A tiny house adorned with tomato cans and grocery bags

Are tiny houses becoming too "cookie-cutter"?

That's the fear of Phoenix Vo-Dinh, a tiny-house renter who fears the rise of "miniature McMansions." And she knows from McMansions: Before her current home, she lived in a Maryland house 10 times its size. The Maryland house had four bedrooms and four bathrooms in its 3,500 square feet, with seven entry doors.

Vo-Dinh now lives with her 24-year-old son, artist Christopher Lollar, in what she calls a "witch's cottage" in Portland, Oregon. Its interior walls are papered over with Trader Joe's grocery bags and pinto bean and flour sacks (coated in linseed oil); the exterior makes use of a local pizzeria's tomato-sauce cans; and flowerboxes are made from discarded stove hoods turned upside down and poked with drainage holes.

The home is featured in the video at the bottom of this post. It's one of the hundreds of videos posted on YouTube by Kirsten Dirksen, co-founder of *faircompanies, a website that provides information about living simply. Other videos include one about a debt-free couple living in a 128-square-foot home on wheels, a Seattle micro-apartment that squeezes  eight different spaces into 182 square feet, and a family's home on a boat.

Cottage designer Brad confesses in the video: "We're after the cute factor -- cute and adorable." (He preferred not to disclose his last name. Brad and his partner, not shown in the video, also designed the cottage next door.)

Vo-Dinh obviously appreciates the approach. "In Maryland," she says, "the size of the house -- it was too big! It was a big house with no hiding places in it! It was the weirdest thing. I didn't know that would happen.

"And this is huge. This is 364 square feet."

The home's other touches include a vaulted ceiling (which was key to a sense of expansiveness, plus it created room for lofts), a wine caddy in the crawl space, a porch swing made from an old Dairy Queen Bench, and a "patio-door bathroom" that Vo-Dinh says feels like a "light box." There's no drywall anywhere, says Brad, but every surface tells a story.

We spotted some great space-saving tips and tricks in the video:

• Restaurant supply stores are a great source for basics. A few big containers, like a big soup pot, are more useful than lots of small items, Vo-Dinh says.

• Folding chairs and other collapsible furniture can make a big difference. "It's really neat to put your furniture away when you don't need it, because the surface gets cleared. So when you're ready to use it, it's a clear, empty space," she says.

• A storage bed can supplement or substitute for a closet. Storage beds are available at many price points; we think hers might be from IKEA.

• Speaking of IKEA, that wall-mounted drop-leaf table looks suspiciously like the $30 Norbo table.

• If you have crawlspace but you don't drink wine, you could easily adapt the wine caddy idea to hide away other items.

Do you have any space-saving or upcycling tips to share, either ones we missed in the video or from your own life? We'd love to hear them in the comments!

You can also share photos with Yahoo Homes' Flickr group. We love to see your submissions, and we feature one every day on our Spaces blog.


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