Picks and Pans Review: Tiny Houses

updated 05/18/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/18/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Lester Walker

The author, an architect, has subtitled this book How To Get Away From It All, and clearly that is much of the appeal of these wonderfully ingenious houses. None of them is big enough to hold a cocktail party or even much of a discussion group. The structures are shown in photographs, cutaway diagrams and floor plans that indicate their construction and furnishings. The first houses in America, at Plymouth, were only 12 by 14 feet, with a sleeping loft under the thatched roof. At the end of a board walkway, Thomas Jefferson built a honeymoon cottage where he lived for years while he supervised construction of his Monticello mansion. Other historical buildings included in Tiny Houses are a frontier cabin, a 10-foot-square, three-floor townhouse in Philadelphia, Thoreau's famous cabin and a Sunday house (for ranchers who lived far from their church) in central Texas. Other shelters are an ice-fishing shanty (7-feet by 4-feet 6-inches), an elegant outhouse, a 2-feet-4-inches-square school-bus shelter and a beautiful dune shack on a Cape Cod beach. The most inspirational house of all is George Bernard Shaw's writing hut, an eight-foot-square cabin that could be rotated by hand to follow the sun. It is furnished with table, chair and bookshelves, and it is where Shaw, appropriately, wrote Heartbreak House. Perhaps the great appeal of tiny houses, and this delightful book, is that we can imagine building one of them without any help at all. (Overlook, $19.95)

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