How would you customize a small house ?

toomuchglassSeptember 20, 2007

If you could customize your small house - what would you add ? ( Or take away ? ) If I was here when this house was being built - I'd DEMAND more closet space ! I'd also demand more electrical outlets .. in more convenient places . ( I'm the extension cord queen ) *sigh* All the outlets end up behind furniture .

What would you customize ??? :)

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I would raise the pitch of my roof to provide more attic storage space.

I would add a lazy susan set-up in the corner of my base cabinets to maximize that dead space.

I would add larger windows to allow more light in and make the rooms feel more spacious.

I would add an additional shelf above the existing shelves in all the closets to hold rarely used items.

I would go to therapy to help me live with less stuff and take up less psychic energy figuring out more storage options.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 6:53AM
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I would raise the ceiling to 9'
I would have less rooms, but bigger.
I would add a lot of architectural trim and detail.
I would add better quality windows and doors (already did).
I would have more kitchen drawers instead of cabinets.
In my next house, I won't have many (or any) overhead kitchen cabinets. They make the room feel small, my wife can't reach them, and they are literally 'in your face' when cooking. A few shallow shelves, that's it.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 7:36AM
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......I would go to therapy to help me live with less stuff and take up less psychic energy figuring out more storage options......

Tis great fl....

I would add a 2nd bath, change the front door to the "front" and have a porch. Oh, and add on a dining area to the kitchen.

The deal with most of our small homes is they were saving money when building and still allow a middle income family of 2 1/2 (think that was the average household number) to live comfortably. The architects weren't very creative then. I could take this sq. footage and create much more usable space with less walls. Although I still see new smaller homes with the oddest use of space by trying to give the norm all the wants in one house.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 8:24AM
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1. Larger and better windows.
2. More closets! I could deal with even smaller rooms if I had more closets.
3. Add a front porch, or even a covered stoop.
4. Bigger kitchen-it is so tiny and also holds the washer and dryer and water heater. I really can't figure out how to make this kitchen work better other than to make it bigger, unfortunately.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:35AM
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Would that be 1/2 a child? Even China allows more than that!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 4:00PM
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I don't know where I read that, but it always stuck in my head. Apparently the gov. man that figures out averages must have seen more than a few half children somewhere.

Just for fun I looked up some stats, the link is a brief writing and now shows 2 1/4. Someone with stat knowledge would be great to help figure this out. Is it due to people moving in and out of a household during a year or a birth occuring during/after the census?

Here is a link that might be useful: Average household size

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 4:33PM
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Hi! Lurker here, in my 1000sf house. Had to jump in on the statistics question. Average is a mathematical concept. You just add up all the kids, divide by the number of families, and you get the average, so if you have 3 kids and your neighbor has 2, on average you have 5/2=2.5 kids.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:10PM
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Hi back and thanks....yup, figured that. The humor of such got me to want the real info. Thought perhaps my mind had wandered and I was posting stupidity.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 8:57AM
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Maybe the half bath is for the half kid .... LOL

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 1:25PM
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For $200 extra we tinted all the concrete porches/decks/walkways. Tom

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 8:07AM
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We decided to build a new house because this one is not designed for add on. I went overboard on some things you mention, i.e., outlets, light fixtures, large walk in closet, large master bath, etc. All the things I've been cursing about not having in this house I put in the new house. Kept the kitchen very small to have a walk-in pantry. We have the same amount of rooms with the exception of adding an extra bath and having a small foyer. We thought adding the foyer would allow us to be able to answer the front door without having to wrestle Brutus (our big, goofy, farocious dog). We can close the doors to the foyer and answer the front door in an upright position without having Brutus in one hand and the door knob in the other while trying to keep the door partially closed with our knee. LOL

Our new house was built for function first.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 11:14PM
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I would have higher ceilings and more architectural trim and detail, like flgargoyle. Ours was built in 1956 and has a little bit of molding around the windows and baseboards, but not much and not enough for me. I really want an older house, but this house is affordable, well-built and on a great lot. Of course what we NEED is more closet space, a bigger kitchen and another bathroom.

Can you tell I'm a romantic?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 6:40PM
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I'd want an eat in kitchen - always had one growing up and I miss the coziness of it.

I wish our deck were covered - one of those things we're trying to figure out logistically and financially. I'd love to be able to eat outdoors.

More closets for me, too!

