Our desires for the home that we choose to live in are as varied as the individuals that we are. We have such different thoughts about everything in our lives that it can become overbearing in the process of defining the living environment that we want to inhabit. This said, we are individuals and we should have it our way as much as possible. Our life is full of compromise, but we are able in most situations to create an upside to our decisions. One of many issues that we face in selecting our home is the size of home we want or can afford. This thought process of determining the size of home comes with many objectives. Let’s explore a few.
The size of our family is paramount here, but must be matched with the size of the budget we’ve established. The actual size of the final home in some cases really doesn’t define how or if we can live comfortably in the structure. I will give you just two examples of what I mean at the opposite ends of the size spectrum.
I once toured a monster mansion of approximately 140,000 square feet of living area and it really only had two large master suites. The owner’s master bed for instance was 58′ from the bathroom. Good luck with that one in the middle of the night! Additionally the master kitchen was over 80′ to the dining room which had a ceiling height of 47′. The home is in Colorado, so have fun with having a hot meal in that room.
The other end of this size issue is a home in Houston of 1092 square feet with four bedrooms, living room, dining room, laundry, kitchen, and two and a half baths. Ten pounds in a five pound sack comes to mind here. The bedrooms were 8′ x 9′, the living room 12′ x 11′, and so on. The family that occupied this home was constantly arguing over space. I do understand that we are able to live with many restrictions; but if an available option is offered, consider the lasting consequences. Less rooms and more size allocated to each would have served this family of five much better. The current trend in my practice is to go smaller and with more quality amenities and energy considerations. Remember that in 1950 the average home was around 985 square feet of living space and peaked in 2007 at slightly over 2500 square feet. This number has since dropped to around 2200. Surprising? Not really when you examine the reasons behind the current economic issues we are facing and additionally we as a people are arguably more mobile and active than we were. We simply don’t spend as much time in our dwelling as we once did, and when we do we are more compartmentalized as individuals than we once were. i.e.: computers, the internet, texting, multiple televisions with-in the household. These and many other activities divide rather than create a cohesive family center environment for the home. I hope that this fracturing of the family unit and the separation of activities does not continue at the present rate; but rather with a more structured and scheduled lifestyle brought into our homes; we will re-connect and be closer. Downsizing doesn’t have to be a negative option. Well designed homes of smaller footage can and do live larger than their sizes would suggest. The design and architectural community facing the reality of creating smaller spaces are consistently coming up with amazing space planning and innovation of newer materials and multi-functional use of the space that we have to work with. Define your lifestyle, expectations and realistic budget first and the design team will more clearly understand the space that you want to occupy. Good design really doesn’t come from the amount of money spent, rather the careful understanding of our client and a sincere process of thought by all parties involved. A smaller home really can be a very livable and comfortable environment. Allow the outside environment to become an intricate component of the inside living space. Create multi-functional areas specific to their task, but flexible and possibly expandable to future usage. The convenience, cost and maintenance of a smaller dwelling also renders more quality time for us as homeowners to pursue other interests. I remember the first home that I designed and built larger than I needed and every Saturday morning you could count on me doing yard work. Over the years I lived in many other homes and learned to create almost maintenance free landscape requirements. The home I now occupy is much smaller, more convenient, and virtually no yard work, allowing us to hike and tour the mountains and enjoy traveling with my extra time. I never want a home to own me or my time again!
Creating your home or the selection process of purchasing a pre-existing dwelling I believe, must start with a simple but very effective process of self examination of the family unit’s lifestyle and individual desires. We have developed a matrix of questions for our clients that offer an insight into many lifestyle and space requirements for the prospective homeowners. You are welcome to download and explore these in order to more fully understand who and whom your family really is. I’m sure that we haven’t answered or addressed every question, but this process might instill a desire to question all members of the family about just what makes them happy.
I am very fortunate in being invited to address small children in school classes about art and architecture. This is a very rewarding and educational event for them and I learn from them much more. I bring to the class a coloring book of sorts and have them design their bedroom and playroom. There are always some very interesting results and wants for a second grader. Examples such as a moat around the playroom, swimming pool in the bedroom, motorcycle track or jungle gym in the playroom. Again, your children are individuals and their lives and wants need to be considered. I’m not advocating putting the above amenities in their rooms, but rather understand the thought process they are working through when asking for these things. What does the “moat” around the room really translate to in his or her mind? Fun stuff, I think.
You may also download this little fun “coloring book” from our web site and allow your children to create their world. Watch in wonder as they express their thoughts.
We may think we know who we and our family are; but when we really work with these simple processes, answers to questions that we’ve never asked about the lifestyle that we truly want to live await discovery. That’s okay, and a journey worth the effort.
Living smaller or more efficiently is, I believe, going to become the rule rather than the exception of the future of our housing requirements. Everything that we are facing in our future, transportation, housing, food intake, land conservation, and overall consumption of our resources will become more of a consideration and thoughtful process in our life choices.
Size does matter in our choice of home. Smaller will be the rule. We will live with more awareness of our environment. You will conserve energy more effectively. Our lives will produce a more responsible and cleaner world for our descendants. Our housing will become more of an asset to the world that all of us share, and less of a liability to the environment we inhabit. Each small step that we take as individuals creates the very best for all of us. This is the world that we all yearn for and will be so very proud to leave for the generations to follow.
I am so proud to be a small contributing element of this necessary movement. Additionally, a well designed home lives better, healthier, and sells better, every time.
I hope I have created some food for thought and provided examples that you might not have considered. This process hopefully will be an exciting adventure and one of pleasant memories for each member of the family. Additionally should you have any further questions please feel free to contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to help with a workable solution.
Until next time enjoy the process!
Ken Pieper AIBD
Professional Residential Designer
Ken Pieper and Associates, LLC