For such a tiny house, this 320-square-foot dwelling in Marfa, Texas, serves many purposes. San Antonio architect Candid Rogers, AIA, designed it for himself as a weekend retreat. But the project also serves as a teaching tool for his University of Texas at San Antonio students, who make the six-hour drive there once a semester. And it helps demonstrate to clients that size isn't everything. “It's sort of a proving ground for looking at spatial efficiency and materiality,” he says.

Rogers priced out the house as a prefab project but found that, due to its one-off nature, it would cost 15 percent to 20 percent more to build it in a factory. So he constructed it on site, acting as his own general contractor. Materials are simple and off-the-shelf: birch plywood cabinets and flooring, sealed concrete floors, and painted gypsum board walls and ceilings. He did splurge a little on the Cor-Ten steel exterior walls, which reference the oxidized metal sheds scattered around town. Most of the siding is corrugated, with a few flat pieces saved for the corners and window surrounds.

Carefully orchestrated views of the vast expanses outside help balance the home's skimpy square footage. “The size really works well,” Rogers notes. “Ideally, somebody could reside there full time. And people do,” he adds. “In Manhattan and Tokyo, this amount of living space is quite common.”