Friday, March 30, 2012

85 ft living house saves space and resources

I need to watch this every time I think I am crazy for downsizing to under 1000 feet.  When I look at houses with only one bathroom or no garage, or no dining room, this video of living in 85 sq feet house with no running water puts it all into perspective.  A house of just 14 feet tall and 9 feet wide may be even a bit small for us and the hounds.

"You can't ignore nature when you are living in such a small space." Dee Williams.

The 9-inch "Diet"

Book Review: The 9-inch "Diet". Exposing the BIG conspiracy in America.
Author: Alex Bogusky with a little help from Chuck Porter
"America has been suffering from a severe case of gigantism" Alex Bogusky.

The premise behind this book is identical to my philosophy on houses.

Not only have our houses, garages, cars, and televisions increased in size, but so have our plates.

Alex Bogusky, a decorated creative at Crispin and Porter  + Bogusky Advertising agency wrote "the 9-inch "Diet" after purchasing a vintage cottage and discovering that his plates would not fit into the cupboard.
Over the past thirty years, many plates have increased from nine inches to twelve, especially at restaurants.  Alex reflects that, "our perception of small is bombarded by new standards".  Why is it when I go to a coffee shop the smallest purchase is called a grande? As smalls become mediums, and super sized drinks are increasing to over 64 ounces, it makes us lose our perspective and ultimately our inhibitions. 

When I left the city for the suburbs, I wanted more room for my kids.  I was thrilled to go from a one car garage to two.  What could be better than having three bathrooms and four floors of a house to fill? Fill we did.  All of a sudden a couch was not enough. We needed a additional casual couch system to watch T.V, since we had a new family room.  One or two shovels were replaced with over six (I just put them away yesterday).

As Alex states, "in a culture of bigness, it is hard to embrace small. Hell, it's hard to find small."  Alex is credited with the MINI Cooper campaign. His strategy for selling the small vehicle was to create a momentum for the culture of small and starting a SUV backlash. His plan worked as the MINI's sold out months ahead of schedule.

My favorite line in the book is when Alex says that we are, "innocent victims of this elephantitis."

When we have bigger plates, we eat more. When we buy bigger houses, we buy more.

I am off to measure my plates.
Time to not only consider how much I put in my house but also how much I put on my plate. It's a downsize win-win for house and body.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Not too close for comfort

This is the first in a series to explore those who have chosen to live in small quarters.  

Location:  Finland.
Structure: Quad house. Each owner has one corner.
Occcupants: Family of four 
Square footage: 1000 sq.ft.

What are the upsides of a small house?
We didn’t set out to buy a small house. We just walked past this one autumn night and we could see a fire in the stove through the window. I said to my then-boyfriend, If I could live in a house like that I would move here and never move away. He went to the realty office the next day and looked into to renting one. The only option was to buy and to put a long story short – We moved here and we haven’t moved away for almost 20 years.

So the fact that it is small is just a coincidence. We love our home and will put up with what we have to, to stay here. You definitely are accountable for what you buy because it is in your face all the time. Hardly place to hide anything.

What are the downsides of a small house?
The downsides are wanting a place to call your own, and JUST your own not a place of the other 3 house residers.

What do you wish you had room for?
I wish my daughter had a place to build the ultimate horse stable complex where no one would trip over it.

Has it held you back from having gatherings?
Yes, but it is all relative. The neighborhood is full of identical looking housing, so 30 families who have the exact same layout. One of our neighbors has a big Valentines day party each year for 20 adults for the weekend.

Do you have a garage? 
Where does one store all bikes and "STUFF"
No garage. Park the car in front of the house. We have two small storage sheds outside where the bikes can go for the winter. You don’t accumulate garage stuff if you don’t have a garage! We also only have one car.

Is there pressure from other families, or is it an advantage to be in Finland where less space is more acceptable?
Many of our friends used to be our neighbors and almost all have left due to the cramped quarters. One family moved to a huge house and are now considering to downsize. I asked if they would ever move back to or neighborhood and she said “ Not THAT small!”

Some people are amazed that we didn’t move to a bigger house once we had kids. 
Houses in general are much smaller than the US.

