Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is Small Really Realistic?

There is a growing movement in the home/house world that is encouraging folks to downsize, to leave the McMansion behind and live in a house with less that 500 square feet.

Well, for starters... no thanks.

I think the pump house(yes, we had a pump house when I was growing up... our water came from a well) in our backyard was bigger than this little cabin.

There is nothing wrong with downsizing from a home you can't maintain to one that fits you and your family better. However, living in a matchbox and seemingly sacrificing comfort isn't realistic.

As the economy has changed in recent time, we have noticed a serious change in the houses that we appoint with our kitchen and bath cabinets and accessories. Homes have shrunk- not to the miniature size, but a builder that once built 4000-6000 square feet homes has recently started a development of "cottages" in the 2000-2500 square feet range. (Speaking of cottages, a very neat article at The Daily Basics turned me on to The Cottage Company- I don't like all of their ideas on development, but the designs merit praise. With tweaking, they could work everywhere... and be hot sellers.)

Each time there is a consistent theme that runs through these homes- comfort. They all have large, open floor plans that encourages togetherness across all living areas. The kitchens are meshed with living areas, formal living and dining areas have disappeared, and no sight of craft rooms, studies or entertainment rooms. With kitchens and bathrooms being our focus, it's refreshing to see the kitchen have such a focal point in the home... not just as a work space, but a living space, too.

When you look closely, it's not a bad idea. What do you get back after shrinking a couple thousand square feet? A home with 2500 square feet is certainly easier to maintain, heat and cool, and keep tidy than one with 4500- at least to me, it is.

So is it the end of the big house? Nah, not by a long shot. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, I think more and more people are concerned with keeping up with themselves. We are all busy... our homes should be a place for us to rest, our havens.

And everyone should know, I'm not knocking the small houses... I mean the SUPER small houses.

But if I have a choice, I'm just not interested in having a house with a license plate.

My post is just one of a handful of opinions today on small living... As each posts, I'll link to them below. Please go read what they have to say and leave them a comment. Wouldn't hurt for you to leave one here either, ya know?


  1. That first house you pictured is just so darn cute, I love it. It's right out of Hansel and Gretel. Does a witch live there, and is it made out of gingerbread?

    As someone who has worked on some homes of rather robust size, there is a line (in my mind)between good, comfortable elbow room for a family and ridiculous and unnecessary hugeness. I'm tired of huge mcmansions on zero lot lines with 25' ceilings shared by 2 adults and maybe a cat. Just like all the people in flat south Florida that bought Hummers. Come on, really? It's a page straight out of the Egyptian Pharohs' playbook- eogtistical monuments to oneself and one's wealth. Enough already! But referring to a 2500 SF house as a cottage seems pretty silly, don't you think? By that standard, I might just be living in a pump house.

  2. AHH Tammy, thanks for bring up the point about calling a 2500 sq. ft. house a cottage.

    In some of these neighborhoods where the standard is 4000+, 2500 sq. may feel like a cottage. It's certainly not what pops in to my mind when I think of the word, but maybe it's the industry's way of convincing people that having half a home that you don't use is the silly part.

    When a homeowner is paying 6 figures for a lot(less than half an acre), the expectations of grandeur are built in. This way, one can have the luxuries of a larger place without requiring a staff to keep it up!

    Don't even get me started on the Hummer epidemic. ;-)

  3. Not sure about the cottage with a license plate..ahh..the freedom to roam freely. Btu seriously, yes there's an overall trend to build smaller but I'm not sure I trust it. I do worry that once we finally reach another upswing all will go back to where it was. It's the overall mindset of people to just not really want to "small down".
    The other thing is, it shouldn't have to necessarily be cottage living. Here in Florida we have so many developments ie walls, roads, utilities - that have been deserted after the crash and can now be bought for cheap money. Those are ideal for builders to play with new, and even some modern designs and footprints, small but chic being the idea.
    But not sure we're really ready for that on a large scale.

