20 Alternative Living Spaces That’ll Blow Your Mind

20 Alternative Living Spaces That’ll Blow Your Mind

9 min read

With the ever-increasing global and continental population, the demand for housing has been on a continual rise. Consequently, the real estate industry has boomed with housing prices even doubling in some cities.

To ensure the system remains sustainable, out-of-the-box thinkers have developed or adopted different structures to serve as alternatives and alleviate the challenges the industry might be grappling with currently.

From structures designed for practicality to alternative houses that are ecological, there are tons of options for those who choose non-conventional living spaces as their permanent or temporary dwelling.

Whether you’re planning to save extra bucks, interested in a freer nomadic lifestyle as a millennial or want to explore the world in tranquility, we discuss 2o incredible alternative living spaces that you can consider:

  1. Tiny house
  2. Camper van
  3. Earth house
  4. Skoolie
  5. Metal homes
  6. Sailboat
  7. Yurt
  8. Treehouse
  9. Motel condo
  10. Prefabricated cabin
  11. Shipping container
  12. Recreational vehicle
  13. AirBnBs
  14. Converted ambulance
  15. Earthship
  16. House hacking
  17. Manufactured home
  18. Pallet home 
  19. Igloo
  20. Silo home

Keep on reading to learn more about these cool alternative living solutions:

 

1) Tiny House

As a reflection of their names, tiny homes usually measure 100-400 square feet making them a perfect match for minimalists.

Typically, tiny houses have wheels. This allows you to tow your home to any place of your preference provided you can get suitable parking. When living in a tiny house, good relations with other community members is essential if you will need to park in someone’s home.

The concept of a tiny home is the most popular alternative developed to help curb the ever-increasing housing crisis. Despite its size, a tiny home can accommodate everything one needs for comfortable living with low maintenance costs to incur.

 

2) Camper Van

For adventurers, there could be no better life than living in a camper van. You explore from the comfort of your home which everyone’s dream.

Transforming a normal-sized van into a living space gives users the freedom they can’t afford with regular houses. Camper vans require no extra space for parking slots and significantly reduces housing expenses. However, the initial price of a camper van is much higher than that of ordinary cars.

With a camper van, you live a more flexible and comfortable minimalist lifestyle just like in a tiny house.

 

3) Earth House

Built using locally available materials including a mixture of clay and earth, this housing option is among the eco-friendliest and cheapest alternatives to traditional living spaces.

Earth houses are available in different designs and you can choose to live in a cob house, earthbag home, or a rammed earth house.

A cob house is constructed using earth and straw and it resembles a clay house. However, they’re much stronger and last longer. On the other hand, an earthbag home is built by stacking earthen bags to form walls.

The last type of earth home is a rammed earth house, which involves filling an already constructed wall with soil to give an ultra-strong living area.

 

4) Skoolie

Converting an old school bus to a living space is the other housing option explored by many especially the homeless families. Depending on the size of the bus, skoolies can accommodate up to individuals living comfortably.

Averagely, skoolies measure 240 square feet and are the matches of sailboats on land. Instead of working for decades to buy a traditional home, turning a school bus into a living space offers you a freer and more adventurous lifestyle. It is therefore no reason the young are turning to this housing option.

Noteworthy, the conversion of a bus to a fully functional skoolie is an intensive process requiring a lot of time, skill, and energy. If you are going to live in one during winter, insulation is an essential undertaking that may be overlooked.

 

5) Metal Homes

If you own a small piece of land or you’re interested in leasing space somewhere for a temporary residential structure, consider putting up a metal house.

The home is built from steel materials and can be moved from one place to another regardless of its size. You can acquire a metal house by buying one from a local dealer or build yours from scratch. If you are not a DIYer, consider the services of an expert.

Generally, steel metal homes are affordable and energy-efficient. Notably, they differ from container houses that have a fixed design.

 

6) Sailboat

Boats and marinas now offer individuals the freedom to move around the world not as explorers or tourists only but also as residents. You set sail at your own time and choose the place to dock depending on the season.

