Friday, February 21, 2014

Tiny Houses

Ladies' Home Journal recently featured an article on Tiny Homes, about 3 different families living in small spaces. The average American home is 2,400 square feet (223 square meters) as of 2010 (source), while the homes featured in this article were 128 sq ft (12 sq m), 960 sq ft (89 sq m), and 336 sq ft (31 sq m).
average size of an American home through the years
The families ranged in size from a married couple to a married couple with 2 kids, and for the most part, they were happy with their decision to downsize and live in smaller digs. While I think the two super small homes are a little extreme, a family of four living in a 960 square foot home sounds doable. The most important thing is that the house be well designed for that scenario. 

Mr. G and I lived in a house that was just under 1100 square feet and had ample space. Every room had a good size closet, the kitchen cabinets went right up to the ceiling, and there was no wasted space in the floor plan . . but we didn't realize these things while we were living there (oh hindsight). When we actually started house hunting for our own place, we didn't even consider things like closets. 

As for our current house? It's about 1800 square feet, or 167 square meters, and that's definitely way more than we need, strictly speaking. (Although Mr. G and I bought this house with a future family in mind.) We have 3 bedrooms, and only need one; we have a living room and a sun room (my favorite room in the house). 


But with only 6 kitchen cabinets and 3 closets (1 per bedroom), we are seriously lacking in the storage department. We actually keep bath towels in the guest bedroom because we have no linen closet, haha. So while we could go smaller, I don't think we will just because of the hassle to sell our house and buy a new one. And we love our yard and neighborhood, but can't bring those with us if we sell. ;)

And slightly off topic (but cool), this image compares how much space (on average) is allotted per person in various countries:

What do you think of your house's size? Could you go smaller or would you prefer a larger place?

20 comments:

  1. I'm a bit surprised to see that Australia has the largest footprint there! But I suppose it isn't really too surprising. We've had 'new' suburbs springing up for decades on the outskirts of our ever-expanding cities.

    We live in one of these 'new' burbs and our house is around 166 square metres (lol!) plus a garage. It's more than we need with a family of 3 but I do love and truly appreciate the 'luxury' of space. We tried living in a 2 bedroom apartment for nearly 2 years and we struggled with the lack of privacy (neighbours above and below) and the general noise (we had an active 6 year old at that stage, and it was also stressful to unsuccessfully have to shush him all the time.) It is really interesting though to look at what's important in a dwelling...for us it's the privacy that goes with a bit of space.

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    1. I was surprised to see Australia take the lead as well. The US has a reputation for lavish homes and I thought it would be largest.

      I understand the luxury of space! I lived in a townhouse/rowhouse . . where everyone had their own front door out to the street, but it was sandwiched in between two other houses. We also shared our back wall with another townhouse. It was way too noisy for us! At least you can say you tried! :)

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  2. I never know how to answer the question of how big my house is because it has a full basement. In real estate terms the basement isn't counted in the square footage, but in real terms, it's a huge amount of usable space. Anyhow, my house is 900 square feet with a full basement - which is enormous for one full-time person and a pack of fe-lions. I'm sure it was originally intended for a family of 4 or more people, but the way it's been remodeled it now only has one bedroom upstairs and a lot of open space which is nice, but not terribly efficient. So it's really designed for a single person or a childless couple.

    I find my neighborhood to be quite interesting. It's a racially mixed neighborhood, but most of the white people who live here are like me - single or sans children. Meanwhile, most of the Latinos have families of 4-6 people living in the same sized houses!

    Anyhow, I have WAY more space than I need, but since I work from home, it is nice to have space for things like a home office, a work room, and lots of storage. And even before I had the mortgage paid off, it was still cheaper than renting a studio apartment in a "whiter" neighborhood.

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    1. Oh, good point. I didn't think about basements. As long as you use and enjoy your space then it's all good :)

      As a kid, we lived with my grandmother for a short while (and my uncle and his son were also staying there for a bit). So we had 9 people in 1400 square feet with 1 bathroom. It was tough! I hope the Latino families in that situation really love their families! :)

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  3. It looks like I've graduated from a 50s-size house to a 70s-size house! I did have an 1800 sq ft house at one time and felt like I was rattling around in it (family of 2). Our current house is 800 sq ft with a fully finished 800 sq ft basement so it seems very generous for the 2 of us. But just the one floor would be barely adequate by my current standards!

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    1. We have the same feeling of our home being too large sometimes - especially when a week goes by and I've only been in the guest bedroom twice. But then the extra space is nice when we have friends stay over or need a little breathing room after an argument :)

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  4. My house is 740 sq feet, but like Cat I have a full basement, half of which is finished. There's also a walk up attic with tons of storage space, otherwise we wouldn't fit with all the boyfriend' crap and we both enjoy having our own rooms to relax in when we want some space. So, no, I wouldn't go smaller. In fact, I'd kill for an extra bathroom and maybe a dining room.

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    1. My aunt and uncle used to own a home with a walk-up attic and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I'd open the door and pretend I'd be transformed into another person or time period by the time I got to the top, haha. An extra bathroom is always nice!

