Small spaces | Manolo for the Home - Part 2



Archive for the 'Small spaces' Category


Adventures In Scaled Down Living, Two Ways

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
By Christa Terry

Think you can’t take your living situation to the bare minimum because you’re X or you’ve got Y or it would never work out because of Z? Maybe you’re right, but two stories I read recently suggested that you might just be wrong.

In the first, a couple abandons their condo (along with many elements of their modern lifestyle) to build a home in rural Iowa entirely without debt. With $7,000 and the help of friends and family, Hap and Lin Mullenneaux built a tiny cob house along with an open shed, summer kitchen, and a straw bale house. For water, they collect and filter rain. For heat, they use a small wood stove. And to power a laptop, modem, light, and fan, they have a wee photovoltaic system. Simple stuff, except when consider that they designer and manufactured everything themselves after taking a workshop!

In the second, two adults and two kids aaaand two cats lived for six years in a itty-itty camper and tiny tepee to save money and use fewer resources. It was much less luxurious than cob house living, with outdoor showers, water hauled from springs, human waste composting, and freezing winters. But you know what? They survived and enjoyed themselves, and while they’re in a house now, they seem to miss scaled down living as they practiced it.

There’s a song that says “love grows best in little houses” and my guess is that both families profiled above would be inclined to agree. I might agree, too, so long as you let me append the statement with something like “when the kids are grown up and there are no teenagers around.”


The Elusive Small-House Utopia Is Still Pretty Big

Monday, November 15th, 2010
By Christa Terry

If I say ‘small house,’ what comes to mind? A super wee micro-house or something like this? Or do you think of a structure containing roughly 1700+ sq. ft. of floor space? Because, hey, it’s not a McMansion, so it must be small, right? I got to thinking about this subject after reading The Elusive Small-House Utopia, an article about Builder magazine’s latest concept home and what it means for building trends in general.

That concept house, the Home for a New Economy designed by Marianne Cusato, measured in at the size of the average American home built in 1980, or around 1700 sq. ft. Then the housing market went insane, and soon it became not unusual to see newly built houses hovering out the 6000 sq. ft. mark!

When Cusato sat down to devise the Home for the New Economy, she tried to consider how families actually use their living areas. She started with a simple, symmetrical three-bedroom plan, excising extraneous spaces — the seldom-used formal dining room, for instance — while enlarging windows wherever she could and adding a wraparound porch. A result was a house that was compact, comfortable, bright and energy-efficient.

Sounds tasty, right? But at 1700 sq. ft., does it really seem particularly small? Maybe I’m just coming at the article with a bias – my house tops out at 1100 sq. ft. and we think that might include the finished basement – but even when I hear that in 2007 the average American house surpassed 2500 sq. ft., 1700 still sounds like a lot of space for the average family. Not huge, but big enough for comfort.

“Everybody hates the Calvinist sacrifice; they just don’t want to hear of it,” says the architect Andrés Duany, a founding father of the New Urbanist movement and a mentor of Marianne Cusato’s. Duany argues that the sprawling homes of the last decade actually met a need, albeit imperfectly, by reproducing internally what suburban communities lacked: an exercise room substitutes for a park, a home theater for the Main Street cinema. Buyers will only accept smaller homes, he says, if their surroundings compensate them.

So let me ask you, my lovely readers, what you think small means when it comes to housing for, say, a family of three? How much space does a person really need, anyway?


Tobi Wong’s Bed Still Inspires

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
By Christa Terry

Now that The Beard and I are on the verge of having a bedroom again, I find myself inspired by this bedroom in the tiny apartment now deceased Canadian designer Tobi Wong lived in from 1998 to 2003. Specifically, I find myself drawn to the bed, which is nothing more than a a futon mattress placed on a large piece of plywood balanced on five steel filing cabinets.

Maybe I wouldn’t use filing cabinets… how about two beautiful desks or dressers that one could use to contain all of the detritus of living? Or similarly, a few low-slung benches with drawers? All in all, there are lots of ways to create a DIY platform bed that looks cool and gives you some serious extra storage space, and most of them aren’t as industrial as this.


A Sweet Set of Stairs or a Trip to the ER?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
By Christa Terry

When small spaces have an upstairs and a downstairs, it’s still more common to have stairs in place than, say, a ladder or a tiny elevator. But stairs can take up a lot of room, even so-called space saving stairway options like traditional spiral staircases. Enter EeStairs, with what it calls its efficient stairs.