Something we may actually get (I hope!) A gas fireplace instead our ugly old gas wall heater. The wall heater provide efficient zone heating, but is ugly as sin. (we have no central heat.)

Wish we could get rid of all the aluminum and vinyl windows and replace them with wood. (Not functional, but nevertheless...)

AND - my friend has this bathroom I just love - it must be 10x10 (same size as our "master" br) with slate floors and an enormous clawfoot tub. Oh, do I lust after that bathroom!!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 6:23PM
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I'd customize our small house to get the original stove, sink and cupboards back. I'd also love to have our original bathroom instead of the 1980's beige room that came with the house. That's about all I'd do.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 8:31PM
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I would add a screened-in porch, a large one. With a ceiling fan. And a brick patio beyond that. And I would push the neighbors just a leeetle bit further away.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 2:18AM
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I'd customize to include some of the amenities that you see in larger homes, only on a proper scale to my preferred smaller size:

*Bigger, efficient windows
*Lots of built-ins (including some glass-doored cabinets)
*Covered outdoor space in the back yard/back porch (maybe even a fireplace...hey, a girl can dream! ;)
*Nice, built-up/deep moldings
*9ft ceilings
*HW, stone, brick flooring...or well-done acid-stained concrete floors (we are thinking about doing that).

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 2:01PM
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*Pocket doors. Space is so much more usable if you don't have to factor in the door swing area.

*A storeroom (but I would like to have one of these regardless of the size of the house). Our home actually has a lot of closets. But I think a true storeroom somewhere would be very useful for all those things that get crammed in the bedroom and linen closets, but don't really need to be there. And I don't want to use the basement, or the edges of the garage, or a shed in the yard. I mean a bona fide room in the house, with a door, with nice shelving and organization. After all, with a storeroom, we wouldn't be so closet-obsessed, which means we could rethink how storage is defined and planned in the house. I think it could lead to much better space planning.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 4:30PM
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We were fortunate that we were able to completely customize our small cottage. We turned a 2bd 1ba cottage with an illegal 1 bd 1 ba apartment downstairs into a completely different design - a 2bd 2ba with a big master suite and tons of storage. The house was gutted to the walls as it needed a legal foundation and a new roof, so everything was done to it - sewer line, plumbing, electrical, double pane windows, insulation.

It also bankrupted us when our partners went bankrupt and left us on the hook for the entire cost of the remodel. But we managed to hang on by our fingernails and finally got back on our feet financially. At least we didn't have to worry about maintaining the house for the first 12 yrs, since everything was brand new, LOL. In 2003 we did some updating in the kitchen and bathrooms because we'd run out of money the first go-around and some stuff, like counters and tubs, were cheap stuff that wasn't looking too good anymore.

One big advantage to the property was that the original owners had built a pretty sizable shed in the backyard, 10x20' made with a brick foundation and wood walls. We had it rebuilt in 2004 (drywalled and painted) to form 1/3 watertight storage and 2/3 enclosed seating area, sort of like a lanai off the patio. We're very happy with the way it came out.

With the tall ceilings, it's a small home 1400 sq. ft. that "lives big." It's perfect for two people, although since my MIL lives with us now it's actually a little tight! But there's so much storage - part of the cathedral ceiling on the main floor was enclosed for attic storage - we managed to rearrange things so her stuff would fit in too.

Main floor:

Downstairs (garage level):

I'd say the two best things we did in the remodel were:

#1 was putting an entire wall of windows on the back wall. There were hardly any windows originally to take advantage of a killer hillside view! Why, I have no idea. This photo shows what the interior looked like when you walked in the front door PRIOR to the remodel:

...and this shows what it looked like after the walls were taken out, the ceiling popped up to the new roofline, the carpeting ripped out to reveal wide-plank oak flooring, and some of the new picture windows in the back wall:

#2 was excavating out the dirt/mud area parallel to the garage. Our partner poured a concrete floor and gave us a combination utility area (furnace and WH), laundry (same level as the master bedroom, it is WONDERFUL), and big storage area.

Despite the financial heartaches we endured, it has been wonderful being able to design the house the way we wanted it, and to be able to have all these years enjoying it.

Interestingly enough, we were refused a refinance in 1991 after finishing the original remodel, because the bank appraiser hated what we'd done to the house. He said our master bedroom suite was way too big for the size of the house, and our kitchen was a little too big as well. He thought we were stupid to take out the second bedroom upstairs to convert it to a separate dining room - I did this because I loathe dining "nooks" stuck inside the living room. He felt we were totally out of touch with the surrounding neighborhood.

