Seattle Engineer Takes Downsizing to a New Extreme

Posted on Aug 31 2010 - 5:46pm by Holly Robinson

These days, many people are downsizing their homes to reduce expenses. A small house or home may not only cost less in terms of rent or a mortgage payment, but also costs less to heat and cool, and uses less electricity. The first part of downsizing is decluttering — giving away, reusing, recycling, or throwing out whatever an individual or a family can live without. Part of the decluttering process, for many people, is storing items that are not needed year round in a self storage unit. The second part is making a small house plan: exactly how much space do you truly need to live in? Some people even draw up their own small house plans. For many, the downsizing process, especially when it is supported by good storage options, leads straight to tiny houses and the tiny house movement — a movement for people who are determined to live in the smallest possible space.

Boeing airplane interior engineer Steve Sauer is one of those people. Sauer approves of energy efficiency, but he also had something else in mind when he designed his super-tiny, 182-square-foot Seattle condo. He wanted everything in his home, including himself, to have a space that was designed to fit perfectly.

Sauer designed his tiny condo home so that at six feet two inches tall, he can just clear the ceiling when he stands up. Talking to Seattle Times Northwest Living reporter Rebecca Teagarden, Sauer explained that waste, including wasted space, frustrates him. When Sauer designed his tiny home, he was inspired by designs from Scandinavia and Japan, where homes tend to be tiny. After all, he doesn’t intend to spend all his time at home.

“I wanted to compress my home to squirt me back out to the community,” Sauer told Teagarden in the August 21 Northwest Living section of The Seattle Times. “That was one of the philosophical reasons. I want to be able to shop daily, not store a lot and eat really well.”

It took Sauer seven years to design and build his tiny condo. In the meantime, he lived in a one bedroom condo nearby. But it was too big. “What I really wanted was one place with exactly what I needed and wanted. Quality is more important than quality for me, and extra space only a problem,” he once wrote.

Sauer is not alone in wanting to move into a smaller home. In general, property buyers are asking for smaller homes now, and builders are obliging them. Few homes, though, are as small as Sauer’s, and most families that downsize from a house to a smaller house or an apartment end up having to use self storage to provide a little more space. On the other hand, most families do not spend seven years designing a home to exactly fit the possessions that they have.

“Everything represents 10 to 100 hours of Internet searching,” Sauer said in The Seattle Times. In some cases, if he couldn’t find a product that was perfect for his needs, and that fit perfectly in the space that he had, he designed and built them himself instead. Not only did each item have to fit, but in most cases, it had to have built in storage as well.

The final condo is on three levels, and has two beds, a bathroom with a shower, and a soaking bathtub sunk into the floor right inside the condo’s front door (it is covered with a panel when not in use). The home also includes closet space, a dining table, and storage for two bikes (one of which is tethered to a ceiling pipe). On the lowest level, Sauer has built a video lounge. The lounge is tucked under what Sauer calls his “cafe area,” and to use it, you have to really lounge — no standing up. The lounge doesn’t contain a sofa or chairs — just a white lambskin rug, some cushions, and a television. He has a full kitchen, but the refrigerator is dorm-room-sized and fits under a countertop.

Now that his own condo is finished, Sauer wants to build more, for other downsizers. “My dream,” he says, “is to put 300 of these in a building and not have it be a tenement.”

Sources used:

Alter, Lloyd. “Engineer designs 182 square foot boat-in-a-basement.” Treehugger. Aug. 25, 2010.

Teagarden, Rebecca. “Tiny apartment shows the value of a good fit.” The Seattle Times. Aug. 21, 2010.