Space saving stairs like these give you more free floorspace in your home while also giving you access to the next floor up (like any other staircase) but EeStairs efficient staircases are built differently from most in that they start with a plain metal tube that reaches from floor to ceiling and then attach steps to the tube. If you need stairs that are extra tiny, these space saving stairs are made to fit into openings of just 1m x 1m and are designed to be placed where no staircase was ever intended to go.

Hmmm. I like the idea, I like the execution, love the look… but judging by the number of times I have butt slid down my stairs into the family room, a call to EeStairs is probably not in my future. Would you give them a go?


Simplicity In Action: It Pays to Be Simple

Monday, October 18th, 2010
By Christa Terry

It’s hard to be a fan of minimalism in the U.S., where every other media message is “BUY BUY BUY!” But there are some great benefits to choosing this style of decor, especially if you’re operating on a budget, live in a small space, or find that clutter makes you feel stressed out and overwhelmed. Pad Style makes a great case for minimalism in a recent post in which they argue that stripping your decor of stuff doesn’t have to mean stripping it of style.

So just how does simplicity of sensibility pay off? Minimalism is peaceful – you may find that downsizing your stash of possessions is stressful, but once you’ve pared down to the essentials you’ll feel a lot more in control. And minimalism can be inexpensive in the long term – if you’re not hooked up you may need to make some initial investments, but once you have the essentials you can put away your checkbook.

Plus, minimalism represents a great way to use space. Make your essentials awesome – like this very NOT budget friendly Alvar Aalto armchair – and you don’t need a lot of other decor!


What Do You Do With a Finished Attic, Anyway?

Monday, May 24th, 2010
By Christa Terry

The second story of my house was meant to be an attic. Maybe. We’re not really sure. An elderly neighbor who has lived in our house’s double since both were built told us the tale of refinishing his upper story a little bit at a time, so we know that the second stories of our Capes didn’t start out finished. But there were standard-size staircases in both houses from the very beginning. So our homes started out with giant unfinished attics accessible by full stairways and two windows in each “room”? Or were the houses built with the intention that the homeowners would eventually finish the second story spaces? We don’t know.

What we do know is that between then and now, someone decided to finish one half of our second story very, very badly. I’m talking gaps between drywall, icky carpet, cheap heaters, outlets on the sloping parts of the walls, and more. And the other “room” is still unfinished. Bare beams and boards. No outlets at all. What’s this mean for us? It means we’re looking for sloped wall bedroom/office inspiration so we can make our second story an adults-only zone.

Here’s just some of what I’ve bookmarked thus far:

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Take Your Work Outdoors

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
By Christa Terry

Telecommuting rocks, but it’s easy to let work get derailed by a sink full of dishes, a pesky bathroom faucet leak, or other tasks that you’d normally try to avoid doing. Isn’t it funny how the boring-but-necessary becomes so palatable when one is searching for ways to procrastinate? Telecommuting gets easier when you have a home office, but still that sink full of dishes is just a short hallway away. What’s a work-from-home employee to do? There’s always shedworking, which is apparently what’s hot in the alternative home office world! (Suck it, coffee shop!)

Oh em gee, I love it! It’s scads nicer than the home office I have now, I’m ashamed to say.

Unfortunately, while I have a shed, it’s currently full of a wheelbarrow, a push mower, grass seed, trowels and things, and about a gajillion lady spiders watching over egg balls. Creepy. Not conducive to work. Also kind of dirty. But I suppose I could haul all of my outdoor gear into the basement, tear down my yucko shed, and replace it with some chic Swedish work/life shed.

(Image via Shedworking)

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So No One Ever Has to Know You Work

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
By Christa Terry

… or because, you know, you’d rather not have your workspace right on top of your slackspace in your tiny apartment. Whatever your reasons for wanting to get your home office (or craft room, I suppose) out of sight, the ideal situation would be to devote an entire room to it. When that’s not possible, however, perhaps you have a closet? A large enough closet can accommodate a desk (or better, two filing cabinets with a melamine top to maximize storage space), a chair, and perhaps some hanging paper sorters, along with whatever you need to keep on your desk for professional purposes. Like the idea? Pepper Design Blog has a rough guide to converting one of your closets into a home office.

And naturally, we have some added inspiration!

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