Under 2000 sq ft?

krycek1984July 30, 2010

What has it come to in our society when a house under 2000 sq ft is considered "small"? That is a question I keep asking myself when I see the caption for this thread.

Under 1000 sq ft, or even 1400 sq ft maybe, I would consider "small", but anything under 2000 sq ft? That boggles my mind! Both of our houses have been around 1800 sq ft and I have trouble keeping up with upkeep and cleaning sometimes. I can't imagine 2400 sq ft!!!!!!

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yep, I agree. I was driving by some humongous homes today - had to be over 2000 sq ft and they only had MAYBE 10' out their back doors/patio doors (it looked more like 6' as I drove by them). and not any more than that on the sides. and no, the front weren't much either.

houses here don't normally have a basement either. and I know those houses sold for over 200,000.00.

it was a development where the houses all looked pretty much the same (a square box). God keep me from ever living in one of those.

I'd so much rather have the land and the mfg home than one of those. of course, people who live in those houses probably think I'm nuts too!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 12:44AM
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I don't know where you are, but where I am in NJ you can't buy an outhouse for $200,000.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 12:48AM
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2000 SQ FT sounds pretty large to me too. We had 1850 SQ FT for the largest house we even owned and it took me forever to go through it and clean. I was upset to move down to 1200 as it was a shocker to me. But I made it work. Now we are a bit larger by 175 SQ FT or so. That is just right. I use every bit of this house.

leel, Our neighbors house for sale at 85K on half acre.2 and one guessing about 1000SQ FT. Not firm on price. Like you say it all depends on where a person lives.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 1:21AM
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I just think people get wrapped up in the "bigger is better" idea. I see a lot of it on the "building a home" forum. Posters sometimes get criticized when they have smaller home plans. "Where does your stuff go? There aren't enough closets. Doesn't your laundry room need to be bigger? How are you going to live?" etc. Perfect example was a couple downgrading because their children had all moved out. Their new house was going to be 2100 sq ft. And people on the board were saying it was too small!

The one thing that gets me is having a master bath/master WIC thats as large as the master bedroom its self! I mean this isn't 1950 and I wouldn't expect to have nothing but a tiny closet, but come on! That's where a lot of the extra sq ft goes.

I also see comments sometimes like "I just can't raise 2 kids in anything less than 2400 sq ft". Really? Come on. I grew up in a 1440 sq ft house (I'm only 26, it wasn't in the dark ages!) and we were just fine. One more bathroom would have helped, but other than that, it was more than fine. They eventually finished the attic bringing it up to 1650 sq ft and it felt downright luxurious.

I think this bigger-is-better attitude is one of the many things that added to this whole house bust (among many other things). It's sad. To each his/her own, this is a free market, and if you have the money for a large home and feel that is what you want, than go for it, I would not openly criticize someone for such a personal choice. But it just baffles me.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 2:21AM
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My BIL in Richmond VA downsized from 3500 to 2800 sq ft a few years ago- big sacrifice! The last several homes they've had before that were in the 3500 range, and they are empty-nesters. The thing is- it seems like all of the new subdivisions you see are big houses. They recently put one in near us, and the houses range from 5000 to 11,000 sq ft, all on small lots. Houses there started at one million, up until the bubble burst.

All this 'conspicuous consumption' is what's gotten this country into the mess it's in. I think the McMansion crowd has been particularly hard-hit by the housing collapse.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:56AM
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Sort of reminds you of the story of the grasshopper and the ant. With us in the smaller homes being the ants, and the grasshoppers being the McMansion residents.

I have a comment to make. Back in my younger days, I worked as the "troubleshooter" for the senior v.p. over loans at a bank. The loan officers called him "Grumpy" because he held their feet to the fire about documenting the loans. He was the best boss I ever had. (Sort of reminds me of my DH, to be truthful.)

