The Mini House
The cottage house, the tiny house, the bungalow, the shotgun house, the summerhouse are all mini houses, vernacular houses of no specific style but of many a particular period. Among my favorites, the summerhouses of Switzerland and Sweeden, and of these, Swedenborg’s summerhouse and too the little A-Frames and chalets of Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Summerhouses are often a writer’s retreat, architecturally lovely, compassed by gardens both formal and casual.
Grandparents of my mother’s side lived in a shotgun house that expanded with family and diligence. Grandmother’s summer garden was vegetable-rich. In those days, she yet had an icebox and a party line (a multi-family telephone service), and often for entertainment we children would listen-in on neighbors’ conversations while tooth-snapping ice-cold radishes. In summer, I found the rhubarb especially beautiful, especially delicious when in a crisp.
In those days, mini houses were merely houses, families of six in a three-room house. People forget. In those days, the three, four, or five room house was middle class. Now, the same family would be designated poor, proud owners of a snap card. The cottage too is tiny, a mini house, a room or two granted by the lord of the manner to the cottager and his family. Around the cottage, space enough for a garden sufficient to feed a family of seven, and that in exchange for the lord owning the cottager’s labor.
In my college and teaching town, Ann Arbor, there was a cottage style that served as gas station, that now survives as coffee and smoothie house. You will find many such Tudor cottages in our states serving coffee and treats. Lovely places until you imagine the seven persons in a room or two living off scraps of the garden that survived insects. A quintessential, rather large cottager cottage is found in the Cotswold of Greenfield Village.
The tiny house is a mini house style just passing its vouge. The tiny house conceit was ecological, sociological, the notion that a gal or fellow could save the Earth by living in compacted rooms. A quaint and charming notion suitable to Romantics, Do-It-Yourselfers, the college-made Marxist and recluse, or just those who enjoy fad and fashion … you know, something to do. Most often, the tiny house is an architectural statement, a thing alike a political statement, loud and succinct, a thing that attracts subsidy. I am quite fond of tiny houses, especially tiny houses on wheels. I’ve designed several tiny houses and someday might build another, this time with wheels and move the thing place to place.
The A-Frame is most simple, least difficult in construction, least expensive in decoration … a bit of floral bargeboard and, “Violette!” you have a pretty cottage, pleasant and serviceable. And the bungalow, well, there’s a bit of art. Expect you know that “bungalow” is of Indian origin (with a dot), a far-away house of the Raj with mud walls and thatched roof and veranda, a house taking whichever shape suits its landscape and breeze. In the States, bungalows achieved a high, Arts & Crafts style. In Ireland, a bungalow might be a sideways shotgun, alike the bungalow I rented in Donegal.
Another form of bungalow cheap to build, exorbitant in fees, the outwater stilted house found in Polynesia, greater South Asia and the Caribbean. My brother and sister-in-law once took an outwater in Bora Bora. “Fantastical,” I was told. “Romantic,” I was informed.
Mini houses, bungalow to cottage and all between, will be our subject these months of late winter and early spring. We will offer plans, insights, histories, and perhaps deals as The Beautiful Home unfolds.
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Featured image, a bungalow of Bora Bora Island, French Polynesia. credit: wilar
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