Thursday, October 29, 2009

A follow up post to the 'Trends the scream 2000s'.

Image via Style Chronicles -
an example of am entry in a home that is charming and cozy rather than large and cold

I thoroughly enjoyed reading each and every comment on my post on 'Trends that scream 2000s'; there was a lively and interactive discussion about what is trendy, what is classic, and the emerging trends in the homes that we are liking these days . I would also like to thank the Washington Post for selecting this post on their weekly 'Blog Watch' in the Home & Garden section (click here to go to the Blog Watch post).

One of my readers, the author of Style Chronicle, wrote a fantastic follow up post about possible directions for what will be in houses in the 2010s. I encourage you to go over and read her post, and throw in your opinion about emerging trends in architecture and design.

One of Style Chronicles' predictions: the scale of homes that are built over the next decade will be smaller and more intimate. Given the current economic climate, and the difficulty in attaining financing, homes that are being built now and over the next few years will surely be more thoughtfully considered, as they are being built with 'real money' (or at least a hefty down payment), not zero percent down, endless credit lines, credit card debt, or 110% financing offers. In Atlanta (inside the perimeter), there are very, very few builder spec homes that are in process right now.

Also, there has been a definite movement away from excess, and there is a certain cache to living frugally, or at a minimum living within your means (or for those with comfortable means, living a 'normal' lifestyle). The New York Times had an article about this subject recently: 'A Reluctance to Spend May Be Legacy of Recession'.

My question is this: what is your idea of a 'smaller and more intimate' home? When answering, make sure to note your geographic area. What is smaller and more intimate in New York City will certainly be different than something considered small and intimate in Atlanta, for example.

This home, at just over 5000 square feet, is certainly not a cottage, but neither is it a 'McMansion' despite its size. This is an older home that was beautifully made with architectural integrity, on a lot that is the right size for the home, and it adds a beautiful dimension to the Atlanta architectural landscape.

Related to this, there was a heated discussion about McMansions in the comment section of my recent post. In the Buckhead section of Atlanta, where a house that is 3500 square feet is considered a cottage, the McMansion definition seems to be quite different than what it might be in another area of the country. In the end, many of the readers agreed that it is not just the size of a house that defines it as a McMansion, but the poor craftsmanship, the emphasis on size over architectural integrity, the use of classic architectural features that are exaggerated, executed poorly, combined with other disparate architectural genres, and turned into a caricature. Another component of a McMansion home is that it often takes up virtually all of the land on its lot, and is clustered in close proximity with other brand spanking new overscale homes.

A very large home with a mixture of architectural styles (if it looks like a duck...)

This is a home (pictured above) that is large, but was designed by one of the nation's top architects, with an awareness of historical correctness, scale, and proportion. This property sits on two acres of land, which is in proportion to its size. The front fascade is decidedly French Norman (even the color of the shutters was meticulously researched and given a chalky gray green that is so often seen on shutters in Normandy), whereas the back is looser and reflects the needs of a 21st century family. A McMansion? Definitely not. As one of my readers pleaded "Please people, can we stop misusing this word. Just because a home is large or has a lot of square feet does not make it a "McMansion". The definition of McMansion is a large, architecturally dull, low quality house often times on a small lot. Thus the "Mc" part of the word which alludes to the cheapness of McDonalds. Does anyone believe that a large beautiful well executed design by a top tier architect such as McAlpine, Summerour, William T. Baker, etc. etc is a McMansion? I certainly don't."

Great discussion - this is the reason why I love to blog so much, because it enables me to find people out there who are actually interested in these kind of topics!

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  1. My neck of the woods: Atlanta
    What is an intimate sized home? Under 5000 square feet, probably 3500-4000. I like the idea of a house where every room is used, and every room has multiple purposes (tv watching, conversation, games, hanging out). Where there are no rooms that are pretty but dead (dining rooms that are only used once a year). I think this can be achieved very easily under 4000 square feet.