He told me that he would rather deal with a person who had known hard times and come through it and recovered, than one who had only known the "up side" of life---because you had no way of knowing what this person would do when faced with hard times. And I have to agree with him. A lot of the folks who got suckered into the bigger is better loans are grasshoppers expecting us little hardworking ants to bail them out. They all cry about big government being bad, until something happens which makes them hold out a hand, open and palm up, wanting somebody to save them. Don't tax me, but SAVE ME. I do not mean to be uncharitable. I do mean to say that self reliance is an important valuable quality heretofore part of the American ethic. Those truly in need should be helped, but those who over-reached need to be cut down a notch or two. What hurts is when you see it happening in your own family.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 12:00PM
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In our area, all of the new contstruction is massive. Most communities have a sqft minimum of 2500 to build. Standing new homes average 3k sqft above ground, plus basements, and more than (3500-3800)that is not uncommon. After looking at house, after house, after house, you lose a sense of size. It's scary. DH and I want to live small-- for so many reasons. Why do they have to make it hard to do that? I think in our area it has moved beyond "bigger is better" to "bigger is normal." A bit scary, if you ask me. To get into a "small" home in our area(think 2400/2600 sqft), you get a box on a postage stamp. To me, that's not small, and I want a real yard. We live outdoors as much as we do indoors.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:09PM
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Actually, young-gardener, we will have the same problem soon. Right now we live in the city, I bought an old colonial. We will be here for about 5-10 more years (we're still young). In 5 or so years, though, I'd like to move back out to the country (really the suburbs but the edge).

My Partner has an old house, 1600 sq ft, that he will inherit. It needs work but is functional. He will also inherit about 20 acres and a rental house.

I am tempted to build a new house on some of the 20 acres, but the township makes it difficult - they too have size limitations. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I know his sister tried to build a 2100 sq ft two-floor house and it was too small. It really ticks me off.

So, to be able to build on our land, we would have to reach a certain sq footage which 1. we don't want and 2. we couldn't afford to build a 2500 sq ft house!!!!!

So our only option may be to remodel the old century old home that he will be inheriting. (we lived in it a few years). As much as I'd like a new home, I refuse to be forced into paying 50-150k more than I want, and get 500 more sq ft than I want. It kinda makes me want to puke.

Here is the thread I have in the "remodeling" section about that home if you want to take a gander

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:24PM
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Thanks for sharing your house, krycek! It's lovely! We have a problem similiar to yours in our old home-- exterior walls are now interior walls. It really limits what you can do. In our house the result is one room that's completely akward and a master bedroom with no exterior walls...and thus NO windows. It's a cave. Renovating to the extent that we would want for functionality would be more costly than moving on, sadly. So, that's our current plan. Meanwhile, it's hard to find a workable lot with the current size limits...and also to find a really nice small house plan. (I guess they aren't in demand!)

I agree. Stand your ground for living small and well within your means!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 7:36PM
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Through countless hours of looking, I've found a couple of "small house plans".

This is a great one for a woodsy type of lot:

This is another one of my favorites. At 1900 sq ft I'd still consider it reasonable (or, as others would say, "small"):

Luckily, my Partner's family was somewhat forward-thinking with their additions. There are no awkward rooms, and things aren't *too* cut off. Most importantly, the kitchen, dining room, and living room are all in a direct line in a rectangle so that makes things great. And the master bath is right next to the master bedroom along with the laundry so we'd only have to add a door.

The thing that drives me crazy about some new home plans is the great room. I *hate* having a dining room totally out in the open so that makes finding a good small house plan even more difficult. And new home plans tend to have a lot of "wasted" space (i.e. huge closets, a huge utility room, overly large master suite, wasteful great rooms, etc.)

In my head I know what I want to do with the old house but we'll see. All I want are 10' ceilings! I am spoiled in our house now with 10' ceilings and I can't go back to 7'6"ceilings! LOL there is no second level above the kitchen/living/dining rooms so that should be easier but we'd need a whole new roof (we'd need that anyway because of how cut off it looks outside). It's crazy! We'll see where life takes us.

You are VERY right though that it is difficult to find small house plans that meet basic needs.

It's even MORE difficult to find medium/small house plans that won't be expensive to build! i.e. it's not a rectangle, tons of bump outs/cut-ins, lots of gables and architectural flourishes, etc.

