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Last month here at Toolmonger we ran across Jakub Szczesny’s Keret House design for the world’s skinniest house. Coming in at roughly 156 square feet, the entire house literally will fill the empty space between two city buildings in Warsaw, Poland. Nevermind that there is no space for tool storage — it hardly seems like there’s much space for anything. Despite its small size, the design can account for most daily living requirements just as a RV vehicle or boat would. Still, no matter how wonderfully efficient the design, is there such a thing as too small for a house?

The Keret House has characteristics drawn from camping trailers and tree forts with a hint of spaceship on the side. The Millennium Falcon-type retractable stairs double as the living room floor and comprise roughly 1/5th of the home’s square footage. Through an engineer’s perspective the design is efficient and sleek. Much like a Ferrari, it looks incredibly fun to climb into, but also like the Ferrari, how practical is it?

The ladder up to the bedroom demands the occupant maintain a certain level of agility, and the area around the bathroom and kitchenette will receive limited sunlight through the home’s inadequate windows. There appears to be no secondary emergency exit. Mounting a 50-inch HDTV anywhere to watch Top Gear looks to be all but impossible. Clothing storage looks to be a major issue, not to mention having to cart laundry up and down the ladder. The home does not meet several local building codes and is being built and permitted as an art installation instead. It’s difficult to imagine more than one person living in the dwelling at a time.

Still, there could be dozens of uses for such a place. The Keret House design would make a great city apartment for a commuting business person. The design could be marketed to colleges for dorms. FEMA could have hundreds of these on hand to truck in after a flood, hurricane, or tornado disaster without making the area look like a vagrant campground. And construction companies could use the design as site offices in tight city locations.

The design might have many uses, but for now its single use will be as a home and a writer’s retreat. Will it serve its purpose? Probably. Is it an incredibly engineered use of space? Arguably, yes. Does it look neat? Again, yes. But is it too small to be practical? We look forward to your comments.


31 Responses to World’s Newest Skinniest House: Ingenious or Idiotic?

  1. aaron says:

    i think it’s pretty cool – a good exercise and I’m sure someone will find a good use for it. I do agree that it could use a lot more natural lighting.

    However, the triangular design seems to waste a lot of space. a square or equilateral triangle would probably be more efficient.

  2. Why does it need to be elevated with a retractable staircase? Plus, what’s the weight limit for the living room? Looks like sitting heavily in the beanbag chair would snap something for sure.

  3. PutnamEco says:

    How much space do you Really need to live in? Micro housing is an up and coming market.

    “Live simply that others might simply live.” – Elizabeth Seaton

  4. ThatOneGuy says:

    Looks like a high class prison cell. Who would actually want to live in a place like that

  5. Chaim says:

    I like the triangle…can use it for solar panel. Also, can easily have a door from one to the next if you want a “double unit”.

    As everything, it will come down to cost.

  6. Sam says:

    I presume it is a triangle to aid in shedding precipitation. If this thing is installed as described, between buildings, a solar panel will do you little to no good as your unit would be almost constantly in the shade. That also explains the lack of windows, very little natural light in those allies and who wants to look out their window to see the building they are sandwiched between?

  7. russ says:

    I wonder if the stairs collapse smoothly in the down position so you can slide down? Now that would be fun.

    @PutnamEco – So when are you going to build yours? 🙂

  8. Eddie Hagler says:

    It’s idiotic! There is absolutely no need for this cramped style of house.

    It is not handicap accessible at all. as a design for general housing it stinks.

    It might have some special purpose but it is not a good long term dwelling or good for more than one person and is therefore a waste of space not a benefit to urban crowding.

  9. PutnamEco says:

    russ says:
    @PutnamEco – So when are you going to build yours?

    Soon as I get some customers. With the housing market locally, I can’t think of building anything new for the price of what older buildings are going for.
    I have been kicking around the idea of building a mini mobile home/trailer. When I see the prices of what builders like Tumbleweed Tiny Houses and Katrina Cottages are getting, I really have to think.

  10. Bruce says:

    If you think this building is a crazy idea ? Even crazyer, from what I read in the real estate papers, put one of these in Williamsburg/North Side of Brooklyn & I betcha that hipsters or Yuppies would pay between $500,00 to 1 million for something like this.

  11. Cyberguys says:

    We have a product for this, in fact quite a few. Unfortunately we do not have anything for earthquake safety, and this would be a major concern, unless these are apartment style?

  12. Mike says:

    I understand the elevation so the owner has a yard of some sort, but the steep slant to the roof seems like it just cuts out opportunity for a bit more space / additional room above the living room.

  13. zoomzoomjeff says:

    Idiotic. Seems micro SF has already been invented. It’s called an efficiency. It’s simply in a different shape–horizontal. Get this….all of them are connected together into one unit called….apartments.

  14. Toolfreak says:

    The design shown isn’t the best example of design or engineering when it comes to dwellings that make use of narrow spaces between houses.

