The story behind, and within, the world’s thinnest house

[Editor's note, December 2012: This blog post first appeared on Yahoo! Homes in October, and it was one of our most popular -- and claustrophobia-inducing -- stories of the year. The tale behind the home's existence is fascinating, but of course the photos really clinch it, and we've added lots more pictures to our slideshow since this post first ran. Click here or on any of the photos to go to the expanded gallery.]

News outlets have been calling this the world's skinniest house, and we'd be hard-pressed to argue (unless you count the square-meter house).

Squeezed into a 5-foot Warsaw alley that actually narrows further to 3 feet, the home itself is just about 50 inches wide in front and scarcely more than 2 feet wide toward the back.

The home contains a "nearly double-size" bed, a kitchen, a toilet and shower, a "bean bag sofa" and a couple of tables, according to the Associated Press. As you can see from the rendering above, some of those descriptions seem a little generous. "Nearly double-size" sounds like code for a twin bed to us, and that "sofa" appears to stretch the definition, too. (Update, December 2012: Click here or on any of the photos to go to an expanded slideshow with interior photos as well as more exterior photos, renderings and construction photos.)  (Sorry, I haven't been able to obtain interior photographs, but click on either of the photos here to go to "The world's thinnest building in pictures," a slideshow with more exterior photos, construction photos, and renderings.)

The floor space adds up to just 46 square feet, the U.K. Daily Mail says, and presumably that's with the remote-controlled entrance stairs drawn up into their flattened position. The sleeping area, which does double-duty as an office, must be accessed by wall-mounted ladder. The plumbing is apparently "boat-inspired," Arch Daily has reported, and electricity is from a neighboring building.

So is this "home" truly considered livable?

Well, yes and no.

Architect Jakub Szczesny of the Polish firm Centrala built this as a working studio for Israeli writer Etgar Keret, and other artists are expected to stay here as well. The Keret Home, as a sign on the front door declares it, is technically considered an art installation.

The PR agency representing the project told me that Keret will be "host" of the home for three years but "won't live there permanently. He will drop in from time to time, invite guests, create, etc."

Keret considers the home "kind of a memorial to my family," the AP reported. His parents survived the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland, but their families were wiped out. In Tablet, a Jewish online magazine, Keret wrote about how his father managed: "During World War II, my dad, his parents, and some other people hid in a hole in the ground in a Polish town for almost 600 days. The hole was so small that they couldn't stand or lie down in it, only sit. When the Russians liberated the area, they had to carry my father and my grandparents out, because they couldn't move on their own."

Keret has just published a Tablet piece about the home, writing that "totally by accident," the home also happens to be "on the spot where a bridge had linked the small ghetto to the larger one":

"When my mother smuggled in food for her parents, she had to get past a barricade there, manned by Nazi soldiers. She knew that if she were caught carrying a loaf of bread, they'd kill her right there. And now, 72 years later, we'll have a home on that spot. A pushy little home: In the picture it looks almost as if history hadn't left room for it, but it still squeezed itself in, as if to say: A family once lived in this city. They're not here anymore, but everyone who walks past me will have to stop for a minute and look at my narrow, defiant body, look at the sign and remember that family's name."