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Luxury

Too Tiny? Boston Artist Builds 'Smallest House in the World'

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    Glen Bunsen's tiny house skylights (© CLEMENTS PHOTO DESIGN)

  • Jeff-Smiths-Smallest-House-in-the-W-b274076e00364510VgnVCM100000d7c1a8c0____

     (© CLEMENTS PHOTO DESIGN)

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    Smallest House in the Big City (© CLEMENTS PHOTO DESIGN)

There are tiny houses, and then there's this most minuscule of domiciles. Dubbed " the smallest house in the world," it's part art project, part experimental living. And at 25 square feet, this pad on wheels would challenge even the most open-minded small-home dweller. And that's kind of the point.

"The tiny-house movement kind of captured my imagination," says its builder, sculptor and filmmaker Jeff Smith of Boston. "Even though I feel like people have been living in tiny houses forever, I wanted to make this one ,because I wanted to make the smallest house."

(Smith likes devising things on wheels such as his earlier collaboration on a mobile kitchen in Sausalito, CA.)

Smith adds, "If you're in the arts, I believe it should be your mission to push the limits of civilization. I wanted to see what the limits are of a tiny house."

This home definitely has some severe limitations: It measures 7.2 feet by 3.5 feet inside -- Smith wanted to keep it small enough to fit inside a "regular-size van" for easy transport.

So there's no standing in this house -- unless it's to pop through the skylight.

"The interior ceiling height is 38 inches, which is just enough room to sit up," Smith says.

That also means, technically, it's not a "house."

"I would call this a shelter, but I wouldn't call it a house," says Tiny House Association co-founder Elaine Walker. "A person should be able to carry out normal living activities in a house, including standing up, which is not possible."

So while the title of "smallest house" might be a point of contention with the tiny-home community, we can all agree on one thing: This place is way, way small.

You enter the single "room," made of recycled materials, through a reclaimed farm door. Light comes through the Pyrex portholes on both sides. The place is set up with a sink and a stovetop. The toilet is a hole leading to a "solid-waste system," made up of kitty litter.

The bed is simply the floor beneath you; you just add a blanket and pillow. There's a charming window box filled with fresh arugula.

But storage? Not so much. And the shower? It's a clear, body-size container made from thermoplastic sheet material that resembles a futuristic coffin.

"You pull the lid down on you and turn it on, and it sprays really fine jets of water all over you," Smith says, who devised the contraption. "I admit it takes the pleasure out of taking a shower." You can't linger, anyway -- you have only a quart of water to work with.

The shower doesn't store easily inside the home, either. It has to be kept, as Smith suggests, "in the van, stashed in some nearby bushes or at someone's mom's house."

The upside: It's a green home, literally. It's painted a verdant shade, and it comes with a greywater system, for watering the plants, and a tiny wind turbine that fits on top of the roof.

Smith was even inspired to make a lighthearted documentary about living in it. It stars Glen Bunsen, a 28-year-old web designer, who commissioned Smith to build the teeny wheeled house about two years ago, and then lived in it for a short time.

The one-of-a-kind creation cost about $80,000, says the artist, who now can't bear to part with it -- and has instead listed it on Airbnb.

In the short film shot in Northampton, MA, Bunsen takes you through what it's like living in such a shelter. He jokes that he no longer hangs out with his tall friends, cooks pancakes on the gas stove, and rolls his home up to a restaurant for dinner, and over to his office for work. He also demonstrates how the Rube Goldberg shower works.

Despite having to shed most of his belongings to live in the wheeled home, even for a short time, Bunsen advises, "If you want to have a purely small house, make sure it fits in a van. If you do, the world is your backyard."

Smith agrees. "When people think of the tiny house, they think of freedom, not paying rent, being able to pick up and move at any time." But with the smallest house we've ever seen, you pick it up and move it with you.