During the past few years, more and more people have been downsizing and moving to small houses. These houses are generally more practical because they are more affordable and easier to maintain.
Any house with a floor area of 2,000 square feet or less can be called a small house, but there are still so many different types and styles under this category.
In this article, I will list down the different terms used for small houses, plus a short description for each style so you can easily distinguish one from the other:
1. Tiny House
A tiny house is a small house that has an area of around 400 square feet. They usually come in practical designs made for a minimalist way of life.
Tiny houses have space-saving features and different parts of the house are multi-functional.
For example, the couches have storage spaces underneath them and can be converted into a bed. Another example is the dining counter which can also be used as a work area.
These houses can either be mobile or stationary. Some people have been using them as vacation homes, while others have decided to move into one as a permanent dwelling place.
2. Micro Home
Micro home has been used interchangeably with tiny house, but these two differ.
In concept and design, micro homes are similar to tiny houses. Their size makes them different, as micro homes typically have an area of 80 to 300 square feet.
Micro homes also have space-saving features, and most parts of the house are multi-functional because of the limited available area.
Some micro houses are also designed for off-grid living because people who live in them typically like to transport them from one place to another. Many of these houses are solar-powered and have water tanks for showering.
These houses are designed to be mobile, but some are stationary.
3. Compact House
This is another term for a small house interchangeably used with tiny houses and micro homes.
A compact house is slightly larger than a tiny house. Compact houses typically have an area of 400 to 1,000 square feet.
While these houses may also have space-saving features, the design of compact houses is more traditional.
This means you can still have separate areas for different activities, such as a designed workspace instead of using the dining table or an actual bedroom instead of sleeping on a convertible couch.
A compact house is stationary and designed to be a permanent dwelling place. This is a great choice if you want to move to a smaller house for practicality and to minimize upkeep costs.
Plus, moving to a compact home is smoother and easier than moving to a tiny house or micro home.
A bungalow is a small house that has only one level.
It typically has low ceilings and a front porch. Most bungalows also have a front or back yard or both.
Bungalows have an area of 800 to 1,500 square feet, although some may be slightly bigger.
Because of their size, you’d often find bungalows having an open floor plan with no walls separating the living area from the dining area and the kitchen. This makes the space appear bigger and brighter.
Unlike compact homes, bungalows are designed to be smaller versions of traditional homes.
Bungalows usually don’t have space-saving features or multi-functional furniture, although you can add these features if you’d like.
They’re not mobile and are designed for a permanent dwelling.
A cottage is a small house style you would find in rural areas. You’d often see them in the countryside or seaside.
Cottages are 400 to 1,000 square feet in size, and their old-fashioned designs often characterize them. Their design is usually asymmetrical, with low-pitched gabled roofs and double-hung windows with shutters.
Most of them have one story, while some may have two.
The structure is usually made of brick, wood, stone, and other natural materials, which add a rustic and antique feel.
The interiors of a cottage are usually cozy and have a certain charm. Some people use cottages as their vacation homes in the countryside, while some use them as permanent dwellings.
Please also take a look at our article about the ideal house size for two people.
A cabin is a small house style common in rural areas. What makes it different from a cottage is its design.
Cabins are typically designed with function over form in mind, while cottages are designed to look cute and charming.
Cabins are built using wood, stone, and other natural materials.
Many of them can be found in remote areas, typically near a forest or lake or by a mountainside, and are often used as vacation homes by people who want a quick getaway from their hectic city life.
A casita is a small house, typically part of a larger one.
The word “casita” is a Spanish word that directly translates to “tiny house.”
Even though a casita is part of a larger house, it is designed to be self-contained. Casitas has its kitchen, dining, and living areas.
They also have a designated bedroom, while some may even have two.
Casitas are part of big properties and are often found in wealthier areas.
They’re used as a separate living space to provide accommodations for guests. Some families use them as dwellings for older members, while some families use them to house young adult family members who want some independence.
Some use them as rental properties.
A studio is a living space with only one room for everything except for the bathroom.
This means that the kitchen, dining, living, and sleeping areas are all in one room in a studio.
In this type of living space, it’s up to the occupant to designate an area or corner for each activity to maximize the limited space.
Studios are quite common in apartment buildings located in urban areas, but some small standalone houses can also be configured as studio units.
