Do sellers of floorplans just live in another world? - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-06-2006, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was reading through the "not so big house" website and it's talking about how better home design means you can have a smaller house and still have everything you like. Which I totally agree with, I think one of the reasons our 1200 sqft home feels too small for dh and I is it has a lousy floorplan--not the worst possible, but not designed for how we live. So I was really interested in the concepts the website was presenting, I really wanted to learn more, I even put the books on hold at the library, and then I took a look at the home plans they had for sale. 2000+ sqft!!! 3000+ with basement!! For a house with only 3 bedrooms! And the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms were labelled "Guest" and "Guest/office" like the house isn't even for a family. How on earth is that much space for two people "not so big"?

It's like the time I read an article on decorating small bathrooms that thought "small" was 15' by 15'. Sorry, but if I had room for an armchair in my bathroom, I wouldn't *need* help decorating.
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Old 10-06-2006, 01:47 PM
 
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I'm also consistently surprised by how much space we think we need--of course, I'd love to have a bit more space but the truth is I'd simply rather have a better layout of the 800 s.f. we have!

I'm confounded by the fact that these homes are getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER! I mean, the average size single-family home in 1950 was 950 s.f. In 1970, the average sized single-family home was 1,500 s.f. and now the average home is about 2,300 s.f.

I work as a marketing manager for a real estate company and since we're in a resort market, we deal primarly in luxury homes: 6000 s.f. behemoths and certain lots are advertised as "build up to 8000 s.f."

What is particularly frustrating about these giant homes is that MOST of them, at least in this area, are second homes of wealthy couples who either have no children or who have grown children. That means the homes are used for an average of two weeks a year by two people.

Builders also like to put a "green" shine on these giant homes: energy efficient appliances, reclaimed wood etc., but the truth is no matter how much you green up a 6000 s.f. vacation home, it's still not a "green" home for the mere fact that it is so excessively wasteful.

As for a 225 s.f. small bathroom ... that's bigger than our master bedroom which sizes up at 165 s.f.!

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Old 10-06-2006, 02:00 PM
 
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Ok, ok... I'm an architectural designer and I can tell you that I draw it the way people want it.

Beyond that DH and I are working on a floor plan for whenever we decide to build. We are thinking in terms of functional and so far its around 1,100 SF. So you don't need all that space but need to be creative in setting things up and realistic. It is possible to make an efficient house where no space is wasted. Here are a few things I have people do before they come in.

* Any heirloom pieces you know you will never get rid of measure. Anything else can be downsized or replaceable.

* How many bedrooms do you NEED for your family. Sure it might be nice to have an extra room for guests, but how often do you get guests that spend the night? Is it worth heating and cooling that room for them or can they stay in a hotel or camp out on the floor?

* How much SF do you think you actually use? Measure. You will be suprised, don't count hallways but actual space that you are in everyday.

* Don't design a house to accomodate holidays or special occasions twice a year. So impractical. You will make do with what you have.

* How much counter space do you actually use in the kitchen.

* What appliances do you need and use on a daily basis.

* How many cupboards do you go into everyday?

* Which room do you spend the majority of your time?

* Also lay out furniture on the computer showing how much space they have compared to furniture layout.

* What types of collections do you have? How do you store or display them. Think vertical storage and built ins.


It is harder to try to cut down on paper than actually viewing a completed house. So measuring what you have and what you need really helps. Also let the architect know upfront whats important to you and what exactly you want out of a house. Letting them know you want a compact efficient house will save so much time than saying you want to just cut back on SF. Second if they try to talk you into bigger let them know you will find someone else to design the house you are requesting if they are unable to do it. Be prepared to leave but usually they will come around. Good luck.
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:15 PM
 
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My architect SIL is very, very exacting about her space and she, my brother, and my niece live very comfortably in a small 3 br. I would guess it's about 1300sf. They do have an additional basement for storage and w/d, though. But she's all about urban living, good design, and small footprints. She doesn't design houses, though.

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Old 10-06-2006, 02:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oooo, Starr, I soooo want the money to pay you to design a home for me.

