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Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Posted by lavender_lass (My Page) on
Mon, May 7, 12 at 15:53

I have come to the realization that I will never be a 'small home' type of gal. I have too much family, too many animals, a small business and a packrat husband! I love them all, but I need space! So, I wanted to know if others on the forum are in the same situation? Do you love the forum (for all the wonderful reasons we've listed before) but know you'll probably never live in a truly small house?

Instead, I've started focusing on 'Not So Big' houses, as described in Sarah Susanka's books. I need a big living room and a big kitchen/dining room, when we do have family and friends out to visit. We're also a tall group and little, tiny spaces make me feel like a giant! LOL So...fewer, spacious rooms with flexible uses seem to be the best approach. Anyone else planning a home or living like this? Love to 'hear' your responses :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Where are you drawing the line in your mind between a "small" house and a "not-so-big" house? Is it square footage? I think "not-so-big" isn't about size as much as it is about functionality. By building in functionality (built-ins, not many hallways, no small single-purpose rooms), you find yourself not needing as much extra space, and the house becomes "smaller" by default. I think "not-so-big" is also a mindset that means simplification. If one isn't willing to let go of certain things (formal dining room, office, kids' private bedrooms, lots of furniture/heirlooms, extra sets of dishes/glassware/linens/seasonal decor/etc., then one isn't really buying into the mindset.

I think Frank Lloyd Wright had the right idea with his Usonian homes. They tended to have large great rooms that encompassed the living room and perhaps a music/piano area and also the dining room, which was often a built-in table. There were also typically large terraces and large windows/doors opening onto them to being light and a sense of expansiveness into the home. The bedrooms were often quite small and had built-in closets and drawers, so no furniture was needed other than a bed. Hallways often had closets all along one side. The bathrooms were small and utilitarian, as were the kitchens.

A few to peruse:

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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

I guess it depends on how we define 'small homes' in a way. If it's 1000 square feet - 1500 square feet...then I probably wouldn't qualify. As you say, square footage is often reduced in 'Not So Big' homes...but if it's a 3,000 square foot home reduced to 2,200 square feet...it still wouldn't be a small home.

Rather than letting go of formal dining...combining formal and informal dining into one larger space (larger than either separate space might be) that will still be less square footage, overall. Add a bit more storage (for extra dishware/glassware/silver/etc.) and you've increased the flexibility...and can still entertain both ways. Now, you aren't having a big dining room, used only on holidays...but you're also not renting a table to set up in the living room. (Been there, done that...it works, but not always great having dinner over the carpet!)

To me, 'Not So Big' means realistically looking at how we live, not how we want to live...whether that means building a house that is too big or too small. If we don't have room for the 'stuff' we really need/love...then we're left with no garage space to park the car, lots of sheds, and/or a storage unit. Every one can scale back, but there are some heirlooms and items that we don't need, but also don't want to part with...but there's a lot we could. Again, deciding how we really live and what we really need/use, might make that eaiser, too! :)


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

After this addition, I think we'll technically be out of the small house range of 2000 sq ft. But, I still think this is small home, simply because of the room sizes.

I asked at the appraisal district where they got the square footage of the house and they measured the outside of the house. I think floorplans probably have the interior.

I know I have seen floorplans with rooms much bigger than ours plus additional rooms and they list the square footage as smaller than ours. So I wonder if our square footage is even right.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

We used not so big house principles to build our house. We made a great room to accommodate an eat-at island plus a breakfast nook open to a family room for tv and wood stove to keep the entire area warm...it's where we spend about 95% of our time. We used a soffit and paint colors and floor treatments to make the kitchen feel separate from the family room, though the space is completely open.

We built a library in the front that is open to the dining room in the back, separated by a wall-less hallway with columns to demarcate the hall space. The result is that the two rooms are not that large, but the space feels large as you see light front to back and the "hallway" without walls feels like more space in each room.

We built into a southern facing slope for energy efficiency, so we did things like finish the lower level (9' ceilings and lots of windows so it doesn't feel like a basement) we put the air jet tub downstairs to save the space upstairs in the master bath.

We built the staircase into the foyer in such a way that when you look downstairs you see light from below, and when you're below, you see into the foyer with the light above, making it feel like you're not going into a basement at all...though that is what it is.

It took a long time to design...7 years. We had a list of all we wanted in the house and most designs, by the time we accommodated everything, ended up too large, and we'd rip it up and start over again. We finally got a design that worked. We met about 98% of our wish list.

We also built green and now pay far less in total energy costs than we do for cable/tv/internet.