If we build a simple new, smaller home, that's basically a rectangle, sadly we'd have to hire an architect. The one we live in here in the city is perfect...i would love to build a replica.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 8:42PM
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"I don't know where you are, but where I am in NJ you can't buy an outhouse for $200,000."

they were in the Gilbert/Mesa AZ area. they're mass slapped up developments. they're large houses, but no land - I wouldn't even call it a lot. Before the bust they're 'value' probably went way up. Property around here skyrocketed and people had bidding wars over a house for sale. Now they'd be lucky to get back what they paid for it. If it recovers here they'll be ok. It just doesn't seem to be recovering very fast. I wouldn't like a neighbor on either side w/in 10' and a block wall 10' behind me (if that much). Here in AZ I live outside too much for that!

I think my sister/BIL probably paid about 400,000 for their new custom 2400 sqft house down the road from me - on 3.3 acres. They had the land from the mid 90's when they got a good price for it. Same time I bought my land. That's a Sante Fe style custom home tho. A lot better value for the $'s.

There are areas where you couldn't buy a 2,000 sq ft house for under 400,000.00, maybe more. The area I mentioned isn't one of them. There are areas around here where you'd pay over a million for a house that size - depends on location, view and land.

11 yrs ago when they were building these developments like crazy out here I'd think to myself 'what are these people gonna do when the crash comes?' knowing it would. I can't imagine the electric bill to cool one of those houses in the summer! or the upkeep... well, a ton of them have lost those houses now.

There's another area out here with lots of big homes - then on the outskirts of that area they have a ton of small patio homes - maybe 1000 sq ft. with small yards. those are nice for singles or empty nesters.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 9:19PM
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Decent, 2000-2700 sq ft houses, age of 15-35 y/o houses in exurbia here, on an average of 2 acres, would go for 200k-250k, I would say. Here in Cleveland. It just varies so much. You can get a very nice house in the city its self for very cheap because obviously it's a distressed area. But if you are wise and choose the right area (one that is gentrifying) it will work in your favor.

Sometimes I look at all the developments out in exurbia/suburbia and the huge houses and I think...who the hel* has that much money? And how can so many people have that much money?!?!!? It baffles me! Where do they keep getting the wealthy people to fill them!!!!!

Wanna hear something scary...I bought a house here in the city and my only next door neighbor (corner house)...their wall is only 3.5 feet away from mine :).

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 9:37PM
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Those are great plans. I'm particularly fond of the dining room bump out in the farm house plan. That's my weakness....homes with too many corners. Ah, costs. They add up quickly even with small houses!

I have to agree. I couldn't go back to low ceilings. I've never been a fan of vaulted rooms, but the high ceilings in our old home are so refreshing. In the GA heat, they're also helpful!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 9:48PM
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Young Gardner: Have you considered putting a Solartube in your bedroom "cave?" It won't give you a view (other than the sky), but it will give you light.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 10:34PM
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LeeL, I agree with your recommendation of a solar tube to bring more light into a space. There are some with one roof collector, and then TWO tubes with outlets inside.

You can do a search on that subject and find a lot of info, because the subject came up before. I THINK it was this forum, but maybe not.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2010 at 10:53PM
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Thanks! We hadn't thought of that. I've heard of them but never actually seen one. I wonder how much light they yield. I'll look into it! :)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 8:43AM
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I was going to get a solatube for our kitchen, but my contractor talked me into a venting skylight. He said the ones he's seen are not that bright and we also liked the idea of a vent to let smoke out if we burn something and the downdraft can't take care of it. Look into skylights. I am told that the Velux ones do not leak and are quite good.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 12:28AM
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"who the hel* has that much money? And how can so many people have that much money?!?!!? It baffles me! Where do they keep getting the wealthy people to fill them!!!!! "

I've thought the same thing! I can only think it's both working and they're living beyond their income.

in the city lots of houses are closer together - there's even those brownstones. They actually seem neat in ways. again good for singles or young couple.

moccasin - we did have a skylight/solartube thread here.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 12:45AM
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krycek1984, you don't have to hire an architect. I'm having trouble with some of the details on a floor plan for a house we want to build, and I've met a man who does design work for a couple of log home dealers that also works independantly from them as well. I'm going to hire him. For $500 he will do a site visit and a few revisions. I can't remeber if that includes the blueprints, but if not, we have software to do it. I already know where I want my rooms oriented, so it shouldn't be too difficult for him. My main issue is I want to make sure I have all the proper clearances and such. The really fine details, such as the exact kitchen stuff, can be worked out later, as we build.

