Small space living … starting out or emptying the nesting … or somewhere in between?
The average American home in the 1950’s was 900 sq.ft, with 3.2 occupants. The average American home today is 2300 sq.ft, with 2.3 occupants. That means today’s average American lives in more square footage than a whole family in the 1950’s!! “The average new single-detached home in Canada is about 1,900 sq.ft. and new home builders expect them to get smaller in 2012.” says the Canadian Home Builder Association. Most large residences have more circulation areas like stairways, hallways and corridors which is unused space just for circulation from room to room…. that can equal up to 40% of unlivable space in many of the typical track house design … and you have to provide lighting, heating and cooling to all of that space!!
Do we really need all that space to live comfortably??
Living in a smaller place doesn’t just mean ultra modern and expensive high rise condominiums. Although high-rise condos are a fabulous option if you have the budget and want that lifestyle. Consider that renovated factories are being turned into up-scale loft apartments … not just for artists and musicians anymore. Neighbourhood revitalization is taking place in large and smaller cities all over, changing once dark and dangerous streets into family and pedestrian friendly, tree-lined street scapes with cafes, shops and parks. For a home with easier access to the street, single family homes, whether an in-fill, a renovated older home or a new up-scale town-home are available in posh downtown revitalized neighbourhoods that you may not have ever considered living in before. A well designed smaller spaces can be organized to satisfy functional requirements as well as aesthetic sensibilities.
Living in a smaller space can also allow you to afford a more luxuriously appointed, with all the bells and whistles type home… possibly in a neighbourhood closer to your work or your hobbies. Think of your smaller living space like a decked-out sport coupe instead of a basic large 4-door sedan.
A condominium that offers extra features such as roof top gardening beds, barbecue areas, swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, game rooms and theaters can extend your living space. Even if you have a mere 600 square feet in your condo, these additional spaces would allow you the luxury of amenities that would otherwise be quite pricey. Many condominiums also have spaces such as recreation rooms with large kitchens and furnished apartments to accommodate family events and overnight guests. Just watch out for the condo fees… nothing is free!!
The downtown re-development of many cities has seen an increase in high and medium-rise condominium buildings which allows more people to live in the footprint of the previous building site. Also, redevelopment of industrial and office buildings into condominiums has re-purposed long empty spaces. The movement of people back into cities’ downtown cores and extended neighbourhoods will slow urban sprawl, keeping precious farmland and delicate natural spaces from the developers… for now. Urban planners have increased easier access to natural green spaces for urban dwellers as the positive physiological and psychological effects of natural habitat are well know. People just feel better and are happier living with access to nature and fresh air.
Moving closer to work and having a short commute is worth more than a big house. Many who make this move say they have an increase in quality of life as so much of their day that was once taken up with commuting is now available to them. Also, the cut in your daily commute makes your environmental footprint slightly smaller.
Even if a downtown condo isn’t your idea of easy living and prefer the fresh air of the country, a smaller residence could still be beneficial. Country living could allow one to build an efficient off-the-grid abode… perhaps with modern and not-so-modern building materials and techniques. A smaller residence requires less lighting, heating and air conditioning… easier to clean and maintain so more time can be spent in the garden… or tending your pygmy goats and heritage chickens.
Environmentally speaking, with a smaller dwelling, less resources are used in the building and maintenance of your living space. We are well on our way into the second decade of the 21st century and still large track home builders are pumping out monster-size dwellings with “just to code” level of energy efficiency, despite governments’ commitment improvement of standards. Large swaths of what was once pristine farm land or forests are being leveled for more sub-divisions of clone housing. From the Canada Mortgage and Housing (CMHC) web-site: “Sustainability and innovation become the watchwords for this decade as governments focus on cleaner energy, the environment, and sustainable, yet affordable communities.” It will take a larger commitment from more citizens to push for greater changes in standards to reach sustainability goals. Perhaps the cable TV shows that have been promoting these monster homes as the desired norm have a social responsibility to show everyone how small spaces can be fabulously chic and livable … and definitely more sustainable environments!!
Whether you prefer downtown, deep in the country or somewhere in between, one can live a small-space, sustainable life-style in comfortable, stylish fashion. It just takes planning, creativity and professional execution. Doing things twice or even three times is a huge waste of resources… and details that are not finished with precision are noticeable and take away from all the good things you’ve done in your home. If you’re not a pro, hire a pro to add value to your home and your life. The small investment of hiring a designer is always money well spent too, as you get access to designer products, services and possibly product discounts, but more important you will achieve a small living space that will work just for you! Love your small space living!!
Note: Average American house size: