give public housing provision a second glance.

Another aspect of council housing funding has also been a mystery to me. An enormous amount of council housing was provided in the late 1940’s to the 1970’s using cheap borrowing from government loans facilities. Much of that debt has now been repaid or will be very shortly. Councils should therefore have more money at their disposal which could again be invested in renewal and replacement of housing stock. I appreciate that they have, as a consequence of RTB, lost a huge amount of rental income which would normally have been able to support borrowing for capital investment, but has this ever been faithfully analysed to see whether the eventual outcome could have been better or worse?

Norwich City Council still has a massive amount of Council housing and has lost very little to RTB. For some years now it has been building more council housing on vacant plots or through the reconfiguration of estates. There must be some lessons there. Perhaps being a good landlord with rents lower than mortgage repayments had something to do with avoiding the full impact of RTB. I think some councils couldn’t sell off their housing quick enough when the flag went up and virtually gave it away.

“prestidigitation” – conjuring tricks performed as entertainment. I didn’t know that. Another plus for Convos – education.

I cannot defend the decision to use bed and breakfasts, Malcolm. but I don”t thnk you’re seeing the whole picture.

The law requires councils to house those who have nowhere to go and who qualify under the various regulations (mostly, the Housing Act 1996). This is not a static issue, and the numbers vary from week to week. And there are other complications.

Councils are required to give priority to those affected by the Children Act, so anyone with dependent children must be housed as a matter of absolute urgency.

This isn’t all: the reason housing associations were first conceived (apart from the money saving) was because of social problems. The Government of the day felt that local councils with high numbers of social problems would not or could not take action against disruptive tenants (often because of that same Government’s legislation…), and they believed that Housing Associations with very localised democratic control would be infinitely more effective. Of course, they also created specific legislation to make it easier, but that’s politics…

The whole picture is a nightmare for any council, since some councils have been able to make eligibility changes, while others have not. Additionally, the one thing of which any council can be completely certain is that no government will ever allocate more money than they believe the council needs and will, in addition, claw back any they see as surplus or that hasn’t been squandered before a set date (usually April 6th).

Finally, central government loathes and distrusts local councils but at the same time doesn’t want to assume the responsibilities which those councils have under the law. Thus, we have as many different systems for recycling as there are councils, every council runs its own services in competition with other councils and, just as with central government, each council makes sure its own top people are paid handsomely.

Guess who are the losers?

“prestidigitation” – conjuring tricks performed as entertainment. It has a broader application, such as in piano work. Anyone, in fact, whose fingers are incredibly nimble.

Yes, I don’t like long words so I call it “trickymanipulation”. Hey presto!

One of my friends has converted a garage adjoining his son’s home into a separate property for use when visiting. The central heating runs off the house system and the windows at each end are supplemented by light pipes in the pitched roof. There is a small bathroom with a shower and a proper toilet, just about enough storage space and a TV and stereo. It won’t win any awards for clever design but I was impressed.

I’m not sure about the aVoid house. My initial reaction is ‘aVoid at all costs’. I need room for my clutter.

Another gimmick as i see it

In London there are plenty of outbuildings, it seems, “converted” illegally into “accommodation”. Cramped, damp, unsafe, unhygienic.

I believe it is necessary to install insulation when converting a garage or other outbuilding into a residence. In the case of my friends’ converted garage it was all done properly and is only used as temporary accommodation.

Only if you want planning permission! There was a series on TV that showed many illegally “converted” buildings – many with just an electrical supply cable that was a hazard to life.

Many garages are converted into living accommodation, but need to be done properly and with consent. My son’s last house had an integral garage that was converted into a second sitting room. A far better use for the space than housing a car that is perfectly capable of living outside.

I have a double garage that could probably be converted into a bijou detached bungalow without too much difficulty. I would not get planning permissions and the neighbours would probably not approve.

Shame – if you could get permission to build another storey, you could put a “coach house flat” on top as well.

Here is a video showing a hyperactive chap demonstrate how to work the bed in his tiny house. It’s supposed to be the first of three parts, but maybe his exertions tired him out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBUZdrQgehg

Nice vid. Some smaller caravans and campers and boats use those sort of arrangements too.

I think most of us accumulate too much stuff (possessions or clutter) to manage in small spaces like that.

I’ve had plenty of experience of living off-grid, albeit not in a tiny space or in winter. Oil is only a viable means of heating if bought in bulk, which leaves solid fuel stoves. The small ones create a great deal of pollution. Maybe the intention is to plug these tiny homes into mains electricity and water, in which case it’s not very different from a caravan park.

Hmm… nice shed that.