Oh yeah, there is nothing like inclement weather to drive people indoors, especially the cold and wet combination. Then, the realization that we live in the space some people consider closet space really begins to sink in.
Don’t get me wrong, 240 square feet is a big closet, but it’s probably designed for purpose better than this travel trailer is designed for living. Oh, how I wish I could smack the designers for sheer foolishness in this design! (No, we didn’t buy this for its wonderful design, but rather its wonderful price!)
We know more about what we don’t like already than most people will ever learn before they are stuck in their new custom home. I know that I don’t like an over-the-range microwave. I hate the bed being closed in so that it feels like we’re curling up in a closet–I’d actually rather it was only a curtain wall rather than a solid wall to eliminate that claustrophobic feeling. I know we want more windows for ventilation and sunlight.
Low ceilings are fine, but they do enhance the smallness of our space. The dinette is uncomfortable and impractical for us. I look at the small space designs available commercially, and I can see things I wish for…and things I know would not work for us.
If you cook real food, the tiny RV or marine range will not work. A galley kitchen can be quite efficient, but it does need more than an 18″ piece of counter to be efficient to cook in. The dorm-sized two door refrigerator that I thought would work just perfect with stores within a few miles…is too small for a couple who eat vegetables and want to chill dishes. I prefer to shop once a week or once every two weeks, and that refrigerator just can’t manage it. It’s made us the misers of refrigerator space.
We also need office and desk space in our living space, even more importantly than so-called leisure space such as a sofa or television. We also need bookshelf space and pantry space, all things that are non-existent now.
I look at the truly small house designs on the market, and none of them are “perfect” for us. I’m sure it is the same for many people, especially when they happen to reside in the same age category we’re in.
I slid in at the tail end of the baby boom. That means I’m not getting any younger now…and the idea of a “sleeping loft” is as appealing as a trip to the gynecologist. We’re just not at the age where climbing a ladder to go to bed is appealing or possibly even particularly safe. Most of us have body parts that aren’t exactly under warranty anymore!
That means while we may still well be able to scale ladders, we also know that having to scale a ladder to go to bed isn’t going to be the most brilliant of ideas, especially over the long term. It’s a great idea when you are twenty or thirty something and immortal, but by fifty something…mortality is more of a reality, as is disability. I’m not even sure I want to cope with a bed that has to be lifted into the wall each morning to make room for living during the day.
Yes, we need small and efficient, but no, we don’t need physical challenges that may not be possible in the not-so-distant-future either. We want a home that will age gracefully with us, until that time comes when we are no longer capable of living on our own with our own lifestyle.
Designing wisely now means that our home does handle our aging needs well. That means leaving the floor plan open enough to cope with the potential need for a wheel chair or walker, eliminating the need for ladders and unnecessary steps, and not using narrow doorways. It means energy efficiency so that we can manage the bills on a fixed income too. To make the design even more demanding, it has to be cost-efficient to construct and in a small but efficient design as well. Another feature lacking in many small house designs is the addition of laundry facilities, apparently sacrificed to the “space-gods.” For aging owners, not having to load laundry into the car and head to the laundromat, then unload it, manage the dirty deed, only to reload it into the vehicle, and then repeat it at home is more than a luxury–it’s nearly a necessity for independent living. For many of us, long before we are truly “seniors”, we are coping with strength and mobility issues brought on by injury or illness, and the laundry can easily become one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Try to imagine navigating through your design with various handicaps or mobility accessories to truly get a better idea of what it would be like to live in that space and dealing with issues such as loss of strength, using a walker, or even with limited vision.
Someday, we may find the perfect design. Hopefully everyone does. In the meantime, what resources are there for the small-efficient-house-hopefuls? There is Tiny House Design (they even have some free plans), Tiny Tumbleweed Houses, Country Plans, Home Front Homes (kit homes, great idea in my opinion!), Stone Mountain Cabins, Timber Frames (interesting idea they have…the plans are JUST the frame, leaving the interior as DIY), Storage Shed, Sheldon Designs, Town and Country, BC Mountain Homes, Ross Chapin, Thompson Plans, and Tightline Designs.