It was a lot of work, but very worth it.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

your house will have to cover several uses. That means you'll need more space than someone who isn't doing any farming activity, or canning, or entertaining, or has no pets etc.

while on one hand I'd think 1 single person could live fine in about 750sf - OTOH it's me and I feel squished. that's because of several things - I have a lot of 'stuff' - old furniture. it's big, not real streamlined and I have a dog/puppy and I have to think about my ability to get around in the space - using a walker or on crutches etc. I've lived for yrs with me and my girl walking single file thru here - i don't like it, it hasn't been good for either of us. It was horribly hard to get around when I had an injured leg.

So, I want some open spaces, room for me to get around without bumping into furniture and for the puppy I now have.

And while i do plan to get rid of a lot of 'stuff' - much I don't want to get rid of. Some things I won't use all that often but I do want a space for them for when I do use them (exerciser, craft table etc). I do like the idea of them in a small bedroom where I can shut the door when not in use. I have a lot of books and photo albums and want a space for them. There will be times i'll want to browse thru the albums and don't want to have to dig for them in a box somewhere. by the time I found the right box and dug 'em out I'd be too exhausted to look at them and surely wouldn't even remember who all those people in them are!

If I did a lot of entertaining or canning I'd want even more space than the 1400 sf my new place has. I had originally planned on a place of about 2000 sf (before i was disabled).

Also, tall people tend to have longer legs and arms. those legs need space when one is sitting. Those arms need space also - hopefully not too many in your family 'talk' with their hands! And you need higher spaces so their heads don't bump into light fixtures or ceiling fans! I've even considered that here because my BIL is 6.5'. He would seldom have cause to be here but if he did come by to change a light bulb or check on puppy (should I be gone) then I don't want him in danger.

I also don't have attic space so the closets in the spare rooms will hold holiday things, things for my kids/gkids, from my school days, my wedding (my kids might want that stuff - there isn't much) etc. i do plan to little by little ship things out to my kids in the coming yr or 2.

Is it possible for you to use some upstairs space for storage of long ago treasures you want to keep? things for your nieces/nephews or siblings and you to pull out on those times you want to go back to the 'good 'ol days'? Store the big seldom used pots/roasters/serving pieces in the pantry/laundry area you will have? storage space under any spare beds upstairs also.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

I have not read the books, but the not so big house sounds about right to me. I am in the process of buying a ~1400 sq foot home. The apartment I am in now is smaller. However, it will just be me living in it. My youngest is leaving the nest in a few months and there will be plenty of space and room for guests.

I think a lot depends on how many people are living in how much space. I didn't want a house that was much bigger because I would be rattling around like a BB in a boxcar.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Well I have said before. We are in a 1375 SQ FT house. Two adults two dogs two cats. There is plenty of room for us.If I did not have one bedroom totally for my glass work the 12 by 13 foot space would be wasted.Course I am sure I would use it for some thing. But this house was planned so I could have this room all for me. I do not think I would turn this into the guest room should I ever decide to stop the glass work. Even though our guest room is small at 9 by 13 foot. I like it just the way it is.

I am happy we scaled down from 1850 SQ FT to this 1375. It is perfect for us. Also the older I get the more perfect the house is for cleaning.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

I think that's it shades. We need a balance of rooms/spaces that will be used for our lifestyle, what we can easily enough utilize, afford and keep up.

Going bigger just to go bigger is a waste to me. Often times we have gotten used to more than we really need and have to pull in the reins with a reality check. Many of us seem to spend our lives to have and keep big homes - time, money, energy!

That's more than I need, want or can do anymore.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

I chose 1100 sq ft because it was just me... now there are two. A home should be sized for the need and convenience of the residents, not occasional guests. For the twice a year family gatherings with kids and grandkids, we just crowd in close for a few hours. If it ever becomes a problem, 'their' 3000sf and 5000sf homes can assume the hosting.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Agree with you, Kitykat~~~ As we age, things just become "stuff" and not as important as it once was.
My family will live so close (within an hour+ drive) that if I do have more than an extra room will accomodate, it is so much cheaper to get a room in a motel down the street....saves me the cost of an unused room and they have their privacy.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

LL I am not directing this AT you in any way. Just some thing I have noticed in many of my friends.

They complain their houses are too small. But they have say 6 sets of dishes for when company comes holidays whatever. OK I am guilty I have two sets of dishes or put together sets and nothing matches but goes together as a set or I choose to use it that way.

Then they have decorations for every holiday imaginable and need places to store this stuff. But when the holiday happens they just go out and buy new stuff to store. Or if they are like me I do not even celebrate holidays so the stuff I had just sat in my storage areas.No more all stuff gone.

Some times people buy so much stuff to give them the feeling of a life style they would like to have but never do it in reality. I was guilty of this too. No more. This is how I can live in a smaller house. And we spent many many years in much smaller houses.8 years in two houses at 800 SQ FT and 864 SQ FT, Another 4 years in an 1130 SQ FT. So this house is actually large for us. But there again I have my glass room just for that and I LOVE that. So does my husband because I no longer have glass projects all over the house.

