The Return to Small House Living

Turn on HGTV today and chances are you might see tiny homes being featured. Not too long ago, the housing trend was leaning toward McMansions and then around 2009 a movement toward small house living was launched. You’ve probably seen those tiny houses that are less than 500 square feet in size. While that’s a little small for my liking (I have claustrophobia), I can see the attraction toward cozier cottages.

How adorable is this house? It has quality features like you see in larger homes, like a nice front porch, attractive wooden door, brick walkway, and more. I could see myself living here.

Gray Small House with PorchPeachtree City Architects & Building Designers Our Town Plans


This Tudor style cottage reminds me of something out of a fairytale. It has a lot of charm and curb appeal.

Tiny Tudor HousePortland Architects & Building Designers Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc


While this home is small, it’s definitely more expansive than most tiny houses you see today. The trees, landscaping, and outdoor lights add to its appeal.



The small house living movement got its start with the book Not So Big House written by Sarah Susanka. Smaller houses mean less cleaning and upkeep, which is really attractive to some people who are looking to simplify life.

Yellow Cape Cod CottageBethesda Kitchen & Bath Remodelers Case Design/Remodeling, Inc.


If you don’t feel you could live in a small or tiny house, perhaps you could have one for a vacation home. Or have a fun experience by renting one on Airbnb or VRBO.

Brown Rustic HousePhoto by BraytonHughes Design Studios


I just adore this Southern charmer! Small house living doesn’t mean you have to reside in a boring box. Architectural elements and high-end details can be expensive. I’d prefer a smaller home that embraces unique finishes as opposed to a large, plain Jane house.

Cozy Cottage - Small HouseTropical Exterior by Atlanta Architects & Building Designers Historical Concepts


My first home was a little Sears bungalow like this, and I would move back into it in a heartbeat. Every corner of that house inside and out oozed charm. Natural woodwork and plenty of built-ins captured my heart the minute I first walked into the house.

Light Blue BungalowTraditional Exterior by Mountain View General Contractors ClearStory Construction


Here’s a cool little house in the woods! Kind of like a tree house. I love all the angles of the roof and the rustic siding.

Modern House in WoodsPhoto by David Matero Architecture


Now this house is truly tiny!  The small chairs make me think it’s a kid’s playhouse. 

Tiny Guest House - Craftsman StylePhoto by LMD Homes, Corp.


More communities that embrace small house living are popping up across the country. Plus, our population is aging and people don’t need big houses when they’re empty nesters. 

Tiny House with PorchPhoto by Our Town Plans


Pin It for Later:

Collection of 10 ideas for small house living.

Could you live in a tiny house – or a small house that’s under 1000 square feet?

More Small Home Ideas for You:

Super Cute Kennebunkport Tiny House

Tiny Houses: Inside and Out

Tennessee Farmhouse Cottage in Maryville

Cottage Style Homes at Heritage Harbor

Small Space Decorating Solutions

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  1. I love living in a small house. The last house we lived in was quite a bit larger with around 2500 square feet, while the house we live in now is only 1300 square feet. Sometimes only having one bathroom to share between seven people can be a pain, but the last house had three bathrooms, and I had to clean them all! When you live in a smaller house, you have less stuff, too, because there is less space to keep it all. It’s so much nicer cleaning and organizing a small house.
    My favorite houses shown here were the Cape and the little gray bungalow. So cute!

  2. I love the rustic cabin! In fact, that may be my dream home. I live in a small Tudor and I love it. It has forced us to be very smart with the space we have and spend lots of time together. I do not feel that the character and charm of our home be afoldable or easily paralleled in a larger home. It is a tiny treasure! Only wish is that it sat on a little more land.

  3. I love the first one with the porch. We live in a 1500 sq. ft. home and I could easily go smaller. I love the cozy feel. I agree, the smaller home allows a better budget for the details and is easier to clean. Enjoyed this post, Jennifer!

  4. These small homes are adorable! I could live in the cape cod style one or the grey one with the bay window I think. Think how much less stuff we’d have! Our home isn’t that large to start with and the more space one has I think we tend to have more stuff. It’s amazing where one can store things and then forget we have them! Have a great day!

  5. The charm of small cottages ! If you are giving away homes I pick…the stone cottage. It looks like it overlooks the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. I like that most stone houses have those great deep windowsills, another place for a white pitcher of wild flowers…can’t you just close your eyes and see it. My husband says he likes the look of stone house, you only have to paint window frames and the door….

