3 Alternative Living Spaces Trending Now

A stack of homes made out of shipping containers.
  • 8-120 hours
  • Beginner
  • 1,000- 90,000

Turn to any home improvement or DIY channel on cable today, and you're bound to see some kind of programming regarding the tiny house movement. Blame the millennials, but the “going small” trend is getting major attention as more and more people dare to attempt living life in less than100 square feet. But you shouldn’t feel limited to building an extra small home just to be hip with the times. There are a number of alternative living options used widely today that are equally economical, environmentally friendly, and unique in design. Here are just a few ideas trending in the realm of the alternative living to consider.

Home on the Water

Think the ports surrounding our county are restricted to yachts, speedboats, and commercial fishermen? Think again. Although people have been living on and around the water since the dawn of time, the concept of the modern houseboat has most recently been resurrected to fulfill the needs of those seeking an alternative living. Yes, the houseboat is cool again.

A typical houseboat holds all of the luxuries of an on-land RV: it offers a kitc

A typical houseboat holds all of the luxuries of an on-land RV: it offers a kitchen, a bathroom (sometimes one and a half bath), a living room type space, and at least one bedroom. Although it's a mobile vessel, when tethered to a dock each boat has water, electric, and sewage hookups. Designs and sizes of boats do vary, but the average size of such a home is noted as around 40-50 square feet.


Mobility: As mentioned, these homes do move and allow the owner as much freedom as he or she wishes for, should they long to move it.

Tax breaks: Houseboats are not commonly taxed as a regular home would be, so there could be a lessening of costs to consider.

Eco-friendly: This type of home can be eco-friendly if done correctly. Many older boats have an easy time finding recycled parts that can be upcycled and used in an interesting way. Similarly, as the boat itself is often small in size, it, in theory, uses less energy when docked than an average American home does.


Rent: Regardless of whether one tethers a boat there, many marinas work similarly to apartment rentals. The norm is year-long leases which tend to cover water, electricity, and sewage, plus a formal address for mail collection and laundry facilities.

Rate of damage: Because this type of home is continuously exposed to the elements, they tend to have a high rate of damage. Further, water leaks are always a pain to a houseboat owner and if left unattended, can be a true determent to the safety of the boat.

Cost: Actually getting one’s hands on a boat is quite costly and comes with a lot of added and hidden fees. Unlike a tiny house, which costs around $20,000 from scratch, smaller boats can start at $15,000 all the way up to $100,000 according to many online listings. Also, one should consider the added costs such as boat waxing, fuel, and inspections, many of which would be unnecessary with another form of housing.

Shipping Container Homes

It seems strange somehow to think about living in an old steel shipping container, but crafty do-it-yourselfers across the country are making some comfy cozy little homes using this medium. Commonly used to transport heavy objects across land and sea, when repurposed a shipping container makes a wonderful shell of a home thanks to its durable and standardized shape. Though customization can be tricky, in part because of the need for having a welder on staff to manipulate the potential walls and ceilings into livable spaces, many clever home builders have found the advantages to far outweigh any troubles encountered in the building process.

Such containers can be purchased from most shipping and freight companies for as

Such containers can be purchased from most shipping and freight companies for as little as $1,000 per crate. If that seems like a lot of money, consider that a standard container measures around 8 X 6 feet and comes already completely enclosed, saving time and money in construction. In theory, one could make a complete home out of two or three containers, completely built for significantly lower startup costs than building in a more traditional way.


Easier start-up: As mentioned, the beginning process of building with shipping containers holds far fewer steps than building a standard home with wood and nails. After a concrete foundation is laid, the containers, which are standard in size and shape, neatly stack on top of one another. Of course, internal work must be done stabilizing and connecting more than one container, but it's not uncommon, according to some, to have the shell of a home literally built in a day.

Eco-friendly: A shipping container home is a sustainable home for two reasons. First, the containers themselves, and supposedly they were not purchased new, are recycled and saved from being taken apart and trashed. Secondly, because the boxes are prefabricated and freestanding, there is very little need for any additional building materials such as lumber or bricks.

Great availability: Because shipping containers are so widely used in the transport industry, there is an abundance of containers made available every year for purchase. As is a concern of many owners of alternatively styled homes, the commonality of shipping containers eliminates the fear of one not being able to get hold of enough or additionally needed materials later in the home’s lifespan.


Mobility: A shipping container house is a standard, unmovable home on a purposefully set foundation. If mobility is important to you, another style of home may better fit your needs.

Labor Costs: Because welders and specialized craftspersons are needed to customize the containers, greater costs must be budgeted for talent and labor.

Creative license: There is only so much that can be done from a structural perspective to a container home that adds exclusivity or creative uniqueness. In other styles of builds such as tiny homes or earth houses, many shapes and profiles can be built to add character to a home. The rectangular look provided by a shipping container is standard and cannot be greatly altered. Similarly, if one wants to add on to the home at a later time, the conventions of the shipping container benchmark size greatly limit how much or how little can be done.

Sustainable Log Homes

The final alternative home to be mentioned in this list is the sustainable log home. Building with locally harvested timber has been a long-standing American tradition and is currently being embraced by a subculture longing to get back to basics with nature. This sustainable option provides a charming exterior with a cozy inside, and unlike many types of small or eco-friendly homes, gives the builder unlimited opportunity to build to his or her desire.

When building from scratch, many potential log homeowners have a hard time calcu

When building from scratch, many potential log homeowners have a hard time calculating how much money is needed in upfront costs, and most experts agree the difficulty lies in where the materials are sourced from. A kit for a 127 square foot cabin can run in the $11,000 range, plus delivery and labor, but that number can vary greatly should one attain materials independently. What is known is that log and wood-based homes are worth their value and the essence of their creators live on far after the building process concludes.


Sustainable and replenishable: Because natural wood is an ever-growing resource, it's easy on both the environment and accessible, should a part of the house need replacing.

Customizable: As mentioned above, there truly is no limit to what can be done when designing this type of home. Such things truly depend on your needs, how much space is needed on the inside of the house, and what one's budget consists of.

Temperature Controlled: Depending on the size and type of lumber used in the build, those homes with larger logs tend to be better naturally insulated. This results in the temperature within the home's well maintained without the need for technological innovation, or temperature controls.

Easier Downsizing: As this home can truly be built without too many standard size restrictions, it's the ideal home to downsize into. With the closets, cabinets, and storage facilities all able to be built to reasonable need, it can, in theory, accommodate the downsizing inventory of things brought from a larger home.


Upkeep: A natural wood home needs to be well-maintained to ensure structural soundness. Further, it must be sealed and treated regularly to prevent rot and decay as it survives the elements.

Bugs and Critters: Yes, this type of home does come with its own brand of unwelcome houseguests. Unlike many other alternatively styled homes, a log house is built of natural materials and therefore never completely airtight. Such a notion must be considered before investing in this home.

Insurance: Most major insurance companies do not cover log homes. Therefore, homeowners will most likely need to find smaller companies or even co-op groups from which to buy homeowner coverage. Typically at an inflated cost. This is merely another thing to budget for when deciding on purchasing or building a log home.