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Living Large in 140 Square Feet


Clock on the wall says it's Flora o'clock time.


FLATOW: Hi. Flora Lichtman is here...


FLATOW: ...with our Video Pick of the Week.

LICHTMAN: That's right. Speaking of consumers and energy and sustainability on the personal level, this serves as a perfect segue, actually, to our Video Pick, which is about a couple in Snohomish, Washington - so outside of Seattle - who have built their own home. But here's the thing.


LICHTMAN: It's really small.

FLATOW: Really small?

LICHTMAN: Really, really small.

FLATOW: How small is it?


LICHTMAN: It is 140 square feet. So it's about 20 feet long and about seven feet wide, and everything's in it. So you have a sleeping loft. So it's about one-and-a-half stories. The kitchen is underneath that, along with the bathroom. The rest of it is the living room. The workspace folds out. Tables sort of go down to the wall, and then can be brought up. And there you have it. It all fits. But there's not a lot of open space, as you might imagine.

FLATOW: Yeah. So if you want to - and a couple of people live in the house, right?

LICHTMAN: Right. Chris and Malissa Tack are the people who built and designed the place themselves. They're 29 years old, and they said that one of the things that they liked about this - which I think is actually emblematic of this generation - is that they didn't want to have to put down roots in one place. So here's the solution: You build your house on a trailer bed, and then you can take it with you when you move.

FLATOW: You've got the hitch right there.

LICHTMAN: That's right.

FLATOW: And - but theirs is sort of stationary at the moment, right?

LICHTMAN: Right. So they've got it parked. They're renting land, and they have it parked there. And I think they've been for a while now. And, you know, they had - they rented the land while they built the house and, you know, there are a few sort of interesting, neat little considerations. One thing that they did that I thought was kind of cool was for insulation, they used a sort of natural wool insulation. I had never seen that before. But anyway, you can get all of the nuts and bolts of living and building one of these tiny houses on our website at sciencefriday.com.

FLATOW: It's our Video Pick of the Week. It's up there at sciencefriday.com, also on our YouTube channel that we have on YouTube. And, yeah, in the video, you see him - I think it was him. He was demonstrating where the wool is coming out of the wall.


FLATOW: 'Cause he said, you know, why put all this fiberglass in there? I don't want to sit here breathing it in. It's a small house and...

LICHTMAN: Right, right, right.

FLATOW: ...that sort of stuff. And...

LICHTMAN: Right. So the cost of this house - so one thing is that a cost of a tiny house is going to be higher per square foot...

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: ...because you're sort of packing in a lot into a small space. So there are a lot of windows. One of the things that was really nice about being inside the space is that it was much brighter than almost any space I've been in, because the number of windows per area was huge.

FLATOW: Right. So you don't feel like you're closed in also, right...

LICHTMAN: No. You don't...

FLATOW: ...a tight, little spot.

LICHTMAN: No. You don't feel like you're closed in. And, in fact, this was one of the things that we had asked about. You know, what do you do when...

FLATOW: You want to get away from someone, right?

LICHTMAN: ...when you want to get away from someone? And I think we actually have a little clip of Malissa describing what you do.


MALISSA TACK: You actually open the front door and you walk out.


FLATOW: Pretty simple, huh?

LICHTMAN: Yeah, exactly.

FLATOW: Go outside, get some fresh air.


FLATOW: So they intend to stay with this, and not move it around and just keep where it is.

LICHTMAN: Well, for now.

FLATOW: For now.

LICHTMAN: For now. And they also have a cat, by the way. So it's three living beings in this place.

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: And this was, I thought, actually, kind of funny, because if you're living in a 140-foot square foot place...

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: ...the litter box is actually huge in comparison to your home...

FLATOW: That's right. It's a large part of the place.

LICHTMAN: ...the ratio of litter box to home is much larger.

FLATOW: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

LICHTMAN: And so they had this ingenious solution that they designed themselves, which was to sort of quadrant it off under a closet where you can only enter through the bathroom. And it was a great idea that they came up with, because they had to. But, you know, every house should be built in with a litter box home.

FLATOW: Yeah. Of course.

LICHTMAN: You know, it's a great idea.

FLATOW: Even if you don't have a cat. You should...

LICHTMAN: Absolutely.



FLATOW: It's our Video Pick of the Week. Do we have a name - tiny house? Do we have a name for...

LICHTMAN: Living tiny?

FLATOW: Living tiny - in our theme of tiny, little things from little bugs, microscopic spots.

LICHTMAN: Had to expand to this other tiny thing.

FLATOW: Giant - 140 square feet, that's giant for us in our tiny world.

LICHTMAN: And, you know, I think there are a lot of people who have done this. So if SCIENCE FRIDAY listeners have their own stories about building their own, go to our website and leave us a comment about it, or send us a link to your home. I'd love to see it.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. You had - you did the other - the small, boxy home, right? It was the shipping container.

LICHTMAN: The shipping containers.

FLATOW: How big is that, in comparison?

LICHTMAN: I think it was, like, six times the size.

FLATOW: So this is one-sixth the size of the shipping containers.


FLATOW: Wow. All right. It's up there, our Video Pick of the Week - thank you, Flora...

LICHTMAN: Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: ...up on our website at sciencefriday.com. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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