We wasted $2,000 on an architect before we ended the relationship. I would never, and I repeat never, hire an architect again.

A "four square" house is WAY less expensive to build than one with fancy smanshy. It leaves money for putting money where it really counts...like nice high quality windows and nice countertops. A simpler styled home makes a nice backdrop for landscaping and gardening.

We don't have size restrictions where we live, but if there were, I would either not live here or I would build what I want and ignore the government. The more people cave, the more they take away and push around. But...I'm not afraid to fight for what I believe in, and I believe we all have the right to build what we want on our property.

My home will have a "great room", but that is just another term for a living room. Basically my home will have a master bedroom and bathroom, a laundry room near the master area, and a kitchen with the table in one corner, with the great room adjoining it and totally open to one another. This will allow us to open the table up large for family dinners. However, neither my husband and I like closed off rooms. We're all different.

I'm hoping to fit a sewing area in as well, but may need to build a nice "shed" for that. I'm still not crazy about an outside structure for sewing, but my youngest daughter said I might find I like the escape. She said she'd put it down near our pond. I wanted a loft, but the downsides are heavy, such as harder to maintain the home and higher cooling costs. Stairs don't scare me. Never have. What scares me is a home that would need very big ladders to reach an upper story, over a metal roof that is on a full wrap around porch. Think broken bones. Many broken bones.

One thing that seems to be common in many open floor plans, is for the master bedroom door bring a direct hit off a main living area. I like privacy, so we will most likely make a very small hall of some sort. It's just my husband and I now, so the privacy feeling is purely psychological at this point.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 3:06PM
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I moved from a 1600+ sq ft condo in CA to a 2400+ sq ft home I built in TX, and I miss my small(not to me)space! I wanted 'something bigger' since I knew I would be having grown kids/grandkids coming to visit~this is my 2nd summer, and second visit by them. Whether this pace will continue who knows, but am thinking this place is way too big for just me, even though I have managed to fill up every nook and cranny. I want a smaller yard also, so I can have the *small* English garden i've always wanted, and will be able to care for.

I've told all this to my kids and they think i've lost it since my house is exactly what I wanted. I think i've answered your question, krycek1984. ;o)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 3:22PM
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Why would you never, ever hire an architect again?

I'd probably just want an almost exact replica of our current house in the city. It's basically a rectangle except one of the typical beginning-of-the-century bump outs for the kitchen and a porch above the bump out.

I will begin contacting the township. I really think it's ignorant that they have limits on size. They already have a minimum size on the lots you can build, that should be enough! I doubt that we could just "build it", however much I'd like to. I am going to call them and see how hard it will be to get a variance or special exception, even though this is years ahead of us. I patently refuse to build something large just to get the appeal through.

Building is so expensive nowadays. Building the house we live in now will cost 2.5 times more than I paid for it last year. Ridiculous, isn't it???

We may just want to remodel our old house that we still own, dunno. Life will guide us as to what to do.

I couldn't imagine sewing in a shed somewhere!!!!! I mean I don't sew, but still...it would be so weird! And you'd still need to run electric and some sort of heating element there so might as well incorporate it somewhere in the house.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 3:53PM
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Krycek - hang out here long enough and we'll get you thinking even smaller! I wouldn't rule out the idea of outbuildings to fit specific needs/hobbies/events. There are some very interesting outbuildings out there that look fabulous. Flip back to Page 2 (older posts) and look for my thread listing Small Home Books. I started a list detailing some of the books I recently picked up at my public library. If you live in a decent sized metropolis your library should stock many of these books. I plan on updating the list soon after I finish a few more titles.

The advantages of living in a right sized home are too numerous to list so suffice it to say that there are more reasons for living smaller than living larger. I believe it was Zig Zeigler, the motivational speaker, who said "if you want to get ahead, figure out which way the crowd is going and turn around and head the other way." Turn on HGTV or Style Network or most any Network show and the trend is definately not smaller and thriftier.

It saddens me to observe how the American public is handling the economic downturn we are currently experiencing compared to how an earlier generation prevailed when faced with a similar crisis.