It just stunned me that there were no smaller designs. I daresay those are the plans that were drawn up for people who were in the 6000 sqft market and *are* considerably compressed. It would have been nice for them to have one truly small home, even if it was 1000sqft they thought was tiny.
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:37 PM
 
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I always laugh because people will come in and design their "dream home/ retirement home" and its like 3 levels with so much extra rooms. SO they build it and two years later I see them again because well we didn't need that much room so this time it goes down to a two storey still with wasted space. And usually the third time I see them they know what they want. Thus the home building trap.

We are currently kicking around a few different ways to build. Like 5 years down the road so things may change. We want to find more acreage and then build a small house. Also go to tour of homes, if they have them in your area, you get lots of ideas. And ask friends who built what they like or would have done different.
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:48 PM
 
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Yeah, my MIL has friends who recently "downsized" from a 6,000 SF house to something like 2,500--for 2 people. Our house is about 1200 and we don't even use about 400 of it--we never go upstairs where there are 2 bedrooms & 1 bath! I am always telling DH we should move to a smaller house--I am drawn to the little spaces. :

But I must say, when I saw the title of this thread in the decluttering forum I thought for sure it was going to be about sparse-ness. I subscribe to Dwell and whenever I look through the homes in there (they have lots of smaller square footage homes in there BTW) I am thinking, ok where is all their STUFF??? Yes that vase is lovely but then where do you put your stack of magazines or all the toys? :
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Old 10-06-2006, 03:16 PM
 
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I know what you mean, I had the same reaction a few years ago when I first read a review of the "not so big house" book. I was living in a 900-sf house at the time and found it very strange that the author's idea of a "not so big" house was three times the size of where I was living.

But I later realized that people like myself living in a home that by today's standards would be considered "small" (really anything under 1600 sf as far as I can tell is considered small these days) are not the target audience for this book/website/movement.

My BIL and his family are an example of who is really the target audience. They moved from a 2000 sf 3-BR home last year to one that is about 4000. They were excited about going to 5 bedrooms (one for each kid PLUS a guest room!), a basement rec room, a main floor sun room, a dedicated laundry/mud room, etc. Their home is very nice and I think they enjoy it, but on the other hand it is a lot more work and expense. The kids scatter their toys and belongings from one end of the house to another, so it is a LOT of space to keep clean and tidy. They don't have an intercom system, but truly one would be very helpful -- when you need to talk to a family member in another part of the house you literally have to go all over all three floors calling for them. Getting laundry from bedrooms to the laundry room and back to bedrooms is quite a schlep. And then there's the expense--I wouldn't be surprised if they're paying over $1000 more per month in utilities and ongoing maintenance/repairs over what they used to. They're not hurting for money day to day, but think what an extra $1000/month could do for your retirement savings or kids' college funds. BIL has said more or less that taking care of such a large house is more of a challenge than they had anticipated. However it's true that the layout/room design of their former 2000sf home didn't really "work". So I think the not-so-big house book/philosophy is really more for people like them. They don't need MORE space, just DIFFERENT space.
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Old 10-06-2006, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But I must say, when I saw the title of this thread in the decluttering forum I thought for sure it was going to be about sparse-ness. I subscribe to Dwell and whenever I look through the homes in there (they have lots of smaller square footage homes in there BTW) I am thinking, ok where is all their STUFF??? Yes that vase is lovely but then where do you put your stack of magazines or all the toys? :
Yeah, I know what you mean. And those pictures where people have piles of books under a fragile and/or heavy vase? How do they read them?

What I find funny is that pictures of the homes of architects, designers, and decorators generally have more stuff in them. They'll have walls of stuffed bookcases and such.

