WHAT DOES A HOME WANT TO BE?

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and
it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."
--Michelangelo

Stupid question, right?

Okay, let's start over with the quote on the right:

Some have rephrased this as "discover what the stone wants to be."
Is there any harm wondering what the HOME wants to be?

The modern movement of the last century has changed how we see homes.  And the changes continue. 

Few people are into grand parlors these days, or ballrooms.  Indoor-outdoor living and open plan "great rooms" are in vogue.  Enormous kitchens for entertaining and cooking together, with expensive finishes and artwork on the walls are not uncommon.  Suites of rooms that allow family members to rarely interact unless necessary have replaced the hearth as a central feature in a home.


But, what does the home WANT to be?

Come on, work with me here.  

Philosophically speaking, a building should WANT a few things:
  1. to respond to, be a part of, and make the best use of its SITE/LANDSCAPE
  2. to fulfill the needs of its inhabitants' PROGRAM elegantly and efficiently
  3. to be a place of HEALTH and LIFE
  4. to contribute to its NEIGHBORHOOD/ENVIRONMENT
  5. and probably some other very important things I've forgotten at the moment

The specific sorts of things I'm thinking of here are numbers 2 & 3...  the PROGRAM.

Modern life has changed us, and we live differently even than our parents did.  Do our homes reflect this?  Do they support us in our goals and dreams and pursuits?  Do we prefer theater rooms over dining rooms, and does the change improve our lives?  How many bathrooms are really required per person?  What's the right budget when credit is so readily available?  Should the closet cost more per square foot than the kitchen?  Should we keep hoarding enough stuff to fill 1/2 of our three-car garage?

Used to be that all homes (except one-room cabins) had segregated rooms.  This served multiple purposes, like privacy, reduction of drafts, the ability to shut off rooms that did not need to be heated all the time, etc.

an open plan kitchen, dining area, and family room.  image courtesy of  thekitchendesigner.org

I'm not exactly sure for what purpose the Open Plan was birthed, but I'm guessing it may have been the desire to have a large, impressive (and not confining) public room, without increasing the square footage.  I'm pretty sure the idea was not to harken back to the cabin experience.


The Final Frontier

And yet, who doesn't love all that marvelous visual SPACE?!!
Open plan can be so attractive, but doesn't it really only work for single people?  

"All of the walls on the second floor of this old house were removed with a post and beam retrofit. The three bedrooms were combined into a single lofted bedroom. A stone clad tub sits in room overlooking a private garden."
Image courtesy of  Jeremy Levine Design
It is possible to have too much visual space.  This suite seems too spacious to be cozy.

I confess, I am naturally an individualist.  Not the kind of person who actually believes I don’t need people, but the kind who is so egocentric that I daydream about living alone in a fabulous Über Tiny House with big windows and big trees, no privacy or acoustic issues (playing my music as loud as I want to) and never cleaning up after anyone else unless I’ve had a party the night before…
Decadent, right?  And 100% unreasonable because I love my sweet family.  If I end up living all alone at the end of this life, I will be desperately lonely!  But I’ll be meagerly consoled by the kind of house I daydream about... some consolation.

If we’re going to talk reasonably, how do we make a gorgeous minimal tiny house for a family of five with small children?

Wait, maybe that’s not the question.  

How do we make a gorgeous minimal tiny house for ANY FAMILY?  A family with babies is not going to suddenly move out because they now have toddlers or elementary school kids or teenagers or because an aging grandparent needs to move in.  The one constant in families is CHANGE.
How do you design for that?  How do you accommodate such an insane program?
History reminds us that most of our grandparents had only one room for much larger families.


The Program 

PRIVACY – from family members, visitors, neighbors.  Is it an illusion?
QUIET – acoustic privacy (AKA sanity) is pretty important to me
HOSPITALITY – there's got to be a way to entertain
AFFORDABILITY – what can we really afford?
ADAPTABILITY – the ability to accommodate a variety of familial situations
SHELTER & COMFORT – a building envelope that minimizes the need for artificial heating/cooling, and renewable sources that assure those comforts will continue to be affordable, even to the elderly
BEAUTY – in materials, spaces, views, & details
HEALTH – indoor air quality, views to the outside (even in inclement weather) and access to sunshine (even in Winter)


Can Tiny Houses Do It?
  • eliminate clutter (which also clutters the mind), 
  • discourage consumerism (where would you put it anyway), and 
  • refuse to compete on with the Joneses (what’s that all about).  
I LOVE them. 

But sharing a house, especially a tiny house, accomplishes all of these things even more.  Can a Tiny House be Today's Home?  Please share your thoughts.

-ally

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