I am fascinated with the idea of very small, but well designed living spaces. My favorite part of IKEA stores is walking through the small living areas that they have set up and looking at how they used the space so efficiently. I ran across an interesting site where a builder is making very small houses ranging from 40 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft.
While I enjoy large homes, I’ve found 30 to 40% of most places isn’t really used. It would be interesting to live in a place that was designed just around the types of space I needed instead of just matching a standard floor plan. The usefulness of a house is much more related to how well it is designed than its actual floor area. My wife and I use to own a home with 1,700 sq. ft. of floor space. However it seemed at least 50% bigger than another house with 1,800 sq. ft. of floor space. The smaller home had the space distributed in a way that was more useful for our needs so it seemed much bigger.
I don’t think I’d want to live in a 75 sq. ft. home, but it is interesting to see how they solved some of the space problems in creating very compact living areas. Check out Tumbleweed Houses for some pictures of very small houses. You may find some ideas for improving your current living areas and some ideas that might make you laugh (do you know what a chamber pot is?).
Jeroen Sangers says
It is true that 30%-40% of houses is usually not used, but once in a while all that space comes in very handy, for example when you’re organizing a party, or have people over for the weekend. It is those few moments that make it worth to have a bigger house than you normally need. The same happens to cars: I usually travel alone, and therefore 95% of the time I could do with a single-person vehicle. But several times a month I travel with my wife and once in a while I need four or even seven seats.
Of course, the art is to reduce the space needed in those exceptional occasions in a creative way, so you can get by with less space.
Mark Shead says
@Jeroen – We use to have a 2,400 sq. ft. house. We normally had 1 to 3 guests staying with us, small parties (10 to 20 people) at least every month and large parties (50 people) once or twice each year. I think it is fair to say that we got more use out of every square foot of our home than most people. However, even with all those people passing through, I think a better designed home could have accommodated everything we needed in 1,800 to 2,000 square feet without feeling small–maybe even 1,500 square feet. There was always at least 400 to 600 square feet that wasn’t being used. (Obviously that is a good sized house, but most places don’t need to accommodate 5 adults for months at a time.)
The car dilemma is an interesting problem. The law doesn’t smile on “creative” use of the passenger cabin to fit more people in. I think it is going to be difficult to solve without changing the way we build cities. Even then, I think it will be difficult to do away with a car altogether (or convert single person vehicles), but if we could convert the 95% of the time that you only need a single passenger vehicle into times that you can use public transportation and get to your destination faster and more comfortably than you could with a car, I think we will be making progress toward giving 2 car families a real option of switching to a single vehicle–even if that vehicle seats 7 or 8 people.
I’m reminded of what Emerson said:
“A man builds a fine house; and now he has a master, and a task for life; he is to furnish, watch, show it, and keep it in repair, the rest of his days.”
I would go for a tiny home in a second if I could sell my wife on it….
My wife and I are space efficiency freaks. You see, we live with her parents and our two rabbits in a UC Berkeley family housing unit that is just around 1000 sq ft. My wife is a painter so we have tons of blank canvases that we bought at Aaron Bros. during their sale days. We’ve taken advantage of just about every space saving trick in the book including using our suitcases as storage for off season clothes, using veritcal space, among others. We’ve also done a couple of yard sales to clear out the clutter that we brought along with us from our previous home. We’re getting so good at yard sales that we’ve even brought stuff up from my parent’s place in Los Angeles and will be doing a yard sale with that stuff this weekend to get rid of it. We also decided to nix any sort of physical media like VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs. We just get DVDs from the library when we want to and have a Yahoo music subscription for downloading songs with our Sansa Connects. Plus Tivo picks up a LOT of movies so we use that too.
We invested in the best pieces of furniture ever: IKEA kitchen carts. We have 3 square ones and two rectangular ones with drawers. These things are tough, made of real wood (no particle board or chemicals here), and use vertical space very efficiently. We have two square ones next to each other in our kitchen to form a kitchen island and store bulky items like our bamboo steamer, thermoses, salad spinner, etc. One of the rectangular ones is also in the kitchen. We use that for our “beverage station” which has lots of various kinds of tea, a Zojirushi hot water pot, a Senseo coffee maker, and other goodies.
Upstairs, next to the rabbit cage, I put the last square kitchen cart. I use it to hold my server, (fits perfectly on one of the shelves), usb hard drives, our networked raid array, our dsl modem, two wifi routers, blank cds & dvds, our networked printer and there is still space for my financial lunchbox (I use an old lunchbox to hold our unused credit cards, checks, etc), and other stuffs.
The last rectangular kitchen cart is used by the door to hold keys, wallets, shoes, etc.
Our biggest space hog now is our old school 32 inch TV and entertainment center. Both will be going in yet another yard sale next summer when we move. Doubt we’ll get much, but we won’t have to move it AND I get to finally buy a flat TV that takes up much less space. I plan on getting a very small TV stand for the Tivo and game consoles too and using the vertical space behind the TV to store games and stuff.
As for the car problem, we’ve experimented there as well. We used to own just one regular gas car and two electric cars that we loved. One was a think neighbor that we used to scoot around Santa Clara, the other was a Corbin Sparrow 1-seater that my wife used to drive to school in. Both served us well but were not practical because of distance limitations. We’ve since sold them off since and now we have a Ford Escape and my 5 year old Acura RSX. I plan on driving the Acura for at least 5 or 6 more years and when that dies I’ll either get nothing or whatever is the most efficient at the time (probably the 2014 Super Prius or something like that). If I get nothing, I’ll end up biking and taking the train to work usually. My wife will drive her Escape for some time as well and we’ll probably end up getting another small SUV in 2017 or so (hopefully plug in hybrid…fingers crossed). We figure we’ll need one “big” car (ie the Escape) since we’ll probably have kids soon. The other car would be optional as long as I have a means of getting to work that is not too bad.
Dave Glass says
I too agree with small is better. Gee you could be out there living and experiencing the seven wonders of the world if it were not for the ties to the house, the garden, the furnishings, the debts. Shall I keep going on?