As for the monotonous "production" houses jammed up against each other, Sarah Susanka (The Not So Big House) refers to them as "storage boxes for people." Interesting perspective.

Hang out with us, read our posts, do some independant investigating and you might be amazed at how differently you perceive things a year from now.

Hope you become a regular.


    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:05PM
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Ah, I did contact the township today and their minimum square footage rules make no sense (at least to me). For 1 level, it is 1200 sq ft. For 1.5 levels, it is 1800 sq ft., and for 2 levels it is 2200 sq ft.

It's just so odd that you can build a 1200 sq ft ranch but can't build a 2000 sq ft two story! We want a two story but we would have to get a variance of some sort. We'll see.

I've read that there is far worse out there though as far as square footage minimums go, so I should count myself lucky.

I will have to go check out the small home book. I live in Cleveland so I'm sure they will have it!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 10:30PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Hi, krycek, I'm at the other end of Ohio, way out in the country :0) Your older home has character!

Given the choice, I'd rather have an older home--ours was built in the 1920's, and started out as a four-square, 1 1/2 storey, about 680sf downstairs. That area is still our main living space, but has been added onto several times by us and previous owners, so we are now around the 2000sf mark. This is the largest home we've owned, but we were both raised in 5 bedroom, split-level/raised ranch homes with walk-out basements, typical 60's-70's style for our area.

Currently we are surrounded by fields that were part of the original farm, and we own about three acres with the old cottage and barn. Our home is arranged so that it can easily accommodate us in our 'golden years,' but my hubby says that if the land around us is sold off for housing developments, he's leaving for greener pastures.

I know nothing about zoning laws, but one would think that if you or your family have owned the land since before the laws took effect, any home you plan to build could be 'grandfathered,' and (with review) given a variance.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 9:44AM
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Hi krycek, I think trying the variance approach with the attitude of your wanting their "help" with what your needs are (smaller home) may work if you are dealing with reasonably nice people. If it doesn't, then you will need to decide how hard you want to fight the issue.

I also knew some people who were allowed to "remodel" an old existing home. They basically built a new home around the old until they essentially ended up with a new home. When I say "allowed", believe me it urks me to no end. I don't feel anyone needs to be allowed to do what they want with their land, as long as it hurts no one else, but we all have to make a decision on what battles we want to fight. You two may end up deciding to make the existing home work.

Now for my personal beef with architects. I am absolutely positive that there are some very good ones out there who actually listen to their clients. However, I am of the opinion that they as hard to find as a needle in a haystack, and one can get very poor looking. I have known a few people who ended up in lawsuits because they would wait 4 months before getting anything to look at on paper, and then it wasn't what they asked for. Meanwhile the money clock keeps ticking. I've also seen some whacked out stuff on the home building forum that people have posted that their architects did, and they wanted help. Now for my personal experience....

My husband and I looked long and hard for someone to help put a basic floor plan sketch into a reality. We are building a Florida vernacular "cracker" style home. This is the type of home the first settlers were smart enough to build in this harsh climate, and they were beautiful in their simplicity. They were built of logs, some were two story, and many were frame construction. They all had wide overhangs and porches to help mitigate the effects of intense sunshine and heat, as well as keep the structure dry. They had metal roofs that reflected sunshine away. They were all with a pier foundation to allow air circulation underneath the home, and to help with any settling of the soil.

We are going to build a four square home, (in other words, no articulations), up on concrete piers, with a full wrap around porch. We decided on cypress sided rather than cypress log construction so we can insulate the dickens out of the home, as well as offer flexiblity for any future changes to the home (hard to do with logs). It will have a full wrap around porch. In other words, not a complicated house design, and, since my husband is an engineer, is the one who has designed the foundation and wind loading calculations for the structure. He is no good at floor plans though, and while I know exactly what I want, I have had trouble putting the puzzle together.

