With little - literally - to recommend them, Sebastopol, Calif., builder Jay Shafer's Tumbleweed Tiny House designs delight similarly small-minded clients. The diminutive dwellings have been used for everything from country getaways to backyard studios and part-time in-law apartments.

Shafer's own residence gives new meaning to the term "model home" (top photo, left). Measuring all of 70 square feet, it features metal roofing and siding; maintenance is next-to-nil. His previous home, a cedar-sided, Gothic-glazed cottage, tucked a kitchen, sleeping loft, composting toilet, and 200 cubic feet of storage space into a 100-square-foot envelope (three bottom photos).

Why the preference for such minimalist living quarters? "I like to stress that smaller is more sustainable," Shafer says, "but in the end, I mostly have no time or patience for a larger house. Living small keeps things simple."

Tiny as they are, his designs don't scrimp on cost or quality. Interiors and exteriors alike are scrupulously detailed to take maximum advantage of every inch. Built, the houses range from 40 to 700 square feet and cost $230 to $550 per square foot plus delivery; customers who want to craft their own mini-mansion can purchase just the plans for $680.

To find out more, visit the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. Web site at www.tumbleweedhouses.com — Dave Holbrook