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Last Updated: Friday, 8 June 2007, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
Living in a box

An eight-foot aluminium box is being touted as the solution to the housing shortage. But what's it like to sleep, eat, wash and entertain in one? BBC News's Rajesh Mirchandani did just that.

I've brought a cat, to see if I can swing it. I can. It's stuffed - the cat, that is - so don't worry.

Even Paris Hilton's prison cell is bigger than this, although I doubt it had as many mod cons. Just old lags.

Entering the box
It's on show at Birmingham's Extreme Buildings Festival
The sleek lines on the outside of my cube house are repeated within. It has a futuristic, ordered look about it, tastefully done in shades of calming grey.

The front door leads straight into a combined shower/toilet cubicle which poses a few interesting logistical questions, but ultimately can save time (although I end up brushing my teeth in the kitchen sink, unwilling to perform this ablution in such close proximity to the privy).

Three steps takes me from the front door to the back of the house, where the kitchen is compact and very usable. Just don't try and fit too many items into the tiny fridge.

Items tumble out of the tiny fridge
No weekly shop for this fridge
The rest of the house is a geometric labyrinth of drawers, shelves and folding panels which turn into bed frames and seats, and which all disappear under the floor or into the wall, giving more storage options.

There's a nifty dining table which pulls out from under some drawers: very clever but I'm not sure I'd want to manoeuvre it in and out every day. The bed pulls down from the wall into a comfortable sleeping area that's not at all cramped.

I don't feel claustrophobic at any time - even with 12 guests round for a party. Not a world record attempt, just a test to see if you really can lead a normal life here. Twelve, I realise, is perhaps four too many for such a small space. Which is, ahem, the first time I've found myself too popular.

Pied-a-terre

Once the guests leave, it's a real pleasure to potter around (admittedly with everything within arm's reach), under the soothing glow of the low energy lights, in my well-insulated cocoon.

Party in the pod house
The architect Stephen Cherry (right) at the party
It's a very tranquil place but at the same time it's a bit of an adventure - there's always something to slide out or under, pull down, tuck away, generally fiddle with, if only out of the need for space. To live here you have to be ordered: to do one thing, you have to finish another first and put it away. And that may be my and other compact-livers' downfall.

Two of my party guests, students both, thought it was cool for parties but that they had too much "stuff" to be able to live here. Would a key worker, at whom these pods are aimed, not be in the same position?

At 50,000 (fully installed and functioning), it could be a starter home for someone struggling with today's house prices, but a better option might be a crash-pad for someone who works five days a week in one location and goes home at the weekend.

Affordable housing is again a key issue of our times. As the architect told me, living in an eight-foot cube isn't for everyone, but it may be for some.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

It sounds so cute - like a Wendy House for grownups. And as a key worker, I guess I qualify. But where would I put my 400 books, and 200 DVDs and masses of other stuff? Along with my little Wendy House, I'd have to have a rather large storage unit to store my belongings - which would negate the whole space/money saving aspect of the idea.
MB, London

Don't they already have these in Germany outside some universities? I don't think I would ever use one unless it were as say a hotel room for a couple of nights stay max. But as for a solution to the housing situation I don't think it should be allowed to gather any pace. I would rather live in shared accommodation than live by myself in a 3D puzzle.
Matt, Yorkshire

Some people seem to be missing the point. This is clearly designed for places such as London where land is very expensive. And in London there is no place to leave a caravan, or a boat, cheaply for long periods of time. As long as this unit has a long life (and ideally can be moved and replanted if necessary) then it's value will increase not decrease. And as for David of Northampton's idea of camping out at work, yeah, I'm sure that we could fit a few hundred beds in the back of our office. I, and a lot of people, live two hours or more away from work. A relatively cheap crash pad in town would be great.
Joe Grey, Folkestone

My caravan offers more space, comfort, facilities, gismos and gadgets for a quarter of the price.
Roger Davis, Beith, Ayrshire

Why would people want to buy a property like this when it would seem that the value would only decrease, like a caravan? Buying property is a form of investment, and people like key workers and students who these properties are aimed at surely haven't got 50,000 to throw away?
Elizabeth Simpson, Essex

Surely the concept of having an extra home to use as a crash pad is one of the contributing factors to the housing shortage in the first place? If you can't comfortably commute from your home to your job, then you should think about relocating one or the other.
Anthony Hughes, Cardiff

Definitely not a solution to the housing shortage, but I can see them being rented out like hotel rooms to contract workers and the like.
C Bailey, Derby, UK

I think its really good that people are thinking of new ideas to make cheap homes but I cant imagine living there with my 6ft 5 boyfriend. Would people that tall even be able to fold their legs under the table?
Dawn, Bristol

My kids are at the age now where they need to start thinking about getting their own places. They earn less than 20K, They are not going to indulge this, they might as well buy a boat and live on that. Planners, Developers, Politicians... get real.
PadiRaki, Gosport

Why pay 50 grand for something so basic? You could buy a 26x6 ft canal barge for no more, or a far more versatile caravan or camper van for far less.
David Ford, London

It's very well designed but I think that space is too important to people to live like this all the time.
Katie, Bournemouth

It's not a home - we should be building houses for people to live in, not try to induce people to waste their money on things like this. As for the comment that you could have one of these as a crash pad and then go home at weekends defies logic. Better to sleep on a bed in the back of the office if you need to spend that much time there.
David, Northampton

If this is a solution to starter homes or crash-pad then lets just watch depression soar.
Matthew Smith, Colchester

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