You Can Never Be Too Thin: 8 Reasons to Put Your House on a Diet

Narrow houses once filled the gap between urban overpopulation and practicality. They’re still practical, but also sleek, sexy, and very in.  

In a sobering departure from McMansions built on mini-kingdom parcels of land, the narrow house is enjoying a renaissance in both urban strongholds like London and Tokyo, as well as width-hoarding suburbia.

There’s even been a book written about the svelte architecture movement. Avi Friedman, author of Narrow Houses: New Directions in Efficient Design, explains that while narrow homes have been part of the urban landscape for centuries – for reasons including a tax breadth for wider properties and dearth of space in walled medieval cities – they’re once again being sought after for their environmental advantages, including greater land-use efficiency, less building material, lower utility bills, fewer infrastructure costs and an overall smaller footprint.

“Since the beginning of the housing boom of the 1950s, the size of the average North American house has steadily grown, while the size of the average family has decreased,” Friedman explains. “Today, a growing number of home buyers seeking smaller, more efficient residential designs are rediscovering a centuries-old housing prototype.”

Measuring a petite 25 feet wide or less, Friedman profiles 28 “infill” or “skinny” houses in cities and suburbs around the world. Meanwhile, here are eight innovative skinny minis that we found. After this, you’re going to want to put your house on a diet.

The Silver House in London measures in at 10 feet wide and 26 feet high. It was once a wine vault, which served the pub next door.

This jack-in-the-box in Antwerp, Belgium is 7’ 10” wide. It was created by architects Pieter Peerlings and Silvia Martens of Sculp(It) as a multi-functional work/play space, with mutually exclusive spaces for working, eating, living and sleeping.

The exterior of this Tokyo home bears a striking resemblance to a flat-screen television. In order to utilize the itty-bitty lot without squashing the house against the street, the façade has been tilted 63 degrees as a welcome change of perspective, while remaining typically Japanese in its minimalism.

This almost-anorexic apartment by architect Jakub Szczęsny is too-thin-to-be-true, for now. It’s still in the concept stage, a cold-cut sandwiched between a hulking tower and an old tenement building in Warsaw, Poland. It will be 60 inches wide when completed. That’s just a taste of what promises to be a very rich and stimulating project. Visit Home-Designing for the full scoop.

I’m 99% certain that I saw this home during a canal tour of Amsterdam, though I was in Amsterdam. You can never be too sure. It is the narrowest in the city, maintaining a rather strong, albeit willowy, presence among more stocky neighbors.

In this neighborhood, the “half” in its address (75 ½ Bedford Street) makes a minimal impact on the price of this house. Given the lineage, too, this lithe Greenwich Village gem is almost priceless. It was a carriage entranceway until it became a cobbler shop, candy factory, and eventual home to actor John Barrymore and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The Sliding House is a truly stunning and daring slice of reedy architecture. You must see it to believe it. The house – built in the far eastern reaches of Suffolk County, England – has movable components that insulate it during the cold winter months, and slide open to drench the residents in the warmth of the region’s oh-so-fleeting summer sunshine.

The Holly Barn in Norfolk, England has a narrow base, but was built as a voluminous, fully accessible two-level space. The husband in the family suffers from chronic arthritis, hence the rooms and hallways are wide enough to accommodate the turning circumference of a wheelchair with subtle curves throughout. In all, it gives the illusion of width, but is less than 25-feet wide.

Images: Home-Designing; Boyarsky Murphy Architects; Luc Roymans; Home-Designingcraigatk; Karlinksi73; DeZeen;



K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.