  2. My husband is a real estate appraiser here in So California. Yesterday, he inspected a 5,000 sq ft home in Riverside (60ish miles east of LA). It was the very definition of McMansion and couldn't be more opposite the 5,000 sq ft example you show here if it tried. Bland, homogenous architecture. Oversized columns and arches and fireplaces and flat screen-ready built-ins. A caricature, like you said, of what a "real" house should look like. And in the required street scene photo he took, there they were, one after the other, lined up down the street on their tiny, treeless lots.
    There has been a backlash taking place for some time now against unnecessarily voluminous homes, and while I don't begrudge anyone living in as large a house as they wish, I'm glad this terrible economy has forced us all to "get real" about such things as McMansions and $1000 handbags.
    Personally, I live in a home that is less than 2000 sq ft but wish it was at least that big. 2500 would be even better and, in my opinion, would suit the needs of most average families. I have a friend who lives in 7000 sq ft. Visiting her is like arriving at a boutique hotel!

  3. I have come to the conclusion that I have mixed emotion on square feet... I need a lot of room... but can I afford my next home to be the the size I desire on the amount of acreage I desire and also be able to afford the utility bills. Thus, I think for entertaining purposes...as well as storage issues... I have devised a plan, to build a house within a house...I want the ability to entertain larger crowds and yet live in an intimate setting with my spouse and pets. I haven't perfected my plan but I am getting closer with the design. It is give and take on architecture vs. square footage. It can be done... I have been working on this for at least a year. I am getting there slowly but surely. Of course taxes also play a role.
    Anonymous, must be loaded. ha!
    Or working for the current Government.

  4. I think you can safely assume the owner of the "duck" house does not read your blog.

    Fun post, by the way. No one wants a house (or hairstyle) that is too dated.

  5. I loved your post and wrote a follow up on my blog. I live in Salt Lake City and we see a lot of low budget, architecturally-dull-new-cookie-cutter homes. But have some beautiful neighborhoods as well. I think another thing to think about when you are comparing square footage - nationally -is whether or not you are including basements in that number. I have found that to be tricky because some regions have them and some don't. Some people really use them and others - it is just for storage. Just a thought. Thanks again for the great post. Very thought provoking.

  6. My neck of the woods: San Francisco Bay Area
    Even within this metropolitan area, there is a disparity regarding what is an intimate home vs. what is a spacious home. In one community, Atherton, a home between 3000 - 4000 sq. feet would be considered intimate. But, in Lafayette, 3000-4000 sq. feet would be considered spacious. Frighteningly, the price for that house in Atherton would probably be $5+ million. In Lafayette, it would be $1.5-2.5 million.

    Our humble abode is 2100 sq. feet. Even though it is considered a cottage in many parts of the country, we think it's a perfect size (we have one child). We have a comfortable kitchen/family room, living room, dining room, 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Even if we could afford more, we probably wouldn't move up. I think we would work, instead, to be completely debt-free.

  7. We moved from the Dallas area to the Sacramento area this year. In TX we had the 3,500 sq ft home for a family of 4. Looking back, it was overkill. The guest room, while decorated and comfortable for our guests, was used only 3 nights in 3 years. In CA, we are building a 2,500 sq ft and expect it to be a much better fit for our family. We lost the formal dining, guest room and exercise room. However, the thought of the dining, family and kitchen all being a great room is exciting from a lifestyle perspective. It's also much less intimidating to decorate the smaller space!

  8. How interesting to see this today. I'm in Northern Virginia for business, where there are many housing developments and McMansions mixed in with beautiful homes.

    I live small on purpose, but realize that people with families couldn't live this way (in a 785 square foot home). For me, an intimate home is under 2000 square feet. Over that and I know I'd have unused rooms! Again, I realize that my take is different because my family consists of two humans and a dog! :)

  9. We're currently updating a 100 year old farmhouse in the mountains of western North Carolina. Bringing our home into this century, while maintaining the integrity of a rural farmhouse has been a challenge. We've raised ceilings, added much needed storage space and closets, and added 2 new bathrooms as well as a laundry/mudroom room. These basic amenities will greatly improve our quality of life and the way in which we enjoy our home on a day to day basis.

    On the subject of timeless design, we have found that the combination of quality products and craftsmanship combined with a practical approach to architecture and lifestyle will produce a pleasing result.

