Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Small Space Living

The question of how much space do we really need has been on my mind lately. (Not "we" in a personal sense, but the collective "we".) Over my lifespan, the average American house has nearly doubled in size while the number of people occupying it has decreased. My grandparents raised four children in a house that would almost fit in my current master suite. Homes that might have been luxurious 30 years ago now "lack" adequate closet space, bathroom space, and kitchen space.

Even thinking of my own homes, I could live quite comfortably with less.  We have three guest rooms that are unlikely to ever be filled at the same time, a formal dining room that has been used, literally, twice, a morning room that I don't think I've ever sat down for a meal in. The first house I ever owned, though smaller, also had a guest room that was used a handful of times a year (and never by guests who would have been put out to sleep on a pull-out sofa) and a dining room used just as often.

Several times, I've put pen to paper (or mouse to autoCAD) trying to design a space that does exactly what it needs to do, and does it well, but no more. I'm not alone. Professionally, more and more clients are seeking quality versus quantity in their spaces. Part of this change has been driven by the challenging economy of the past few years. But, more than that, I think it's a desire for more intimate spaces, homes that are easier to keep, places where the owner can just enjoy being "home" and not spend all their time cleaning and maintaining spaces they don't need.

There are some extreme examples. CNN recently featured the story of a Japanese house that was built on a plot of land that had been sold as a parking space! There are a number of companies that specialize in tiny homes--some as small as 100 square feet.

For my own exercise, I designed a house that would suit a single person, or perhaps a couple. At just 680 square feet, it's one of the smallest houses I've ever designed. It's fully functional in a footprint scarcely larger than a two-car garage. A fully equipped kitchen (no designated dining area, but the island serves a dual function for prep and dining), a single bath, space for linens and laundry, and a comfortable bedroom with a generous closet. A wall of built-ins in the bedroom allows it to double as a home office. Vaulted ceilings in the main spaces make the house feel larger than it is, and a fireplace flanked by built-ins brings a level of detail to the great room.

Floor Plan

The exterior is a low-maintenance mix of stucco and stone under a standing seam metal roof. Large expanses of glass are seperated by stone piers inside and out, filling the house with light and capturing views.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Today's Find: Pottery Barn Coral Prints

What a great find from Pottery Barn today--a set of five coral prints! Unbelievably priced at $29.99, I had to get them. I've no idea where they will find a home, but I just couldn't pass them up.

They'll make a great little group somewhere!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On The Market

One of my "hobbies" (read: time-killing strategies) is browsing real estate listings. I typically restrain myself to areas that I have actually lived in, but not always. This morning, while looking through some listings near where I grew up, I came across a house that I had the opportunity to work on as a college intern. My "work" on the house was no more involved than spray painting some temporary window hardware so that the house could be presentable for a party the client was throwing. There was a backorder on some finials or holdbacks, so we made a quick fix for them by spray painting similar items from a discount store. We had to stuff the correct rods with newspaper and bind the finials to them with rubber bands, but the "fix" looked fairly good.

The house always stood out in my mind because it was unusual. Set on a small lot in the South Hills of Charleston, WV, the exterior would have been right at home as a townhouse in a large city. Three floors above grade, and a tall, symmetrical facade.
The main floor was home to the kitchen, formal dining, and perhaps some laundry and utility spaces. I remember thinking at the time that the owners must not be much for cooking, because the kitchen was small and ancient (though well-kept.) That space has obviously been renovated in the years since I was last in the house. I love the black and white stripes they've done in the room:

The second floor was home to a large formal living room that spanned the depth of the house, and if memory serves, the master suite. The third floor housed the family bedrooms. I was delighted to see that the drapes I helped install over a decade ago are still there, and while I notice a few changes in the room, the space is much as it was then, and still has a timeless Dorothy Draper-esque quality to it.

I presume the correct hardware is now holding up those red silk panels.