9. Granny Flat
Also known as an accessory dwelling unit or ADU, a granny flat is a separate living space in a single-family home.
Granny flats are located on the same property as the family home, but they’re designed to be self-contained as they have their kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, dining, and living area.
These flats were built to become dwellings for elderly parents or young adult children in families. It’s a way for family members to stay connected while maintaining privacy.
Some families also use them as guest accommodations or as rental properties.
A shack is a small house style often characterized by its simple construction. Shacks are often made from cheap materials such as plywood, corrugated metal, and scrap metal.
They are commonly found in rural areas and are usually poorly constructed and often deemed unsafe for living, especially when a natural disaster occurs.
Shacks are typically small, and most have only one room for everything, meaning occupants get a very small amount of living space and no separation from other household members.
Some of them even lack basic amenities such as water and electricity.
Shacks are associated with poverty and difficult living conditions. That’s because they are often situated in impoverished areas or informal settlements.
They are also common in developing countries.
11. Carriage House
A carriage house is a house that was originally designed as a place to store carriages and related items. They are often located in large estate properties with big mansions.
Today, carriage houses are being used as dwellings or living spaces, with an area of at least 500 square feet.
Carriage houses are converted to single-family homes or multiple units, depending on their size. Some carriage houses are big enough to be converted into two or three separate and similar-looking housing units.
Most of these houses have retained their original facade.
Still, the interiors have been renovated to look like contemporary self-contained houses with complete amenities such as a kitchen, dining, living area, bathrooms, and even a bedroom or two.
A recreational vehicle, or RV for short, is self-contained with amenities like a kitchen, dining, bathroom, and sleeping area.
RVs have different classes, depending on their size and features.
Class A RVs are the largest and have all the amenities and more so that you can live there full time. Most class A RVs even have multiple sleeping options.
On the other hand, class B RVs are regular vans converted to have the basic amenities, while class C RVs are vans with a cab or cut-away chassis that can be used as an additional sleeping area or storage space.
A trailer is a small mobile house with steel exteriors and renovated interiors. Some trailer houses can be categorized as micro homes because of their size.
They are designed to be self-contained with complete but downsized amenities such as a tiny kitchen and bathroom.
Many of its features are compact and multi-functional to maximize living space. For example, the sofa is also a storage space that can be converted into a bed, while the dining table can be folded and hidden when unused.
Trailers have wheels designed to be mobile, so most can also be off the grid.
They are sometimes mistaken as RVs, but there’s a clear distinction. An RV is a vehicle and dwelling place in one, while a trailer is simply a unit with wheels.
A trailer must still be attached to a separate vehicle to be transported.
A houseboat is a boat converted into a house with all the amenities, such as a kitchen, living and dining areas, bathroom, and sleeping areas.
Some houseboats are simple with basic amenities, while some are designed to be more luxurious.
Some people use them as vacation homes for a quick weekend getaway, while others, especially those who love living near the water, use them as primary dwellings.
Some houseboats are mobile, sailing through different cities and docking at different ports, while some are stationary and permanently docked.
A treehouse is a small house built in a tree or around the trunk or branches of a huge tree.
Back then, treehouses were often associated with children’s play areas, but nowadays, people are building treehouses for their permanent dwellings.
Some treehouses have simple designs, while some are made to be more complex.
They have all the basic amenities of a regular house, even though many are designed to be off the grid because they’re often placed in remote areas close to nature and wildlife.
16. Shipping Container Home
As the name suggests, shipping container homes are old shipping containers repurposed as small houses.
While the shapes are retained, shipping container homes have been renovated to have windows and doors and to look more aesthetically pleasing.
Shipping container homes either have 160 square feet or 320 square feet of floor space, which is adequate to fit all the basic amenities such as kitchen, bathroom, and living space.
Some people would even add a sleeping loft accessible via a small staircase or ladder to maximize the overhead space and add some privacy to the sleeping area.
A yurt is a round tent made of felt or canvas with a wooden frame.
Yurts originated in Central Asia and were widely used by nomads as their primary dwelling place. They’re designed to be portable, making them easy to assemble and dismantle.
Nowadays, yurts are becoming a popular style of eco-friendly small houses because they provide adequate space for living.
They’re designed to be off the grid, which makes them sustainable. Plus, their material makes them ideal for cold climates.
Some people use them as vacation homes, while others live permanently. Some people also use yurts as a unique vacation rental home.