    On the subject of trends, if homeowners are always chasing "what everyone else is pursuing" in home decor, we totally miss the opportunity to craft our homes into unique havens of individuality and personal style.

  10. Thank you for the link! I live in Nashville, where much like Atlanta, there are many large homes that I would not qualify as McMansions as they are beautifully executed, they sit on their land with an air of graciousness, and have an easy comfort about them.

    McMansions lack character and are poorly thought out. They are generic and overly commercialized. They usually contain large room after large room with no "transitional" spaces. Transitional spaces may seem to be "wasted space" in our overly efficient culture but they are so important in creating character and beauty in a home.

  11. i like that definition of McMansion- cheap & bland & not original. i think of the "zero lot line" neighborhoods in the city where i grew up: memphis, TN. now i live in st. louis, MO and i think our current home would be considered a cottage: 1800 square feet, but charming and filled with period appropriate architecture (built in the 50's). we are moving to a larger home (around 3000 sf), and are striving to keep the cottage feel. as your reader Denise commented: we want to craft our home with individuality & make it our own, not 'what everyone else has.' this may include some of the trends of the 2000's, because i have always loved white kitchens & oil rubbed bronze fixtures! but it will also reflect our style... no McMansions here!
    thanks for another great discussion- i'm enjoying it!

  12. In our neighborhood, big-time renovations yield about 3000+ square feet. Teardowns are to 4,000+ plus plus a 2-car garage. The banks requires it. Smaller doesn't fit the models for this neighborhood.

    The city (Atlanta) made anti-McMansion rules: Height formulas, Foot-print maximums relative to lot size, and maximum square feet formulas for lot size, increased rear setback requirements. These allow for houses that are plenty big, plenty beautiful or plenty ugly.

    What zoning can't do is ensure that houses are "pretty." I don't want government deciding "pretty." Some neighborhoods restrict design: Druid Hills in Atlanta is one place. There are some truly great places to preserve as is. But restrictions also produce fossilized white elephants.

    Doing smaller scales for leaner times must also affect the existing stock. Some of our wonderful big houses might survive only if we divide them. A mansion could become a cozy and maintainable duplex or triplex.

    We live in a post-war minimal traditional on 1/5 acre. It started life with about 1200 SqFt. They bumped out a laundry room, enclosed the porch and raised 3 children. We lived there as is for 12 years until our 3rd child arrived. We re-did it to almost 2400 ft. square which worked very well. They've flown the coop and the house is more than we need except for parties and family visits. But if we had 3500 square feet, it would feel like a warehouse.

  13. I grew up in an extremely large country estate in England and now live in a shoebox in NYC (I think the size of my apartment now is smaller than my family home childhood nursery in total) and I love both extremes. As it's (without wishing to sound vulgar) not the size that counts...but what you do with it that counts. I've seen some naff studio apartments and some naff mansions. Equally I've seen some beautiful studio apartments and some beautiful mansions. It's all about quality and taste. And NO amount of money will buy you that. Beit 40rooms or a studio apartment...make it a home and not a status symbol, is the key. Classic design will never date if you make sure it's very foundations, design and structure are aesthetically pleasing as well as well made, and not just it's interior contents are well made. Otherwise it's like wearing expensive pure silk La Perla lingerie underneath a reeeeally bad copy of a copy of a copy of a Valentino dress that was purchased at costco.

  14. I've thought about your previous post often since reading it. I mentioned it to someone today, and discussed it with my husband as well. It was a very exciting read, and all the comments were colorful and thoughtful. I am still thinking about it, and so happy to read it was selected for the Washington Post's weekly blog watch. Kudos, absolute kudos.

  15. Thank you for the thoughtful and interesting comments, everyone! I am enjoying reading them.

    Anon, I was raised by British parents. I love the word 'naff' - there is no American word that conveys quite its meaning.

    Naff: British slang, today meaning uncool, tacky, unfashionable, of poor quality - in particular, tacky or obvious in some way.

  16. This is an interesting post. I am from the Midwest and live in a suburb of a mid-sized city. In the area that I live, a cozy or intimate home would be around 1300-1500 square feet. A large home would be anything over 5000 square feet. Our home is about 3000 square feet. When we built our home, we considered what others have mentioned, the idea that it is important to use all the rooms in your home. If we didn't use the rooms, we'd move to something smaller.

