Interesting Fact: Geoffrey Warner was a pioneer of the “tiny house” movement. He fell into creating the first weeHouse in 2001 after designing a pre-fabricated house on a plot of land in Minnesota for a grand total of $45,000. Geoff and a few partners created a livable space where the client could naturally inhabit her land. Soon the first weeHouse was built.
This project sparked the idea of thinking differently about dwelling spaces from a sustainable and social standpoint. We sat down with Geoffrey to discuss the weeHouse, the tiny house movement, and how to make furniture and interior design work in a small living space.
Q – Tell us more about the weeHouse “manifesto”…
We concentrate on making the best, most inspiring house we can in an efficient envelope. Our goal is to create high-quality and sustainable shells, while making it relatively achievable financially.
Q – Let’s talk about the “less is more” mentality in architecture and design…
A – The weeHouse helps you with that balance of quality versus quantity.
A lot of people love the idea of stripping away their possessions to a minimum. There is something about the effort to minimalize. In this process, you quickly see that most of the stuff around you is clutter. With tiny houses – the way I like to think about it – there are a lot of people who covet and love them but will not buy them. For me, it’s like a BMW Mini (which I love). Personally, it might not be practical, but in the process, I view the rest of the stuff around me in a different way.
Q – How many weeHouses do you design per year?
A – At any given time we have around 10 in the works and they take anywhere between nine months to a year and a half, depending on the complexity and customization.
Q – What type of furniture works well in tiny houses like the weeHouse?
A – First and foremost, you need to have comfortable, quality, and well-considered furniture.
With smaller spaces, you need to consider the utility of each furniture item much more because you have less space to work in. A lot of the weeHouses have more built-in cabinetry and doors in the interior fittings [like sliding door systems]. Its smaller but allows you to have a high-quality experience. Murphy beds, wall beds, and bed systems are also popular to transition a space from living to sleeping quarters, especially for those people in very high-cost cities.
We also use funky, vaguely industrial and salvaged stuff to play with and to add to the weeHouse – built either by ourselves or by local craftspeople. We also find people who make custom pieces locally.
Q – What role does furniture play in small living spaces?
Long-lasting, crafted heirlooms can make a big impact in a small pace. Find pieces that multi-task and that have finishes that hold up to various uses. A stool, for instance, that can double as a nightstand or side table provides efficiency and value. A dresser that can move into a living room or dining area for storage will maximize its value in smaller spaces. When you only have a few pieces of furniture – especially in smaller spaces – quality over quantity is even more impactful. Try to choose pieces that fit your lifestyle now and provide flexibility for the future.
Q – What type of lighting design works really well in small living spaces?
A – I think it depends on what you are going to do, but the combination of LED and natural light works really well. Your access to light and air in a larger house is not as dramatic as a smaller house. It doesn’t matter if it’s storming or sunny – the access to light is much greater.
There has been an explosion of LED. Using LED you can do what you want to do – you have more flexibility. It is thrilling to see what designers have done with LED lights.
You can paint that little container (living space) using natural and LED lights.
Q – What is the maximum capacity of a weeHouse?
A – One of the first weeHouses we built hosted a gathering. We were up there one really rainy weekend and there were something like four families with and nine kids running around. There were a lot of people there, and somehow within the indoor and outdoor space it did not feel too cramped.
Whether your house is 300 or 3,000 square feet – it’s less about the size of the house and more about how the rooms are laid out. There is a trend towards open living areas – it’s not just in our work but it’s everyone’s work – where there is a concentration on eating and living functions as overall living area of house. We definitely design open house plans and they seem much larger than their overall footprint.
For example, we ask our clients when they come in the type of house they are looking for. A lot of times they say they want a 2,500-square-foot house. Then we ask, “What do you want in your house?” and more often than not we find out that the client can really do what they want to in 1,500 square feet or less.
Thank you, Geoffrey, for taking the time for this interview, and if you are ready to make the plunge into a tiny home or small living quarters, read on.
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