  4. Agree completely, Veronika- one of my greatest passions is urban redevelopment. Here in rural Alabama, it's more on a scale of historic downtown renewal, but the mission is the same.

    I also worry that once times are better we'll go back to the BIG. It's a bit discouraging even though it certainly makes our business easier to operate... the bigger the houses, the bigger the kitchens, the bigger the paychecks. Doing things that are conscious of our surroundings and environment shouldn't be a fad. Sadly, it is.

  5. I would rather have a home that I own than a house that owns me! We are going to have to downsize considerably to live in our woods but having the beautiful nature around us will make our home seem large!

  6. I love having just enough space to be comfortable. I live in my head for the most part and I hate to clean so I find that having room for a nice home-office area and a bed is pretty much all I need (and a workable kitchen, of course). Why do people convince themselves they need so much, I wonder? Enjoyed the post very much!

  7. I'm one of those people who lives small and likes it that way. I cannot imagine being tied down due to home maintenance requirements. I work in homes several orders of magnitude larger than mine and it's interesting to observe the goings-on as an outsider. I don't know what the answers are but I seriously doubt they lie behind a security gate in a sprawling exurb.

  8. Cyra- excited to hear that you are "owning" your space! Let us know about what you move in to.

    Saxon- I'm with you on why people need so much when they likely use so little... Unanswered question for sure!

    Paul- I'm a small-nester too... Even with my smaller space, keeping it up is quite a bit of work. I couldn't imagine maintaining some of the spaces we work in!

  9. Hey, I posted a comment too. Where did it go? Are you shunning me just because I mocked your ice cream?

  10. Alexandra... You commented on a different post, and yes dear, it showed up!

  11. I guess, having lived my entire adult life in Cities - I have grown accustomed to small spaces. My apartment in Chicago was 1400sqft and when I moved to New York, I was able to only afford a little under 900sqft.

    As time went on and I got married, my husband and I moved into 1900sqft together. It's a very comfortable space for two people, and we though ahead and realized it would quite possibly hold a third if we installed proper storage.

    We've since sold that apartment and were faced with a question as to whether we wanted to 'super-size' out in the country - and in the long run, we decided that we loved living small.

    Our new place is just about 1900sqft, and this time we have a yard. We are in it for the long haul-no McMansions, or craft rooms for us. This house we can grow old in, comfortably.

    I too wrote about the slow home movement we're seeing people writing about lately: http://www.abcddesign.com/archives/2010/08/10/a-smaller-life-signs-of-a-slow-home-movement/ Please do come by!

    : ) ABCD

  12. Thanks a lot of that perspective, Amy... It's interesting to see someone who has lived in the completely opposite situation I have, having always lived in a relatively rural area.

    Great comment!

  13. Funny...I've actually seen a house quite similar to the first (maybe a bit large...we'll say 700 sq. ft.). I chuckle everytime I see it. At first, I wondered if it was a barber shop or something. Agree with you on comfort and useful but not overdone. There is a happy balance to everything.

  14. I'm not sure about the easier to keep clean thing. You should see this 2500 sq. ft. house right now. Horrors! And there's no place to put the things we "need". No place to craft or hobby without having to step around it or over it. It's out there for the whole world to see. And storage? What a joke! And... I can't imagine my husband and me watching TV in the same room. He watches the stoopidest things. However, I do sometimes long for an old, Arts and Crafts style bungalow. In the end, I think it all depends on the family. Some are suited to small, some - maybe the messier of us who need rooms to hide everything - aren't.

  15. I moved from a 970sf house with just me and 2 dogs to a 1250sf house with 4 extra people and 3 more dogs and it was tight but it was necessary and we all survived. Now that the number of occupants is down to 2 adults and 3 dogs, it's just about the right size house. I am so glad I did not "buy up" to a house that would now seem way to big and hard to sell in today's housing market. I like the saying "Live simply so others can simply live."


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