Small Home vs. Small Spaces

pianoladyJuly 18, 2006

I find the concept of what makes a home "small" interesting. For example, I do have about 2000 sq. feet if I count the basement (only 1172 main floor). But, most of the rooms in this house are very, very small. An alley bathroom, bedrooms only 8'X10', that kind of thing. The master is slightly larger, but only a full size bed fits in there comfortably (unless you don't need a dresser!). Our only large room exists because we took out a wall.

So it's very possible some of us have "larger" homes, but smaller rooms, and probably share similar decorating dilemmas. Square feet doesn't mean a thing, it's the layout that determines "small" in my opinion.

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Is your basement completely finished and heated/cooled living space? Where I live, that's the only way it "counts" toward square footage, same with attics.

I'm in that situation with my 1900sf - the rooms are irritatingly small, I just have a couple more of 'em than the folks with the tiny houses. Not quite as small as yours but definitely downright shrimpy compared to the monster houses being built by the thousands today. "12x12" is the magic number in this house. It's very frustrating to work with them. Yeah, the "thou shalt never push your furniture right up against the walls" (so-called) rule really works when your living room is twelve feet square and you want to seat more than three people in it. Sheesh! It's also weird in that we joke about having a Tardis-house - from the front it's a small Cape, from the side it's a saltbox which gives us a whole extra floor on the back half of the house that you can't see from the front, so people look at a picture of our house and say "how do you get 1900sf in THAT?":

(We're hoping to put in some landscaping this fall. That cherry tree has died and is being removed.)
    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 2:34PM
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My house was approx 1600 sq feet when it was built in the early 60's. In the 80's they added on about 150 to the main house and 200 to the other side of the garage (the windows on the left front are part of the studio). When we bought they advertised the main part of the house at around 1800. The 200 is a completely separate unit with it's own heat, electricity etc. We rent it out. The main changes in the house were to the MBR and bath and the kitchen. The guest bedrooms are ok but the closets are miniscule. But I agree the houses built at that time seemed more broken up. This house is smaller than my last house but in some ways it feels bigger. Probably because the square footage is in the living areas instead of the BRs.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 4:09PM
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Actually I would much rather have actual defined rooms instead of the rambling, amorphous "spaces" many newer houses have. I miss being able to close off rooms that aren't used as much, so they don't get as dusty and don't need as much heat. And I definitely don't like guests being able to see the messy kitchen when they're over, we'd actually like to close down the almost-8' wide opening between kitchen and living room to a single door size and put double swinging doors into it, and box in the stairs so we can put a nicely trimmed out "doorway" in that corner of the LR. I also want to put a French door (single) in the doorway between foyer and the hallway between the MBR and the kitchen, so less noise from the front door area gets back to the bedroom.

I guess I'm old-fashioned in not really appreciating the "open concept" look in all its modern glory.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 6:38PM
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I agree johnmari, I don't appreciate the open concept either. My parents have an open concept home, and frankly, they don't know what to do with it. Big awkward room right inside the front door with a fireplace that they never use (that I wish I had!), and an unfriendly floorplan that opens the kitchen/dining right into the big livingroom with a 8' opening (much unusable space). The placement of the stairs and the huge opening into the kitchen makes furniture placement awkward at best.

I do like having many rooms.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 7:52PM
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I didn't like most of the new homes I looked at either, when I was house hunting. Most had huge "great rooms" with a little kitchen crammed into a corner of it. All the bedrooms were tiny, except the master suite.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 10:26PM
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I'm totally a fan of rooms as well (as opposed to one big "great" room). I'm a traditional kind of gal.

Our house is 1900 sf but we have a lot of small house challenges because of the way the square footage is allocated. The largest room in the house is the kitchen, which is TRULY remarkable given the age of the house. It's 220 sf or so. On a holiday house tour in our village we looked at houses way bigger than ours but same vintage with tiny kitchens.

Our upstairs bath is also very large at around 11' x 11'. Someday we will do a nice new bath in there and it will be fun but I wouldn't have minded having some of that extra square footage in the master bedroom, which is only about 8 inches bigger on each side.

I also love that our house has some of the gracious features that larger houses tend to have, like a real front entry and a mudroom in the back and the upstairs "hall" is more of a square room than a narrow strip. I don't really mind that the actual rooms are smaller to accommodate these features.