The architect that I finally settled on was one who had actually studied the old Florida cracker homes with grant money from the University of Florida, (many of which are still standing and being lived in, in my area). I really liked this man. However, he is elderly and he has his son doing most of the work now and just goes along with him. It soon became obvious that the son is of the McMansion mindset. We wrote out very detailed instructions on what we wanted with this home, gave measurements of existing furniture, and a folder of pictures and photographs. Numerous e-mails made our desires very explicit. After $2,000 of money and waiting two months, we got the most convoluted floorplan with wasted space, bump outs, you name it. My full wrap porch was ruined. He claimed he "misunderstood", and it would be another $1,500 to fix it. We ended the realationship then and there, and we are $2,000 poorer with nothing to show for it. That money would have bought a nice Anderson sliding french door for our house.

By the way, the convoluted, completely un-thought-out floor plan was something a twelve year old would have cranked out on a computer in about one hour. A couple of my grandkids laughed when they saw the plan.

patty cakes, we almost fell into the trap of our five grown children wanting us to keep our mobile home, and/or adding guest space for their visits. Well, the visits don't happen very often. Some live out of state...all are working. They have busy lives and limited funds. One happy note is a son and daughter in law that are interested in moving near us when their children are grown. All said and done, we make more visits to them than they ever make to us anymore.

So....we will NOT be building a home with a guest room, and the mobile home will be sold and removed when our house is done. I can't see the cost nor the upkeep. I figure we'll just have to manage somehow when they do come to visit. My husband jokes and says they can reserve a camping spot down near the pond.

My thoughts on outbuildings keep evolving. Many of you know how I have resisted the idea of a sewing studio "shed" rather than a loft. Well, as also mentioned, I've realized that a two story wood home (even though it'll be cypress, which lasts 100 years or more) would be a nightmare to maintain and cool, as we become older and older. I "resigned" myself to a small space in the house with an outbuilding for the bulk of it. Not a very happy camper in other words, but accepting of my fate.

Well, I was outdoors this morning and walked on the site where we are building, and as I did I looked over to the northwest section of our land that is near the home site, but close to my beloved old oak trees and sinkhole pond. It was then that I remembered from day one, that I could almost "see" a nice little cottage type building sitting angled there. At the time I didn't know if it would be a greenhouse, a chicken coop, or a horse stall, but I saw it nonetheless. Numerous times...like almost every time I walk out there. I would mention to my husband on our walks about this building I could see.

I truly believe that God has been telling me that is the site of my sewing studio, and the message finally rang out loud and clear. I'm finally at peace about it, and am ready to finalize a house plan and get the permits. I do feel I'd like a little used "gator" to drive there on days it may storm.

Some things just take time to work themselves out, and they will work out with you as well kycek1984. Best wishes in finding that architect. Perhaps some people in the construction industry can help with that. In my area, no one knew of any good designers or architects. Above all, don't rush the process.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 1:30PM
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I forgot that you live in Florida and won't have to brave 2' of snow and 0 degrees to get to the sewing shed! LOL! Makes more sense now!

We may just end up remodeling the old home. I don't want to spend a fortune, and living without a mortgage would be really nice! Not to mention the piece of land we own is in the middle of all of our future land so no developments can happen around us unless we sell the land.

Zoning is ridiculous, sometimes. They can be quite silly. Sometimes their rules make sense, sometimes not. Their 1200 sq ft limit on the ranches makes sense but not the 2400 sq ft limit on 2 floors.

I would not have a problem at all for our old house other than the 7'6" ceilings! We will HAVE to figure out a way around THAT! I need at least 9', I can't live like that again, I tell you! I don't mind a small house at all but low ceilings drive me crazy, especially since i'm 6'1". Ceiling height is the one thing I allow myself to indulge in regardless of heating costs.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 2:54PM
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I'm going without an architect. It's simply too expensive, and the ones I talked to early on wanted nothing to do with what I wanted in a house- they just didn't get it. If I'm going to build a typical tract home, there are thousands and thousands of stock plans to choose from, some very reasonable in price. I also wouldn't able to settle for one design; once it's drawn, I'll want to make changes, and that equals $$$.

I have two basic drawings I've been toying with for nearly 3 years now. One, a cross gable that bumps out in all four directions, and the other is a basic rectangle, which will be our fall-back if money is too tight. I've spent a lot of time analyzing how we live and what we prefer, and I'm not afraid to go with my own design. Of course, I'm certifiably crazy, too, so it's OK LOL! I change my mind so often that I'll probably just build the shell, and make final placement decisions after I've seen it in various lights.

