The American Dream has long centered around the home, and no one beats America when it comes to dreaming big. Literally.
Since the 1950s, homes have doubled in size, and we’ve continued to fill them with more and more stuff. However, since the recession, people are finally beginning to question if they really need all that extra space.
In Daniel Pink’s fantastic book, A Whole New Mind, he notes the paradox that "while living standards have risen steadily decade after decade, personal, family, and life satisfaction haven’t budged. That’s why more people – liberated by prosperity but not fulfilled by it- are resolving the paradox by searching for meaning.”
That meaning is much easier to find when your family members aren’t nine rooms away watching the flatscreen in their bathroom.
From an eco-perspective, unnecessarily large homes mean that additional building materials are manufactured and transported, and additional furnishings must be purchased to fill the additional square footage. Once completed the space must be heated, cooled, and cleaned for years to come.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that everyone live in a 600 square foot one bedroom home (though several of my architect friends in Europe live in stunning small spaces). Different people have different family sizes, lifestyles, hobbies, and each home must be able to accommodate their needs.
A good architect can create a clever plan that accommodates a clients needs, has a graceful ‘flow’, and minimizes square footage, and can help to ensure that your home reflects the things that are meaningful in your life.
Rather than getting stuck in the ‘bigger is better’ mentality of the recent past, try shifting to a ‘better is better’ state of mind. Get one handmade table instead of a cheap knockoff you’ll replace in a few years anyway.
And all those scary upfront costs that come with going green? They can nearly disappear if you trim back the square footage a bit.
If you’re building or moving, step back and ask yourself if you really need a guest kitchen or a playroom for each of your children. Rather than spending all your time heating and cooling and maintaining your big house, spend it enjoying the things that give you meaning in a home that is ‘big enough’.