This year we celebrate TinyFindy’s 5th anniversary, a good reason to ask some enthusiastic TinyFindy participants about their experiences in the Tiny House market and their expectations for the future.
Architect collective Woonpioniers was founded in 2015, but its activities in the world of small buildings go back further. Founder architect Daniël Venneman remembers that time well:
‘We built Tiny Houses avant-la-lettre, convinced that things really had to be different. We developed the ‘Hermit House’ concept, which is based on architecture with minimal resources. Panels are assembled into self-supporting elements that you can switch. The ‘folding’ of a minimal amount of material provides the stiffness. We made an open source design module. Anyone could play with it and design their own model that was automatically converted into sawing plans. It was also about do-it-yourself, about the question of what you really need, about self-sufficiency and about direct contact with the natural environment. We built the houses ourselves and in the process developed the philosophy on which we still work today.”
The introduction of Tiny Houses in the Netherlands acted as a catalyst for further development: ‘We were soon approached to design and build a Tiny House on Wheels. Together with Jelte Glas I built the ‘Porta Palace’, one of the first Tiny Houses build in Holland, that has been extensively in the news.’
And one thing leads to another: ‘We now make designs on all kinds of scale levels. From wooden CPO buildings (Collective Private Commissioning), part yards, to area visions. Our building concept Indigo also started as Tiny House. We still design from the same philosophy: from the residents themselves, back to the core and with respect for the earth. Our experiments have taught us how to build simply and stay close to nature.”
In the beginning, the Woonpioniers mainly supplied custom designs: ‘Each house was tailored to the resident(s) in a unique way. Sometimes for self-build, for example for Mike en Floor, sometimes for construction by professional builders, such as a Tiny House for a couple in Scotland that was built by Liberté. Each house was an experiment.
With the rising prices, we noticed that this no longer yielded satisfactory results. 100% custom became too expensive in terms of process. It was time to process the lessons learned into one clear concept.’ And that has become ‘Sprout’, a Tiny House + greenhouse. Marjolein Jonker also lives in a Sprout.
Sprout still offers room for individual choices, for example in the form of the greenhouse, and at interior and facade level: ‘But by assuming a fixed basic set-up, you can start a project faster and prevent reinventing the wheel over and over again. This has the advantage for the client that we can be transparent about prices from the start. You can just say at the drawing board, “If this is what you want, I know from experience it will cost about that much.”
After the sketch phase, the most important cost-determining choices are determined. You can adjust our Sprout’s to your own liking and then the concept continues to prove its strength. Also from an architectural point of view, by the way. Without disappointments and dead-end design directions, and with a clear follow-up process. Our homes are therefore in between architecture and product design.
We don’t really get rich from it, but that’s not our goal. I think the best thing is that in this way we can help people who take a personal step to radically reduce their footprint with their home and a different, more conscious lifestyle. A step that may seem like a step backwards to the outside world, but is in fact a huge step forward. Sometimes you really see people blossom!’
According to Daniël, living in a Tiny House goes much further than just opting for a small living space: ‘Drastic downsizing of your demand, and therefore of your consumption behavior, means that you have more freedom to determine for yourself how you want to live. You may want to live more outside your home or you want to share other amenities with your neighbors in addition to a garden. Then you suddenly have money left over to spend on other things. And miraculously, people suddenly appear to have more time, or at least the impression of more time. Actually, you kind of escape the system. In my view, this mental liberation is a small-scale but important form of democratization through architecture. I find that very inspiring.”
Daniël has noted that the discussion around Tiny Housing sometimes completely ignores that essence: ‘I have been accused of putting people in small houses against their will. Nonsense. So that’s not exactly what it’s about. But of course you also get stuck if you want to see Tiny Housing as the solution for everything. Its real meaning is the awareness process that underlies it, and you can call that a small revolution.’
Positioning in construction and urban planning
What Daniël sometimes finds difficult is how the term Tiny House has become a catchall term: ‘Do you call everything smaller than 50m2 Tiny? Even if it is a kind of “one-size-fits-all mass-is-checkout” or a recreation concept? I do not think so. Pioneering has somewhat stopped and the market has professionalised. That’s okay. Good even. But I think you have to be careful about sticking the term everywhere.”
‘What I think is really nice – fantastic even – is that Tiny Housing has now established itself and has proven itself as a fully-fledged new taste in the urban planning palette. The temporary is gone. New permanent housing estates are now being planned, in which space will be reserved for Tiny Houses from the start. Olstergaard in Olst, OpJeStek in Deventer. Techum. Den Helder. Beilen. And I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of places.”