NOBILITY OF SOUL and humble dwellings have long been linked in American mythology. Abe Lincoln was born in a frontier cabin, which set him up for a life of austere virtue; Thoreau stole away to a similar abode to discover his true place in the cosmos; and the family of Laura Ingalls Wilder perfected the art of endurance in its little house on the prairie. In more recent times, revolutionary innovators have repaired to obscure garages to chase their dreams and bring forth marvels of personal computing. Bigger may be better in America, but smaller is purer and more inspiring.
According to legend, the cabin and the shack are ideal launchpads for remarkable lives, but lately they’ve become homes to aspire to — particularly for overburdened types whose acquisitive binging has made them want to purge. Beginning in the late 1990s and tracking, approximately, the rise of the Internet, the so-called Tiny House movement has promoted the bracing, old romance of scaled-down living in miniature spaces.