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The Box: A 215 Sq. Ft. Tiny Cabin for Four

I’m excited to share “The Box” tiny cabin with you today.

It’s a 215 sq. ft. home that Ralph Erskine hand built with the help of a friend beginning in 1941.

The goal was to create shelter for his wife and two baby girls on land given to him by a farmer friend.

As you’ll see below it’s just a two-room home.

The family ended up living in it for four years and Ralph later became known to become an influential designer in Sweden, England and Canada.

Simple Living as a Family in a 215 Sq. Ft. Tiny Cabin

Simple Living as a Family in a 215 Sq Ft Tiny Cabin

Photo by Arvid Rudling

Let me take you inside so you can see what it’s like…

Do you think you could live simply even with a family in something like this? (Personally- I’d love it!)

One of the most interesting facts about this cabin is that it has no electricity hook ups, no running water and no bathroom.


Photo by Arvid Rudling

There was an outhouse nearby and they carried water from the farm’s well. And the windows were strategically placed to let in natural light.

The Outhouse

Photo by Arvid Rudling

Unique Space Saving Multi-functional Furniture

The way that Erskine was able to make this tiny home work for his family is also through smart furniture design.

The bed was amazing…

It could be folded into a couch (like a futon) during the day.

Then flat as a bed at night.

Or it could be hoisted up to the ceiling using pulleys to create open space on the ground.

See below…

Multifunctional DIY bed hoists to ceiling, folds to couch and works as bed

But that’s not all…

Ralph was even able to squeeze in his own office into the 215 square feet micro cabin where he could store his architectural drawings as well as work on them.

He did it using a simple fold out table and storage wall.

Clever and simple!

Desk folds into the cabinet, naturally…

Photo by Arvid Rudling

In the photo below you can see the fireplace which is nearby.

The bed is hoisted up to the ceiling.

You can also see the kitchen is beyond the fireplace.

And finally to the right on the same wall is where Ralph’s office is located (and hidden) on the storage wall.

Kitchen (back left), Fireplace, Living Area, Bed to Ceiling, & Storage Wall

Fireplace and Kitchen in the Box Tiny Cabin

Photo by Arvid Rudling

Below, the view from another angle:


Photo by Arvid Rudling

I love the floor to ceiling windows.

Some would say it’s a waste of space but I think it’s a wonderful waste.


Photo by Arvid Rudling

If you look closely enough above you’ll notice that one of the floor to ceiling windows is also a door to the porch.


Photo by Arvid Rudling

Finally, above, is the kitchen. No faucet because remember there was no running water. 🙂


Photo by Arvid Rudling

The photos you’re enjoying here are of a replica of Ralph Erskine’s actual cabin because after a few years he and his family moved away.

Photo by Holger Ellgaard

Photo by Holger Ellgaard

For a while they still used the micro cabin as a summer cottage.


Photo by Holger Ellgard

But after several years it was in such bad condition that it had to be destroyed.

Fortunately, it was rebuilt with Ralph’s involvement in 1989 and was later donated to the Stockholm County Museum where it can still be toured.

Floor Plan

Read the original story over at Small House Bliss.

Explore more tiny cabins, simple living stories and spectacular tiny house interiors.

Photos by Holger Ellgaard and Arvid Rudling.

If you also enjoyed Ralph Erskine’s tiny family cabin “The Box” help us spread the word about it with a “Like” or share using the buttons below, then ask questions or share your favorite part about it in the comments below and join our free daily tiny house newsletter for more. Thanks!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Lisa
    December 9, 2013, 8:42 pm

    I’m with Carrie Adams: No water, no electricity… no me! I too believe that the Tiny House Movement should be about the most ingenious uses of small amounts of space. My goal is to be able to get as many modern conveniences into a small space as possible, like hot water on demand; mini air conditioners, mini dishwashers and fireplaces (if only in a small metal box on the wall.) Two things I have seen recently that I really love are (1) a staircase that is a beautifully designed storage area (think Shaker), and (2) a “floating” spiral staircase. I know Alec likes to go rustic, but rustic to me only says poor and deprived; I’d like to try and get away from as much of that as possible in my tiny home.

    • Alex Pino
      December 12, 2013, 6:09 am

      Thanks Lisa!

