Reality Roundup: Really Tiny

There is no greater honor for a pop culture phenomenon than for Lifetime to make a movie about it.  It should therefore come as no great surprise that last month’s premiere of Lifetime’s Tiny House of Terror (and yes, it is everything that the name implies) sealed the newly mainstream status of its titular subject.  And while the ‘tiny home’ term does not yet seem to be standard (some shows claim it’s any home under 500 square feet, others focus on dwellings in the 200-300 square foot range, and every once in a while you see something at or above 550), it seems clear that you’ll know it when you see it.  Generally featuring high-end appliances and finishes (granite countertops, funky ironwork, cherry wood floors…) packed into a smartly-arranged configuration, the small spaces are endlessly fascinating – and despite what they lack in square footage, never seem to be far from the curious lenses of a reality show.

Tiny House Hunters

If tiny homes are an addiction (and they are), Tiny House Hunters was my gateway drug.  Sticking with the House Hunters franchise formula of following buyer(s) as they view three different options and then pick one, the show offers a virtually endless stream of the ingenious engineering that tiny homes inspire.

The show recently wrapped up its fourth series with Lucy, a woman looking for a 300-square foot tiny home on wheels in Virginia.

Her journey through the best of tiny that Virginia has to offer demonstrated the range of what can be done with such a small space (I personally would have opted for the option that shrank the living room in favor of multiple closets; she ultimately was drawn towards an automatically lifting ladder and full-sized set of appliances), and with each stop along her way, offered multiple opportunities to ponder the possibilities of tiny living.

Recent episodes of Tiny House Hunters are available on-demand on HGTV.

Tiny House Nation

The tiny house movement has more than its fair share of free spirits – artists who want their surroundings to reflect their kooky side, minimalists whose lives are already ripe for downsizing, hippies who want a habitat that can blend in with their surroundings – in other words, all of the usual suspects.   But those aren’t the only people who partake.  Tiny House Nation, following the journey of those who chose to downsize, offers behind-the-scenes insights into how the rest of us could try to pare down.

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John Weisbarth acts as the Tiny House Nation therapist, working to prepare his clients for the consequences of going tiny (no more drawers and cabinets crammed full of things you might theoretically need five years from now) and guiding them through the downsizing process.  Effectively the Marie Kondo of tiny living, he’s there, together with the impressive innovations of builder/achiever of the impossible Zack Giffin, to ease his clients into breaking with the clutter of their former lives.

To the cry of “let the store be your storage” – words I might never be able to live by – John worked with a family of four in the face of their upcoming, downsizing move in the show’s latest episode.  The family air hockey table quickly between central to the episode’s main quandary. “If we do bring it we’re going to be crammed,” one child conceded.  Quickly interjecting with the most heartbreaking words ever uttered on television (and yes, I’m including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “close your eyes”), his brother added, “but if we don’t we’re going to be bummed.”

Zack’s two-in-one solution to the boy’s air hockey woes is only once example of what Tiny House Nation accomplishes with its people-focused building: a constant stream of heartwarming yet practical examples of not only making tiny living achievable.

The latest new episode of Tiny House Nation aired this past weekend on fyiVarious past episodes are available on demand.

Tiny Luxury

If you’re more interested in seeing an established design turn into reality with minimum fuss, Tiny Luxury offers an exploration of the tiny home realization process from inception to completion.  Led by a husband and wife team (one focused on the building, the other on design), the show demonstrates the duo’s impressive breadth of creativity in executing their clients’ visions, one tiny home at a time.

This week, the client was Tanya, an Oregon-based small business owner who was looking to live in a jaw droppingly tiny 140 square feet of space.  Since my dog’s a nervous farter and I need to keep approximately that much space between me and her rear end during the all-too-frequent Colorado thunder storms, I had a difficult time wrapping my left-sided brain around that sort of layout (there’s tiny, and then there’s TINY).  But with the magic of built-ins and clever craftsmanship, the place ended up looking livable (and even – dare I say it – enviable), while managing to avoid the trappings that pop up on other shows (no showers in the kitchen, no toilets in a closet – you get the idea).

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New episodes of Tiny Luxury air 9pm EST Thursdays on DIY NetworkRecent episodes are available on demand.

Regardless of the show, tiny homes are my aspirational viewing.  I’d be the first to admit that, even though I live in Colorado (where apparently a large portion of the world’s tiny home owners do too), I am 100% more likely to end up on the next episode of Hoarders than I am to be featured on any of the shows discussed above.  But there’s something about watching individuals, couples and even families following through on the decision to simplify and downsize (a decision that I think I’ve made every time I move, only to end up with a plethora of boxes labeled ‘miscellaneous” in my new living room to tell me that I have not) that makes be believe that I, too, may one day be able to live like they do.   The creativity of the lofted layouts, smartly-positioned storage and multi-functional furniture featured on these shows are an added bonus – similar to the ‘unconventional materials’ challenge of every Project Runway season ever, it’s inspiring to watch interesting ideas flourish in the face of serious constraints.

And, even if none of that has you sold on tiny homes – as Tiny House of Terror so powerfully reminds us, they create exceptionally heightened drama when paired with a crazy stalker and a backhoe.

Tiny House of Terror is available on-demand on the Lifetime Movie Network.

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