Fast-forwarding to 2003: we went to try to refinance again, home values having finally increased to the point where we had substantial equity in the home. This appraiser LOVED our house - said we had exactly the kind of master bedroom suite and big kitchen that everybody was looking for these days!

I do have to say, I've seen much larger homes that don't have as much storage as we do. When I was doing the design for the original remodel, my partner kept telling me, "You have to leave wallspace for a 5' window in every room - it's code!" If it weren't for that, I'd have put in another 10' of closet in the master bedroom......

The cottage has a footprint of 25x38'. It's built on a hillside, so although it's only 4 steps up to the front door, the lot falls away so steeply that those back windows in the kitchen and DR are 18' above the backyard patio.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 11:41PM
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That is amazing and tons of work. I'd love to see more of what you did and the outside. You must have been working forever to get all done. Thanks for sharing before/after. Enjoyed.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 7:48AM
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emagineer, thanks for the kind words! I think the trick is, we bought the house but didn't move in until the remodel was 90% finished. Remodeling is kind of like Chinese water torture - I can't imagine living in the middle of it as so many people do, it was bad enough just signing all the checks!

A funny story - the landscaping went to pot and of course we had no money to do anything for a long time. It's a small house on a big (for the city) lot, about 5600 sq. ft. When we finally got back on our financial feet around 2002, we made plans to do the landscaping in phases, both to save money and because it was hard to figure out what to do with vast expanses of weeds separated by disconnected hardscape.

Being an experienced houseplant murderer, I thought we'd need a gardener, and hired one to help us (plus we didn't have a truck so he'd be handy for bringing in the soil and mulch, etc.). I was surprised to discover I loved gardening!

We put in the front garden and it looked wonderful - container plants were used to give us fast impact. So there I am out in the garden, after living in the house for 13 years - for the first time, happily digging away, moving things around, watering and cutting my first few flowers.

A woman stops and says, "Oh, it looks so pretty now! I guess you just moved in?"

", it just took us a long time to get around to the OUTSIDE of the house. We know it looked pretty bad before (red with embarrassment here)!"

Looking back over it, we were fortunate that this house was able to be changed so drastically; many small houses are difficult to alter stylistically or architecturally. It's surprising how much storage we were able to easily build into the remodel, overall.

Confession: the garage is my husband's hobby area. There are few basements in CA homes. The cars are parked on the street, unfortunately. Even in this home, we still would like to have the always-needed "One More Room!"

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 5:32PM
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Well, we're currently doing it!

We're opening up the attic to gain an extra 450sf or so, redesining the stairs so that they're a normal rise and run (rather than the original, ultrasteep 1928 access stairs - practically a ladder), and we're reversing the kitchen and dining areas so that there's a much more sensible flow (also necessary to enable the re-designed stairs, since in the original house they come down into the kitchen).

The two things I'd like to do to it but probably can't/won't (funds and also I don't think we'd get planning permission)

1. Bump out the new dining area with a bay window down to the floor, thus gaining 2-3ft to improve clearance (and add more light and a bit of "shape")

2. Build a wraparound porch that would meet the deck at the back.

The thing we hope to do "in due course" (ie when we build up some more cash reserves!) include installing bifold French doors between living room and the downstairs bedroom (used as a music room) so that it could be alternately closed off or opened up as appropriate.

But otherwise? I love love LOVE my house - the extra attic space is pretty much perfect (room for DD plus a small office for us) and we're thrilled!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2007 at 11:43PM
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For me, what Piper said: "I would add a screened-in porch, a large one. With a ceiling fan. And a brick patio beyond that. And I would push the neighbors just a leeetle bit further away." That's exactly what I wish, too, with the addition of a carport or garage. Oh and a new roof with skylights...sigh...

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 12:26AM
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If I'd been around when it was built, I might have insisted they add a real bathroom, rather than wait 40 years and squeeze one into a closet off the kitchen on the back porch.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:57AM
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Well, I certainly would not demand more windows, or bigger ones; in a small house, wall space for everything for art viewing to storage is at a maximum, so simply having bigger windows won't do. Instead, I'd maximize the built-in storage, built-in units, and do everything I could to remove things not needed; excess hallways, door openings, etc.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 8:57PM
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I'm new to this forum. If I were to design/re-design a small house I would include:

*High quality materials.

