Prefabricated, flat-pack, or modular, ready-made micro houses surged in popularity at the onset of the pandemic, as homeowners sought more space at home and quick getaways in far-flung locations. Now, as the possibility of a recession looms, these easy-to-add structures are, surprisingly, more practical than ever. “Due to the current housing market, we are seeing clients using them as a way to stay in their homes instead of moving to get more space,” says Katy VanderDoes, senior marketing manager at Modal Living, a maker of prefab ADUs.
Since ancient civilization began, the pull to tiny homes (yurts, tents, igloos, etc.), minimalism, and remote living from the busyness of life have held a steady pulse in society. Spikes in interests have heightened from Henry David Thoreau’s 19th-century great escape into the charms of Walden to Allan Wexler’s 1979 attempt at compact living. The late 90s sparked the tiny house movement into more of a permanent extension of the home, instead of a fleeting trend.
The allure of living big in small spaces rests in what the ready-made home can become: a seamless extension of your home. We found the most exciting brands offering units that are perfect for the dreamer with big plans and small square footage. From a guest house designed for multigenerational living to a double-decker beauty, learn all about our favorites before. They're sure to radically change your lifestyle for the better—making them well worth the investment.
Built with nickel, copper, and chromium, the SKÁLI BackCountry Cuboid can withstand extreme weather. At 424 sq ft., this modern masterpiece includes a full kitchen, three-part bathroom, a primary bedroom, and open lofts to slide in two additional beds. Customize the home into your dream escape and you're ready to submit your order! Lloyoll will handle the logistics of the build by sending a summary letter describing the project and compliance to your local building authority.
From $213,142. lloyoll.com.
A high-end vacation home with plenty of room, New Frontier’s forthcoming model is illuminated by LED lights and features huge windows on both ends and a generous floor plan with dual entrances. The narrow shape works well on small sites; you can add two side-by-side for a larger footprint. The large windows beckon you to enjoy a lazy afternoon away from the world.
Pricing upon request, available in Spring 2023. newfrontierdesign.com.
Step into the future with Nestron’s fully furnished, two-bedroom smart house that’s well-suited as a vacation home. (Since it sits right on top of the land, you can move it with a crane and flatbed truck.) With an open-concept layout featuring a unique skylight for stargazing and 280 square feet of space, the prefab unit arrives within three to four months—no construction required.
This studio-style unit ships anywhere in the United States but is especially easy for folks in California or Utah: In those states, their team will take care of all permitting and paperwork, hire contractors to prep the site and install, and even hook up electricity, water, and plumbing.
From $240,000. livemodal.com.
This West Coast-inspired prefab ADU makes retreating to your backyard feel sacred. Brand new to the market, the Dwell House by Abodu would make a great in-law suite for multigenerational living. The brand saw a major uptick during the pandemic as more families wanted to be closer to loved ones. Abodu delivers each unit turnkey, in as little as six months, saving you the headache of finding a builder.
From $389,000. abodu.com.
Available in California (so far!), Samara’s Backyard models come as studios or one-bedrooms and are built to last a lifetime. Solar panels on the roof harvest enough energy to power each unit.
From $289,000 for a studio (shown). samara.com.
If your “guest room” moonlights as a gym, office, or playroom, set boundaries with this 120-square-foot shed that will keep visitors away from the hustle and bustle of your routine. Opting for DIY installation means you’ll save on the front end but need to use some elbow grease to put it together on-site.
From $25,607. studio-shed.com.
For the home chef who finds solace at the stove, this unit designed by Shaye’s Tiny Homes in New Zealand has enough space for all your appliances. Sophie also boasts a full-size shower so you won’t have to duck to enter and stairs lead to a second floor with two bedrooms.
From $115,00. tinytopanga.com.
From a sauna to a spare home for week-long guests, My Cabin creates Scandinavian-designed homes versatile enough to become anything you can imagine. At 357 square feet, the Milla model is outfitted with a kitchen, full bathroom, and sleeping and living areas so your visitors won't feel closed in. In need of more room? The units can be sold as sets!
From $88,000. mycabin.us.
Medgina Saint-Elien covers everything your home needs. She writes about exciting new product launches, hands-on reviews, and the "lightbulb" moments in every maker's story. In overseeing key HB editorial franchises, including the Live Better Awards, Saint-Elien champions the work of BIPOC entrepreneurs in the design and beauty industries. In addition to House Beautiful, her work has been published in Byrdie, Snapchat, and more. Outside of work, the writer and poet can be found documenting her travels on social media and saving memes for future use.