I've don't look at home decorating magazines for inspiration anymore, I prefer pictures of people's homes taken by the people--like Delight's apartment (and yes, yes that thread was the inspiration for all the exploring I've been doing in this area this week)
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Old 10-06-2006, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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But I later realized that people like myself living in a home that by today's standards would be considered "small" (really anything under 1600 sf as far as I can tell is considered small these days) are not the target audience for this book/website/movement.
Later for me from the post times was about 1 hour.
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Old 10-06-2006, 04:17 PM
 
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What a great post! My husband is an architect (not all architects think the same way ) and we have the Not so Big House book. I have thought the exact same thing when I have looked at it. I like the open floor plans in the book, but they are still huge to me. I think it is meant for people who think they need the enormous house for the spaciousness to see that they can have a "smaller" house that feels bigger (or more usable). It is definitely not a book for normal people who live in normal (or small by some people's standards) homes.

We live in a 1919 bungalow style home with 1156 square feet above ground and about 600 sf below ground. It is just 3 people in our house and to me, it is BIG! We have 2 spare bedrooms that we do use, but are not necessary. It is a great house with small cozy rooms and lots of character. The family that owned our house prior raised 4 kids (6 people total) here (without a finished basement) and I am sure it was great for them. Americans have gotten way out of hand with the bigness of the things they have. Keeping up with the Joneses I guess!!

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Old 10-06-2006, 05:41 PM
 
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We remodeled a 1965 house with around 2,800 square feet for the six of us. The Not So Big series really gave me a vocabulary I did not previously have.

I sat down with the pad and paper and listed how we lived, what we did in spaces, I measured where we really lived in the living areas, etc. It took time, but we now have a house which looks nothing like my friend's homes. It has become a great house in which to live. A few things I would change, but since we didn't build, we had to work with what was given.

The one thing I think is hugely important is that I managed to get natural light into every part of the house. No hallways even without natural light. I gave up some room space to get hallways five feet wide, rather than the tradition three feet. The fact that dh and I can walk and pass each other easily is just huge. We never have a traffic jam.

The planning process for me was never about how anything looked. Only how it functioned. The end result is very esthically pleasing. We lowered 16' ceiling and all of my ceilings are painted different colors and became a focal point. No rooms have bad traffic patterns. The kitchen is large and very functional while the living room is small and very cozy.

I focused on what I would see as I worked in the home. What would I see when standing at the sink? What would I see when sitting at the table? What would I see from the couch? I don't care for open floor plans because when I'm on the couch, I don't want to look at the sink. I want noise reduction. I don't want to hear the TV while DH and I are talking. We took all of that into major consideration. The angle of the light coming into the house in both winter and summer. How could I use it to my advantage? Where did I need windows? Where did I need privacy?

We focused on what "work" we do in the house. Well planned storage. Places like the laundry room were planned for efficiency and ease of effort. We live in a winter climate and needed the mud room concept. We didn't have a place for that so I made sure we still have the problem adequately addressed. Lots of thought to where we needed electrical plugs. Really small details which make life so much easier.

It took me about two months in the planning stage. I could see it in my mind and it has worked. If I had tried to build this house custom, I would have been double the cost of what we have in it, so even a current home can utilitze space better.

I don't know anyone with a custom built home. I have several friend with the builder models of the "keep up with the Jones" homes. They admit that they purchased the home because of the wow factors. High ceiling and sweeping stairwells. Huge master bathrooms. Now, they realize their bathroom is larger than their cooking area of the kitchen. The kids' bedrooms are tiny, while the master which is hardly used is just plain huge. No thought given to a laundry room, yet there are formal rooms which, again, just don't get used. Traffic patterns are bad and often dark because the are in the central part of the house.

It's really kind of like buying a car. How many people take the three car seats with them when they go to look at a car? We did, and if they didn't easily fit, the vehicle was immediately rejected. Once we found a vehicle with met the criteria for how we needed it to function, we found we liked the other features also. If we had focused on the color/make or model first, we would missed out on a great vehicle.

Gloria
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:49 PM
 
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I love this thread! I live in a very old house (100 years, roughly) and think the floor plan stinks!! It was built when all people had was a dresser and two toys, lol. There are no closets, when they put in outlets, they didn't put any in the bedrooms (who needed them), and the whole house just does not flow.

We've been here 10 years and nothing has helped the situation, lol. We're looking to move and my requirements are that each bedroom has to have it's own door for privacy and hopefully the flow will be better. To make me happier, I'd love to be able to find a way to utilize space once we get there. I think small rooms can be wonderful as long as the space is utilized right.

