Compared to big houses, smaller homes are typically gentler on the environment and on the people who live in them. They require fewer materials to build, create less waste during construction, and eat up less land. They are also easier and less expensive to heat, cool, furnish, clean and maintain.
Whether you’re renting, buying, building or remodeling a home, consider how much space you really need. You may be surprised by how little your home’s square footage has to do with the things that really make you happy. Is it truly more and bigger rooms you’re longing for or do you desire a different kind of home—a home that expresses your values, a home with heart?
When thinking about what “right-sized” means for you, consider these suggestions:
Assess your needs. Most people, regardless of the size of their homes, spend the bulk of their time in just a few rooms—the kitchen, the bedrooms, and the family room. More square footage doesn’t necessarily lead to greater satisfaction. Ask yourself how much space you really need. Think of your home as an elegantly tailored suit—you want a perfect fit, neither too loose nor too tight.
Put quality above quantity. Why spend more money than necessary on rooms that are overly large or that you’ll rarely use? Instead, consider putting your money toward high-quality construction that will last, and craftsmanship and materials with true distinction.
Simplify. Focus on elegant simplicity instead of size, timelessness instead of trendiness. Simplyifying often requires a more thoughtful approach to design. It’s easy to build big—that’s the brute-force method of design. To create a smaller home that works well requires more attention but may ultimately yield a more rewarding home.
Do more with less. Make rooms serve more than one function. A guestroom that’s only used occasionally, for example, can double as a study.
Be flexible. If you think you might need more space in the future, consider buying a house that’s right for today’s needs but that could be expanded if you later find you do need more room.
Make the most of the layout. Look for smaller homes that feel spacious and are effectively laid out—open enough to provide a good flow for entertaining, while still offering spaces that feel intimate. Strategies for making smaller homes live larger include incorporating high ceilings and lofts, forgoing formal rooms that will be infrequently used, shortening or eliminating hallways, and building in seating and storage. Also, a space will feel roomier if there are long lines of sight—either views of the outdoors or views from one room into another. Outdoor spaces—patios, covered or screened porches, and decks—can also effectively extend a home’s livable space.
Pare down your stuff. If you need a bigger home to warehouse all your belongings, consider other solutions, such as built-in shelves, cabinets and storage systems that make the most of under-used space. Take a fresh look at your possessions now and then—it could be time for a garage sale or a trip to Goodwill!
Keep the footprint small. A sprawling house disturbs more land than a compact house. If you’re adding on or building a new house, consider building up instead of out.
Make it green. If you must have a large house, make it as green as you can. Choose a home designed for passive solar heating and daylighting. Make sure the building envelope is tight and energy efficient. Use wood wisely by considering certified wood, engineered lumber, and wood-efficient framing strategies. Find ways to incorporate recycled or salvaged materials in your home’s construction and furnishings.
© Jennifer Roberts.
Originally published in Good Green Homes.