Skinny Homes Occupy Minimum Space for Maximum Impact!


The skinny house is an alternative and unusual form of housing. It has been popular for many years and in all sizes. So when you think a house could not get smaller than a tiny one, you can find a skinny house. Skinny houses have been popular worldwide due to the lack of space to build what we consider a full-size house in the United States. Skinny houses are similar to tiny houses, but instead of the square footage being all on one floor, these houses add stories to accommodate square footage and interior rooms. 

What is a skinny house? 

Skinny houses are very tall, narrow homes built to take advantage of small lots in areas with a dense population. They are also called shotgun houses. These ultra-narrow houses are prevalent in African American communities in New Orleans and other areas of the southern United States. The shotgun house has been a term used regardless of location. 


Shotgun houses generally have a gabled front porch and two or more rooms in a straight line. In the 1700s, these tall skinny houses, as tall as 50 feet and as narrow as 10, were once known as “spite houses.” They originated when dueling neighbors built them on a property next door or across from the house of a nemesis to create an eyesore, obstruct a view or block the light. 

This skinny narrow house maximizes every square foot

This skinny Toronto house has been around since 1880. It utilizes five separate floors; the house size comes in at 950 square feet…if you include the basement and the attic, it’s over 1400 square feet.  

How narrow is this house?

This skinny house is only 8 feet wide, which according to the owner, is surprising to many people who visit. The house is narrower in the basement and main level, where interior walls measure 6 feet 6 inches. Upstairs the widest is 7 feet 3 inches. It was a one-story house in the 1880s. In the 1980s, the house got renovated into a multi-story building with five stories totaling 950 sqft or 1450 sqft with the basement and the attic added. 

An example layout of a skinny house

First floor – The entire front and back of this Toronto home are all windows to let in the light. The owner said the house feels like a boat with wood and exposed pipes or a tree house with a winding staircase that goes up to each of the five levels. That’s the house’s secret to feeling bigger than the size. 

The entryway has a small 1/2 bath, a closet, and storage shelves. A winding staircase and the channel for the plumbing, electrical and central vacuum are up the middle of the house. 

The kitchen feels like the biggest room because the ceiling is high, and the backyard has large windows. The backyard has a porch with another seating area and a grill. Everything in the kitchen is on one wall, so there is no mixed space. There are smaller appliances as they need to fit in the doorways. The front door is only 22 inches wide, so everything needs to be small enough to come in the front door.

Second floor – The dining room is on the next floor, and the washer and dryer are hidden in the middle column on the second floor. 

There is a living room on the second level. Finding furniture has been a challenge due to the narrow doorways and hallways. Small sectionals and futons work in the living room. A balcony off the back of the living room adds to the living space and looks out over the backyard. 

Third floor – The third floor houses the bathroom with a freestanding tub and shower combination. The bedroom is also on the third floor. It is wide enough for a queen size bed and a bedside table on one side. There is also a small 1/2 bathroom in the bedroom. The small is next to the entry, and the closet door slides over to become the bedroom door. 

Fourth floor – There is a spiral staircase to the attic to get to the fourth floor. This floor is used as an office, storage, and exercise area. 

skinny house fourth floor

Basement – The basement has a full-size bathroom with a tub, shower, storage, and mechanicals. The doors are on a track to hide the toilet area or to use as a bathroom door. 

A lot of consideration must be given when buying items for the house. 

What’s it like to live in a skinny house

According to the owner, “When I saw it from the outside, I thought it would have to be very cramped, but I liked the design, the different levels, and the great use of light. This home looked like a beautiful nest. You don’t get that nest-like feeling if you have too much space around you. That’s why I liked this one.” 

If you thought it would be cramped after looking at it from the outside, check this out. This house has excellent lighting, with windows in the front and the back of the house.


The owner describes it as living on a boat or a tree house because of all the wood and the natural light. The open design and especially the open staircase make it possible to live without feeling stuck in a coffin.

It uses lots of storage and shelving and clever ways to hide things like piping.

Moving anything of any size into this house is difficult. Even if you get it into the house, moving it around cannot be accessible due to the stairways.

Check out our other articles about 25 different types of alternative housing


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

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