Home Design/Layout Affects Footprint

The size and design of a house or apartment makes a significant different in the cost of maintaining it. Cleaning it, repairing stuff, furnishing it, heating and cooling it. The cost comes not only in terms of money and fossil fuels, but your own precious supply of attention.

Some incredibly clever folks created a 420-square foot apartment that two people can comfortably live in. It furthermore has space for two guests to sleep, and can accommodate a sit-down dinner for 10 to 12 people.

The same people went on to create a 350-square-foot apartment that meets the same criteria.

This is not to say everyone should give up their normal-sized houses or apartments and move to a micro dwelling. (Though I must say, some of my favorite dwellings have been tiny, including a 200-square-foot apartment in Tokyo and a 19-foot trailer in Austin.)

What it is to say is, there’s lots of room to push the envelope of design. Even in an ordinary house, a dining table could fold up into a wall. Bicycles can hang up, out of the way. There’s so much room for guests and additional residents in the average home, if space is used creatively.

Not everyone wants to live with other people (or more people than they already live with). But some would if they could, either to reduce their overhead costs, or to accommodate a friend or family member who can’t afford their own place — or for a social reason, such as to build community and resilience; share skills and ideas under one roof.

My dwelling, which I will grow old in if God’s willing and the sea don’t rise too much, is a 988-square-foot house. I have usually had one housemate; would like a second. During special events such as Bike Week, I have had up to nine friends and relatives staying here.

Officially, my house is a two-bedroom. But I converted the tiny utility room into my own bedroom-studio. And last March, when there were nine people here for Bike Week, I removed the table and chairs from the tiny dining room and put a cot in there. You know what? I never put the dining room table and chairs back in there. The chairs are used all over the house, and the table went to a neighbor who needed one.

So where do people eat? That’s easy. When the weather’s nice and there’s a large gathering, we eat at the patio table. When the weather’s not nice and we have a large gathering, I set up a long folding table in the living room. (The table is lightweight, and is easy to store when not in use.)

When it’s just me, or me and one or two guests, we use the little end-tables in the living room or porch.

Flexibility is what I like. Lightweight movable furniture. Folding beds. A 988-square-foot house can be vast; it’s much too large for me alone.

I have a rule that no furniture comes into this house that I would not be able to carry out the door myself, unassisted. Good rule for a single female, even a stronger-than-average one.

Some folks live in 3,000-square-foot houses where they are actively using every bit of the space. More often, though (in my house-cleaning and decluttering gigs), what I see is lots of opportunity for better use of space. It’s rarely the homeowner’s fault. Mainstream house design, cultural norms, have a certain inertia.

That’s why it’s so helpful and energizing to see examples of radical space design, even if you yourself don’t aspire to live in a micro dwelling.

Design is a major determinant of whether a living space is easily shareable or not. I once heard a home designer say she could break a couple up in two months just by creating a bad home layout (not that she was trying to do that; she was just trying to illustrate the power of design).

Makes you think, huh!

Design of our living space has a major effect on our moods, our energy, our creative capacity, our ability to live harmoniously with others. I greatly enjoyed the descriptions and photos of the LifeEdited micro apartments. And I’m eyeballing more opportunities to optimize space and flexibility in my thousand-square-foot palace!

Further Reading:

Can a Crowdsourced Apartment Design Save the Planet? (mashable.com): “What do you get when you take one 420-square-foot New York apartment, one green living advocate, $70,000 in prizes and a crowdsourced audience of forward-thinking designers? Hopefully an apartment design competition that can help reduce a country’s environmental footprint. The concept, called LifeEdited, aims to design an actual apartment that brainchild and guinea pig Graham Hill will inhabit. The apartment, just 420 square feet, must be able to accommodate a sit-down dinner for 12, comfortable lounging for eight people, space for two guests, a home office, a work area, hideable kitchen and necessities like bed, shower and bike storage (it is a green initiative, after all).”

LifeEdited2 (LifeEdited.com): This one is a 350-square-foot apartment! “Completed in 2016, LE2 is smaller than LE1 but amazingly manages similar functionality. It graciously seats 10 for dinner, hosts two in a guest room, and has a great home office.” I loved reading about the super clever foldaway/transforming furniture and the energy- and water-saving features. By the way, the article says the apartment is for sale. It was written awhile back but who knows? If it grabs you, contact the people!

“About” page of LifeEdited.com: – see more pix of their ultra-cool space-efficient micro-houses (including LifeEdited Maui) and apartments. LifeEdited Maui is a great example of an ultra-space-efficient small home in a wild setting, leaving more room for nature.