  6. I could totally see myself living in one of them especially if they were mortgage free! I much prefer a smaller home that wouldn’t require a ton of maintenance and cleaning. Thought provoking post Jennifer!
    Keep warm,

  7. I really think the “smaller” living movement is starting to catch on. When I received this months issue of Country Living magazine they did a whole spread on small house living. Also, I believe HGTV has a new show called “Tiny House Living”.

    Our home is 1750 sq. foot and its the perfect size for just my husband and I. Its not too big but its not too small. I really love that Tudor and bungalow! They are really getting creative in designing these homes.

  8. I love the first house with the cozy porch. I live in a cottage about 900 sq. ft. It is wonderful. It is so easy to clean. I only have to deal with one bathroom. I have had to edit our belongings but that is okay. This is the best place I have ever lived. The pros definitely out way the cons. Smaller is better. I have time to actually enjoy our home. I lived in Toronto most of my life and I always wanted a little bungalow and now I have it right beside the lake and a quiet community. Lovely pictures, thank you Jennifer.

  9. I love the first house and the Laguna Beach home – I love the wood! Our current house is 2700 square feet and I would love to downsize to something smaller.
    thanks for the great house walk!

  10. Love to live in any of them… I had been watching tiny houses on YouTube for about a week now while resting up from that terrible virus going around.

    I am amazed. With how much beauty is in a tiny cottage.
    So could do this.


  11. I love the Laguna Beach house. I think that I could actually enjoy a smaller home now that my husband and I have an empty nest. Adorable!
    Thanks for sharing.
    – Kim

  12. Love them all but my fatal attraction to field stone forces me to pick that one. (I would love it if maybe someday you did a post on fieldstone features!) Small living is the way to go unless you can afford a maid. I lived in a 4,800 sf house one time – four bathrooms, full developed bsmt and me the head (and only) housekeeper -ugh – guess what I did with all my spare time – clean! So not worth it! A few yrs later I lived at a job site in an 800 sf cabin and it was a dream to clean. My new ideal house became one such as that – one that you could plug in the vacuum in the hallway and be able to do your whole house without switching outlets. I now live in a 1100 sf house and can’t quite make (a think a 10′ ext cord would do it) it but it is so much more manageable. My farm also has the quaintest little approx. 400 sf old character bldg, dormer window on one side and old style pane glass windows across the entire south side. At one time I hear it was a chicken house, then a machine shop with a concrete floor, now I use it at a potting/garden shed but dream of turning it into a little studio/guest house one day. I am not so sure I would not move into it myself though!

  13. If it weren’t for 5 cats, quilting and crafting, we could go much smaller than we are renting now. When it comes time to buy, we will certainly be looking for something with fewer square feet than we have now. I think it will be a test of how low will we go. We need a one-floor plan because of my knees, so the lofts I’ve seen on the teeniest of houses is out of the question. However, we could use one of those that size for living space, and another for sleeping and bathroom space. We are both larger women, so we must be able to move around comfortably. It will be fun when it comes time to buy a place.

  14. Although our home is about 1700 sq ft including an unheated back porch (read catch-all), it is perfect for us. And we do have rooms for visitors to be comfortable. Most of the mc-mansions have a lot of wasted space with 2 story foyers & super high ceilings. When I see that, all I can think of is how much it would cost for heating!!

  15. I love living in a small house! Last year we moved from a 3,500 square foot house (not including the finished basement) into a 1,200 square foot home in the country. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to clean the house in just a couple of hours (I’m talking deep cleaning). The ridiculously low utility bills are awesome, and we now have dogs, cats and chickens. We also have lots more time, money and energy to enjoy life. I wish we would have downsized years ago. I highly recommend it!

  16. Hi Jennifer. I have always thought smaller is better 🙂 and our current home is the smallest we’ve had and I love it. It’s a renovator but I’m looking forward to it. Down here in Australia, the small house movement has not caught on unfortunately – people here seem to love building big homes, even if there are only 2 people living in them. Doesn’t make sense to me! Love this post – thanks for sharing 😀

  17. I love all of the small houses you have listed, but the first one is the one in which I could see myself living. I am just starting to research small homes and would love to be able to build a small home with wonderful custom built-ins for storage issues. I’m hoping that the less space you have to store stuff, the less stuff you have to store! Also, as a single woman, I would love a small space that I can maintain on my own. Would love to incorporate solar panels and other elements to help lower my monthly bills. I think the trend of smaller homes is only going to grow. : )

  18. Oh, I love the Tudor-style house! Of course, I would love to live in any of these little houses. The older I am, the more I’ve become fascinated with the idea of living in a smaller home. I realize that lately I’ve been pinning more and more furnishings for small rooms.

