Not So Big Houses - Smaller and Better Ways to Live

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA

The Today Show had an intriguing segment this week about people opting for smaller houses.

After decades of the average American house growing ever larger, this year the size of the average American house shrunk by almost 300 square feet.

Not So Big House bookMatt Lauer's segment showed two families who chose smaller houses -  one family moved from a larger home to a significantly smaller house and another couple who designed their own modestly sized  house. They talked about the benefits of greater family togetherness, saving money on utilities and other housing costs, and more time to pursue things other than home upkeep.

The couple who designed their own small house stressed the emphasis on quality over size. The husband referred to their house as a "jewel box" - my favorite term for really wonderful small houses. 

Their comments led to a brief interview with architect Sarah Susanka, author of the Not So Big House books.  Susanka's books, which argue for smaller, well designed and beautifully crafted houses as an alternative to McMansions, have developed a large following. 

Susanka's got a franchise going - her books include:

  • The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live (1998)
  • Creating the Not So Big House: Insights and Ideas for the New American Home (2002)
  • Not So Big Solutions for Your Home (2002)
  • Inside the Not So Big House: Discovering the Details that Bring a Home to Life (2005)
  • Outside the Not So Big House: Creating the Landscape of Home (2006)
  • Not So Big Remodeling: Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live (2009)

The segment ends with a short interview with Barbara Corcoran who, truth be told, just doesn't get it.  Corcoran's emphasis on open floor plans, great rooms, and 9' ceilings flies in the face of what Susanka's Not So Big House Movement is all about.  From The Not So Big House:

"More rooms, bigger spaces and vaulted ceilings do not necessarily give us what we need in a home..."

Corcoran needs to read the book.   

 

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  1. Judy Chapman 05/15/2009 05:52 PM
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Ambassador
653,609
Karen Crowson
Livermore Wine Country Homes
Alain Pinel Realtors, Pleasanton, CA

It is certainly a trend that's on the rise, which is perhaps why the larger, more expensive homes in our market have an abundant inventory.  I hear more and more people say that they want to downsize, and a few who are in larger homes, who say they wish they'd never bought the overly large home. 

I'd never heard that about the ivory button.  I want one too!

May 18, 2009 02:57 PM
Rainmaker
128,109
Mike Henderson
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848
Your complete source for buying HUD homes

Interesting comments.  I've looked at that book before I even became an agent.  Very interesting.  I'll take a contrary stance.  I hope to make a ton of money in this industry and have a big house.

May 20, 2009 01:16 AM
Rainmaker
341,413
Elizabeth Bolton
Cambridge MA Realtor
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA

Hi Mike ~ You mean that mildewy pine paneled play room in the basement won't pass muster? I have hilarious photos from parties my parents attended in the late 1960s in those playrooms - beehive hairdos and all.

Hi Katherine - there are so many great books out there that do really enlarge our perspective about housing options, architecture, trends, etc. 

Hi Gene - You have to wonder.  I'm still betting on smaller since I think energy costs will be of more and more concern.  It will be interesting to see how things change - or don't. 

Hi Karen - Don't you love the idea of the ivory button?  Another really neat thing I saw was a leaded glass insert in a house's front door.  The house had only two owners in 80 years or so.  Originally the first owners had two leaded glass inserts with their initials on the front doors.  In the 1970s when the second owners paid off their mortgage the kids had new inserts created with their family's initial.  Those were installed in the doors and the earlier ones were framed and hung in the vestibule.  It was a really nice idea I thought.

Hi Mike - Ha!  Go for it!!

Liz

 

May 20, 2009 11:56 AM
Rainer
54,676
Kelsey Barklow
423/948-9154, Marne Drinnon 423/202-2277
Evans & Evans Real Estate

I have been noticing this trend over the past few years. It makes a lot of sense for a lot of people for a variety of reasons. I have downsized recently but my family and I find ourselves almost on top of one another so it's not a good thing for us right now. But I do see the benefits. Thanks for this post.

May 25, 2009 03:18 PM
Rainmaker
341,413
Elizabeth Bolton
Cambridge MA Realtor
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA

Hi Kelsey ~ My parents decided to move from their first house, a Cape, when my mother could hear my brother crayoning in his room upstairs - talk about cozy!

Liz

May 25, 2009 09:24 PM
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Elizabeth Bolton

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