I totally agree that it's about efficiency....not more floor space.
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:56 PM
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i read the book as well and while the ideas are relaly great, sometimes the execution is not so much. LOL i was with you, regarding the sizing of the houses in the book.

but there are smaller ones in the book as well--including some that are under 800 sq ft.

and honestly, people who are paying architects to specially design houses can afford large houses (that size) with fancy stuff (such as more expensive materials), whereas on our budget, if we went with the sorts of materials that we wanted (environmentally friendly, etc), we could only afford about 900 sq feet. Which, COULD work, if the architect did a really, really good job. but then we'd pay a lot for said architect.

but for me, the book was really informative on how to think about and value/evaluate how you live. my husband and i have learned a LOT about how we live, because in the past, we wanted more than we needed--we're living like that now.

and so we were able to answer the questions so that our next purchase will have those elements in focus--we know what we want out of our house and how small we can go and still be comfortable. we don't have children yet.
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Old 10-06-2006, 08:14 PM
 
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http://www.storybookhomes.biz/planbooks/ The book on the right is called "truly tiny homes" but are up to 1900 square feet! Not my idea of tiny.
Some of these are set up really strangely and have way too many bathrooms, but they look very prrdy.

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Old 10-06-2006, 08:34 PM
 
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BTW, I have the not so big house books and I thought they were great - definitely get them from the library even if the website is unrealistic. They had a great concepts and were fun to read. Honestly, they probably didn't think a smaller plan would sell well.

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Old 10-06-2006, 09:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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http://www.storybookhomes.biz/planbooks/ The book on the right is called "truly tiny homes" but are up to 1900 square feet! Not my idea of tiny.
Some of these are set up really strangely and have way too many bathrooms, but they look very prrdy.
"Up to" is fine. 1900 sq ft would be really small for a house that had 5 bedrooms for instance.

Oh! Those are *cute*!! I want one!
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Old 10-06-2006, 09:56 PM
 
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I love this thread! I live in a very old house (100 years, roughly) and think the floor plan stinks!! It was built when all people had was a dresser and two toys, lol. There are no closets, when they put in outlets, they didn't put any in the bedrooms (who needed them), and the whole house just does not flow.

I hear ya sister! Our house is 150 years old. It's one of the reasons that I love it and also a reason it drives me insane! I have grand plans to knock down one little section of living room that I think will open up the whole main floor--and provide a great loop for running which is essential for good play!
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Old 10-06-2006, 09:57 PM
 
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My DH and I are both architects, I don't design houses, he does and it is all market driven, it may not be you crunchy mamas but the market is huge for huge houses. The bigger is better mentality has been here for a long time, and I must add the biggest contributors are builders, not architects. Banks also have a big influence on size as does zoning. Unfortunately it is true, the additional fees for an architect make is out of reach for many, although I would say you get what you pay for and want. Good design or a two story entry and bonus room over a three car garage. The suburbs are full of McMansions and they are selling. I would still check out the books, not every idea is going to work for you, but that's not the point, it is about understanding what you need and how you can shape the spaces you live in, not how they shape you.
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm glad to know there are good design principles in the books. Just to reassure everyone, I don't really think that all or any architects and such have no clue about small spaces. Actually, I don't have a problem with the "Not so big houses" lady marketing larger floor plans, what bugged me was that they were *all* that big.

Dh has already vetoed the older home idea, he wants us to build when the time comes (you know, in 10 years or so).
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:21 PM
 
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I really wanted to learn more, I even put the books on hold at the library, and then I took a look at the home plans they had for sale. 2000+ sqft!!! 3000+ with basement!! For a house with only 3 bedrooms! And the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms were labelled "Guest" and "Guest/office" like the house isn't even for a family. How on earth is that much space for two people "not so big"?
I thought about giving a warning/disclaimer in my blog about that little oddity. I also got her books from the library long ago...wanting to see cute tiny houses...only to be disappointed. But the one thing that she is known for is her USE of space. And the different design techniques...such as "having a light to walk toward". I love that. She talked a lot about her book Home By Design. She said it has all of those "principals" that you need to master...and they will work if your home is tiny or large.

