It has been recently suggested in a national newspaper that we must all start to think 'tiny home for a tiny planet' - an interesting concept. However, it seems a very un-North American concept, given that we are all used to houses twice the size of, say, our European counterparts. How do they live in those small houses? Would we want to? Will we have to? How would we plan to scale down our own living space without giving up the ease and efficiency of our life style? These questions could sound scary, yet less so, if we consider the streamlined designs of motor homes and fifth wheels.
The benefits of living in smaller homes are fairly obvious: less land, less property tax, less building materials, less space to heat, less floor to carpet - you get the idea! The whole picture spells a life that costs less to live. More money to enjoy! If you have ever thought of down-sizing (and in these days of rising food and energy costs, many of us have!), one of the first questions that arises, is what could we do without? Or rather, what would we want to do without? Nothing. Right! So where is the wasted space that we can do away with? This is best answered by considering the way each of us live. The National Builders Movement suggests one way to streamline our living space is to become aware of what we use it for. This can be done by writing a list of all the activities we do in the house, recording where we do them and charting the exact part of a room that we do them in. Already you can probably think of 'unused' parts of certain rooms.
Once you have these activities planned you may realize that only certain parts of each room is required, and you could plan a house with the new 'great room' design and incorporate all your living needs into one area. While giving a very spacious feeling, this idea could actually save square footage as it eliminates corridors and doorways (not to mention whole rooms!). Two or three obvious areas represent wasted space to many designers, these are: formal dining rooms, bathrooms and garages. In the case of the formal dining room, if yours is only used three or four times a year, visualize managing without one.
Problem here: many of us would still want to have a formal dining atmosphere occasionally. However, it is possible to set up a kitchen/dining area in such a way that the ambiance could be changed to 'formal' but only when required. This would be achieved by clever use of lighting and a non invasive system for separating the two functions of food consumption and food preparation. Use of moveable or sliding decorative screens is also an option that could be utilized only when the formal atmosphere was required. In a new home this could save up to 100 square feet and many thousands of dollars. Next comes the bathroom and the realization that most of us actually use it as a reading room, a boudoir for applying make up or to escape for a minute's peace from the children! If we had a more efficient bathroom set up maybe we could manage with one bathroom only!
The European idea of separating the bath tub/shower from the actual toilet means that people may pop in and out of the smallest room in the house more quickly as there is not much of interest in there! In the room that European's call the toilet there is no mirror (so teenagers do not hang about!) and there is a petite wash basin which juts out about nine inches from the wall for the perfunctory hand-rinse. The room is very small - no point in lingering! The garage, even if you have one, can be converted into a mother-in-law suite or teenage den by a simple insulation and dry wall job. A car port offers almost as much protection to a car as a garage in temperate climates. If the man of the house is chafing at the bit, consider converting part of the garage into a workshop! A solid workbench and one wall covered in pegboard to hang tools will free up alot of cupboard space everywhere else. Now that you realize how much space you don't need, you will need to buy a new smaller house, and with the savings maybe book a cruise or two!