Here is my floor plan (with some furniture to give you a sense of scale, that's a king bed in our bedroom)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 5:10AM
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I like that my home has real rooms. I really don't care for houses where you can see the kitchen from the living area. Sometimes it's nice to forget the mess in the kitchen ;-) Our house is 1680 sq ft and the rooms are small because they tried to include everything when they built the house, ie. 4 beds, main floor laundry, living room, dining room and eat-in kitchen, 2 1/2 baths, everything is there, just on a smaller scale. For example our family room is 9'x13', "floating" the furniture in the room just isn't an option lol. I was visiting a friend last week and her house is a huge massive open space, all weekend I tried to figure out how I could place furniture in it. Another thing is all the noise carries through all the open areas.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 5:26PM
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Whether a house is considered small is a matter of context and quality. In real estate, a house is described by the number of rooms, not the quality/size/usability of the space. People often compare a home by the square footage then the number & types of rooms.

If I compare my home (1100sf living space)to kgwlisa (who showed her floor plan above) her home is huge. Just count the number of rooms. My home is considered as having 5 rooms. (2) bedrooms, an eat in kitchen, living room and large front parlor + 1.5 baths. But the quality of those rooms is significant. The bedrooms are 10X11 & 12X15, Living room is 17X20 attached and open to my kitchen 12X20. The separation between the living room and kitchen is made by a drop header, flooring change and the kitchen peninsula. When you walk into my home, you can see from the front door, through the kitchen to the sliding glass doors in the back of the living room, so it "feels" big. The thing that we are missing is a den, some place to be away from others and their activities. By extending the lines of sight from one space into another, it makes the home feel larger and adds to the quality of the house.

I do consider my home small, it is small for what people are looking for. But in my area, it is not an uncommon size.

There is a book series by Sara Susanka call "the not so small house" that explains this very well. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in building or renovating a small home to improve the quality of the space.


Home sweet home Long Island NY
    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 8:36PM
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My house is 1550 sq ft and my brother's is exactly the same size. However, his layout is so much better that his house appears to be much larger. We both have capes but his house has a nice open layout with the MBR and den on one side of the house and the LR, DR, kitchen on the other. The LR, DR and kitchen all open into each other which is what makes it appear so spacious. My house has a lot of closed off smaller rooms which makes it appear tiny. I am currently doing an addition so pretty soon I may not "qualify" for this forum as my house will be 2100 sq ft. Either way, I'd love ideas on how to maximize space, esp when you have as much stuff as we have!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 11:13PM
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But Candace, I probably have many more "small space" decorating issues than you do. Your living room is 17x20, mine is 13x15. Your master bedroom (I presume) is 12x15... I'd KILL for that extra 3 feet of space in my master (mine is a tad under 12x12). I don't really consider my house small and I love having the many rooms but the fact is that in this day and age, my house is small. Your home is positively charming.

The real question is, are those three boys yours and do they all share a single bedroom in your house?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 8:24AM
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Kgwlisa- I agree with you, small spaces do present different challenges. You can have a small house with small rooms, or a small house with less rooms, but larger ones. I wish we had just (1) extra room  the problem with open plans homes, is that you have no "quiet" space. If one person is watching TV, the entire living area is subjected to it.

There are many people on this board that donÂt feel that their homes are "small" but rather, provides enough room for their lifestyle and families. Your home will grow and develop with you. (Changes in room uses, additions, decorative changes)

We are a family of three. Only the boy in the red pants is ours. The other people are all friends that came over to help out with laying the sod that day. However, the prior owner had (3) small children sharing (1) bedroom, they moved up to a larger home.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 2:45PM
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I love your house! Just beautiful.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 3:02PM
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I seem to be going for the inversion of what some of you are describing: normal or spacious rooms, but not many of them (2 bedrooms, one bathroom, kitchen, living room). The interior plan's not completely finalized, but the dimensions I've got to work with are set at 1200 SF, and I plan to use some of that for a porch, making for an interior of about 990 SF. It's the kind of thing you'd get if you took a perfectly good, fairly roomy 1-to-2-bedroom apartment and made a house out of it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 9:06PM
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Candace I love your porch soo pretty.

OUr home 1859sf is terrifically set up for us. The floor plan and orientation to NSEW was a big reason we bought this home. My dh can be sleeping in the master and not hear any of the appliances of the house. WE grew up in Segmented homes that many of you are describing and we love them but they are hard to find around here so another big selling point to us was the 3/4 walls between our lr/dr/k gives us somewhat of a break but allows some space deffinition and most importantly the kitchen always "looks" put together to anyone that stops by lol note I said "looks" put together - which it's not of course.

I had to flip the plan to orientate it properly so the writing is backwards and what looks like 8's are really 6's

Here is a link that might be useful: RaNaes Floorplan

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 12:23PM
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