She's also coming out with a book in May 2007 called "The Not So Big Life"...about downsizing your committments, and figuring out what your priorities are. There are so many self-help books like it...but I will certainly check it out in May!

Sara ::: Mama to Bella Grace & Lucy Mae Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. 1 Peter 3:4
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:39 PM
 
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Our 800 sf apartment condo is too small for us but we'll be here for atleast another year and another kid. It may be layout but I have worked really hard to maximize with shelving and everything. What I dislike the most is how difficult it is to have people over here. We basically never have anyone over and keeping it clean is really difficult. Using one table as an office and workspace for my business (I'm an artist), my dh's grading papers and his grad school homework, my dd's coloring, and cleaning off all projects (bringing all work to a complete stop) for meals 3 times a day - kind of sucks. : If it isn't used daily - it's not kept in our home but in my mother in law's basement. I packed up quite a few of my dd's toys (even favorites) because we don't have room for them. I'll rotate them out of storage and put away others. She's not too happy about that as her toys are really 'bare bones' now. This house is really hard to keep clean because I can't afford the cool organizers that would make things work here better and cramming a lot of essential items into small spaces means = a big jumbled mess. We have no floorspace and no yard and we're always ontop of each other, needing the same area at the same time.

I'm sure if our layout was better life here wouldn't be so lame, but a lot of days I just wish I had somewhere to keep my business supplies and my kid could have room to jump around a little.
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:19 PM
 
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In the author's defense, she calls it the "not-so-big" house, as opposed to the "small" house. I think her point is that an average-sized house can be more useful, and more attractive, than the big house that so many people think they need.

I've been really inspired by her ideas. We are building a house soon, and we've put a lot of thought into the design. Due to the layout of the lot, the dimensions of the 2-story house can't be any larger than 20" deep by 40" wide, so it's a bit challenging to fit our dream house into that footprint.
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Old 10-07-2006, 12:55 PM
 
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Like sophmama we are living in a tiny place right now that doesn't even have room for cool organizing things. Actually, the house is pretty organized; what we truly need is more space. Hopefully soon we can move to a home.

We would love to build a home based on the principles of the Not So Big House. I love the style of those homes with the natural colored woodwork. DH loves Japanese design and I think it works perfectly with that.

Anyway, someday when we can build, all we want is a rectangle; essentially a barn, really. We want the kitchen, dining, and living to be all one long room, maybe with a step down from dining to living. With a fire place at the end of the house in the LR. Stacked washer/dryer in the kitchen. At the other end of the house would be a staircase behind the kitchen wall with a master bedroom and bath on the other side of the staricase. Upstairs we would want 3 more BRs (one for each child, plus a guest room as we do often have my mother here) and a full bath. In the basement would be the mechanicals and a workshop for DH and studio for me.

It seems to me that is pretty simple to construct: just a rectangle with very few walls. Maybe one of you architects can explain to me why on Earth it is so expensive to build a house? Is it mostly just the clearing of the land and digging of the basement that is so costly? We don't neccesarily want a post and beam house, but that does seem to fit our simple rectangle style. Why is post and beam so expensive? We have also looked at http://www.shelter-kit.com/barnhouse.html We would do the 24' x 64' one and then just divide it up inside the way we want.
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Old 10-07-2006, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by CorbinsMama View Post
It seems to me that is pretty simple to construct: just a rectangle with very few walls. Maybe one of you architects can explain to me why on Earth it is so expensive to build a house? Is it mostly just the clearing of the land and digging of the basement that is so costly? We don't neccesarily want a post and beam house, but that does seem to fit our simple rectangle style. Why is post and beam so expensive? We have also looked at http://www.shelter-kit.com/barnhouse.html We would do the 24' x 64' one and then just divide it up inside the way we want.
I was going to suggest that to you. Although it occurs to me I know about them because of a post you made earlier.
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Old 10-07-2006, 01:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
I was reading through the "not so big house" website and it's talking about how better home design means you can have a smaller house and still have everything you like. Which I totally agree with, I think one of the reasons our 1200 sqft home feels too small for dh and I is it has a lousy floorplan--not the worst possible, but not designed for how we live. So I was really interested in the concepts the website was presenting, I really wanted to learn more, I even put the books on hold at the library, and then I took a look at the home plans they had for sale. 2000+ sqft!!! 3000+ with basement!! For a house with only 3 bedrooms! And the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms were labelled "Guest" and "Guest/office" like the house isn't even for a family. How on earth is that much space for two people "not so big"?

