Alternatives to tiny houses

While I really love tiny houses, I don't think they're for everybody. I recognize that some families simply couldn't fit into a home of just a couple hundred square feet. I recognize that not everyone finds tiny houses as aesthetically pleasing as other buildings. And I recognize that there are cheaper homes you could build (on a cost per square foot basis).

Luckily, there are loads of alternatives to tiny houses out there, each with their own pros and cons. If you're yet to start building your tiny house, it's worth taking a moment to consider them. Who knows? Maybe one of them will be better suited to you than a tiny house.

1. Houseboats

If you want to live in a tiny house but you don't know where you'd park it, why not forgo the land altogether and live on boat? There are lots of different types of boat houses, including float houses, converted ships and barges, and canal or narrow boats.

While your house could double up as a mode of transport or as your vacation accommodation, you wouldn't have to move it anywhere if you didn't want to. You could just keep it moored in the same spot all year.

Narrowboat - outside

Narrowboat inside

Images courtesy of Steve and Angela at NBTumbleweed

2. Tree Houses

If you're going to build an unconventional home, why not go all out and live in a tree house? Tree houses tend to be small, just like tiny houses, but you can build multiple stories and buildings.

Treehouse outside

Treehouse Inside

Images courtesy of from Foster Huntingdon from The Cinder Cone

3. Cabins

It's hard to say exactly what the difference is between cabins and tiny houses built on foundations or on skids, since a cabin is basically a small house made of wood, usually found in a remote area. You could build a beach cabin, a log cabin, a small cottage, or even a glass cabin made out of windows.

Cabin inside

Images courtesy of Lost Cabin Studios

4. Bus Conversions

If you don't want to build your tiny house on land, but you want a bit more space than you'd get with a trailer, why not convert a bus? You could go for a regular bus or a school bus if you're not fussed about size, but if you've got a large family, perhaps you could go to town with a double decker bus!


Bus inside

Photos courtesy of Shalom Mama

5. Modular and Prefab Houses

There are so many different companies out there now that will build a house in factory, ship it to your location, and erect it within a day or two. Some prefab houses are designed to be eco-friendly, some are focused on aesthetics, and others are super customizable. This could be a good way of getting the house you want without having to do much of the work yourself.


Hivehaus inside

Images courtesy of HIVEHAUS

6. Cob Houses

Cob houses are made out of materials like clay, sand, and straw, which makes them extremely cheap, easy to build, and environmentally friendly. Humans have always built houses out of these materials, but they haven't been used much in the West since mass production made materials such as brick, wood, and cement widely available.


cob inside

Images courtesy of Michael Buck

7. Yurts

Yurts are like big, round tents that can be dismantled in just a few hours. You might not think they sound very warm, but yurts are used in Mongolia, where temperates drop well below freezing during winter.


Yurt inside

Images courtesy of Ben and Nicki

8. Earthships

Earthships are houses made from natural and recycled materials that are off-grid because they use natural sources of energy. They collect rainwater, use solar energy, and use tire-filled walls to regulate the temperature inside. If your reasons for going tiny are largely to do with the environment, this is an option you should look into.


Earthship Inside

Photos courtesy of The Freeville Earthship

9. Vardos

Vardos are the really colorful wagons traditionally used by Romani people. They tend to be covered in pictures and decorations, which is a big part of the reason that they are so popular today. If you're into tiny houses because they're cute, you might be an even bigger fan of vardos.


Vardo inside

Photos courtesy of Jim Toplin

10. RVs

RVs are perhaps one of the most obvious alternatives to tiny houses. If you'd like to give tiny a living a go without having to build a tiny house, you could buy an RV or camper van to see if you're able to live in such a small space. Alternatively, you could forget tiny houses altogether and just move into a readymade RV. Beware: Almost all RVs are designed for warm-weather use only, and will not be comfortable for permanent residence in a cold climate.



Images courtesy of The Light Life Blog

11. Trailers or Mobile Homes

If you're not bothered about being able to move your home, instead of living in an RV you could live in a trailer or mobile home, perhaps even in a trailer park.


Trailer Inside

Images courtesy of Trailerchic

12. Shipping Container Conversions

Shipping containers are becoming more and more popular as cheap forms of housing. There's a large surplus of shipping containers, so you only need a couple of thousand dollars to pick one up. Once you've got one, you can either convert the inside into a one-bedroomed home or add some more to build a house with several rooms.

Shipping container

Shipping container inside

Photos courtesy of Brenda Kelly of IQ Container Homes

13. Capsule and Pods

Most tiny house alternatives are larger than tiny houses, but if you want to go even smaller, get yourself a capsule or a pod. Often designed to house just one person, these homes are about as compact as they come.

Capsule exterior


Photos courtesy of EcoCapsule

14. Beach Huts

Chalets and beach huts are very similar to tiny houses in terms of shape, size, and the materials used to build them. What could be better than a tiny house with a sea view?



Photos courtesy of Studiomama

15. Converted Trucks

If you can convert a bus or a shipping container into a home, why stop there? Trucks make pretty good houses too! Of course, trucks tend to be on the large size (at least compared to tiny houses), but you can find smaller ones, or you could convert a van or a horse box instead.



Photos courtesy of Ilan Nachum and Yosi Tayar

16. Cubes

Finally, if you can live in a pod or capsule, you can also live in a cube. Cube homes tend to be even smaller than tiny houses, and many are prefab or manufactured homes, designed to be as efficient and compact as possible. Of course, there's no reason why you couldn't build your own tiny cube using the prefab versions as inspiration.



Cube lounge

Photos courtesy of Cube Project

So Much Choice!

As you can see, tiny houses aren't the only options out there for people who want to downsize, have environmentally-friendly homes, and live more affordably. Whether tiny houses don't quite meet your needs or you just want to make sure you've considered all your options, I'd definitely recommend doing further research into any of the alternatives mentioned in this post that have piqued your curiosity. Let me know if you decide to go with any of them!

What alternatives to tiny houses have you come across? Are you considering any of them for yourself?