We have long ago given up having the "guest room". We have a room where some one can sleep should they want to but if it is not good enough for them they can go 10 miles to the motel.I use it as my sewing and reading or napping away room if I need one. I actually even used it as my office the other day when I needed quiet to work on city books. Versatile room.

I really used to think bigger is better. I am so glad I am no longer of that mind set. I look around our living room dining room areas open to each other and we could easily seat 12 people here. If we needed so sit at tables I could do it. The area I am speaking of is 26 all the way across, double wide, by 11 on one side and say 15 on the other side. NO it would not be a perfect setting but I am sure every one would have just as much fun.

But you need to build what you feel you need to live comfortably. No one can make up your mind for you. You have your needs. We all live differently.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Great responses, everyone!

Shades- You bring up such a good point. I completely agree with you that 'stuff' overwhelms people and they often buy more stuff, when they're not using what they already have. We see these shows on everything from how to organize our stuff...to Hoarders...so there's definitely some people out there, keeping WAY too many things!

That being said, I have a few things, mainly some dishes and other items that belonged to my grandmother and my husband's grandmother. My grandmother used to say...she was the keeper of the 'family treasures' and that it would probably fall to me to keep them for the next generation or two. We didn't keep everything, but there are some items and dishes that have special meaning or are just too pretty to toss...or my grandmother made them (she loved ceramics). Some are for me, others are for the kids :)


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

The absolute worst part of a big house is the time spent, or ought to be spent, cleaning! (Even extra, mostly unoccupied rooms, require dusting and vacuuming. And extra bathrooms are even worse... hard surfaces and water line scum.)

I've noticed with my children's houses, both large, the more space, the more places to set things. It doesn't look bad until EVERY horizontal area is covered with stuff everyone simply leaves somewhere. THEN it takes a couple of hours to sort through and put stuff away. Cleaning is prevented due to all the obstacles. This happens constantly... insane!

I remember growing up in San Francisco... so many families of five, living in 1000 sf bungalows, one bath. Everyone managed just fine. Perhaps fostering that family closeness is something more families should re-consider today???


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Chris said "Then they have decorations for every holiday imaginable and need places to store this stuff. But when the holiday happens they just go out and buy new stuff to store. Or if they are like me I do not even celebrate holidays so the stuff I had just sat in my storage areas.No more all stuff gone.

Some times people buy so much stuff to give them the feeling of a life style they would like to have but never do it in reality."

Ouch! You got me with those two statements. I've been thinking of all the stuff I store for the "someday" when I can live differently, and wondering if I should just forget about that someday life and get rid of this stuff.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

Well you see Marti I lived so much for the "some day things will be wonderful" or what I thought was supposed to be wonderful entertaining bla bla bla I actually became a hoarder.

I REALLY have no desire to entertain I do not like people in our house I am mostly a hermit. So why did I have all this crap??? I still have one china cabinet with little special things I enjoy using just for the two of us. But it is not crammed like it used to be.

Once I realized having all the stuff does not make the lifestyle I imagined and I let go of that stuff happily giving it away to others that still had the dream it made my life so much calmer. I am not saying any of us here are hoarders but I really was one. A tidy hoarder but still a hoarder. Even now I know of a few more things I really should let go of and will as soon as I get around to it. Right now they are out of sight so it is easy to not deal with it.

Being able to put things away with out having to find a place to put them is so much easier for me to deal with. This last year since I have been so ill it really hammers home to me I am not going to be able to keep up much more house then I have now and am grateful it is not any larger. This illness hit me like a ton of bricks totally out of the blue. Some days I am out flat unable to do anything but sleep. So it is a good thing I only have a smaller house.

I have always had to make due with what I had. This house is special in I have my glass studio to work in. As far as the rest. What might not be perfect I just learn to make it work as best I can. There is no perfect house.


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RE: Small home...or 'Not So Big' house?

"What might not be perfect I just learn to make it work as best I can. There is no perfect house."

that's the way I'm looking at it these days. When I bought my land and planned on the new 2000 sf mfg home for here I wasn't near this sick and was still able to work. even for several yrs after getting the land and having this 'temp' trlr on it. ok, that was 14 yrs ago. A good number of yrs back I gave up on that idea... but was just still too sick to even think about what else to do. So now I'm going w/this mfg home dbf got for me. Needs some work but is 200+% better/bigger than what I'm in now. It has windows and doors that close and lock. It has a/c and heat - and plumbing that works better than here (even tho I don't have cold water yet for some reason). It does still need floors tho - lol! Ah, some day! It's seeing a glimmer at the end of that tunnel.

I also have stuff for someday... yrs ago tho I did start using some of it. I decided 'someday' was here and I was special enough to use it - lol! They are things to be used, so I'm using them. So using the china and silver for pizza or chili isn't a no-no these days.


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