Latest in 'tiny house' trend sees artist turn dumpster into home
Tiny houses are getting the attention of baby boomers wanting to downsize in retirement
There's nothing trashy about Gregory Kloehn's Brooklyn pied-a-terre: a live-in dumpster that sleeps two with ease, hosts impromptu barbecue parties and sports its own sundeck.
It's the California artist's tin-can contribution to the tiny-house movement that's prompting many Americans to ask if bigger really is better when it comes to having a roof over your head.
"On the street, when it's all closed up, if you don't know about it, you think it's a garbage can," said Kloehn, 42.
"They don't know I'm in here sleeping. Even with the barbecue going outside, chicken wings grilling, people just walk by. They don't see it as a home."
Kloehn had already turned six-metre shipping containers into housing units when he thought up the idea of doing likewise with the steel garbage receptacle often known as a skip.
You enter Kloehn's dark-green crash pad - his home back in Oakland is rather more conventional - through a Dutch door with an affixed minibar that is well-stocked with whiskey and vodka.
To the right is the galley-style kitchen with smooth granite countertop, sink, single-burner gas stove, concealed icebox and a hood fashioned out of an old cooking wok.
Running around the edge is a cushioned sofa, upholstered in black vinyl, with backs and seats that lift off to reveal storage space and a marine toilet connectable to a city sewage system.
Welded onto the exterior is a shower and the gas barbecue. Electricity comes from whatever socket happens to be nearby - what Kloehn calls "living off somebody else's grid."
A descendant of Civil War president Abraham Lincoln who, according to legend, grew up in a log cabin, Kloehn paid about US$1,000 for the dumpster, known in the trash business as a "six-yard humpback".
He spent another couple of thousand on fittings and insulation - about as much as one month's rent for a cramped Manhattan studio.
"It's actually kind of neat, considering what he built it out of," said Ryan Mitchell, who blogs about tiny-house design and construction at the website www.thetinylife.com
In a nation where the average home is a spacious 2,600 sq ft, tiny houses - typically 186 sq ft, but going up to 400 sq ft - are fetching more attention, not least from ageing baby boomers looking to downsize in their retirement years.
In New York, the city's museum is showing off a 325 sq ft micro-apartment boasting all the features of a unit twice its size - and it has invited a lucky few to try it out for size by spending the night in it.