Architect builds $1,200 tiny house in just under three hours

Renting apartments in cities like New York, Sydney, and London costs thousands of dollars. So instead of renting, why don’t you just build your own place… for US$1,200 and in just three hours?

Joshua Woodsman, the architect behind Pin-Up Houses, designs prefabricated homes that cost a fraction of what most people pay in big cities.

One of his concepts, called ‘France’, can be assembled by three people in just three hours. It features a façade that looks like the French flag, with each colour marking a different room: blue for the bedroom, red for the kitchen, and white for the living room.

And the cost? A mere AUS$1,630 (US$1,200).

We talked to Woodsman to know more about ‘France’ and the tiny house movement.

What got you interested in tiny houses? And how did you get this movement of yours started?

“With such a wide and complex field like architecture is, I feel like it is very important to find one’s own specialization. I decided to focus in my profession on low-cost and minimal ways of living. I have always been interested in spontaneous forms of architecture, which we can see at houses of lower social classes, architecture of slums or also disappearing traditional cultures, such as original tribes, nomads, etc.”

The builders

What was your creative process while you were designing the concept for ‘France’?

“My aim was to propose and build a prototype of mass-produced house made of panels. This experiment gave me a chance to try what it means in reality and what are the pitfalls of the thought of prefabrication in architecture. The house is composed of 22 panels, which can be quickly dismantled and transported to a different location.”

The materials

Please tell us more about the house’s space-saving features.

“You can find the storage facilities in all of the furniture in the house – inside the seats, table or bed in the blue zone. This applies even to the partition wall, which also serves as a shelf. Thanks to these space-saving features the house is easily dismountable, which leads to saving the cost of its transportation – be it in a van or a container.”

The interiors

What were the challenges of building a house with a budget of $1,200?

“It is not as impossible as it may sound when you hear it for the first time. The sum of $1,200 is the cost of material. I chose ‘ordinary’ materials that are available anywhere in the world – timber, corrugated iron, and plywood. The budget does not include the labor; it took three people and approximately two weeks to manufacture the panels and then around three hours to construct the house.”

Facing the house's windows

What does it feel like to live in such a home? What’s the best part of living in such a small abode?

“I personally have not lived in the house for a longer period, I stay there only occasionally.

“But what I like most about it is the interior space, which does not draw attention to itself like other more generously designed houses. So it leaves you a space to concentrate on the calmness and beauty of the surrounding nature and find your inner peace through meditation or reading some good book.

“The house has a limited space capacity, so maximum of two people (who really like each other) can stay there for a longer time.”

The wall

How do you encourage people to switch lifestyles and move into smaller homes? How do you envision the tiny house movement a few years from now?

“I wrote a guidebook, How to Build a Tiny House, with the aim of encouraging people to opt for a smaller home, in which I discuss and analyse the issues of tiny houses.

“I had been writing the book for over a year and I summarised a lot of tips and advice, which could be helpful to any self-help builder. I drew over a thousand pictures, which illustrate all parts of building process of a small timber house. I hope this book will be an encouragement to its readers and an inspiration for their own low-cost construction and living.

“Together with that, we also design tiny houses and create plans with detailed manuals, which explain their construction process.

“Regarding the tiny house movement, it has been here since always. Because there have always been groups of people living in small spaces – in caravans, nomads in tents, slums, etc. But today a part of middle-class people is faced with a necessity to limit its living cost too. And they turned this need to economize and cut down into a lifestyle and called it the ‘tiny house movement.’”

You can find out more about Joshua Woodsman and Pin-Up Houses here.

The bedroom