Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tiny Houses and Merida

 I first heard the term "tiny houses" after hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, Louisiana.  At the time, "Katrina Cottages" were proposed as an alternative to the much-maligned FEMA trailers that littered that city's streets and seemed to create more problems than they solved.  The idea of of the Katrina Cottage was a permanent small, sturdy, dignified structure that had all of the necessary amenities of a home, was expandable, and could be delivered for less than the cost of a FEMA trailer.  There is a nice description of the history of the Katrina Cottage here.  From Katrina Cottages, it was just a short jump to find information about what some have called the "tiny revolution."
Although there doesn't seem to be a specific definition for a "tiny house," proponents of tiny houses pretty much say the same thing...a tiny house is a home that is big enough to meet your needs but small enough to limit your costs, the time that you need to spend on cleaning and maintaining, and your impact on the environment, leaving you more time and money for the things that are most important to you.  (You can read a list of "top ten reasons to live in a small house" and see some examples and designs here.)

When we were last in Merida, my attention (and my camera) kept getting drawn toward the many small facades on the streets of Centro and the possibility that these properties would make great "tiny houses."  If you think about it, the reasons that people back home opt for "tiny houses" is a lot like the reasons that many people consider a move to live in a way that meets one's needs without being excessive, to re-connect with a style of life that is more about people and experiences and less about the acquisition of stuff, and to step away from a "bigger is better" lifestyle.
La Pianista is back on the market...

When you go through the real estate listings in Merida, houses with narrow facades on long, narrow lots are usually at the lower end of the price scale, so it is pretty easy to get excited about them.  Of course, not every narrow facade hides a tiny house.  "La Pianista," made famous by the second House Hunters International episode as "the house that got away", is described in some listings as a 2700 square foot house!
Not Casa de Toh...
The owners of Casa de Toh have chronicled their own creative approach to a small house in Merida.  They set out to renovate in a way that was cost effective and sustainable and to create a house that made the best use of natural light and air so that it could be efficient.  Their site is a great guide to a small house renovation.
Whether your inspiration is one of the amazing "tiny houses" or Katrina Cottages, or Casa de Toh, or another small house in Centro, it really is possible to live well in a space that simply meets your needs.  We don't know yet what our own house will look like, but there is a lot to learn from these small, reasonable, and thoughtfully designed places. 



  1. That's what hooked us ... those tiny homes seemed to be really charming and easy to care for, and really cheap.

    The joke's on us. Now we are on track to spend substantially more than that on a full-sized property. We created our own bait and switch.

  2. You hit the mark with this post. One of the most interesting and neat houses I saw through one of the real estate sites was a house only about 5m wide but maybe 50m deep. The design was incredible. I don't remember the site or the name of the house, but it proved to me that a small house in the Centro can be just as fabulous as a mansion and a whole lot easier and cheaper to maintain.