February 23, 2013 – 84 Square Foot House is Tiny Yet Functional: For many Americans who bought more home than they could really afford in the giddy days before the crash, the big-house dream has become a nightmare in the ashes of foreclosure and regret. So after all that, how does 84 square feet sound?
Glenn Grassi, in building his prototype one-room microhome — 7 by 12 feet stem-to-stern, including a wood-burning stove, an antique parlor chair that also serves as a seat for the compost toilet beneath it, and a shower under the bed — is hoping it sounds, well, like shelter in the old-fashioned practical sense. Or like a work of art. He is not exactly sure.
As a theater set designer, Mr. Grassi, 41, said he built the structure partly with the goal of working through his ideas about the environment and sustainable construction. But he also wanted to use the tricks he had learned about perspective, light and depth perception, honed through years of creating spatial illusion on stages and film sets in Colorado, where he now lives, and in Los Angeles.
Every nail, screw, window and shingle was installed by Mr. Grassi himself, using mostly recycled building materials. The house, built atop a trailer parked here in this Denver suburb where Mr. Grassi’s sister has a downtown business, was recently put up for sale on Craigslist for $16,500.
Even in the so-called tiny house movement, which has grown up around companies in California, Texas and elsewhere that have been building apartment-size homes for years, 84 square feet is on the tight side.
“On stage, you learn that everything you build affects something else, and everything has to have multiple purposes,” Mr. Grassi said in giving a tour of the premises, which takes more time than might be expected.
Consider, for example, the power of reflection. Any large mirror can create a sense of larger space; no theatrical genius required there. Mr. Grassi’s insight, in mounting a mirror over the dining table (which can seat six for dinner if they do not mind the elbows) was that the key element is what the mirror actually reflects.
So the wall opposite the mirror was built, with a dense textural pattern whose reflected image conveys depth beyond its actual dimensions. The overall feel is what Mr. Grassi called a “1930s circus train effect,” especially on the exterior, with rustic wood and metal awnings inspired by a set he built for a production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
The shower and toilet are hidden. Lift up the wood frame of the bed and a shower stall emerges, where a bather would stand, complete with drain, ready for what Mr. Grassi said would be a five-minute shower using a solar-heated water bag. The compost toilet is positioned within cozy distance of the wood-burning stove, which in turn supplies ashes to hasten decomposition.
Mr. Grassi said he envisioned the home, if it sells, ending up somewhere deep in the woods, inhabited perhaps by an Internet entrepreneur running a high-tech business while living off the grid — a modern twist on Thoreau at Walden Pond.
The Master of Disaster