The average U.S. house size has more than doubled since 1950 when it stood at 983 square feet. We learned that in the post Growing Sizes Are a Growing Concern. Home gluttony reached its peak in 2007 when they averaged 2,521 square feet. It’s since taken a step back, it now sits at a hefty 2,392 square feet.
What does Mr. Everyday Dollar think about this? That’s still too big!
I enjoy daydreaming about my future home: what it will look like, all the cool energy efficient aspects it will have, the home projects I’ll do (secret bookcase door, yes!), and the vegetable garden. Currently I live in a one bedroom condo, and while appropriate for my current lifestyle, some day I want a little Everyday Dollar or two and will need a bit more space!
With that in mind, my future home requirements are:
- less than 1,500 square feet, ideally 1,250 square feet
- 3 bedrooms
- 2 bathrooms
- dining room
- living room
- one car garage (for one car!)
- walking/biking distance to goods and services, e.g. grocery store, hardware store, yoga studio
- eat-in kitchen rather than a dining room (way more efficient!)
- front porch
- front yard large enough to replace the lawn with a vegetable garden
- gas log stove for winter heating
I started doing research on small homes and came across a house plan that fit my needs almost too perfectly. It’s a Ross Chapin Goodfit plan and the following is a diagram and specs on this baby, called the Coho C:
- kitchen/living: 14’ x 21′
- dining alcove: 7’ x 5’-6”
- bedroom 1: 10’-4” x 11’
- bedroom 2: 10’-4” x 13’
- bathroom: full
- bedroom 3: 13′-3″ x 10′
- bathroom: 3/4
Poking around a bit further I found out that a builder called Selle Valley Construction built this home as a spec in 2010. Apparently, people just didn’t get it.
I said to myself, “What? What’s to get? This is an awesome house and I’m ready to move in!”
It turns out potential buyers of the spec home were quite impressed with the design, smart layout and energy efficiency. In fact, the house earned a Home Energy Rating Score (HERS) of 57.
By the way, HERS is derived by rating things like insulation levels, window efficiency, wall-to-window ratios, heating and cooling efficiency and the water heating system. The lower the number the better, most new homes score around 100.
So what were these buyers complaining about? Apparently it was too small, it didn’t have enough overall square footage and nobody really cared that it was green. Ha! Probably the same people with consumer debt, cluttered homes and outsized lifestyles.
Of course, these are the same people silly enough to pay for an inefficient 2,500 square foot home that will cost more to buy, cost more to heat and cool, cost more in property taxes and cost more in maintenance and repair. We know better.
One of the pioneers of the small house countermovement is the architect Sarah Susanka, who wrote the wildly popular book The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live.
While a bit short on actual floor plans, overall I like the book. Where it really shines is in design philosophy and making sure every room is frequently used and multi-purposed, thereby eliminating wasted space.
Certain themes within the book appeal to me such as optimizing traffic patterns. That’s the reason why I love an eat-in kitchen just like the Coho’s dining alcove pictured above. It really grinds my gears that in my current home my dining room is cut off from the kitchen by the living room – it’s inefficient.
The other thing I enjoy about Susanka’s book is the beautiful photos of living spaces. While most of these rooms would be expensive with their fancy woodwork and custom windows, I think they provide inspiration for well-used space.
A final note: I don’t anticipate building a house because it would likely be in a new development and not close to the goods and services important to me. What I’d much rather do is buy a small house with a very similar layout to the Coho, remodeling it with the design aspects found in Susanka’s book.