The Tiny House Movement - Living Small with Jay Shafer

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Houses in the U.S. average between 1500 to 2300 square feet, but this may be slowly shifting thanks to the Tiny House Movement happening worldwide. Usually, a tiny house measures between 100 to 350 square feet. However, designer Jay Schafer is quite liberal in his definition of what qualifies as a tiny house, declining to specify square footage. “Any house in which all the space is being used well, basically towards the happiness, contentment, health of the occupants is a tiny house,” he says. In 1999 he published his first article about the merits of simple living and began speaking out against the legislated ban on small homes in the US. He believes people should be allowed to live as simply as they choose. Since the recent housing bust, bank bailouts, and subsequent economic downturn, there has been increasing demand for well-designed, affordable homes, and more sensible laws. As a pioneer in the Tiny House Movement he asserts that it comes down to prioritizing needs, minimizing stuff and maximizing utility. It’s a lifestyle sought out by many different types of people for many different reasons. People choose tiny houses for all sorts of reasons including primary residence, vacation retreat, studio, and guest quarters. Whatever the purpose, these living solutions are innovative, well-designed, eco-friendly, and affordable. What seems to have started as a creative project has ignited a new discussion of our cultural ideas of isolation and community, efficiency and utility, luxury and necessity. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Jay Shafer is a designer of tiny houses. He founded the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and is now founder of The Four Lights Tiny House Company. For 16 years his primary dwelling was an 89 square foot home of his own creation. He conducts workshops on how to build your own tiny house.

Jay Shafer is author of:

To learn more about the work of Jay Shafer go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is a tiny house
  • How do building codes and zoning laws effect the Tiny House Movement
  • What are the benefits of down-sizing
  • What are the costs associated with down-sizing and tiny-house living
  • What are the options for facilities
  • Where to learn more about the movement
  • How can tiny houses help the environment

Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 9/24/2014     Program Number: 3524

Music Playlist

From Album: Disfarmer
Artist: Bill Frisell
2009 Nonesuch Records #478524-2

Opening Essay: Track 01 Disfarmer Theme
Music Break 1: Track 25 Natural Light
Music Break 2: Track 04 Farmer
Music Break 3: Track 01 Disfarmer Theme (reprise