      • Lisa
        December 12, 2013, 11:53 am

        Don’t be mad at me, Alex. You know I’m on board with the THM. In this instance, we are just agreeing that we disagree as to goals. But that’s good, too; something for everyone 🙂

        • Michael L
          June 19, 2016, 8:49 am

          So Lisa, if someone wants to go rustic in their home design and living, they’re poor and deprived? That statement not only sounds narrow minded and insulting, but simply rude!

    • January 17, 2014, 5:19 am

      I agree completely: I want all the modern conveniences but on a small scale. Lot’s of hidden storage spaces, lots ow windows and skylights to bring the outdoors in… But def instant hot water (maybe even a jacuzzi) but everything miniature. One DOESN’T have to sacrifice quality of life when one goes smaller.

    • Harper
      April 4, 2014, 11:15 pm

      I definitely find the rustic way appealing. Big windows, nature all around = peace to me. If running water, hot showers and electricity are available, I’ll happily take them, but not if it meant I had to sacrifice a peaceful setting. In this day I’m sure we can find a happy medium… although electricity from the grid is finite… city water is polluted… Oy. Take me away.

    • Alexandra Diaz
      April 20, 2015, 12:03 pm

      You might appreciate this article on a Brazil tiny apartment. I think it would fit into many spaces, being just 290sf. I’m with you: average level of accommodations without extravagance or excess space. I’m not ready for a rustic life. The only change I would make in this place: a sheer curtain or translucent doors to let the light through from the bedroom window.

    • Dave Brazelton
      June 25, 2019, 12:50 pm

      Of course now-a-days technology has improved to where Erskine would probably have utilized it for running water (solar powered pump for well) and electricity(again solar power) as well as ecologically friendly sewage system. There are ways of doing things now that would stay within the environmentally and economically parameters that Erskine abided by.

  • David Ridge
    December 9, 2013, 9:52 pm

    This is the first time I have seen a fireplace configured like this one, why are not people using this idea more often?

    • Rich
      December 10, 2013, 9:00 pm

      Ralph E. was, as most architects will be, experimental, especially in their own abodes. He was headed in the right direction with a smaller firebox and opening and chambers above to capture and circulate warmed air into the room. You might also be interested in the rumford fireplaces of the early 20th C. but neither were as evolved nor efficient as the russian fireplaces or most wood stoves of today. Kudos to Erskine and others for we have learned from their trial and errors 🙂

      • Lisa
        December 10, 2013, 9:06 pm

        I’d like to see the Russian fireplace that is so effective. What makes it more effective than, say, this one?

        • Rich
          December 10, 2013, 11:56 pm

          I will include but two links found by googling rumford fireplace and russian fireplace: http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-product-design/ids12-return-rumford-fireplace-efficient-prefab.html
          Neither would be appropriate for a “tiny” house and both require the work of a knowledgeable mason for construction. It is unclear to me from the photos and plan of the Erskine house how the fireplace was constructed but it appears that the ports in the face of the chimney were intended to duct the heat of the flue gases absorbed and retained by the masonry mass before it was vented to the outside. In principle this is how a Russian or Siberian stove or fireplace works but unlike Erskine’s fireplace, the latter have a door like a stove reducing the amount of air drawn out of the living space. Another wood-burning design you might want to investigate is a “rocket stove” often used with cob, adobe and/or straw bale construction. I am not expert re: any of these designs or construction methods. Life safety must be a primary concern. Hope this is helpful.

      • Alex Pino
        December 12, 2013, 6:10 am

        Thanks Rich!

    • curt
      January 2, 2014, 11:29 pm

      I was thinking about this place and the fireplaces- it looks like it would actually have three places to burn wood- the outdoor fireplace- which might have a oven built into it on the inside side. The cooking stove, and the fireplace—- with all that glass- it would take a little more normal to heat it – I would guess that it would be a single pane glass — the solar gain would help…. In the summer the outdoor fireplace would work for baking- and I would guess most cooking was outdoors- I remember as a kid seeing a alcohol stove- that would be used in the summertime to make tea and coffee and a soup. I was also thinking that a sauna would be used more than bathing in that time period….. I would guess heating air and steam would take less burning wood than heating a whole tub of bathwater….. The Sunday bath comes to mind- possibly a bucket of water to scrub and dump over your head after the sauna. I also wondered about the insulation of the structure- the glass with some curtains would help keep heat in at night It looks like the walls are pretty thick- , —- also building in some loft beds above the wall of storage for the kids- — warm air rises and the kids would be warm… When they rebuilt the place I wonder if they incorporated some insulation in the new— I did see a old picture of the fireplace- vs the new picture of the fireplace after restoration- and to me it looks like the new was a little more finished and refined than the old picture- were the stucco on the fireplace in the old looked a little more homemade and – bailing wire and duct tape constructed.

