As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a huge fan of faircompanies filmmaker Kirsten Dirksen’s ongoing series of short videos where she travels the globe documenting an eclectic array of nontraditional and pint-sized homes (a huge emphasis on the latter). But knowing Dirksen’s background as a television filmmaker/producer for decidedly more mainstream media outlets such as MTV, Oxygen, and The Sundance Channel, I’ve always wondered what it was that drew her to downsized living arrangements in the first place.
As revealed in “We the Tiny House People: Small Houses, Tiny Flats and Wee Shelters,” Dirksen’s new documentary just released on YouTube, her discovery of private residences with seriously reduced square-footage was somewhat accidental.
After her parents retired and moved from San Francisco to Sonoma County, Calif., Dirksen stumbled upon the “epicenter of a growing underground movement” during an extended visit (Dirksen actually lives not elsewhere in California, but in Barcelona with her husband and faircompanies co-founder, Nicolás Boullosa). That movement, of course, was the tiny house movement as Sonoma is the stomping ground of tiny house figurehead Jay Shafer of the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Says Dirksen: “When I went to interview my first tiny house person, I had no idea I was about to enter a parallel universe and that I would become trapped here for years to come.”
Well, thank god for us that Dirksen became trapped in that somewhat claustrophobic parallel universe. Running nearly 90 minutes, “We the Tiny House People” is somewhat of a faircompanies greatest hits compilation accompanied by meditative narration from Dirksen. While each standalone faircompanies video provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of “tiny house people" (many of them gained micro-celebrity status after several faircompanies videos went viral), this feature-length documentary shows us what it’s like to be a globetrotting tiny house documentarian. Kicking off in Sonoma, the documentary then moves to New York City, then to France, then to Spain, and then back to California again before ending in rural Idaho. There's even a stop at Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., the ancestral birthplace of pared-down living, along the way.
I’ve shared many of the homes profiled in the documentary before including 16-year-old Austin Hay’s 130-square-foot after-school project in Sonoma; TreeHugger founder Graham Hill’s LifeEdited project in Manhattan; Luke Tyler Clark’s impossibly small apartment, also in Manhattan; Henri Grevellec’s renovated troglodyte abode in the Loire Valley; Fiver Brown’s mortgage-free floating home in Sausalito, Calif.; and a personal favorite of mine, Jérémie Buchholtz’s abandoned garage-turned-ingeniously designed pied-a-terre in Bordeaux. The documentary also includes several projects that I haven’t shared before including one that might be my all-time favorite yet (sorry, Buchholtz): Barcelona resident Christian Schallert’s urban pigeon coop-turned-“magically transforming, hyper-modern flat” complete with cabinetry inspired by boat magazines (click ahead to the 46:20 mark to see Schallert demo his Lego-esque home).
Scroll down to watch “We the Tiny House People” in its entirety. Or click here to watch an 11-minute trailer for a condensed taste of the film. Reflects Dirksen: “I'm reluctant to claim there's some sort of magic in small abodes — I'm sure some people are watching simply for the "house porn" (as Shafer describes it) — but it's obvious these stripped-down shelters reveal for us the essence of home, and for many, make it a bit easier to [quoting Thoreau] ‘suck the marrow out of life.'"
Beautiful stuff. Here's hoping that Dirksen stays trapped in that Lilliputian parallel universe for more years to come.