Tiny Homes in the UK are on the up : Grand Designs Magazine Tiny Homes in the UK are on the up
tiny homes like this cabin in the woods are on the rise

Why tiny homes are on the up

Cheaper to build and run with greater off-grid potential, miniature housing is getting big

By Victoria Purcell | 6 January 2022

Unconventional living is becoming an increasingly popular choice. The latest trend is tiny homes. More and more people are opting to live off-grid in converted shipping containers, cabins in the woods and vans transformed into mobile homes for globe-trotting adventures.

Tiny homes cost less to build and to run, and they require fewer materials to build, meaning a smaller carbon footprint. They have really taken off in America, where there are some 10,000 dinky dwellings. Even Elon Musk is on board, selling six of his seven properties and relocating to a 375sq ft prefab in Texas.


A tiny home in the wilderness. Photo St John Imagery

There are thought to be just 200 official tiny homes in the UK, but the movement has so far remained chiefly underground, mostly due to tricky planning laws. But with house prices and homebuilding targets regularly hitting headlines – and around 15,000 people already living on houseboats – perhaps tiny homes could be the next big thing?

How big are tiny homes?

Tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes, from houseboats to treehouses. There’s just one rule uniting them: Tiny Homes must be under 400sq ft – that’s smaller than the minimum space requirements for a London flat. If you’re up to the task, you can build or refurbish your own for as little as £6,500.

With tiny homes saving on average £780-£1,057 per month, dependant on where you live, it’s no wonder the demand for miniature housing is rising. From healthier finances to a minimalist lifestyle, there are many benefits to downsizing, but you don’t have to go without your creature comforts. Tiny homes can be equipped with off-grid gas so you can still enjoy a hot shower and cosy evenings, however remote you go.

If off-grid living sounds good to you, take a look at some of the most inspiring ways to embrace the tiny homes movement.

inside an off-grid cabin house in the woods

The interior of a tiny rustic log cabin (also pictured top). Photo: PPA


Houseboats are perfect for the free-spirited, offering adventure, the chance to meet new communities of boaters, and easy afternoons of fishing, reading and exploring the countryside.

The reduced costs are obviously a bonus, too. Boat licences cost between £500-£1,000 per year. And mooring fees, depending on location, can cost as little as £15-£20 per foot per year. To avoid paying mooring costs, live life on the move and avoid staying in one place for more than 14 days.

a houseboat is an ideal option for free-spirited adventurers who like to move around

Wooden houseboat on the river Lahn, Germany. Photo: Birgit Reitz-Hofmann

Bus or van conversion

If life on the water isn’t your thing, consider the endless possibilities of a home on wheels. You can convert a bus or a van to include everything you need: a bedroom, bathroom, shower, bath, kitchen and living space.

This lifestyle isn’t as farfetched as you’d think. In 2017, a couple from London bought a second-hand double-decker bus for £2,500 and converted it into a luxurious tiny home for £15,000. This included the installation of gas and electric.

To lay your roots, consider buying a patch of land to park your unique home. Even after buying the land, a vehicle and the cost of conversion, setting up home on a bus is still a lot cheaper than the average house.


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Shipping containers

Shipping containers are also a popular choice for tiny homes. Market Watch has predicted that shipping container homes will have a global growth rate of 6.5% from 2019 to 2025.

A permanent dwelling can cost as little as £40,450 (the same as a beach hut, but with at least double the space). The ‘tin can’ aesthetic is ideal for a modern minimalist, and shipping containers can be fully insulated and equipped with off-grid gas, so you needn’t worry about being cold.

One of Kevin McCloud’s favourite self-build projects from Grand Designs was Patrick Bradley’s shipping container home in County Derry. Built on his parents’ farm, the three bedroom, two bathroom house – costing around £130,000 – doesn’t qualify as a tiny home, but it does demonstrate the versatility of shipping containers.

grand designs shipping container tv house in county derry

Patrick Bradley’s shipping container home in County Derry. Photo: Aidan Monaghan

Rural escapes

For many, building a tiny home means escaping. Many children daydreamed of building a treehouse, but for a forward-thinking grown up they can be a great way to get away from it all, live among nature and drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Treehouses can be built as complex structures with reclaimed wood and rustic interiors from £5,000-£80,000.

Alternatively, living in a shack by the sea is ideal for surfers and those who love the coast. Beach huts may look like a shed on the outside, but inside you can create quirky, exiting interiors with fold-down beds and cleverly engineered hideaway kitchens. The price varies depending on location, but Rightmove gives the average price of a beach hut as £40,000. That’s 51% more expensive than 2019, but still a bargain in terms of home-buying.


Image: A tiny home in the wilderness. Photo: St John Imagery