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  5. I'm not surprised that Australia has larger space per person than most countries. Not only because of the estates full of what are disparagingly called McMansions, that Fiona mentions, but because we have only recently seen the growth of flats, or apartments. When I was growing up it was normal for families to have a three bedroom house with one lounge and one dining room. Kids shared bedrooms. They mainly played outside anyway. No watching TV all day - there wasn't anything on anyway. Now people turn their noses up at the small houses and prefer to go into debt for a house with 5 bedrooms, an entertainment area, family room, formal lounge, study etc etc.

    Not that I am a virtuous one. My house is huge and not very eco at all. I don't know how many squares but it is big - 5 bedrooms, family room, formal lounge and formal dining rooms. But like you, Amanda, we don't have much in the way of storage space. Being an older house, they didn't come with built-ins back then. Mr Sans and my first home had only two bedrooms, one lounge and one dining room with a tiny enclosed verandah that served as a sun room. All rooms were tiny. Double brick so easy to heat and keep cool. Again no storage but served us well as a young family. Moving into a big house we just seem to fill our space with more junk!!!

    I am surprised that Australia beat the US, though.

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    1. I agree - it is surprising that Australia beat the US. The only thing I can think of is that maybe our big cities with tons of little apartments (like New York City and San Francisco) are balancing out all the big houses.

      People turn up their noses at small houses around here too. It's like a status symbol and people assume if you have a big house, you must be doing well. But there seems to be a trend starting with some people going back to smaller places, at least for older people who have grown children and don't need a huge home any more.

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    1. It must have - sorry! None of my comments are moderated so if you don't see your comment pop up right away, it's gone. :(

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  7. Seems like it. Sigh. I live in 101sqm which is a little over 1000sqf. I used to live alone in 66sqm (710sqf) which I liked and was managable. I was pretty picky when buying it, as I wanted to have storage - and it had a huge built in cupboard downstairs, and workable closet. Where we are now, the bigger place, it's a touch too big (says me who cleans it!) The second bedroom is a luxury we don't 'need' - and the built in wardrobes in BOTH bedrooms are huge in addition to a linen/entry cupboard and a sizable kitchen with a pantry drawer system. We're actually quite lucky, imo!

    I think the BF would like a bigger place moving forward, me, I'm torn. I think life is about less storage leads to less stuff, but obviously you need some storage, so it's always front of mind when I'm looking at places to live. I know the more space really just means more cleaning, which is less time 'living', so I'll try to force my point :p

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    1. Very smart! Storage space didn't even cross our mind when we went house shopping because we'd always had plenty. We'll know better next time!

      I agree with you, less space means less stuff and less cleaning. I'm not the most fastidious housekeeper but I still spend an hour or two every weekend on cleaning the house. I don't think we'll ever go much bigger than our current house size for that very reason.

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  8. I think that our house is plenty big enough at about 1800ft for the two of us at least for now. I do wish that the layout were a bit better. If we do have children will have to put some thought into how we will make it work

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    1. Yeah, it's tough to tell if the layout will work just by walking through a house. There are some things I would definitely change if I could!

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  9. I lived in a house that was about 12m squared last year (all basically one room), and I have to say I'm enjoying living in a slightly bigger apartment with a housemate this year! At a guess our place is about 60m squared at the moment, and it's very comfortable (although my housemate has quite a small room and only a single bed). The kitchen is kind of small, and we only have 6 kitchen cabinets as well!

    I was also surprised to see Australia topping the list, but it might be because we have more space in general per person, so more people are living in houses vs apartments.

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    1. When I was in college, I lived in a single room several times and shared small spaces with roommates. It wasn't terrible, but I was certainly glad when I finally moved to a larger space. :)

      Yeah, it's hard to tell what may have influenced their averages . . I thought the US would be at the top.

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  10. I've been thinking about this so so much lately as I've been devouring posts from bloggers in places like NYC and SF who live in smaller, lavishly decorated apartments with their families. I think 1800sqft for a family of 4 or 5 or 4+pets is a good size. Our old house was just shy of 1200sqft (unfinished damp basement, not a lot of storage - no closets) and we upsized as soon as our second child came along. With the baby gear and an active toddler it began to feel too cramped. Our current house is 2200 sqft and I can tell you it is much more space than what we need, even with baby #3 on the way. I am happy each child will have their own bedroom but we have a lot of wasted space. We only use half of our main floor (kitchen, family room, washroom, and laundry room) our living and dining rooms and foyer are largely unused. 2 of the 4 bedrooms are also much larger than we need. I don't love all the time I spend cleaning. I miss only cleaning one bathroom vs. 3. Having a larger home means it costs more to do renovations and upgrades too. My husband has been wanting to finish the basement (another 1000 sqft) but that is definitely not happening anytime soon. Crazy thing is.. many of the newer homes being built in our area are even larger than ours averaging 2100-3800 sqft.

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    1. Yeah, I think hubby and I can grow a family here with no problems. We have 3 bedrooms so there's plenty of wasted space right now. Cleaning 3 bathrooms (especially with little kids) must be exhausting - I hate scrubbing our shower! haha

      3800 sq ft? Wow, that's huge! I wonder if people buying homes that size really believe they need the space or if they're just buying the biggest house they can afford.

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