LOOK: This 17sqm Home Is The Smallest We’ve Seen!

This compact space isn’t all about minimalism or budget—it’s about the sheer joy of small spaces

Photography: Greg Cox/ Styling: Sven Alberding/

South African architect Clara da Cruz Almeida was trying to come up with practical advice for a recent intern—a former student who had moved back home, and was now camping in his mother’s garage while commuting to work in the city. The disconnect between this student’s two spaces rankled.

“I told him he had to invest in property before buying a car,” Clara says, adding that a car would only lose money. But, when they started looking at options, they quickly realized that purchasing the usual house-and-lot would be completely beyond his budget. She then proposed a more novel solution: what if the student could just purchase a house, and negotiate for a lease on land?  

Clara’s idea was to create a pre-fabricated, compact housing module: one that could stand alone, or be integrated with other units, that could fit into a backyard or side space of an existing house, and which could, on its own, be mortgaged in the same way as a conventional property.

The architect explains this concept: “You bring the house, someone else provides the land, you sign an agreement, and then you can build up your savings until you’re able to buy your own property, or you simply move the house when you’re ready to move. It can be your site office during construction, or it could become a beach house. Or the landowner could buy the house from you, and use it for rental accommodation."

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Clara’s prefabricated Pod-Idladla unit is designed as the perfect, cost-effective compact urban or holiday home—and can be adapted to function completely “off the grid.” Its timber-clad exterior can be left as raw wood, or supplied in any number of colors, allowing it to either blend in to our stand out from its surroundings. The compact size of the structure means that maintenance or repainting of the lower section of the exterior can be done without scaffolding.


The Pod-Idladla is produced in two parts—with a stainless steel “top” or “lid” placed on top of a timber bottom. The distinct sections are designed to be small enough for “a couple of men to handle,” says architect Clara da Cruz Almeida, eliminating the need for large machinery like cranes. The windows on the structure are designed not only to bring light into the house, but also to assist with natural ventilation.

Porthole Window

“Windows are about what you want to see,” says architect Clara da Cruz Almeida. “The big round window is there to see the sky."

Outdoor Nook

In keeping with the pod design, the wooden deck can be assembled around the house in modules—depending on the available or required external space—in almost any shape. The deck covering is included in the pod’s standard fittings but, if required, the area could also be more formally enclosed. For added security, roller shutters can be installed above the glass doors that open out onto the deck.


“When you want to make a small footprint, go up,” says Clara, “it’s more economic that way.” The high pitch of the ceiling makes the narrow dimensions of the Pod-Idlala feel relatively spacious—with lines elongated by the ladder leading up to the mezzanine, currently used as a sleeping area.

Facing the kitchen, on the left, the fold-out table can be used at different extensions depending on requirements, either as a full-length dining table, a side table or work surface, or as a coffee table.


The pod’s compact kitchen has been fully kitted out with a ref, freezer, dishwasher, two-hob gas stove, and a large “universal sink” that could be used for washing dishes, or doing laundry.

With the “bottom level” of the kitchen unit allocated to functional workspace, the vertical space above the stove and surfaces is used for storage –including hanging the dish rack on the wall, and a thin spice rack. The universal brackets mean storage can be staggered and played with, simply by “clipping in” new boxes or brackets to the system.

The horizontal glass windows function as an easy-clean backsplash surface, while allowing for natural light and ventilation.

Work Area

The multipurpose “task room” can function as a workspace, storage space, or living space. Its long vertical window provides natural light, a view, and facilitates ventilation. The louvered windows can be individually opened, and can even double-up as informal cat-flaps for pet owners.

Get similar stools at Dimensione, Bonifacio High Street.

Work Area

By staggering the arrangement of steel brackets, surfaces and boxes, vertical tiers can be used for storage or display.

Work Area

With lighting cables no longer hidden, bright orange electric cords become a visual highlight of the house—here lighting a metal memo board, integrated with the universal storage brackets designed by Dokter and Misses.


The bathroom fittings used in the Pod-Idladla were sourced from designs Dokter and Misses’ Katy Taplin and Adriaan Hugo used in their own home, and which were perfect for the pod’s requirements. The powder-coated mirror shelf comes standard in yellow, black, white, and red, and can also be ordered in custom colors.


The pitch of the roof allows the mezzanine bedroom to feel relatively spacious—enough for additional storage, and a mirror. The bed also features integrated storage, under the mattress, with bedside tables that pull in and out of the bed.

The porthole window above the bed has a practical function: to provide natural ventilation and offer a window onto the night sky, when lying in bed. The mezzanine’s two side windows allow one to view both sunrise and sunset from the bed.


Outdoor-gear cables provide a decorative visual cue signaling the end of the bed and the open area below.

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