Katya Lukina discusses the ethos behind microhomes, and asks if we may all be living in them any time soon.
In recent years we have seen the beginnings of a global housing crisis. In response, people began to resort to microhomes: houses or flats where a tiny amount of space is innovatively converted into a liveable dwelling.
With some microhomes squeezing into an area of 15 square metres, they often contain imaginative storage spaces and space-saving furniture that not only have multiple functions, but can be extended and packed away as needed. Tables and chairs often fold away or stack under one another to create space, while stairs can double as drawers for personal belongings.
The philosophy of microhomes has always been pervasive, though in various formats and for numerous reasons. In the beginning, they were used out of necessity – after all, humanity started off in small huts, caves and igloos. Recently, however, more people, particularly in the USA, have been ditching their large, cluttered homes to live more minimally. This lifestyle has proven to be economically beneficial, ecologically aware and free of unnecessary possessions.
Meanwhile, in the UK today microhomes are being designed in response to the lack of affordable housing, and to help young people get on the property ladder (since smaller spaces cost less). It goes without saying that in a city like London we could benefit from cheaper homes to avoid being priced out of the capital.
Whilst it’s true that many of us already live in glorified shoeboxes, these are often poorly designed, especially converted houses. There is a favouring of profit over comfort, as landlords aim to squeeze as many ‘bedrooms’ into one apartment as possible, regardless of whether the bathroom is bigger than the smallest bedroom. For microhomes, design takes centre stage; with such little space to make use of, every inch must count. Not only will these homes save you money, but their layout will, hopefully, be proportionate and well laid out.
The small size of microhomes also offers a solution to heavily-populated cities. In Hong Kong, stackable microhomes in concrete pipes have been designed to slot into gaps between buildings in the city centre to house young people seeking a cheap residence.
Meanwhile, ‘compact living’ will become a reality on unused land in central London in an attempt to lure young professionals back into Zone 1 through reasonable rent and the possibility of saving money to buy their own home. This comes hand-in-hand with Sadiq Khan’s pledge to alleviate the housing crisis in London, by building more affordable homes instead of luxury flats across the capital.
Although these small homes have the potential to attract more people to live in city centres, this concept will work only if the cities themselves can handle such an influx of people. Demands will soar and local amenities may struggle. Do we really need more people living in already populous areas?
There may also be doubts about the quality of life inside these microhomes. Their tight spaces can have negative psychological impacts on inhabitants, especially if there is insufficient light or fresh air. Since we are attracted to natural light, a microhome with dangerously small windows ceases to be an attractive option. No one wants to live in a small, dark box.
The comparison of these homes to cardboard boxes isn’t too far off – some are designed as “pop-up” homes, in the sense that they are easily transportable, and it takes mere hours to build one. This then raises the question of insulation. How can a lightweight, pre-built wall keep the building as warm or soundproof as a permanent brick wall?
In terms of saving space (because there is not a lot of it), one mishap concerning the layout can cost you comfort. As mentioned before, effective design is everything. Having to squeeze between poorly placed furniture in a rush to get to the bathroom sounds neither convenient nor comfortable.
So, while these microhomes may seem innovative and exciting at first, we must be wary of how liveable they really are.
Should we buy into the hype? Whilst you won’t be seeing me moving into a microhome any time soon, we should at least take inspiration from the compact and efficient design of such homes. Would we not all benefit from convenient storage spaces and tactical arrangements of furniture in our shoebox homes?
Image Credit: Secret London