Having spent about half my first two decades of life in various tents, two different Volkswagen bus campers (ah, the 1977 Campmobile!), and backpacking, I know a thing or two about living in small spaces. There are plenty of tricks and strategies, some of which turn out to be useful in an average sized home (whatever that is) or even large ones. I’ll be illustrating some of these concepts in future articles with my Reset House, a recent extreme design which is ideal for this purpose.
Building small is not a new trend. In America following WW II, millions of sub 1,000 square feet homes were made available for GIs that kicked off the baby boom and our current state of sub-urbanity. Frank Lloyd Wright developed the Usonian House as an accessible option for good design, almost as a reaction to his early prairie style mansions. High pressure real estate values in heavily populated city centers have pressured living space sizes for ages. Today, this can be seen in micro-hotels in Japan and fold away apartments in New York. But financial economics are no longer the only argument for small.
As discussed in my premier article for this blog, Better than Bigger, these recent reconsiderations of how to live better have begun a sea change in how homes are designed. Strategies for more thoughtfully arranged spaces that are beautiful, comfortable, useful, and more efficient is afforded by good design, not size.
The Reset House is inspired by this reconsideration in a 120 square foot luxury micro-home for a family of four. It potentially begins as a simple shelter with about $800 worth of materials. Continuing improvements grow it by phases into a simple enclosure, then a weathertight three-season apartment, to a fully livable home, and finally a posh pad for a teenager in the back yard, a vacation cabin, or even a short term house for a family.
Over a series of articles I’ll explore the Reset House’s space saving design features. We’ll talk about potential phasing from deck to luxury guest home. I will also discuss some of the technical interests in construction, energy performance, and feasibility options. The compact form also sharpens priorities for the kitchen design, not all of which made the cut. This will all be relative to the house’s Dream, the priorities determined before the beginning of design that resulted in this particular set of options instead of many others that could have easily resulted.
I’ve realized that the advantage of using this small encapsulation of a home is how well it explains so many design concepts. With less to consider, each issue’s significance and interrelation is clearer. Instead of elaborating on the larger set of possibilities within a typical home, these conversations will highlight the integrated nature of design and the back and forth development in architecture.