  17. What wonderful posts. I have loved reading them all and the comments. Congratulations on the WP mention.

  18. Awesome posts. My family and I live in an older neighborhood in Columbus, OH in a house that is maybe 1700 square feet so definitely not a McMansion. The house was built in 1940 with iron handrails on the staircase and multiple arched doorways so perhaps some of what is screaming 2000's also screams 1940's (and earlier). Personally, I think it would difficult to build/remodel without having some elements look somewhat dated eventually. However, I also think that if in building or remodeling the owner stays true to a particular architechtural style it will be much more difficult to date things.

    Love your blog.

    Marla in Columbus

  19. I do think that the contents & the people inside of a house make it a home. If there is a warmth, a spirit there then even the most awful design can be transformed into a warm and inviting home.

    Here in the midwest, I perfer the midtown feel of our city and the more established, large treed neighborhoods.

    There is a feeling of history, of longevity and a spirit of neighbors & a neighborhood of days gone by ......

    I am also a native to my city and though a frequent traveler, there is one hometown for me.

  20. I am in Kansas City. We have such an array of styles in architecture.This includes the very historical and very modern. I think the design and the facade begins to tell the tale. You can be very surprised though once inside. I have a 2bd/ 2 ba condominium. Have edited out a lot of "stuff" It is still very warm and cozy with updates on decor continuously.

  21. I want to live in Home#2 with the lovely brick facade covered with clinging ivy and verdant surroundings. A beauty.

  22. I missed the first post but am so looking forward to reading that and all the comments- as well as style chronicle's post.

    I'm with Anonymous- and also in Atlanta- and would say intimate is 3500-4000, but also depends on number of people in the house. It's just my husband and I (and our dogs) and our 3500 is just intimate enough for us and all our stuff. Add a few kids to the mix and it's too intimate and I'd want the extra 500sf at least. But I've finally matured to the realization that I prefer quality (nicer build, furnishings, etc) to quantity (just big).

    That said, I fear, that despite my longing for a "proper" house ITP, we're in a McMansion neighborhood OTP- though maybe slightly better quality than others? And our house is at the small end of the hood spectrum!

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. I have really enjoyed these posts and all of the comments! Trends that will scream 2000? What about those pebble pool surfaces that are so popular now?

  25. Hi,

    I haven't had a chance to read your comments section on this first post. I do agree with your definition of a McMansion. I might also add that it's often the case in McMansions that the interior architecture and design in no way relate to architectural styles of the exterior. And hey, when you are mixing Mediterranean, English, and French Farmhouse styles, surely you could use ONE of them as an interior inspiration!

    I would add that there will be another element that will date the homes of 2000s. Ceiling height. In our rush to rid ourselves of the 8ft ceiling which dates homes from the previous century, we have created a million rooms with ceilings that are so high that they are out of proportion to the room, nevermind a human scale. We built a new home and our ceilings are fairly uniform in height, except for our family room. We felt that a 10ft ceiling would give the house an airy feel without making us feel like midgets. We lived in London for a while and this height seemed comfortable in many of our friends homes.

    But of course, context is key. You would not want to have 10 ft ceilings in a cottage or bungalow, as they would be out of scale. Much of what I think ails the building industry is that builders and developers buy cookie cutter plans as they are the least expensive option and then add the "architectural flourishes" themselves. Not a good plan, as builders typically don't have the eye to pull together a harmonious whole.

    Thank you for the thought provoking post!

  26. I live in Ottawa, Ontario. There are houses being built here constantly. Many of them are modestly-sized semi-detached houses. They're squeezed as close to each other and to the road as they can possibly get. I'd be claustrophobic if I had to live in a subdivision like that. I'd call them McTownhouses.

    There are some older neighbourhoods in Ottawa where the houses aren't huge, but they're older and sell for more because of where they are. The Glebe and Civic Hospital area are two examples. Then there's Rockcliffe, where most of the houses are huge and don't sell for less than a million dollars. I'd say it's combination of older homes and new homes -- I wouldn't call any of them McMansions.

