Tiny houses are a hit on social media. But do we want to live in them? | ET REALITY


A series about how cities transform and the effect of that on everyday life.

In a bustling area of ​​south London, close to a busy tube station and a network of bus routes, there is a small house in a rubbish bin.

27 sq ft plywood home has a central surface; wall shelves for storage (or seating); a kitchen counter with sink, stove and toy-sized refrigerator; and a mezzanine with a mattress under the vaulted ceiling. There is no running water and the bathroom is a portable toilet outside.

The “jumping house” is the brainchild and home of Harrison Marshall, 29, a British architect and artist who designs community buildings, such as schools and health centres, in Britain and abroad. Since moving into the free dumpster (known as a “skip” in Britain) in January, videos of the space on social media have attracted tens of millions of views and dozens of inquiries in a city where studio apartments are They rent for at least $2,000. one month.

“People are having to move into smaller and smaller places, micro apartments, tiny houses, just to try to make ends meet,” Marshall said in a telephone interview. “There are obviously benefits to living minimally, but that should be a choice rather than a necessity.”

Social media platforms are having fun with micro-apartments and tiny houses like Marshall’s, bringing to life curiosity about that way of life. The small spaces have captivated viewers, whether responding to rising housing prices or a boundary-pushing alternative lifestyle, as seen on platforms like Never too small Youtube channel. But while there’s no accurate count of the number of tiny houses and micro-apartments on the market, the attention on social media hasn’t necessarily made viewers flock to move in, perhaps because it can sometimes be tricky to live in. those spaces. .

Mr Marshall said 80 per cent of those who contacted him expressing interest in moving into a house like his in the Bermondsey area were not taking him seriously and that “most of it is just rumors and chatter”.

In his opinion, small houses are being romanticized because luxury living is overexposed. “People are almost desensitized to social media,” she said. Marshall said people were more interested in content about the “nomadic lifestyle or living off the grid,” which overlooks the flip side: gym showers and an outdoor portable toilet.

The return to big cities after the pandemic has driven rents to new records, intensifying demand for low-priced housing, including spaces barely larger than a parking space. But while audiences on social media may find that lifestyle “relatable and entertaining,” as one expert put it, it’s not necessarily an example they will follow.

Viewers of micro-apartment videos are like visitors to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary in San Francisco Bay who “walk into a cell and have the door closed,” said Karen North, a professor of digital social media at the University of Southern California. .

Social media users want to experience what the “abnormally small end” of the housing scale is like, he explained.

“Our desire to socialize with different people, including influencers and celebrities, or people who live in a different place in a different way, can manifest itself on social media, because it feels like we’re making a personal connection,” he said. saying.

Pablo J. Boczkowski, a professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, said that despite the belief that new technologies have a powerful influence, millions of clicks do not translate into people making a complete change in their style of communication. life.

“From the data we have so far, there is no basis to say that social media has the ability to change behavior in that way,” he said.

Although these small spaces are not a common option, residents who take the plunge are driven by real pressures. For people looking to live and work in big cities, the post-pandemic housing situation is dire. In Manhattan in June, the median rental price was $5,470, according to a report from real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman. Citywide, the average rent this month is $3,644, reports Apartments.coma listing site.

The property landscape is similar in London. In the first three months of this year, the average asking rent in the British capital hit a record high of around $3,165 a month, as residents who left the city during lockdown returned in droves.

City dwellers in Asia face similar pressures and costs. In March in Tokyo, the average monthly rent reached a record for the third consecutive month.

So when Ryan Crouse, 21, moved to Tokyo in May 2022 from New York, where he was a business student at Marymount Manhattan College, he rented a 172-square-foot micro-apartment for $485 a month. Videos of his Tokyo studio went viralgarnering between 20 and 30 million views across all platforms, said Crouse, who moved to a larger location in May.

Located downtown, the apartment where he lived for a year had a tiny bathroom: “I could literally put my hands from wall to wall,” he said. The space also had a sleeping mezzanine under the roof that was scorching hot in the summer, and a couch so small she could barely sit on it.

When it comes to microstudies, “a lot of people just like the idea, rather than actually doing it,” he said. They enjoy “gazing into other people’s lives.”

Crouse believes the pandemic increased curiosity. During lockdown, “everyone was on social media, sharing their spaces” and “sharing their lives,” and apartment tour videos “went crazy,” she said. “That really shed light on small spaces like this.”

Social media curiosity seemed to reach a frenetic pitch for Alaina Randazzo, a New York-based media planner, during the year she spent in an 80-square-foot apartment earning $650 a month in Midtown Manhattan. She had a sink, but no toilet or shower: they were at the end of the hallway and were shared.

Having spent the previous six months in a luxury rental high-rise that “ate up my money,” he said, downsizing was a priority when he moved into the micro-studio in January 2022.

Unable to wash dishes in his small sink, Randazzo ate on paper plates; There was a skylight but no window to vent the kitchen odors. “I had to be careful about the clothes I bought,” he recalled, “because if I bought a coat that was too big, I would wonder: where am I going to put it?”

Still, videos of your micro-department On TikTok, YouTube and Instagram they received tens of millions of views, he said. YouTube influencers, including one with a cooking series, held a photo shoot in her micro-studio, and rappers messaged her asking her to do the same.

“The pictures make it look a little bigger than it really is,” said Randazzo, 26. “There are so many little things you have to maneuver in those apartments that you don’t think about.”

There’s “an interesting factor” around micro-studios today, he said, because “you’re selling someone a dream”: that they can be successful in New York and “not be judged” for living in a small apartment. Plus, “our generation likes realness,” she explained, “someone who really shows authenticity” and tries to build a career and a future by saving money.

But it wasn’t the kind of life Randazzo could lead for more than a year. He now shares a large house in New York where he has a spacious bedroom. He has no regrets about his micro-apartment: “I love the community it gave me, but I definitely don’t miss hitting my head on the ceiling.”

Leave a Comment