I found a designer to draw up my plans for $500. As it turns out, where we are building in SC, there is no plans review, so I don't have to have blueprints- at all!

I have drafting software, both at home and at work, so I convert the soft-pencil doodles to clean lines, and I can render it in 3D to see how everything looks and feels. I also build models at 1:24 scale, and I even bought 1:24 scale doll house furniture to play with! (Told you I was crazy!). I build the models out of foam board from the hobby store, and stick them together with a hot glue gun. Somehow, I need to have a real, 3D model in front of me to get a true feel.

Re: Zoning and minimum house sizes: I wonder if eventually people will challenge these laws based on environmental concerns? It's silly to make people build a much bigger house than they want or need! Here in FL, they passed a law that makes it legal to have a clothesline in the backyard, regardless of local rules. It was passed to help save the environment. I think with a good lawyer (and deep pockets) you could force a change on some of these laws. I'm all for subdivisions having such laws; after all, if you paid for the McMansion lifestyle, you certainly wouldn't want people building 'ordinary' homes on your block. But I think when an entire city has such laws, that's going too far.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 5:09PM
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Jay, we see eye-to-eye about the frivolous nature of some zoning rules. There has to be allowances for ordinary folks to live with dignity too.

Once upon a time, I was librarian for International Paper's design engineering department. I LOVED working for those engineers...much more so than for the chemists. And they built all sorts of models for equipment and buildings too.

Too bad I'm not younger, because I'd give the zoning laws a run for their money with my alternative lifestyle ideas.
Why can't we have a composting toilet, a living roof, rainwater cachement systems, chickens even....

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 5:40PM
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LOL since it's a township, we will be able to have chickens and do a million things I could never do in a municipality. They don't even require permits for fences.

I'm a natural-born fighter (for rights, that is, not physically), so when the time comes, you can betcha I will be fighting for my right to build a reasonable house (if we build).

I would definitely recommend living in a township or unincorporated area (although those are very uncommon unless you're in Maine or AK or something) to anyone looking for a little more freedom in their way of living on their own land (ours is pretty good except the silly square footage thing on two story homes). They tend to be much less strict on zoning and all of that.

To me, limiting square footage is also a back-door way of ensuring people of a certain income can't build in your township.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 6:40PM
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Yes Krycek, it is. It is classist. Have there been a lot of foreclosures in your area? Empty houses because people had to move to get a job? I think that as our municipalities are faced with these problems, they will see that "forcing" people to build big houses is a rule that should be changed. You might even approach them with that kind of argument. You want to build a reasonable house and do not want a huge mortgage. You should be able to do so.

If that does not work, could you perhaps have the right square footage upstairs, but have some of it be an unheated "bonus room" that is not used (except as attic storage)? That way the house "looks" the way they want it to look, but you can live much smaller. Or just ask for a variance to the square footage requirement. It may not be that hard to get a variance. If you have cable TV, you may have a municipal channel that even shows the variance hearings. Watch them as research for what to do when your time comes.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 11:08PM
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I live in an unincorporated area, and we still have strict HOA rules. Right now the focus is on people who drive trucks /w a logo on the side to work, and leave them parked in the driveway. Seems there are a few neighbors who are against it, even though the truck is needed to make a living. No parking on the street is another rule that isn't working. There is always the exception is my thinking. Chicken or livestock definitely wouldn't 'fly'. ;o)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 12:45AM
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I still am stunned about municipalities requiring a minimum size. I looked in our code book briefly and could not find the min requirement. I am still thinking it was 8 by 30 foot which just keeps folks from dragging in a tiny travel trailer and calling it home. And even that would be ok only we also have a snow load of 77 pounds so require at least 80 pound roof load. We have 120 on the house and 100 on the garage. We do not want to worry about having to shovel snow as we get older. We only have one vent that needs to be kept clear. The whole house air exchange vent.

So here is how it works here. If some one comes in with a request for a variance I need to look it up to see if what they are wanting to do it allowed some where in what they call appendix A. It is what is allowed in all zones of the city. So far no one has asked to build a smaller house. In fact there has only been ONE house built in the city in the last year and a half. And it was just a regular size house. I am not even sure of the SQ FT. Do not remember.