With features almost similar to those of an RV, sailboats have been alternatives to regular housing for years with prices ranging from thousands to millions of dollars. Beware of additional expenses associated with houseboats, which include slip space leasing fees, insurance, and maintenance costs.

Living offshore is fun but you must not be afraid of the seas if you want to consider a sailboat for home.

A houseboat also has some limitations that you must be prepared to handle before setting sail. First, there are no shops in the waters so plan yourself. Again, the space is limited and you won’t go jogging.

 

7) Yurt

With their origin in Central Asia, the popularity of yurts is on the rise owing to their low construction cost and environmental concern.

As a semi-permanent round structure with some similarities with tiny houses, yurts require only a few hours to erect and can last for up to a decade without any maintenance needs. The shape of this alt-home imparts resistance to strong winds that contribute to its long ‘lifespan’.

Although living in a yurt is a unique and comfortable experience, it is not suitable for more than one person who requires privacy as it single-roomed.

Generally, yurts are 12-30 feet in diameter. You can build kitchens, bathrooms, and the likes depending on the size of your home.

 

8) Treehouse

A treehouse is a worthy alternative for lovers of nature. Primarily built in the wilderness or forests, the house brings the interaction with flora and fauna unimaginably closer. For town dwellers, this would be a fairy tale coming true.

While living up the trees does not make you a bird, it guarantees you tranquility and unmatched privacy in your dealings. Building a treehouse is much cheaper compared to the strenuous paperwork of mortgages you will be involved in to live in a congested neighborhood.

Invest in a treehouse and get to spend more time with Mother Nature especially if you are an environmentalist.

 

9) Motel Condo

While hotels may be meant for guests or tourists who spend only a few days in these places, you can have a hotel room for your permanent residence. We call it a motel condo.

If you can’t find a property to buy within the area or just prefer to have different neighbors, then you can consider this option. You will have the privilege of hosting a hotel party whenever you want to and always receive a warm welcome by the concierge any time you get back to the hotel plus a good morning greeting.

For amenities such as WiFi and electricity, you may need to pay monthly fees depending on the terms and conditions of purchase. Acquiring a motel condo can be complicated if you plan to use a mortgage as very few lenders are willing to venture into this mode of housing.

 

10) Prefabricated Cabin

If you own a piece of land but can’t start building due to the soaring market prices, a prefab cabin is nothing less to go by. Buy a cabin kit, for three bedrooms, two bedrooms, or even one-bedroom depending on the land size and housing needs.

Schedule your building and begin the process but remember it takes time to have a prefab cabin ready for occupation.

You can install solar panels for power supply, erect water tanks, and even warm your newfound home with a pellet stove at incredibly lower prices.

 

11) Shipping Container

Shipping containers are found the world over but turning these metallic structures into alternative living spaces in response to the increasing housing demands is just beginning to rise.

Cheaper than conventional houses, shipping container homes can be constructed anywhere and customized to the individual’s taste. Both the inside and outside can be covered and repainted to give the house a modern look.

Combining several containers to give the desired shape or to form a story is a common practice exploited especially as a way of providing accommodation to students.

The construction of such a home may look simple at a glance but the details of carving out windows and doors or manipulating the shape are quite tedious. Professional cleaning before occupation is also recommended as some containers are made of potentially harmful material that may pose health risks.

 

12) Recreational Vehicle

The wobbly RV trailers of the 70s have undergone significant transformation and now stand out as luxury homes alternative to the expensive traditional houses.

Previously, RVs were used for camping or vacation purposes only. However, many people are now adopting them as alternative houses either permanently or for a prolonged duration.

With an RV, home can be anywhere anytime giving you the freedom of having a nomadic lifestyle or that similar to individuals in traditional houses if choose to stay in an RV park. Nevertheless, remember in a park you will be incurring monthly charges almost similar to someone living in a regular house.

Freelancers who work from home for instance, and love moving around will find life in a recreational vehicle quite enjoyable but not without limitations. First on the list is space. It might be a struggle living permanently in an RV due to the limited space despite its ability to accommodate a bathtub and fully equipped kitchen.

