the not so big house concept: doing double duty

Our homes have grown larger in part to accommodate all the activities we engage in (along with their related furnishings). Rather than building a room for each function, the Not So Big House proposes that we think about ways spaces can be shared. Allowing areas in a house to “moonlight”–making one space serve more than one function–is a way to make them do double duty.”

Sarah Susanka in “Creating the Not So Big House

From previous experience, it is possible to make a space feel too big.  There was a time I imagined consuming beef tenderloins and braised Brussel sprouts with a glass of Cabernet Merlot in my garnet-coloured, nine foot ceilinged dining room. In practical experience, that garnet colour with its eight coats of paint, was too formal for a girl like me. It was a pretty backdrop to Strawberry Shortcake birthday parties, but those filet mignon dinner parties made the neighbours wonder what I had to prove. I don’t live in a soap opera.

I enjoy entertaining, making a meal for a crowd, but I don’t do it often enough to warrant a Falcon Crest-sized entertaining space. How do I actually use my spaces? The island, used for rolling dough or setting baking sheets, placing buffets of food for special occasions, and breakfast or lunch on a study weekday is all I’ll need for quick meals. I’m choosing a dining room that is just off the kitchen, but flows into the kitchen with a simple opening with a transom window above. No second dining room required.

More than anything, I want a lot of light and a lot of windows. One can call me a sun worshipper. Having lived through a rather gloomy winter in these parts, I have concluded we were made to consume the sun. I’d rather spend money on windows than a penny on window coverings. That decision is easy to make since it is difficult to find and  in the middle of nowhere…a classic homeschool home.

Once upon a time, I also had three mudrooms. One was a formal entry seventeen feet high and fifteen feet long. Plenty of space to receive the extended family, and their neighbours, and their neighbours’ families. It was the wrong place to add extra space. Extra square footage should be added to the space the home occupants use most–their entry–perhaps to an attached garage mudroom or backyard entry. My present plans are to have a comfortable guest entry that opens to a family mudroom to the left of the main entrance. It should be the home’s occupants that have the most comfortable space moving in and out with their six winter jackets and twelve mittens and six scarves and hats.

We all use our spaces differently for different reasons. When we’re building or renovating, we should create spaces that we actually use, in the way that we best use it.

What is the most effective space that does double duty in your home?

4 thoughts on “the not so big house concept: doing double duty

  1. Interesting ideas. We’ve been renting for the past seven years (six houses) and lately have been looking at houses to buy (just for fun – we’re not ready to buy yet) so I’ve been thinking about spaces and what we want in a house. I do agree that space needs to be used well; it’s possible to have a space both too big and too small. For me, the kitchen makes or breaks a house – I can’t do a tiny kitchen. I don’t want two dining rooms either, or two entries. In our last house, we used one room as an office and our three girls all shared a bedroom. In this house, we’ve put the office back in the living room and the girls have two bedrooms. It’s interesting to consider. 🙂

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