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Small Living

June 20, 2011

After “that sounds like a lot of work,” and “that is exactly what I want(ed) to do,” the most common comment we hear from people is, “that is going to be a small house.”

Our old house was around 990 sq. ft. and our planned house will be around 1700 sq. ft inside. To Mr. B and I, that seems gigantic. We decided to go with a “smaller” house because (a) we’re paying for it, (b) we don’t need that much space, (c) this seems huge to us. The extra 710 sq. ft. combined with a better floor plan is going to give us a lot more space, even if each room is not particularly large.

When we started planning the house we set the cap at 2000 sq. ft. I was surprised to find that many of the available floor plans were well over 2000 sq. ft., even if they were just 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom houses (those were actually very rare). I recently heard that the average American house has increased from 983 sq. ft. in 1950 to 2349 in 2004.

I really took A Pattern Language to heart when planning our house (see more here): a long, narrow house with lots of light, and a flow of rooms from most public to most private. Sure, I wanted a library, a family room, maybe more storage in a basement or attic, but we were also realistic about our needs. Another thing that I really thought about was the long-term use of the house. Right now it is just Mr. B and I. We occasionally have guests and want them to be comfortable. We might have a larger family in the future (and more house guests), but that will change too, until it is just the two of us and the occasional guest. I am one of those people who likes things to be clean but hate cleaning, so the idea of having a giant house to clean for the rest of my life was horrifying.

This article from NPR has interesting interviews with people who have giant houses and the communities that the houses are in. I thought that the discussion about what drives our need for bigger houses to be interesting.

Do you feel like larger houses are worth the money? Or do you think we should all be living smaller, 1950s style?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marie permalink
    June 20, 2011 2:57 pm

    I’m a small house lover. Big spaces in a small house. I like the idea of a lot of light rather than so much space to hold a lot of junk. But, it is nice to have good storage. Just so you can put away winter coats when it’s summertime and store your bikes for the winter. Think of all the resources that go into making (and heating) the extra thousand square feet. Sure, in the Montana winter you may want some more space at times, but I think that people often underutilize spaces in large homes which makes them feel superfluous. If there are beautiful, functional common spaces, bedrooms can be just for sleeping/reading. One bathroom is more than adequate in my opinion, and cooler if the toilet is a compost-toilet. Think about what a computer desk needed to hold ten years ago: a huge monitor, the big, rectangular computer, a desk phone, etc. Now there are skinny i-macs and laptops that require almost no space at all and they take away the need for a separate stereo, too. But good built-in book shelves are still a necessity. Maybe under bench-seating? I think queen beds are overrated (especially during those cold Montana winters) and that double beds are great. I will say that if I built a small home I’d try to incorporate outdoor living rooms/areas as well – just to extend your house a bit and make it feel larger. I have a zillion books on small homes (you probably do, too) and they are full of creative, beautiful ideas (and many loft spaces). Now may you please share your design?! So proud of you, girlfriend!

    • June 21, 2011 8:07 am

      Marie – What a great reply! Since we did the house designs ourselves, all of the drawings are just on paper. I haven’t had a chance to get them scanned yet. The only thing I disagree with is the bed size: queens are soo worth it. Just because it is cold in the winter doesn’t mean it isn’t hot in the summer 🙂

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