RV also has associated recurrent costs including automotive insurance, fueling, and other maintenance services that you need to consider.

 

13) AirBnBs

Are you thinking of living full-time in a home without owning one or signing a lease? AirBnBs provide you the opportunity to live in the place of your choice without much paperwork. Homeowners registered on the platform lease their houses or rooms within the homes to travelers seeking cheap accommodation.

Since Airbnb hosts do not work as companies but as individuals, you can create special bonds with them if you choose to live full-time in their homes. They can also help you learn much from the surrounding community and get acquainted with the area if you’re a visitor.

While the beautiful stories of people living full-time in AirBnB may spark the internet, some individuals have had different experiences.

 

14) Converted Ambulance

The conversion of ordinary vans into alternative living spaces has been the order of the day. But out-of-the-box conversions facilitated by necessity are now lighting up the dark skies for those who cannot afford the Sprinter or Ford vans for example.

Ian Dow transformed an ambulance into a spacious home proving there is no limit for a determined mind. You can fit your ambulance-turned home with a mini-bed, kitchenette, and have a workspace for your daily activities.

Remember that ambulances are not designed to be houses and may require different skillful modifications depending on the car type.

 

15) Earthship

First built in the 70s by the architect Michael Reynolds, Earthships are eco-friendly homes constructed using salvaged locally available waste materials such as old tires, beer cans, and bottles.

The design makes the living space self-sufficient as it is well insulated, generates its electricity, and promotes water conservation through rainwater harvesting. The tires are responsible for the insulation of these structures and energy is generated by solar panels and windmills which are both environmentally friendly.

The bottles on the other hand allow penetration of sunlight into the house and this produces an intricate pattern of glowing colored glass.

Earthship allows you to go off-grid and escape the costly traditional housing common today without being in pitch-darkness.

 

16) House Hacking

House hacking is a brilliant strategy for getting alternative housing. It involves buying a home but letting the mortgage payment be done by someone else. How is that possible? It is simple, qualify for a loan and purchase a multifamily home or casita.

With such a house, rent the neighboring units and let the tenant pay the mortgage on your behalf as you have a whole living space without paying a coin. When life is proving harder, don’t fear to let students into your single-family house as a way of covering the regular housing costs.

 

17) Manufactured Home

For singles, a tiny home provides comfort nearly equal to what traditional house dwellers receive. But with a family, a bigger structure in the name of a manufactured home will do.

Manufactured homes are available in multiple designs and sizes with a trailer being the most commonly used. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands in buying a conventional house, you can purchase a spacious manufactured home for $10,000-60,000. Either a new or a used home can suffice depending on your budget.

 

18) Pallet Home

Besides pallets being used in the making of benches, swings, and beds, this material proves important when it comes to setting up a non-conventional living area.

The construction of a pallet house is simple and affordable making it a good starting point as you mobilize resources before you buy or build a traditional home. To make your temporary structure more cost-effective, install a solar panel for the power supply.

 

19) Igloo

Built by the Inuit of Canada and Greenland as temporary homes during winters or hunting, the Igloos are dome-shaped structures made from snow blocks. Joints and crevices are filled by loose snow while seals intestine is used as a window. A passageway leading to the igloo is also fashioned for easy access.

Experienced Inuits take less than 2 hours in completing an igloo. This structure is easy to set up but they are relatively small and can only accommodate one family. You can also use other materials such as stone, wood, and sod in building igloos.

 

20) Silo Home

Silos are stores designed specifically for keeping agricultural produce and this is its widely known use. However, there is another side of the coin in the housing industry. Most people find the round shape of the silos appalling as it gives countless ways of tweaking and remodeling on the inside.

The large size of a silo allows the dwellers to partition and decorate in their imaginative way both on the inside and outside.

Victoria Miller

I'm the founder of NTT. I live in Miami, Florida, and enjoy learning everything there is to know about tiny spaces.