I admit it: I'm intrigued by tiny houses. And who can blame me? Diminutive dwellings are basically everywhere these days, with at least a half-dozen cable shows devoted to the topic (yes, Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Hunting are actually two different shows), and sites such as Curbed and Apartment Therapy offering catalogue-worthy glimpses at some of the more appealing designs.Which is how I came across the Escape Vista: A new window-wrapped tiny home that looks less like a cramped trailer and more like a 160-square-foot version of Johnson's Glass House or Mies van der Rohe's iconic Farnsworth House (a site its creators cite as a direct inspiration). In fact, this is the first tiny home that's actually caused me say to myself, "I could do this". But before taking that plunge (and believe me, if I do there will be follow-up stories as I dive down that rabbit hole), I thought I'd call up Escape founder Dan Dobrowolski to ask him about how he made a tiny house that feels so inviting and expansive. And in case you're looking to seriously downsize, the Vista starts at around $46,000 and can be easily transported thanks to its trailer-based design.
"We noted that virtually every tiny home had the feeling of a clown car: Stuffed, cramped, claustrophobic, dark, uncomfortable. If you believe that you need to punish yourself when living in a small space, we disagree. Our buildings are full of light and windows, open and airy, with real-sized everything. Real kitchens along with a large and real bathroom with a big tub/shower and vanity. Also a big, real-size bed, a big dining/work space, and big lofts. We know that some people want really small, but our number one comment when people go into the Vista is, 'This is incredibly big and open.'"
"Take time and look at other small buildings. They are all so dark, much like a hallway. Even worse, look at the fenestration. Where is the design? What is it? Do they have to be ugly? Open up the space and you open up to the world. With Vista, you are surrounded by glass. We have driven our buildings over 60,000 miles and still have never had a window issue. Our windows are Energy Star, Low-E, argon-filled, thermopane. As for insulation, we use closed-cell, blown foam. It is fabulous, has a super high R-value, and is incredible at sealing the building from air penetration. It's also great at stiffening and strengthening the building while being ultra lightweight."
HIDDEN & MULTIPURPOSE FIXTURES
"Hidden items can be a trap. The hiding of the items can take up more space than just leaving them out. In the case of the TV in Vista, we didn't want to spoil the view but we do know people want TV or simply want to watch videos so we decided on the pop-up configuration. We also use fold-down tables to give maximum floor space when needed. We have hidden storage and compartments for valuables, built-in nooks and crannies, and secret places only owners know about. Running usable shelving across windows is something we've done for many years and people in small homes love them since they allow for plenty of light along with storage."
"This building is very small and uses almost no power. Take the lighting. We seem to be the only builder using warm white, high-efficiency LED, built-in lighting. And I'm not talking about a few lights, but dozens of them. One of our typical units takes less than 40 watts of power to fully light up."
"We love solar. It works great in our unit and will power everything in it. We offer a great composting toilet but the bottom line on these is simple: You are doing your business in a bucket which stays in your home until you pick it up and throw it out somewhere. This is not appealing. People are under the opinion that composting toilets do some kind of magic to eliminate waste. They don't, and it's messy business. Another option would be incinerating toilets, but having a 1,400-degree oven in your bathroom is a bit risky and the ash is a biohazard. This is why we tend to like the Laveo toilet, which is the one used by Matt Damon in the movie The Martian. Push a button and your waste is shrink-wrapped. After a few weeks, you throw it away without touching it. It's very slick."
"Tiny houses were not something we suddenly jumped into. We'd been building them, designing them, and thinking about them since the early 1990s. For the Vista, we had more than 100 designs and iterations. As [Frank Lloyd] Wright said, form and function are one and when dealing with small spaces, every inch must be considered. The inspiration was Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, which I knew from my childhood. We started with a glass building and worked backwards. It was a blast and I love Vista and spend time in one whenever I can. It is quite inspiring to be inside."