    And then there's the subdivision where a couple of our friends live. It's about 8 years old, built next to a golf course, and all the houses are big and close together and look the same. Whenever I'm there, I feel like I'm in that Jim Carey movie, the one where he doesn't realize he's living his life on camera. Definitely McMansions.

    Our house is 3,000 sq ft and was custom built by the previous owners about 10 years ago. It's in a neighbourhood that was developed in the late 1940s, and the majority of the houses are smaller bungalows on big lots. In the 8 years we've been living here, many of the smaller bungalows have been either torn down or trailered away and have been replaced with big houses. But I wouldn't call them McMansions, because they're all one-offs that don't look like any of the other houses (other than the fact that most of them are brown or grey stone). But, they take up most of the lot that they're built on, so are definitely NOT in proportion with their lots.

    Whew, that's a long comment!! I'll stop now :-)


  27. You are the reigning queen of the blog watch :) Congrats again, I am only 1/2 way to where you are ;)

    Love, love, love your definition of McMansion!! That was the best part of this post for me!

  28. I live in Miami and we have definitely had a McMansion epidemic! Especially because we have a serious shortage of land, so it is very difficult to find lots large enough for the 4000-5000+ sq ft that are being built. Some comments I thought important to the conversation were the ones concerning human scale...yes, even if your ceiling height is 24 ft, you are still 5-6ft tall. And the basement comment, we don't have basements in South Fla so a house that is 3500sq ft would be all active living area and I would consider that very spacious. I am in my second 1920s Old Spanish house and love the scale of the older homes (even though I would like some more closet space). My current house is 2350sq ft and I think it has everything we need, I would only add a small office. We have three children and this is more than enough space for a family of five to live comfortably. Another important comment was the one concerning maintenance/utilities, I looked at a larger house recently and when I considered the electric bill, and the fact I would need more help cleaning,landscaping, etc that really changed the way I looked at it.
    I have several clients who during the craze got themselves into 8000-10000 sq ft houses and they have put them on the market now. They fell in love with all the "space" but once they lived in it they realized how ridiculous and excessive it was. They also realized how expensive it was to furnish and decorate appropriately. I have seen MANY McMansions filled with Rooms To Go. If you can't afford to furnish it properly--don't buy it!
    Okay, enough for now. Thanks for the post and congrats on the WP.
    Olga ~dancing through paris

  29. Thank you for another lively discussion!
    This post in particular addresses the comment I mad about the last post...Good design will always be good design!

    It appears that proportion and scale are no longer taught as part of design, or perhaps aren't considered. This is at the heart of this entire issue of "McMansions".

    Thank you again. I have been enjoying your blog immensely!

    David @ Ashfield Hansen Design

  30. Here in Los Angeles we definitely have more requests for smaller homes. There also seems to be a trend toward less fussy houses, leaning toward cleaned up versions of classic architectural styles. I know that you have done posts about homes that reflect this trend.
    Congratulations of the WP recognition for another wonderful post.


  31. I personally think having between 700-1000 square feet per family member is a luxury. More than that is showing off territory.

    As far as what constitutes a McMansion:

    I know that most people in old school Atlanta refer to EVERY new construction house as a McMansion--regardless of neighborhood, how big the lot, or how well done the architecture. An older, remodeled home is generally looked at with more respect by the community. It shows the homeowner honors the history of the neighborhood as well as the environment by recycling what already exists. Resisting the urge to just knock it down and start over shows a sense of modesty--no matter how much money is being spent.

    My family has lived in both types of houses. We did a Buckhead tear down/rebuild that felt large and luxurious for about 10 years. Then it began to look outdated. At the time we were building it, we were SURE we were using classic Atlanta styles and quality materials that would never betray the actual age of the home. WRONG. Ideas of what is "traditional" change, and a new house does not stay new forever. If you want your home to look like a classic, there ain't nothing like the real thing.

  32. It seems to me that design in this decade has sometimes been a wee bit too correct. Too much sameness. For me this has applied both to the interiors as well as the exteriors of homes of this decade. The same colour palettes, the same furniture, the same furniture placement. I have often longed for the imagination of a Tony Duquette or Geoffrey Bennison to rattle the cages a bit.