  • Gary Grammond
    December 9, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Thanks again, Alex. Another winner! While this particular structure doesn’t have water or electricity, it’s true value is in the thoughtful layout that a trained architect or designer brings to the table (in this case, literally). The bed idea could be useful to anyone who doesn’t have the ability or desire to climb a ladder to a loft bed. Lots of built in storage as well. I bet some of the wood storage area could be configured to fit a bath and utilities (not sure, I didn’t enlarge the floor plan to read the dimensions). Thanks again for finding these Alex, this is one of my favorites!

    • Alex Pino
      December 12, 2013, 6:10 am

      Thanks Gary glad you liked it 🙂

  • Ralph Sly
    December 10, 2013, 12:56 am

    One of the struggles with reading some posts and comprehending where some are coming from is trying to figure out the age group and mentality, “mentality” used in a good way. All my life I have converted trucks, trailers and small spaces for temporary travel or stay forever thinking as an independent, I could live in this; however, I raised my families in homes of the norm. They never knew discomfort or effort for convince i.e., hauling water for a bath other than camping which we did not really do a lot of as the corporate world dictated many hours for me so they enjoyed what would be opulence to what I have been doing and try to do these last four years. It did afforded a summer home in a resort city which became permanent residence for my wife and I in later years of that relationship.

    Four years ago I really started to focus on the downsizing and went at it with a vengeance derailed by another beautiful lady and eventually a marriage and got off the track again. I am now back since that relationship which was short lived ended, however, 4 years ago; I was heading toward more of leaving less a foot print, doing the water management thing, cutting out amenities such as hydro independence, getting into permaculture for gardening. The wedding splendor interlude and resuming the tiny house desire has become more of an I have to situation now to get a grip on life and finances and the priorities have change expeditiously in that I am 4 years older (65) just don’t have the relax time I had to do things and recover. So, I no longer want to build the fire to heat the water I hauled from the well to fill the gravity fed shower. No, I want to get out of bed, set my anatomy on a toilet, flush be-gone waste then jump in a shower turn on a tap and have instant hot water to cover and to clean my finely designed slightly pudgy parts and get at the revenue receiving projects I now out of necessity have to. That is a major step backwards however I still desire simplicity and I am finding the different Ralphs, the young and the older cannot do or contend with the same things. Hauling that water takes a hell of a lot more effort and time now than young Ralph would have taken. Am I coming anywhere near making sense here?

    Younger Ralph could have lived in this house with a cooperative partner raising children, this Ralph loves this house especially the bed elevating to the ceiling as I have been harping on that concept for years but could not do without the modern amenities. From 60 to 65 there have been many changes take place far more rapidly than from 30 to 50 and tolerance has weekend. OK Alex, bring the brothers together and toss my chubby cheeks to the wolves, I am a miserable failure to the preppers and save the world types amidst us, but shit happens and happens fast. I am far from dead; I am still looking for a lady who wants to live a simple life style with a simply complicated man who sometimes is very simple (but loving and caring LOL) however, time is even running out on that one. If this goes on much longer, we will only be able to share denture dishes. Oh well, I guess that is affection.

    Anyway, I am forging ahead with this project and yet to decide if I will steal a few more feet of my building as the 250 are still working out well but have to finish the concession trailer first or starve. Lol, that is a TH project of restoration in its own right. But back to my original question, it would be interesting to see where everyone is coming form with their opinions.

