Industry News

The Skinny on Skinny Houses


Source: Dezeen magazine, photography by Bartek Warzecha
Source: Dezeen magazine, photography by Bartek Warzecha

If you can stretch out your arms and touch both sides of your home, then chances are you’re in a skinny house.

Skinny houses are vertical homes: multiple, small floors stacked atop one another. These structures push the boundaries of architecture and test the limits of compact living. More practically, they exist as a way for city dwellers to stake a claim on space as cities grow increasingly dense and expensive.

Skinny houses already have a following abroad:

  • Japan and Vietnam are particularly well-known for their eels’ nests and tube homes, respectively.
  • Singel 166, a beloved tourist spot in Amsterdam, is a little over three feet wide.
  • The new Keret House in Warsaw, Poland, is an art installation and studio space for traveling writers. It is 2.3 feet wide at its narrowest.

In the U.S., the East Coast seems to be paving the Skinny House way:

  • A home located at 2726 P St NW in Washington, D.C. has an interior width of 8.1 feet.
  • The Hollensbury Spite House, Alexandria, Virginia, is seven feet wide with just 325 square feet of space.
  • 44 Hull Street in Boston’s North End is four stories tall and as little as 6.2 feet across on the inside.
  • Pittsburgh’s Skinny Building is 5.2 feet wide, which has been enough space over the years to serve as a lunch counter, produce stand, cookie shop, jewelry store and hair salon.
  • 75 ½ Bedford Street, New York, is as narrow as two feet in some places. It previously served as a cobbler’s shop, candy factory, art studio and home to poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Skinny houses are sought after for the exact reason that some might avoid them: They’re just so very small and simple. Whether skinny houses gain popularity here in U.S. depends on the collective tolerance for wingspan-width spaces. Like it or not, though, cities are filling in. Soon we may all have to ask ourselves, “How much space do I really need?”