    The triangle design wastes all the space along the roof, as opposed to a rectangle. There could be retractable stairs on each level, with ladders as an emergency measure. The ladders could incorporate a design to link together and allow to you escape down either end from the roof in case of fire blocking the main exit.

    The problem when “designers” do this sort of stuff is they try too hard to make it look trendy, at the expense of efficiency and function. Also as mentioned, this is just a vertical take on what we already have in the horizontal, or close to it.

    • Morgan says:

      I installed some steelwork at a house where the designer was also the ‘architect;’ it went about as smoothly as you can imagine, at one point the landings of the stairs we were supposed to build could not connect to the risers.

      Just because it can be designed, doesn’t mean it can (or should) be built.

  15. Seth Joseph Weine says:

    A design without an even vaguely plausible alternate/emergency exit is not a house I’d ever want to step into.

  16. Seth Joseph Weine says:

    And why isn’t the whole incline a skylight, or set of skylights. Surely a design that assumes the technical ability to design-detail-construct that stairs, could also have a skylight that has adjustable privacy shades, openablity (for some air), and even incorporates an emergency exit.
    For those of you who say that the view between two buildings is unlikely to be attractive, or that one wouldn’t get much light—well, that’s true, but it doesn’t account for the real function of most windows. Many windows are never/hardly opened, and to tell you the truth, rarely looked through. So what are they for: to give a feeling of potential openness. So…
    A skylight, as large as possible on this design (like on the entire incline) would help moderate the feeling of claustrophobia.

  17. Dreamcatcher says:

    When I was at university studying for my architecture degree, the concept of “infill architecture” was just beginning to become a fad (alongside “container architecture” but that’s another story).

    While I understand that there are particularly challenging aspects to designing in conjunction with the tight constraints of an infill project, and infill design is a skill that an architect should possess;the ‘flaw’ with this example is that a 4 foot wide access alley isn’t really a problem that needs to be filled with architecture. But let’s all just remember that this example is first “ART”, secondarily it could be categorized as “theoretical architecture” as it’s not a serious proposal as a living space or even usable space.

    Aside from the infill concepts is the ‘eco-fad’ desire to see every human live in the tightest compartments possible. I would say there is even a competition amongst ‘eco-hipsters’ to flaunt that they can live in tighter quarters and with the minimum of convenience. That’s fine until they accuse the rest of the world for not living like they do.

    Hey, to each his own. I live on 1 square acre of land… that’s my minimum requirement. I know others who require a minimum of 20 acres and another who is happy with the comforts of his Subaru; which would make this house seem like pure gluttony.


    • Oldhart says:

      How close is “too close?” A 75 year-old friend told me about his grandfather, a German American farmer in the Midwest USA. “Gramps” liked his elbowroom. When he could see the nearest neighboring habitation from his second-floor bedroom window, he sold his first farm and moved to a more remote location.

      That said, tiny homes are an up and coming genre, as this Google search proves: http://goo.gl/4dZ0r

      Personally, I’d hate being crammed like a bed bug into close quarters with swarms of other people, but a tiny dwelling set upon a decent-sized lot, especially in the country, could be just the ticket and leave a sizable budget for shop space and… more tools!

  18. DoItRite says:

    Fire escape?
    Perhaps that skylight on the roof is an escape hatch, allowing a person to slide down the length of the roof.
    The landing against the wall might be a bit of a problem though.

  19. metis says:

    dreamcatcher nailed it.

    this isn’t viable, but it’s a concept piece. fix the functional problems and it could be a viable small living space, right now it’s astutely impractical. architecture must be functional, and a portion of that function is aesthetic consideration, but when that outweighs the actual use, it’s not a building, but a sculpture.

  20. Jerry says:

    Interesting concept but my old RV is 280 sq ft and it gets to feeling small after a few days. Of course getting a pair of these new homes, sticking them together, side by side might make it tolerable. I could have used a couple of these “near” my home when my kids were teens.

  21. Blair says:

    Sort of reminds me of the A frame concepts from the 60’s, still viable for small living space, and affordable, but space wise true wasters.

  22. Syd Salmon says:

    New York City, Tokyo, and other highly populated (very high cost) cities have people living in 200 sq ft footprints—typically shared accommodations.

    The design shown would need to be highly flexible because I’d see being worked into existing buildings. As the concept grows, it could morph into something more like a pod of small condos.

  23. craig says:


    this link will take you to another idea.

    lester walker’s book about small houses has at least one other design similar to this.

    like a lot of clever ideas functional design is trumped by artistic design.

    it will sort itself out, in time.

    the great thing is these ideas makes people think.

  24. Ron says:

    Yeah, it’s ART; but can you imagine the tip the pizza delivery guy is going to expect? That’s a lot of steps.

  25. Dr Bob says:

    When form overwhelms function, give me function.

    This design is claustrophobic with a capital “C”.

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