The Tiny House Movement

Here’s a recent conversation I had, as best I can recall, of creating disappointment and maybe using the wrong words when describing the Vardo.

A woman in a grocery store parking lot jogs up to the vardo while I’m making a sandwich shouting, “Oh my gosh!  That is so cool!  Wow! Is that a Tiny House like on TV? Can I have a look inside?”

“Yes, of course.  You can look inside.”  So far, it’s progressing just like a hundred other conversations I’ve had over the years.

“Is it like the little TV houses? You know, like on that show?”

“I don’t know the show but it’s actually a little camping caravan.”

“It’s not a Tiny House?  Oh, never mind then,” turning on her heel she walked away without a backward glance.  Then to another gentleman walking towards us she shouts, “It’s nothing.  It’s not like the Tiny House Show” shaking her head in disappointment.  The gentleman and I proceeded to to tour the little wagon and had a merry talk about the Vardo and having it as a traveling companion.

The Vancott.  From J. Harris Stone, 1914.
The Vancott, moveable cottage designed to solve housing problems for working families in England. From J. Harris Stone, 1914.

A Clarification – Something I find myself explaining on the road when pulling the little caravan is the difference between a Tiny House and a true caravan or vardo.   A Tiny House is just that; a very small house.  Because of codes and strong laws about housing in the Industrial Nations, Tiny Homes are usually placed on a trailer for legal and logistic reasons.  This doesn’t mean that most Tiny Houses should or could be dragged all over the country.  That’s not really the point.  They are generally too heavily built (rightly so) and use materials like factory-built house widows and normal pitched roofs.  While these make for a nicer living structure they are not designed for the sustained tornado-like conditions and severe jarring that come from over-the-road travel.

Late 19th Century-style Showman’s Van, Arguably the first true stand-alone caravan for full-time living. From J. Harris Stone, 1914.

When the world moved a little slower, some of these issues were not as important, such as real glass windows and hurricane-proof roofs, but now, we certainly don’t want parts to fly off at 70 miles per hours on the highway, or to show up in camp with shattered glass on the bed.


Tiny House – Very small home often mounted on a trailer frame.  Designed to be towed  to a final location or towed for occasional moving.

Vardo or Caravan – Small dwelling designed to be regularly towed to new location.

3 thoughts on “The Tiny House Movement

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