It's like the time I read an article on decorating small bathrooms that thought "small" was 15' by 15'. Sorry, but if I had room for an armchair in my bathroom, I wouldn't *need* help decorating.
I'm so with you. Not so big? My could be not so big if I lived alone! Even then space would be tight.

The only way I could fit an armchair in my bathroom wouild be if I put it in the tub. Not that it would fit! My bathroom is so small that two people can barely stand in it-unless one is in the tub. It's the only bathroom in the house too!

I'd love to see advice for people who live in really small spaces. Or who have 5 or more people sharing 1200 sq feet.
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Old 10-07-2006, 01:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by hopeelise View Post

We live in a 1919 bungalow style home with 1156 square feet above ground and about 600 sf below ground. ... The family that owned our house prior raised 4 kids (6 people total) here (without a finished basement) and I am sure it was great for them. Americans have gotten way out of hand with the bigness of the things they have. Keeping up with the Joneses I guess!!

I've posted this before but we live in a 1200 sq ft Cape Cod with an unfinsihed basment. There are there not very big bedrooms, one medium sized LR, a dining room and a small kitchen (not quite big enough for a table. One of the families that lived her had 10 kids. The family who built the house had 4 kids so that shows the different expectations in 1955
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Old 10-07-2006, 02:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post
I was going to suggest that to you. Although it occurs to me I know about them because of a post you made earlier.
Hmmm... maybe so!

It's seems silly to me to have all kinds of crazy big rooms in a house. All I need is a decent size kitchen (I cook and bake a lot), and a place to eat and hang out together with friends and family. Who needs a big room just for sleeping?
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Old 10-07-2006, 06:45 PM
 
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Originally Posted by CorbinsMama View Post
Hmmm... maybe so!

It's seems silly to me to have all kinds of crazy big rooms in a house. All I need is a decent size kitchen (I cook and bake a lot), and a place to eat and hang out together with friends and family. Who needs a big room just for sleeping?
Exactly! We're building a house right now, and I had to work HARD to talk dh out of a 2000 sf house. I cook & bake a lot, and we entertain a lot, so a big, open kitchen/dining/living room was really important to us. The other rooms are fairly small, which suits me just fine!

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Old 10-08-2006, 08:30 PM
 
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So I was really interested in the concepts the website was presenting, I really wanted to learn more, I even put the books on hold at the library, and then I took a look at the home plans they had for sale. 2000+ sqft!!! 3000+ with basement!! For a house with only 3 bedrooms! And the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms were labelled "Guest" and "Guest/office" like the house isn't even for a family. How on earth is that much space for two people "not so big"?

I thought the exact same thing when I looked through their books/website. I love the CONCEPT but wish they should actual small houses - under 1000 sq. ft., for example.

We live in a 2 bed/1 bath 960 sq.ft. house built in 1945. It's perfect for our three person family. When we have another child, it will still be a great size. Our room and our son's room are each about 120 sq. ft., plenty for us. Guests stay on an air mattress in the livingroom.

We're getting ready to remodel our kitchen and bathroom, both of which haven't been done in more than 30 years and have structural damage. I've been doing a LOT of planning to get the maximum storage out of the space, even planning which drawers and cabinets will hold what in the kitchen so I have the most efficient cooking space. That's what I've taken from NSBH - fitting things into the nooks and crannies, and making rooms work for you. The pictures sure are pretty, too. But a separate "away" room? Not in my square footage!
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