top of page

Little Houses, Big Hearts?

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

The main shape of villages in Portugal is defined by human-sized houses, regardless of their color and shape.

There is no doubt that by American standards, they would be labeled as 'tiny houses.' This raises the question: Why did housing in America become so big? The sheer size of America might explain why expanding housing was never a concern. The US is 107 times larger than Portugal. Just imagine, the total area of Portugal, including its islands, is slightly smaller than the state of Indiana alone.

House at the entrance of São Bernardino in Peniche, Portugal But what are the other reasons housing in America became so big? Ask ChatGPT for key factors and here they are, in substance. Economic growth and increasing wealth allowed people to afford larger homes. Rising incomes and access to credit made it possible for more individuals and families to purchase bigger houses. After World War II, there was a shift towards suburban living. With the expansion of suburbs, land became more available and affordable, enabling the construction of larger homes with larger lots. The American dream of homeownership associated with success and status, has influenced the desire for larger houses. And changing lifestyles with people seeking more private spaces, separate rooms for children, home offices, and entertainment areas. Larger homes catered to these evolving lifestyle demands.

Morality? In its own words: "With the proliferation of home improvement shows, glossy magazines, and social media showcasing extravagant homes, there has been an increase in consumer expectations for larger, more luxurious living spaces. The notion of a "dream home" has become synonymous with a spacious, comfortable dwelling, leading to a demand for larger living spaces.” True or false? Let's take back agency.

These houses spotted in different villages along the Silver Coast in Portugal tell myriads of stories,

memories and secrets. Each has something distinctive, at time quirky. Each is a template for one's dreams, past and future.

There are other reasons why most houses in Europe and the UK are smaller. They were built prior to the advent of cars when it was common to share walls with other houses and live in tight-knit and sheltered communities. The car culture has somehow changed the dynamic of villages for the second half of the 20th century. With shopping malls settling outside hamlets, life in villages got stripped to life inside. Meeting points such as plaças, bakeries and places of cult emptied and remaining commerces went out of business. in the blog The Portable Wife titled "British vs American Houses: 19 Important Differences," other differences are outlined. "When Americans start house hunting in the UK, their first question is often, 'why are British houses so small?' ... "When my husband and I moved to England from the US, we went from a large Texas new construction to a small London apartment in a 150-year-old converted house. That move taught us a lot, like how to dry clothes without a dryer and how to stop flies from getting into screenless windows.”

Nature when tamed in pots, in curated gardens, and serving as natural fences. The simplicity of life Portugal offers might not be for everyone but it is worth trying as a change in lifestyle and believe system. Portugal does brings us back to the praising of natural sources. The Atlantic ocean and its giant cliffs sharply shaped by natural erosion never stop remind us what humans are to nature in scale. And to embrace that balance in power isn’t downsizing us human but rather bringing us a sheer appreciation of the natural wonders and their own organic ways of shaping the landscapes surrounding us without our need of intervention.

This photo essay is an ode to the small houses that pepper the hamlets of Portugal around the Silver Coast, from Praia São Bernardino to Alto Veríssimo in Peniche, Oeste. And who wouldn't be curious about a place called Alto Veríssimo? What makes it stand out? Pastelaria Doce Fantasia that brings in each Portuguese family driving by, for its delicious Pastels de Nata.

Lions, swans or fishes, always in pairs, guard the gate from their juxtaposed pillars. To scout a region and know what life would be, try to be embedded for a week in one place, and rent a bike. A rented bike for two weeks costs between €70 to €90 in June in Peniche. Bike across the land to capture the clash of scents and the contrasts in climate. Sometimes the scent of seaweed is replaced by cow shit. Other times, a cloudy day might cast a different outlook to a house photographed the day before. The thrill to ride a bike up and down the hill is like being a child again. And alike sheets drying in the wind, no unnecessary energy used but your own self will–:)

What you will always find in Portugal? Never far, the Atlantic Ocean. All over, the rural landscape. Forteresses that once defended the country. A saint associated to a town. A bus stop. And of course, Pastels de Nata. All pictures by

If you wish to invest in a Region of Portugal, reach out with your questions and check also out our properties for sale. Mojo is a Boutique Real Estate guiding and assisting investors and buyers in Portugal, scouting and cherry picking the perfect property within specifics and budget. We manage and coordinate the purchase process and renovations as well as the property for short and long-term rent striving optimal yields for our investors. Tell us about your dream and we'll scout for you. More on Instagram | Reach out via whatsapp: +351.962.621259

34 views0 comments


bottom of page