    Sometimes I think having less tends to spark a resourceful creativity that excess often squelches. And while the economic slide has certainly altered my business, I can only applaud if it means the trend for smaller, more imaginative, home design. Too often have I worked on a gargantuan home where only two people reside.

  33. Thank you for pointing out that every big home is not a McMansion. I thought the saying came from building a house lot line to lot line with different architectural styles throw at it. As you show some new, large houses are fabulous and certainly could never be called McMansions.

  34. great post! hitting on my "why are we content with sameness rant?"
    be it a "room to go", ala pottery barn and the likes to Mcsubdivisions; a tightly packed sea of beige in a repeat of minimal style choices.
    classic design and regional architecture made travel fun. i could close my eyes, be spun around, open my eyes and know if i was in the south, wisconsin, florida, new mexico or new england.
    today's choice of sameness and large for large sakes, saddens me. i long for the smaller home, individual in style and architectural details

  35. I live in Birmingham, which has several older "cottage" communities, a couple new developments meant to seem old, and more than it's share of McMansions in the truest sense of the word.

    my definition of intimacy in a home has more to do with scale than with the total square footage. even in a large home, the spaces can seem intimate and cozy. I think about the homes in Birmingham's Mtn Brook area (and Buckhead in Atlanta) that were built in the 1920's -- the homes may be grand, but they are comprised of rooms built to a human scale. I hope that builders are becoming more willing to build homes with living rooms that don't require a sofa the size of a Suburban (and I say that fully acknowledging that many are).

  36. Comment from 'Down Under'. To me, here in sunny inner city Brisbane, Australia, a 'Mc Mansion' is a skillion roofed, architectually void, cheap, box-like structure placed between beautifully restored colonial homes on larger blocks. I do not know what our town planners are smoking but it breaks my heart to see a row of beautiful colonial homes and then a grey concrete box, complete with dreaded skillion. In my suburb, which ends at my back fence line, I had to build to a 'character code', 'small lot code' (even though my block is 8500sq feet) and 'demolition code'. Yet those over my back fence, in the next suburb, can split their blocks, build oversized boxes (with the damn skillion that's everywhere) without a thought for the character of the suburb. Mc Mansion here also has nothing to do with size, just poor taste, poor design, cheap, cheap products and no respect for the streetscape.
    Wonderful, wonderful posts. You are the bomb in bloggy blog land! A-M xx

  37. I am back from a long day out...touring a newly built home for the blog, and touring a home for a charity event tour of homes for which I am writing the home profiles...with this post (and the one before it) on my mind as I toured both homes. The first home: a new home that was consciously built to fit in with the older neighborhood, with charming details and a discipline not to have wasted space. It was so well done, not an inch too big, not an inch too small. The second home: an exceptionally well done renovation that was featured in Southern Living last month. It had the charm of an older home, and the wonderful fresh feeling of a new home. Every item was chosen with love and care, not according to the trends, but according to the history of the home - it was an homage to the Bishop who lived there, the timeframe of the original construction, and it was unlike any other house I had ever been in.

    I thoroughly enjoyed coming back home to all of these comments. All of them were interesting and insightful. One reader commented that there is an old house bias in Atlanta, which I had never really thought about, but I realize it is so true. Any new house in Atlanta is considered a McMansion - as there are so many beautifully done houses from the 1920s-1960s that are trye architectural gems, that have been lovingly preserved.

    And yet, we also have some extraordinarily talented architects in Atlanta - we even have a genre of architects that have been dubbed 'the Georgia Classicists' because of their adherence to classical architectural standards, while still creating homes that are comfortable for 21st century life.

    Another comment that struck a chord with me was about human scale. My design icon, Saladino, talks about scale and its importance in a house. Human scale is essential, in at least one key element in a room, for a room to feel comfortable and right. I think this is what is lost in many McMansions with massive two story spaces with no human scale.