Anyway this council is pretty easy going on what people want to do as long as it is not putting others in danger. Course there in only one McMansion and it really is not that large. There is a house a couple moles from us , not in the city for sale and it is 2500 SQ FT on 75 Acres. Certainly not a small home.

Sure seems silly a city would require these large houses. I understand the taxes would be higher bringing more money into the city. But this is flat out wrong and I can say it will not happen here as long as the people keep the control of their city and not the bad boys trying to pad their pockets.

I hope you can get it worked out.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 1:13AM
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When considering the "why" for local governments imposing larger minimum square footage limits don't rule out the possibility that they want a minimum amount of taxes out of you. Since sqaure footage usually figures into the tax assessor's calculations on the taxable valuse of your home.

I agree with the class snubbing angle too but on most any topic, you can find the truth by following the money.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 7:01AM
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We recently had a big flap (pun intended) about people keeping chickens within city limits. A family had them in Gulfport, and got in a big battle over keeping them. The media got involved, and an ordinance was passed allowing up to 3 chickens, no roosters, and no butchering. So it CAN be done. Our town bragged (or is it crowed?) that chickens are allowed on 'residential suburban' properties. Sounds great until someone investigated and found that there were NO properties with that zoning designation in the town! So no chickens here in Seminole, unless you have 1 acre+.

The moral of the story is that City Hall can be cajoled into making changes, especially if the media picks up on it. If I wanted to build a smaller-than-legal dwelling, I'd first rally a few 'green' groups to join the cause, then leak it to the media. All of a sudden you've got people demonstrating at City Hall and it's on the 6 o'clock news. How can they argue when it's 'for the good of the planet'?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 4:28PM
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One of the contractors we interviewed for our master bath remodel (5" by 8") emailed us the next day with a note saying that the size of our master bath was "impossible" and that we should make it into a powder room for our guests. I was highly amused! Our house is 1700 square feet and we have two 5" by 8" baths. I guess it's all what you're used to...the house and bathrooms don't feel small or in any way claustrophobic to us.2000 square feet sounds large to me.

My SIL/BIL sold their 2200 square foot circa 1950s house on a golf course (beautifully remodeled and in perfect condition)to a family who immediately tore it down and built a much larger house. My in-laws were in shock, not that they disapproved--they just didn't realize that anybody would consider their house small (or old, I guess)!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 6:45PM
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That is so ridiculous! Our master bath for our master bedroom is about that size and it's just right. Not too small, not too large. I can't believe the contractor would have the balls to say that!!!!!!!!!!! Mine is 1750, so right about the same size as yours. Obviously he did not want your business.

Wow, 2200 sq ft is a decent size, kind of unbelievable that they tore it down. I wonder if the new house they built got foreclosed on!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 9:18PM
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Jay your chicken story reminded me of the little house we had in town on almost 2 acres. We had my COW on main street. Was grandfathered into the ordinance. There is no way I would be mowing that land and I was not allowed to water it with city water. No big deal as it subbed up from the creek.

Here is a link that might be useful: Matilda on Main Street

    Bookmark   August 6, 2010 at 10:21PM
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I was talking to someone at a nursing home today in passing and I mentioned the kitchen remodel, saying I still had to stain about 28 doors and 18 drawers. She said "You must have a really big house, it isn't around here, where is it? I told her the town and that the house was 1675 sq ft and she said , "yes, that is a huge house!"

So I guess that in Roseville, MI, there are still people who think this way. I found myself wondering what she thought when she drove through McMansionLand and then realized that she may never get that far away from home. Or watch HGTV!

Chris, how old was that cow when she was grandfathered in?

Here, we have a few miles-long green spaces that hold overflow water in wet seasons. They are totally fenced in and I believe that either municipalities or the county keep them mowed. During the big "correction" of 2008 I found myself fantasizing about these spaces being used like a village green used to be, with grazing cows and goats for milk, roaming chickens and ducks and little fenced-in family garden plots. In this imaginary society of people who worked together to have a good life, you would open your gate to the greenspace when the rain came so that the animals could stay on dry land in people's yards. The neighbors would share the milk and eggs. It would be the job of little kids to find the eggs from the free-roaming chickens.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2010 at 7:59PM
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