Compact Living- a Fonzie Flat for Life?

The Fonz himself


We all know Arthur Fonzarelli did many things well.  His hair, girls, tight t-shirts, his motorcycle, zippo lighters, that pesky vending machine- but is the legendary Fonz set to become the poster boy for compact living and flexible housing options as well?

The term Fonzie Flat is now cemented into the Aussie vernacular, even being named word of the Month in January 2013 by Oxford University Press Australia.  Although the name calls to mind a greasy den of deferred Italian adulthood the Fonzie Flat is being championed by planners, property developers and housing affordability researchers as a viable accommodation option for a variety of expanding housing needs.  These include stay-at-home twenty somethings (guilty!), ageing parentals and grand parentals, out of towner rellies, Air bnb trawlers, paying international students, home businesses, start up companies, boutique showrooms and of course my mate Laura (artist and full time Law & Order viewer).  All of these uses potentially function as a neat little appendage to a larger dwelling, with only the occasional SOS light switch morse code sent out to the mainland house during a chronic milk or toilet paper crisis.

But what if the Fonzie Flat model could be amputated from the mothership of the Australian dream mega-pad and strike and on its own?   As many a resident of an  Inner West workers cottage will tell you, compact living isn’t exclusive to apartment dwellers and can come in many forms.  We just need to start ensuring these forms are available, permissible and economically viable in Australia.

Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

UK company Dwelle, based in Manchester are busy designing and constructing micro building prototypes which fit the Fonzie Flat model nicely, with one main difference.  They are carbon friendly, fully transportable and can be knocked up in a matter of days. AND they look good.  They feature solar panels, rainwater harvesting, low energy lighting and fully integrated electronics and appliances.  With the more luxe model featuring floorspace of 64m squared they are not much bigger then your average inner city one bedder but of course as many of my architect friends tell me, space is both physical and psychological.

In other words the A-frame roof, abundance of natural light and clever storage layout mean that you may not necessarily feel like you are being strangled by your own claustrophobia in a Darlinghurst bedsit.  You can also add more space by playing with optional extras and additions (like Lego!) and customise the cladding to respond to the surrounding environment.  Compact living is about letting go of the stuff that demands to be housed, stored and gathers dust until eventually it gets turfed and goes into landfill and living smarter.  This little project tells that story nicely:

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 11.53.15 AM

Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

Which brings me to another great point, and one which I thought of whilst gawping (as I often do) at The outdoor rooms and landscaping opportunities become key to the success of these little homes.  Less house = more block.  Yes they are small, tiny even, but that fact serves as extra encouragement to get outside, get walking, gardening or exploring, or just sit back and take it all in which- one of the original motives for the broad Aussie porch or verandah.  So much of the future lies in our past doesn’t it?  The cabin typology is back, but with an eco bent and in Australia we just happen to have the perfect set of climactic criteria to support it.

Scott Meivogel Cabin

Image from Cabin Porn, submitted by Scott Meivogel

At this stage Dwelle-ings aren’t available in Australia however a wide variety of granny flats, sheds and backyard studio buildings are being offered by many companies as all the different needs I mentioned before continue to grow.  The challenge is in realising that small flying solo is also ok, and that even a Fonzi-sized flat or house can potentially do its part in reducing energy consumption.  Also I feel like Arthur Fonzarelli would be pleased that I’m mentioning his pad, as well as the words ‘cabin porn’ in the same post.

Until next time- I’ll be taking some measurements of my Dad’s beloved shed!


Dad's Shed

Dad’s Shed


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