*All hardwood flooring and lots of interesting woodwork and built-ins. Open staircase with a beautiful carved wood banister (like they did in the old days).

*Mud room off the back with lots of hooks and storage.

*I'd have open cabinets to display dishes in my kitchen. I'd have a pantry to store dry/canned goods, etc.

*Picture window looking out on the garden.

*I'd have a cozy fireplace with wood or stone mantle.

*I'd have some sort of a front foyer area so that the front door did not open directly into the living room.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 10:16AM
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kristin flower--you hit the nail on the head for me! I would kill for a mud room. I dream of having a mud room. I stare at other people's mud rooms with envy.

And I sure wouldn't mind having a small front foyer, either.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 9:07AM
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Littledog, While I know you are quite serious about your was a tad humorous. We should start a thread called "They did what?". I bet there are plenty of odd areas in our houses that continue to elude regarding the judgement of POs/builders.

And a foyer? Yes. They are not as valued until without and are also a good insulator at the front entry, along with many other functions. Keep reminding myself I have the large living room due to the lack of a foyer. But if they had placed the front door where the coat closet is, rather than beside the closet, I'd have a nice size foyer, still have room for a closet and no impact on living room. Architects continue to be in learning mode for designing small houses.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 10:16AM
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Dora Vann Snider

Tom, I love your house. That color of blue is so pretty. I noticed you posted pictures in Sept. Have you finished it yet? Would love to see more pictures. The scenery around your house is neat, too.

Dora Lou

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 9:33PM
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I would use high quality flooring throughout the house, real wooden kitchen cabinets (ours are a laminate :( that came with the house). LOTS more storage, a pantry is a must, laundry area not in the garage and a wraparound porch to make the house "old Florida Style".

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:14AM
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With recent experience living in 2 small homes, these are some things I would need if customizing a small home for my own needs:

~ bigger rooms but fewer rooms

~ 9 ft. ceilings (my current home built in 1910 has 9 ft. ceilings (I know that I don't need/want higher ceilings than 9 ft.)

~ bigger windows, but fewer windows - my previous home had only 8 windows in the entire house, but they were big and I felt we had plenty of light in that house. My present home has lots more windows and is not at all dark and dreary, but I think I can live with fewer windows if they are big.

~ while I might consider carpet in the bedrooms, I would still want hardwood floors in most of the other areas

~ a large walk-in pantry is essential for not only canned goods and food staples, but dog food, those large pots, paper goods, recyclables, and if there was room for the washer and dryer, all the better and I'd want this large pantry near the back entrance hall/mud room

~ a covered front entrance, but a good-sized screened in porch in a more private location

~ a kitchen with ample dining table space is fine, but I don't want the kitchen looking out into the living room space and I detest those kitchen "breakfast bars" that so many house plans show!

~ a walk-in closet in the master bedroom would be great - I've never had one

~ a carport would suit me just as well as a garage

~ even a small front entrance foyer is better than no foyer IMO and it would have a closet for coats, tote bags, brief cases, etc.

~ I don't want a huge master bathroom, but anything would be bigger than the 5'x5' space in this house.

Guess that is my wish list for now!

    Bookmark   December 24, 2007 at 2:00PM
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I agree with so much that has been said!

My list:
-9' ceilings (downstairs-- the upstairs would just been even MORE expensive to heat!)
-More trim/detail
-Fireplace in the living room
-At least a small foyer
-Covered entryway
-Bay windows in the lr/dr
-Windows with panels
-Prettier stairway
-Longer windows (no more of the ugly 50s windows we have in some spots)

    Bookmark   December 25, 2007 at 11:49PM
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What do you mean by windows with panels, anele?

I agree about longer windows! They are just so much nicer, inside and out. IMO the only place for a short window is in the bathroom or over the kitchen sink.


    Bookmark   December 26, 2007 at 12:15PM
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Tasha Key

What we are having to do is add on. I want a functional living room. And a dining room. Right now that isn't happening. We are slowly buying building products to add on a new kitchen and dining room. The old eat in kitchen will then become part of a bigger living room. It will be great!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 3:20PM
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skagit_goat_man your tinted concrete is great. The house intregies me, do you have other pictures of your home.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2008 at 8:38PM
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I've lived in my small house 800 sq ft for over 25 years. I want a pergola porch for the front and side, a sun window in the front and an extra window on the back. I need mnore light! And a fireplace would be nice too

    Bookmark   January 30, 2008 at 11:26AM
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