Inside Elon Musk's tiny house

Here's what happens when you pay attention to Elon Musk's tweets. Also, Understandably Live today (1 pm ET)! And 7 other things worth your time.

The first draft of today’s newsletter comes to you from the back deck of my house, where I was serenaded as I wrote by the sounds of birds, and children playing, and splashing in the neighbor’s pool, and—

Leaf blowers. Loud ones. Noisy, two-stroke gasoline-powered little buggers.

Major pet peeve. I’m still waiting on Elon Musk’s promise to fix this.

Alas, that two-year-old tweet has never come to fruition (as far as I know)—what with electric cars and spaceships and solar panels and all that taking up Musk’s time.

So instead, let’s focus today another Muskian tweet—one I’ve written about before, I admit—but one that might have greater reach in the long run.

It’s from June 9, which is when Musk (replying to a fan who described Musk as someone who “lives very modestly by billionaire standards”) revealed what he said are his current living accommodations:

My primary home is literally a ~$50k house in Boca Chica / Starbase that I rent from SpaceX. It’s kinda awesome though.

Only house I own is the events house in the Bay Area. If I sold it, the house would see less use, unless bought by a big family, which might happen some day.

There are a few Twitter accounts and blogs I sometimes read that track Musk’s life and companies in detail; I think Teslarati was the first to pick up on this.

Until then, this revelation flew under the radar. (Note that the leaf blower thing from 2019 has about 291,000 “likes,” while this “I live in a tiny house” tweet has only 18,000).

The replies, such as they were, focused on whether Musk really does lead a modest life—until, eventually, people started to ask:

Wait, tell us a little more about this little $50,000 house…

It turns out, Musk is almost certainly living in an itty-bitty 380-square-foot, foldable house-in-a-box; it was manufactured by a company called Boxabl, delivered to the SpaceX launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on a flatbed truck, and set up on site in less than a day.

The secret was hiding in plain sight, actually, given that Boxabl posted a YouTube video last November that offered a tour.

Boxabl co-founder Galiano Tiramani even teased that it had been delivered for the use of "a top-secret customer" located in (you guessed it): Boca Chica, Texas.

You'll note that Tiramani sits next to a giant poster of a SpaceX rocket inside the tiny home while he talks about his "top-secret customer," so making the connection didn't exactly require Sherlock Holmes levels of deductive reasoning.

Anyway, I’ve been intrigued enough by this whole thing that I decided to try to interview Musk about it for Understandably Live.

When that didn’t work, I reached out instead to Paolo Tiramani, brother of Galiano Tiramani, above, who is the CEO and cofounder of Boxabl.

(The interview is today at 1 pm ET; you can sign up here if you want to be in on it.)

Joking aside, I think this will be a good interview. We'll talk about Musk, the future of housing, and why the idea of a house that can fit in a shipping container seems so intriguing.

(Also, not to get too meta, but I’ll ask about how to get buzz for your company—since Musk’s reply tweet ultimately drove millions more people to learn about Boxabl’s offering.)

Anyway: mass-produced, foldable housing with components that can fit into current standard shipping containers? That's a big idea.

In fact, it's quite possibly even bigger than electric cars and space travel, at least during our lifetimes. Let's put it this way:

  • Almost none of us reading this article will ever go to space. That's all about the future.

  • Across the planet, roughly one car is produced for every 7.8 people, so, at most, about 13% of the world's population have access to a car.

  • But nearly 100% of people on Earth live in houses or apartment structures, and almost all of them were built the same way: constructed on site, one at a time.

We live in an era in which housing affordability is a huge and growing problem almost everywhere—and then we find out that Musk, with a reported net worth of $163 billion as I write this—literally lays his head at night inside the prototype for a possible home of the future?

It’s pretty wild. Now, about the super-quiet leaf blowers

Call for comments: Let’s just ask—what do you think of, when you think of Elon Musk?

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Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Daniel Oberhaus (2018) on Flickr. As noted, I wrote about some of this on Inc.com. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.