Our perception is affected to some extent by the conditions considered normal in our community during our formative years. If, for instance, you grew up in Great Britain you would find an 800 square foot house quite roomy whereas the average North American would see that as a small home and if you grew up in India or Hong Kong a 400 to 500 square foot house would not seem surprising at all. Perception plays a big role in “want” and makes it harder to see “need”. Canadian homes in 1945 averaged around 800 square feet and usually had 5 or more people living in them but by 1980 our homes were closer to 2300 square feet with 3 to 4 people living in them. Perception and expectations change.
The statistics address the physical size of homes but under the numbers; to quote, well us….”life happens”. Life does happen in our homes and one of the biggest decisions we need to make when starting the process of shopping for a new home is “how big?”.
The thing to keep in mind is that floor space not only has cost initially but continually. We need to heat, cool, clean and maintain and pay taxes and insurance on every square foot.
At the designing stage balancing the wants and needs is extra challenging because many people haven’t really given it all that much thought. Add to that the difficulty a large percentage of us have visualizing space when shown a drawing of a floor plan. I love the illustration below taken from part of a study for a book (“Life at Home in the 21st Century”) the study tracked where members of a family were every 10 minutes during prime waking hours for a few days. It really shows how we truly tend to use a few areas a great deal and have a lot of walking around space.
The older I get the less space I want. The kids have grown up and moved out but one and when the grandkids visit pulling out a fold out cot, creating a secret bed in a large under bed storage bin or fold out couch is all part of the magic of staying with grandma…that and feeding them things I would never have allowed their parents to have. Life happens in stages and you really need to think about how long do you intend to live in the home, what space have you planned for and what do you intend to do with the space once the need changes.
The size of the home is only part of the consideration, good design is at least equally important. Generally speaking the smaller the home the more important the attention to principles of good design and attention to details. The good news is when you reduce the size of the home you can generally afford to focus on details a bit more. You can use your budget dollars to stretch the size of your home to the very limit or you can be more conservative about the size of your home and really focus on the little details that make life within the home more comfortable.