Is being economical and saving the world's resources important to you?
It is, but our choice to live here is strictly based on love. Our home will soon be 100 years old and so well built. I haven’t seen a new house that could hold a candle to this. High ceilings, breathable, solid materials In the war time, two families lived in this same space. They had a common kitchen and separate bedrooms with an outhouse outside.

What is one thing you think people with larger houses have too much of?
Space! J Well, it doesn’t ensure happiness at least. Is there ever enough room? 
Show me one family with an empty closet.

Will you live in this square footage the rest of your life?
We probably won’t retire in this house but you couldn’t pry me out of here in the near future.

Tour of the house.

Want a small house? If so, get rid of the laundry room, get rid of your dryer, get rid of the master bath, get rid of any other shower than one, have 4 people brush their teeth, pee and take a shower in the same space in the morning.

This is where it happens (OK, we do have a toilet and sink downstairs). That is our wash machine, no dryer. The only storage for towels, medicine, soap, etc. is the one cupboard there. We have sliding mirrors in the space above the sink for makeup, brushes, etc. The garbage and hairdryers are below the sink. There is not even a place to hang the toilet paper so it is placed on the washer.

Want a small house? Have the same space act as two functions. This is THE shower. When not in use, it is our drying room. The floor is heated so it dries the clothes. When someone wants to shower, they push the rack into the sauna, which when not heating us, can heat the clothes. When not used for bathing, it is our dirty wash haven. When you want to take a sauna, you empty the contents into the narrow hallway. Sauna is not a luxury in Finland, it is a necessity. I don't know anyone without a sauna.

Want a small house? Well, if you do, you might not be able to put permanent walls where you want to. This was our childrens room. They slept in that bunk and had a small floor space to play on. When the pre teens hit we had to separate them. Our son moved to the attic but it was not possible to build a wall between them due to fire codes. To give our daughter some privacy I build this huge textile wall around her space. Kind of like a giant shower curtain or circus tent. It keeps the glares out but not the sound. The green carpet acts as the grazing area for her millions of horses but as you can see she has to step on them when coming down from the bunk. Actually, there is almost open air space between all 3 of our bedrooms so privacy is limited. Still want a small house?

Want a small house? Cut out the entry hall, have your kids store all their school supplies in the kitchen on the only spare chairs in the house. If guests come then you open up the 4 man table to six. Get rid of those nice storage drawers in the kitchen and hang your pots and pans on the wall behind the stove. That is the original wood heated stove next to our electric stove. We could heat and cook completely by wood if we were in the Little House on the Prairie mode. Advantages of a small kitchen? While sitting at our kitchen table we can: refill coffee, toast, get milk from the fridge, and grab an extra knife - without getting up!

Want a small house? This is the entrance. Only fits one person. I am standing outside when I take this. In the bottom right hand corner is a box for shoes. Four peoples wet snow boots get piles on each other. Directly to the right is a small toilet. In the corner is a place for some coats. the door right in front of you goes to the kitchen. All hats are stored above the door. My husbands shoes are WAY up there. Good thing he is tall. There is a coat rack to the back left and to the immediate left are stairs. So, when guests come in, we have to go in the kitchen, shut the door, wait for the to take off their coats and add their shoes to the tower and then open the door again. Welcome!

Want a small house? I am now in the bathroom of the entry way. You can see the coat rack which was built on top of the cellar trap door. Those are the steps that go upstairs. We have a cellar for potatoes, etc. but we only use it for christmas decorations packed in plastic boxes. Too much of a pain to take out ALL that junk to go down to the moist storage space.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Retro rehab

Retro rehab teak table and chairs facebook update

The chairs have made an appearance. They have been reupholstered. This is officially not my table. I do not see the watermarks of last Christmas's ice centerpiece than overflowed during dessert and made a ring. I do not see the drippings of epoxy that were embedded in the cloth seat of a few chairs as I created my trinket table. The four shade difference between table and leaves have been stained or oiled for a nice blend. No, this is not my table anymore.

Friday, March 2, 2012

IKEA Aktiv house

IKEA Aktiv house
Check out how to buy a whole house at IKEA called "Aktiv" homes. I'll take one please.