    • Edie Rodman
      January 2, 2014, 3:06 pm

      Ralph! Ralph!
      Your comments are great! Funniest writing I’ve come across since my marvelously unique husband left this earth. 2014 is gonna be my year of ‘less is more’. I’m excited. I love tiny houses, but more I love the small[ish] house on the edge of a canyon where I live now. The only missing item is a little RV. Keep us posted

  • alice h
    December 10, 2013, 11:30 am

    Love that fireplace. Totally jealous. As for no running water or electricity, it’s not that long ago that we all lived like that and many of us still do. It’s nice to have but you can set up a very comfortable life without either one. The discomfort and inconvenience of doing without when you’re used to it doesn’t last long if you’re half way sensible. If you like running water you can set up a large tank with a tap and gravity feed to a sink that has a drain to a grey water system. You then fill the tank as required in whatever way works. A bit of occasional inconvenience for a longer time of easy water. Hot water can be rigged too. Light and heat can come from other sources, the only thing you really miss out on would be electronic toys and power tools. You can use battery powered things or set up your own methods of getting electricity from solar, wind or whatever. Being offgrid doesn’t mean you’re doomed to carry buckets of water all day or live in the dark and cold with no comforts. There are a lot of hand cranked kitchen appliances too. You can even convert a Kitchen Aid mixer to a hand crank.

    • Alex Pino
      December 12, 2013, 6:12 am

      Thanks Alice! I love the fireplace too. And great points on heating, light, and power too 🙂

  • Zackem
    December 11, 2013, 2:52 am

    I wouldn’t miss any thing living in this tiny home.. It has every thing I could possibly need, except maybe Hi speed internet…!

    • Alex Pino
      December 12, 2013, 6:11 am

      I’d want my hi speed internet too Zackem! 😀

  • Ralph Sly
    January 3, 2014, 3:45 am

    Edie, what a nice note. Yes 2014 is certainly shaping up to be a clean up and organizing your for me, straight out of the gate. I presently left my little shack to do a project in Alberta, not bad being back but would rather staying completely shack and on completed projects there. I am heading to Edmonton week after next to do exactly as you desire, I am picking up a small high top van hopefully. There are several there fairly reasonable in price, so that’s going to replace the big one and it will be going to the auction. I really do need something a little more versatile and multi purpose. At least when I’m staying in motels I can leave the bulk of my things in it and use the company paid motel for the shower and backup warm place to snuggle. Anyway, I’m definitely off to another venture and most certainly will keep you posted. You put a smile on my face, I’m sure that good man you spend your life with had one often. God bless and thanks. Happy new year.

    • Ralph Sly
      January 3, 2014, 3:48 am

      lol, using voice activation on my phone to make the last post so in typical male fashion I will blame the spelling errors and misplaced words on that…

  • Michael
    April 4, 2014, 6:50 pm

    Its a great floor plan which shows that people had good ideas years ago. They had been forgotten for decades and they are re-invented now and sold as new.
    However with new technologies a home like this can be self sustainable with ease.
    For my taste the bathroom should be integrated and a sauna add on would make it perfect.

  • CathyAnn
    April 4, 2014, 7:32 pm

    I could easily live in this small house. No ladders, so no problems! Taking what has been said here, more space could be created by filling in that back space where firewood is stored next to the kitchen. A bathroom of sorts could be added next to the kitchen with a composting toilet. The kitchen is quite large so space could be borrowed from it for the bathroom. A fireplace insert could be used, or dispense with the fireplace in favor of a good wood stove on which one could cook. There are wood stoves that have water tanks installed on them so getting hot water wouldn’t be a problem. Install a small solar power system so I could power my laptop and a few other electronics, and I’d be set. I definitely would have a well dug.

  • Judiel Gonzalez
    April 17, 2015, 5:26 pm

    Oh no, no, no… I draw a line with the outhouse. Mi flexibility doesn’t reach that far. Beautiful cabin, good design if you incorporate a humane private quarters…

  • Lynnette
    April 17, 2015, 5:38 pm

    I too have to say I would need the modern conveniences such as running water, bath / shower, toilet inside please lol as well as a designated sleeping area. my only problem with sofa Click Clack beds or the like, is I do not want to lay my head down where someone has been sitting there behind all day lol

    • Ralph Sly
      April 17, 2015, 9:03 pm

      What a hoot you are Lynette. You have scared me for life now with the Click-Clack bed. Too much info LOL.

  • Nette
    April 20, 2015, 4:03 am

    Saw your comments on Rumford fireplace. We built our own home here in Oz and just found a book in the local library (very old) on the fireplace. My dad was a carpenter but I saw him lay bricks so we just tried a 1/4 size one in the shed and then built one in the centre of the house. Approx 8 mtr. high in the end. Patience and good weather for setting the bricks. Draws beautifully and the space behind it makes a great drying area in winter. Now want to build a TH.

