Clayton Blog

Inside the Tiny Home Movement: A Brief History

Small homes, some being designed for mobility and some existing out of simplicity or affordability, have existed for centuries. To many, tiny home living is a lifestyle, not just what home they've chosen.

Designer Series Tiny Home Kitchen and Laundry


The modern tiny home movement has been shaped by different factors like architects looking for innovative, efficient building techniques, the simplicity of living tiny and the attraction of an affordable way to achieve homeownership.


The following is a timeline outlining a brief history of people and events that have shaped the modern tiny house movement!


Why should you live in a tiny house? Explore the history of tiny houses, why so many people throughout time have loved them and maybe you'll decide that a tiny home is right for you too.


Tiny Home Movement History - The Timeline


  • 1000 BC - Yurts or Gers have been used in Mongolia for thousands of years as a mobile housing system that nomadic Mongolians could travel with1


  • 500 BC - In North America, Native Americans have been living in tipis for many centuries2


  • Early 1800s - Shot gun houses emerged in the south, most likely starting in New Orleans with a heavy Haitian influence3


  • 1906 - A major earthquake in the San Francisco area led to a large homeless population that the government housed with “earthquake shacks” which can still be found scattered across the city4


  • 1940s - Buckminster Fuller and Kenneth Snelson created the geodesic dome with the idea that this sturdy, lightweight, manufactured home could be put anywhere5


  • 1973 - Lloyd Kahn and Bob Easton published Shelter, a book on the history of simpler, smaller habitations, which pushed the idea of small housing into the public even more 6


  • 1977 – Christopher Alexander proposed a simpler, universal, ecological building system for any size home in A Pattern Language. The book describes building patterns for buildings which would not have to support and rely on other planned patterned buildings7,8


  • 1987 - Lester Walker published Tiny Houses: Or How to Get Away From it All trying to show that we need to simplify and edit out unnecessary items from our homes and lives9


  • 1998 - Sarah Susanka published The Not So Big House encouraging homeowners to par down excess square footage and choose homes for realistic living while also caring for the environment10


  • 1999 - Jay Schafer built up tumbleweed tiny house company11


  • 2002 – Jay Schafer, Shay Salomon, Nigel Valdez and Gregory Paul Johnson founded small house society12





Clayton Low Country Tiny Home Inside Kitchen and Living Room


The small house movement has been around for hundreds of years. It's because of what we've known at Clayton all along: you can create a wonderful life from a humble, smart beginning because less really is more. 


Clayton Designer Tiny Home Living Room Front Door  

More and more Americans are realizing that downsizing to a beautiful, cozy home with features that help maximize their small space could answer all of their needs. So, are you ready to join the tiny home movement? Start by taking a walkthrough of either the Saltbox or the Low Country!


Find My Perfect Clayton Tiny House

1. "History of Yurts." Original Mongolian Yurts. Accessed September 26, 2016.

2. "History and How a Tipi Works." Colorado Yurt Company. Accessed September 26, 2016.

3. Matthews, Kevin. "Black Architecture Still Standing, the Shotgun House." African American Registry. 2001. Accessed September 26, 2016.

4. "1906 Earthquake: Refugee Camps." National Park Service. Accessed September 26, 2016.

5. Glancey, Jonathan. "The Story of Buckminster Fuller's Radical Geodesic Dome." BBC. October 21, 2014. Accessed September 27, 2016.

6. Lasky, Julie. "The Surprising Origins of the Tiny House Phenomenon." Curbed. July 13, 2016. Accessed September 26, 2016.

7. "Tiny Houses: A Short History." HubPages. February 4, 2014. Accessed September 27, 2016.

8. Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. "A Pattern Language." United Diversity Library. Accessed September 27, 2016.

9. Japenga, Ann. “They’re Not Much, but Their Owners Dwell on Them.” Los Angeles Times. July 22, 1987. Accessed September 27, 2016.

10. Kaufmann, Carol. "5 Questions for Sarah Susanka." AARP. January 2015. Accessed September 28, 2016.

11. "The Tiny House Movement." Rocky Mountain Tiny Houses. Accessed September 26, 2016.

12. "About." Small House Society. Accessed September 26, 2016.


Topics Tiny Homes