  19. I cant believe how we’ve all bought into the whole bigger is better thing. How much “stuff do you need” personally, i am tired of spending all my free time working, cleaning and maintaining a lg house to impress people who rarely visit because they are too busy working to pay for their lg house, cleaning and maintaining to come to mine. Most of the rooms are seldom used, like a craft room, who has time to do crafts?! I’m seriously looking into this and am going to get rid if 90% of my belongings, which are all in storage and have been for 3 months now. If i can live without them for this long, i wont miss them. Im going to simplify my life and leave the rat race to others!

  20. We downsized from 3300 sq ft to 682 sq ft in October and it was the best thing we ever did. I no longer spend all my time cleaning and can enjoy doing things with the kids. Although our house is a cute cottage I wish it had the charm of the tudor style above.

  21. All so sweet. I really love that last one the best and the first one. I find myself day dreaming about living small too. My house right now is 1,200 square feet but my first home was 728 square feet. It was just perfect for my daughter and I. I’m an empty nester now and would love to go smaller again. 700 might be a bit too small but around 900 would be great!


  22. I’m sorry ladies I don’t mean to be rude but most of you don’t have a clue !!! I live in a 1008sq ft 3 bed 1 bath home with my partially paralyzed husband,his mother & one of our sons. It is NOT easier to clean or organize. Don’t get me wrong, I love my small home but you really have to stay on track or you can have a train wreck FAST. You also have to be very vigilant about perging or again train wreck. If you’re really really good at this you might enjoy life in one of these cute little homes

    1. Though I find the idea of “living smaller” appealing and the homes charming, I agree with you, Pamela. It isn’t practical for everyone. Our family of four lived for several years in a small log home. It is possible — but as you pointed out, it takes constant vigilance. And NO magazine subscriptions!!!

    2. I understand what you mean, Pamela. If one is a collector, messy or not on top of things all the time, it catches up quickly. We have a bigger house and I’ve been spending time purging…ie, my closet recently and gave away 8 pairs of shoes. It’s probably easier when you are by yourself, but it sounds as if you are coping with a lot of people and if each person isn’t a neatnik, it can be difficult. And, Katlady7, you are so right. no magazine subscriptions. I read them at the doctor’s offices or I bring any that I have and drop them off. I just donated over 100 hardcover books to my library. What a good feeling that was! A real win-win.

  23. Unfortunately, the McMansion trend continues in my area, and bigger than ever. Cheap, ugly homes surrounding a drainage pond. I grew up in a family of 5 in a 900sf post-war home with one bathroom, and that was typical for my neighborhood. We never thought of it as small (well, my parents probably did), but we had a lot less stuff in those days. Now, my husband and I live in 2200 sf, and we use every bit of it. I don’t want to live any smaller, or any bigger. The truly tiny homes are cute and clever, but I wouldn’t be happy in one for very long.

  24. I’ve lived by myself in 1200 square feet, 2 bathrooms, for over 21 years and have lived in approx that amount of sq footage, or less, most of my life. I find it to be a good size, although the guest room is wasted space until you actually need it, which I do not very often need it. I could downsize a little to two bedrooms and one bathroom and be happy, but the movable Tiny Homes on HGTV are just way too small and the loft bedrooms were not intended for this 75 year old woman. I would not want anything larger. 1200 sq feet with 2 dogs is hard enough to keep clean.

