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MC Students Have Big Ideas For Tiny House Movement

For reasons that range from decreasing our carbon footprint to decluttering and lowering costs, there is a growing demand for smaller spaces. The tiny house movement, which advocates living simply in very small homes, has gained popularity over the last few years and the Montgomery College Interior Design program is training its students to be a part of it.

Jacqueline Jefferson, interior design student, came up with a project for an artists’ studio

It all started when the project manager with MC Office of Facilities, approached leadership in the Applied Technologies Department to participate in a real-world, collaborative tiny house project. “We saw this as an opportunity to incorporate this emerging societal need into a design project,” said Patricia Young PhD, adjunct professor of interior design at the Rockville Campus. Last fall Professor Young and students along with Fadl, Chantal Vilmar, department chair, and faculty members in applied technologies engaged in a field trip to the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo in Howard County, Md. Interior Design students were given four weeks to present a project using only 391 square feet. “As interior designers, we seek design solutions that are not only functional but aesthetically pleasing” she said. “Students were challenged to design a flexible layout and use innovative, multipurpose furnishings while striking a balance between minimalism and materialism.”

we seek design solutions that are not only functional but aesthetically pleasing. Students were challenged to design a flexible layout and use innovative, multipurpose furnishings while striking a balance between minimalism and materialism.

Students developed creative design solutions for private residences, cafes, bars, offices, retail boutiques, weekend getaway hotels, transitional housing, and emergency shelters. “These projects offer solutions to current needs that make tiny houses so popular,” Young said, “such as freedom and mobility, a reduced environmental impact, and decreased maintenance.”  One main reason for the furor, though, is the low cost compared to traditional houses: The average new home, including the land, costs about $395,000, according to the US Census’ latest figures.

Dr. Patricia Young

“It’s very timely because many people are thinking about downsizing, getting rid of excess and waste, and looking to avoid exorbitant mortgages,” Young said. Most tiny houses range in space between 70 and 400 square feet but some expand up to 1,000 square feet. They are popular with seniors and adult children who want to be debt free and live closer to their families, according to Young, and they can place them on the family’s property depending on local and state zoning regulations and building codes.

Tiny houses have been used to provide emergency shelters, such as during the aftermath of Katrina, Young said, and are currently being used as transitional housing for people who are homeless in cities such as Nashville, Seattle, Portland, and Austin, to name a few.

“This was a great opportunity for the interior design students to create solutions for a real-world challenge,” she said.  “We prepare them to develop strategies and solutions to meet the needs of modern-day society.”

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