  38. I enjoyed both of these posts. The older I get, the more I see trends cycle back. I've heard that one tends to reject the trends of her parent's generation and reach back to the style of her grandparents. I found that was true in my case, raised in a mid-century modern ranch house, I wanted the charm of a 20's cottage (like my parents grew up in). I still don't like mid-century 'modern', though it seems to be the dominant style influencing contemporary decorating. I live in a 20's cottage of about 2000 sf. It doesn't have a lot of rooms, but the sizes are generous. The kitchen is smaller, naturally, but we've partially opened it up to the dining, and it works quite well. I'd like a larger bathroom, but my original tub is wonderfully deep and has a lovely sculptural shape. We've raised our two boys in this home, and though it might have been nice to have a "bonus" room for teenagers, we survived. The bedrooms were large enough for their activities. Secondary bedrooms in new houses seem to be tiny, while masters are huge (do people really need as much space as a large living room for their bedroom?!). Now that we're empty nesters, we hardly go upstairs where the kids' bedrooms are. (My exercise equipment is up there --does that tell you something?) The rooms wait for the boys to visit, so except for that, we could live in less space. I think having a different room for every activity is such a waste and tends to drive families apart rather than foster closeness. Working in the furniture/interior design business, I've seen too many large houses poorly or sparsely furnished, but the clients proudly display all their empty space. Why do Americans tend to think larger is always better?

  39. Oh to live in another part of the country! In the Los Angeles area most homes range from 800-"maybe" 2000 sq. ft. Most of these are 1950s track homes. UGH! We just moved from one of those types of homes. Ours was 1100 sq. ft and we were TIGHT! We just moved into 3300sq. ft of SPACE and most of our friends are freaking out at how big it is. It's weird to think our home is considered intimate in many parts of the country. We don't even know what to do with the room!

  40. I've noticed in the newer (last ten years) McMansion neighborhoods in Upstate NY two common features of the houses:

    A dozen rooflines and overscaled, front featured garages.

    So poorly designed. I wonder what we will think of them in twenty years.

  41. My neck of the woods: Louisville, KY

    We live in what I describe as a "small, 105 yr old bungalow in [historic] Old Louisville," but with 1700 well-planned sf, it feels much larger. There are only 2 of us living here - children are grown and living in their own homes nearby - and we have several rooms we rarely use at all. We've decided to downsize even further...

    3 weeks ago we put our house on the market; we're planning a move across the river, to Indiana. We have our eye on a 1300 sf log home on 8 wooded acres with river frontage. We'll have significantly less house than we do now, but we'll also have 8 acres of woods, as opposed to the postage stamp yard we have here. Our 6 Jack Russell Terriers will thank us.

    In preparation for the move we got rid of massive amounts of stuff, and have realized we just don't need it - we're ready to simplify, to get down to the essence of what's important and let go of the rest. I imagine some of the other commenters here are gasping, trying to imagine living comfortably in 1300 sf; at one point in my life I couldn't imagine it, either! But I'm ready, now, and looking forward to the challenge.

    I can't say what's considered "average" sized here in Louisville, but I know that in my very neighborhood houses range from 1000-4000 sf, with most landing somewhere between 1700-2500.

    Size really is less important than what you do with it.

    Check out tinyhouses.net for SERIOUSLY small living!

    Love your blog!



  42. Mama always said "Things should wear out not ugly out, and it is your job to not live with ugly."

    To that end I choose furniture that is not trendy, just styles and fabrics I really like. Accessories are where I like to incorporate trends. Things like lamps, dishes, and coffee table items are easy to change out and usually not too costly.

    When we know and understand our own tastes it is easier to know what will wear out and what will ugly out. When one follows trends ugly can happen rather easy. Does anyone recall Mediterranean style in the 70's?

    With that said, my idea of ugly is not the same as your idea. I finally got rid of a real farm sink right before they came into vogue. I will never miss one big sink. Now if I could have one big and one smaller sink together that would be ideal. It just takes up too much room in my size of kitchen.

  43. We live in a small town about 30 minutes from Kansas City on the Kansas side. My husband and I just completed and moved into the home we've been working on for the past year and a half. We tried to consider all of these things while we we're building. I wanted to have as much style as I could afford on the budget we had. I didn't want our house to look anything like a builder special. I think it's really important to consider how the inside of the home will be finished as well. Nothing bothers me more than an enormous home that isn't beautifully decorated.


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