Aldo’s Tiny Houses

This is a short true Christmas story. It begins with a memory and ends with a gift for whoever will read it.
Childhood memories are made of objects, materials, smells, colors. In one of my best ones, there are some tiny houses for the Nativity scene that my father built with cardboard of shoe boxes and then painted with tempera colors.
Trying to relive that feeling again, I built some similar houses my way, using materials that were familiar to me: paper, pencil, squares, colored pencils, glue stick, scissors, magazines.

Aldo’s houses had small lights inside and holes in the walls for windows and doors. This detail recalls another image: my sister and I in the back seats of the car, on Sunday evening, looking at the houses quickly sliding along the way. Each house had its own story, or rather it was a a microcosm, a container of stories. Their attraction was irresistible: it passed through the lighted windows and pressed my face against the car window glass.
All of this could not be missing in my paper houses: a thin thread of lights passed through the windows holes and, if necessary, was adjusted through the roof opening.

But also some innovations have appeared in my remake, like unexpected shadows inside when the lights turn on, plants, animals and roomers, tiny collage details in the outer walls.

There is an inside and an outside in every home:

you can come and go,
much comes out of what is inside, but not everything;

much comes in of what is outside, but not everything,
sometimes it stops at the door and stands there, but nobody opens…

I suddenly recalled this poem by my friend Giusi Quarenghi.

I found them quite nice but too light and even too pleased with the meticulous engravings: they didn’t look nothing like Aldo’s ones (maybe looking a little like “me”?). My disappointment was great: they lacked the material, the thickness, the roughness, the earth colors, the imperfect of reality.

So what to do? I looked for the original ones and found some inside a cathode ray tube television, where many years ago my father built an anti-cat Nativity scene, reusing some old stuff.

I finally refound everything was missing in my new houses: a support base, the consistency of the cardboard, a deliberately rough finishing, the naturalness of asymmetry. I discovered many details, so that I could imagine how thoughts and hands worked together in the creative process.

What should a house be like? A special building project came to my mind: a district of Correggio, a small town near Reggio Emilia, where a group of houses were designed together with children. Transparent, hard outside, soft inside, large, playful, decorated, intimate, peaceful, magical: these were the most important qualities of a home according to the opinion of the involved children.

Maybe that’s the point: we need different, even opposite qualities, which compensate each other and respond to different needs. Thus, everyone can bring their own qualities to their houses. What are yours? What kind of house will come out from your hands?
Big or small, silent or noisy, wooden or stone’s, stable or mobile, a nest, a cave, a tent, or a “terra cotta” one…

The story is over, but could go on. The opening roof can turn the house into a small box: what will it contain? If you would like to build your own one, just subscribe to the newsletter and write your request to
So good luck to all the home creators.
Many thanks to my father Aldo for his magical playhouses, to Ivan for digitizing the template, to all the home keepers, visible and invisible.

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