  25. Each of our first three homes were right around 1200 square feet, with a basement in each (1180, 1225 and 1240). The first felt huge for just the two of us but as we started having children, then fostered for years and had a dayhome, we needed room for everyone. Not stuff but people. We finally found a house that we lived in for 24 years and it was almost 2000 square feet, again, not including the finished basement. As our children began to grow, I truly felt blessed to have space for everyone and their friends, our family and our activities. When we bought our little piece of land in the big woods, we dreamed of a tiny house just for the two of us. But life changed before we started building it and now we live with our two daughters and our grandson as our oldest daughter’s marriage ended and we invited her home so they didn’t have to live in poverty, and our youngest works at our Centre. We love our arrangement and we all get along so well. We ended up being a house that is 2864 square feet and with the finished basement, with our daughter and grandson’s apartment, the total is 4044. I don’t know what size a “mcmansion” is but i have no regrets and love that we’re tucked away in the woods. We have my long for art studio, dh has his workshop, and our closet is so functional – we can both be in it at the same time to dress! In the kitchen, we’re not bumping in to each other, the dining room holds all our family and the family room isn’t crowded. We have a front hall closet for guests and a bedroom in case they are visiting. To us, this is Heaven and I do have to say, its so much easier to keep clean when its spacious and not crowded. When we were packing, we decluttered so we don’t even have the “stuff” we had when we lived in our other house. I love the tiny house movement and we’re hoping to buy a piece of land on the coast and build one there. But for now, this is our home and it’s made a huge difference in our lifestyle to have room to breathe, create and move. I think there is a movement for every lifestyle and no one should ever feel guilty for choosing the one that fits you best, at your time in life and for your needs. Great article! P.S. I love the first one and the tudor. Chy

  26. I would love to find a 1000 or less home. We have a 2200 sq ft 1915 Craftsman, with too much “stuff”. We really live in 4 rooms, kitchen, den, bedroom and bathroom. That is all we need. Kids gone, no grandchildren, just 2 stubborn corgis and 2 grouchy old cats. As long as you have room outside to entertain, and a guest room, that is all I need. We raised 3 kids for 10 years in a 900 sq ft bungalow, with a huge yard. Best years of our lives.
    I am ready for a small bungalow, someplace quiet,peaceful and pretty. And not CA $1M prices…it may take awhile to find.
    Less stuff and more life I say! Thanks for sharing these inspirational homes.

  27. I love smaller homes, not exactly tiny, but small. I have lived in small and larger (not McMansions) but large. I am sort of in between now but would love to go smaller, so much cozier. Every one has a different situation so must live accordingly, what works for one may not for another.

  28. I’ll take 2,3, or 8. They are really cute and some day when i get too tired to have my family over for for holiday meals i just might do that. My home now is only about 1600 sq.ft. It would be nice to have an eat in kitchen, two bedrooms and two baths and a smaller LR.

  29. No way could I live in a tiny house. I need room to breath. I have 2400 sq ft for the two of us and it is just right.

  30. I absolutely love the smaller, cozier cottage-style homes. Now that my children are leaving home I’m going to down-size to a smaller home in the next few years. At this point I started donating, selling or giving away my bulky furniture (saving the things my boys would want, which isn’t much). All I need is 600 sq. ft. and my cats. LOL! Great blog!!

  31. I think we have everyone beat lol we have a house in Wisconsin that is 460 square feet, it does have the same square footage in the basement, we are in the process of redoing the house, to make the best of our space without adding square footage. So we are always looking for ideas.

  32. I own a tiny 8×18 house. After selling my 2800′ home i found that I would have to take a long time to downsize my stuff and life in order to live in my tiny house on wheels. I still have it but decided to purchase a farmhouse that is 560′ and it seems to be a perfect size for me. IT could comfortably hold a small family if need be. Downsizing allows me to be mortgage free and keep lots of money in the bank instead of spend it on maintaining a big home. I have a blog at http://www.ShabbyChicTinyRetreat.blogspot.com . Lots of photos of both my tiny and my small home.

  33. These are all so adorable, but I think I like the first one the best. So quaint. I love to craft, so all of my supplies would probably take up the entire house, but I do love the idea of the simplicity. Thanks for sharing, Jennifer.

  34. I have for the most part always lived in a 1200 square foot home and find it pretty much perfect except for storage. I was living in a condo and now live in a mobile/manufactured home and love it. No noisy neighbors and an actual yard albeit small to be able to garden in. I honestly don’t think I would like to live in anything smaller. I think the stone house though is my favorite.

  35. My husband and I are both 62 and built a 1 bedroom 1 bath 834 s.f. home 2 years ago and we love it. He even made doorways wider should either of us ever need a walker and all our kitchen cabinets are lower drawers so I don’t have to reach up to get anything, we have open upper shelves strictly for decorative items. When we sent our adult kids pictures of the finished house they asked where their supposed to stay when they come visit to which I responded, “a hotel”.