05/10/2012 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Seventies DIY Pioneer Publishes Book on Tiny Homes

It seems everyone has a foot in tiny homes these days. The last time I visited my most trend-setting friend and MTV-host SuChin Pak, we happened to bump into her friend and TreeHugger-founder Graham Hill who took us to his 350-square-foot apartment and explained his philosophy for editing his life. I include the entire encounter in my documentary We the Tiny House People, free on YouTube.

Recently I went to interview former Whole Earth Catalog Editor Lloyd Kahn at his Bolinas (California) homestead/office. After an hour of chat about the DIY legacy of the '70s, Stewart Brand's foresight, his love of hand-built homes, and a tour of his rather spacious homestead, he showed me the working cover of his new book. "Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter," it read, with a subtitle, "Scaling Back in the 21st Century."

The subtitle didn't stick, but the book was released under the same title this winter and Kahn tells me it's been a success. It's a nod to the current "grassroots movement to scale things back," and in it he profiles about 150 builders who have created homes under 500 square feet (his limit for tiny): "homes on land, homes on wheels, homes on the road, and homes on water, and homes in the trees."

At the time, he was busy creating the layout in the old-fashioned way: not on the computer, but using photos and tape. He rummaged through photos to show us a $200 backyard converted chicken coop shelter, a hand-built treehouse and a capsule hotel/apartment in Tokyo with less than 40 square feet of floor space renting for about $700 per month.

Watch Kirsten's feature-length documentary on tiny homes We the Tiny House People: Small Homes, Tiny Flats & Wee Shelters in the Old and New World.