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Book Review: Nano House: Innovations for Small Dwellings by Phyllis Richardson

January 16, 2012 8 comments

Small house with porch and pergola.Summary:
A nano house is a super-small house, generally between 300 and under 1,000 square feet.  This book shows off nano houses from all over the world with different goals in mind, from an eco-friendly retreat that blends in with the surroundings to pod buildings that could be assembled into space-saving towers in the city to more traditional house boats.  One goal of all the houses remains the same.  How little space can one person or family take up to make the smallest impact on the environment?

Review:
I became fascinated with nano houses after stumbling across a few on the internet.  One that sticks out in my mind is a couple that built theirs together and had a blog about it.  There was another one in Australia that the woman made from plastic bottles and dirt.  The whole concept was just so….refreshing.  A small space that is uniquely you (or your family) that fits in just right with your surroundings.  So when I found out about a book coming out collecting a bunch of these houses together, I put myself on the hold list at the library immediately.  I wanted to know more details about building these remarkable little houses and the kind of people who are choosing them.  Unfortunately, this book missed the entire soul of the blogs and blurbs I’d found online.

Instead of seeking out individuals and families who designed and built their homes themselves, the houses here were all made by architectural firms or design students.  If you’ve ever met that snotty whoever in the bar who just can’t stop talking about his high-class ideas for making the whole world more up to his par, then you know the vibe this book sends off in waves.  It’s not enough to make a small, livable house with minor impact, no, they must use this new, experimental flooring or make the house look like a storage shed or design their own perfectly circular furniture or give a speech about the revolutionary concept of having a yard on the roof of your houseboat.  Um, newsflash, pretty sure I came up with that idea when I was 5.

Instead of interviewing the people who live in these houses, the author talks about what the houses are like and why they are built.  We get to hear nothing about actually *living* in a nano house.  Indeed, some of the houses were simply made for design contests or as student projects with no intention of anyone living in them at all, which seems to be the OPPOSITE of environmentally friendly if you ask me.

In fact, the whole book reads like greenwashing.  Oh, they say anyone can afford to buy this house or live there, but in fact it’s the “eccentric” wealthy who own these houses as second homes or vacation homes or a place to stick guests so they aren’t in the main house….but it’s environmentally friendly, so it’s all cool.  What I wanted to see was game changers.  Ordinary people who chose to make their own home their own way.  What I got instead was annoying architectural design students and getaways for the wealthy.  Plus, there are not nearly enough pictures of the houses to get a good idea of what they are actually like, and any floor plans are printed so small that they are impossible to read.

Overall, this book has a great title, but is a huge disappointment.  It reads like a bunch of wealthy people patting each other on the back at a party at the Ritz, missing the entire soul of the environmental movement.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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