  • Karen R
    April 20, 2015, 11:28 pm

    Lovely, but I truly hope I never have to do without a bath, electric, etc. But it would be fine for others, I am sure.

    I agree, Lynnette, but think you might be okay with a mattress pad and sheet?

  • Theo
    April 17, 2016, 8:59 pm

    So, not having water, electricity, or an indoor toilet, is interesting, eh? As one who has had experience in dwellings lacking all three, interesting does not enter into the mix.
    Having to haul water is a pain, and sometimes a bit of a hardship, and always work.
    No electricity is doable, but nothing to look forward to.
    Not having an indoor toilet is just plain hardship all around. Obviously people who think an outhouse is not a problem have never used one for more than maybe a weekend, in good weather, if at all. A composting toilet, for indoor use, is a very simple thing to make, or can be very inexpensive to buy – like as low as the $14-15 range.

  • kristina nadreau
    April 17, 2016, 10:10 pm

    I shudder to think of 2 tiny kids in this tiny house with no washer, dryer or freezer and frig, no flush toilet, no bath tub for babes. I wonder if the woman who bore those children thinks this was a great house???? I agree with Theo about the experiences of longer term living without utilities…..
    It is a nice house and it would be fun to have it with an added bath of course..

  • Saga
    June 18, 2016, 3:56 pm

    Kristina, since the modern appliances you mention was in their rudimentary states and not available to the general public (especially not during a war) at that time. And since many people lived a life comparable to this, then I think that the mother in this family didn’t think that her life was awful. Hard maybe, requiring a lot of manual labour. But such was life.
    Our modern comfortable lifes would seem a futuristic fantasy to people back then (unless the had hoardes of servants).

  • Lisa
    June 19, 2016, 1:02 pm

    Michael L June 19, 2016, 8:49 am
    “So Lisa, if someone wants to go rustic in their home design and living, they’re poor and deprived? That statement not only sounds narrow minded and insulting, but simply rude!”
    I’ll tell you what is rude, Michael: You trying to deprive me of my own opinion. I was saying what certain things mean to me. I’ve the right to my own opinion and I have the right of free speech.

    Don’t go putting words in my mouth; I didn’t say it WAS living poor and deprived, I said this is what it meant to me.

    Sorry that you can’t accept anyone having an opinion that is not in line with your own, but one haircut does not fit all.

    And finally, I’ll thank you to keep your need for male domination to yourself; this IS the 21st century!

  • April 19, 2017, 12:41 pm

    But 76 years ago, so modern works were made, happy in the extreme essence, and that in logic and in order to arrange the environments does not exclude the care of the aesthetic particular of effect and breakage wood, glass, stone. The fireplace dividing the two sections into the entrance and service door opposite the large glazing, useful for the front and rear walkway and light. Two tables deserted, the retractablebed against the ceiling. But I think there is nothing left to invent, It is only humble to appreciate and follow these philosophy of doing

  • Gabriella
    July 31, 2017, 10:25 pm

    How many wonderful things they do hands, if well guided by the heart and head. Simply a timeless beauty. ..

  • Carol
    August 2, 2017, 1:36 pm

    I love this cabin and the desgin of the front porch. Unlike others I can happily live in a cabin with no running water, electricity (we have solar), and an outhouse.
    I grew up in a cabin just like this one, though we did have a pump for water, you had to prime, for heating we had a cast iron wood stove we cooked/baked on/in plus a fireplace.
    We had a 2 stall outhouse, with separate doors. Many of our neighbors also had a 2 stall outhouse.
    The only concern is the wood stacked at the back of the cabin. Wood is a home/magnet for spiders and bugs so you want to have your stack at about 10-15 feet from the home in a shelter or lean to, ours was close to the outhouse.

  • Betty
    May 24, 2018, 9:12 pm

    Visiting my grandparents who lived somewhat like this was fun and adventurous for my siblings and me. As I got older, I stopped going, because going to the outhouse, hauling wood, priming the pump for water, feeding chickens, became work!!😄 So although this cabin looks improved…..nope, not for me!! I would still visit, but not for the whole summer!! Lol

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