These self-build Tiny Homes propose an alternative to renting

Irish social enterprise Common Knowledge is teaching people to build its Tigín Tiny Homes using sustainable materials

An upright metal container turned into a mobile home with two windows
(Image credit: TBC)

Inside Tigín Tiny Homes

There have been lots of micro housing concepts created over the years to fight surging house and rental prices, yet most tend to disappear from the ether almost as soon as they emerge. Enter Tígín Tiny Homes, mobile small homes or cabins that don't pretend to be a future housing solution for all of us, but that are also refreshingly thoughtfully designed and gimmick-free.

The creators, an Irish social enterprise called Common Knowledge (tigín is Gaelic for a small house or cottage), have ensured the design has the same sort of specifications as a home extension or garden flat and that information about the eco-conscious and, in some cases, pioneering building materials and techniques used to build the home are freely accessible to all. That way, anyone thinking of embarking on a self-build or with access to land can make their own Tiny Home, or gain inspiration from it.

Inside Tigín Tiny Homes

loft bedroom detail in tiny home by Common Knowledge

(Image credit: TBC)

‘We haven’t created these Tiny Homes as a new product,’ explains Fionn Kidney, co-founder and director of Common Knowledge. ‘We’ve actually only made four, but we have taught more than 250 people to build them on their own by involving them in the construction process during our Build Schools.’

The project is also about showcasing sustainable, quality materials that the team strongly believe should be more widely used.

interior detail of tiny home with big windows, designed by Common Knowledge

(Image credit: TBC)

These Tiny Homes are different in another way too. Though their footprint is small (20 sq m), they have tall ceilings (3.6m in the kitchen and living room areas), which, combined with oversized glazing, provide a constant connection to nature or views, while giving the sensation of more space. The homes also have clever storage solutions and use innovative or natural materials such as hemp corrugated panels and natural rubber linoleum floor tiles, in part to meet their own self-imposed low-emissions construction targets but also to keep the weight of the trailer down.

‘By choosing materials like natural cork insulation, planed dimensional lumber and marine-grade plywood, we were able to make our structural elements of the building also be our finishing touches,’ explains Harrison Gardner, who is behind the design and construction of the Tigín Tiny Homes. ‘Hardwood countertops and custom couches were made possible by us not wasting any of our weight allocation in plasterboard finishes.’

wooden wall shelving inside one of Common Knowledge's tiny homes or tigíns

(Image credit: TBC)

One area the team found hard to keep lightweight was the external cladding. The contemporary modern finishes of concrete board were too heavy, while all the affordable timber options also pushed them over the limit. In the end, they opted for hemp cladding, a natural alternative to corrugated steel, grown and supplied by Margent Farm in Cambridgeshire, England.

‘It was almost half the weight of some of our other options, was grown relatively locally (as far as cladding sources go) and is made of an extremely sustainable, carbon-negative material,’ says Gardner.

exterior of one of Common Knowledge's tiny homes in field

(Image credit: TBC)

The Common Knowledge team are honest about how their micro homes will be used. ‘We see the Tiny Homes as the potential first step for many onto the housing ladder and believe they will suit certain people and certain stages of their lives,’ says Gardner. ‘Individuals or couples craving independence but not yet able to afford their forever home will find the Tigín to be a comfortable housing solution for several years, somewhere they can live rent-free and save towards the home of their future.’

When residents are able to graduate to their forever homes, the idea is they will take some of the Tiny Homes’ material palette and building know-how with them.


Giovanna Dunmall is a freelance journalist based in London and West Wales who writes about architecture, culture, travel and design for international publications including The National, Wallpaper*, Azure, Detail, Damn, Conde Nast Traveller, AD India, Interior Design, Design Anthology and others. She also does editing, translation and copy writing work for architecture practices, design brands and cultural organisations.