Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Small Spaces for Closer Families -- by Laura Houston

Tuesday April 19th

We started house hunting recently. We were looking up in Westchester, which is just north of New York City. Good schools. High taxes. And a little more room to breathe. But the search has not been easy. We don’t want a big house. After living in 1300 square foot apartment, we have found that we rarely use most of the space we have because we would rather be out looking at stuff and doing stuff. So it doesn’t seem that tall of an order to find a house that offers the right kind of space. But Westchester is over populated with McMansions. The houses have living rooms, family rooms, dens, home offices, bonus rooms and play rooms. A place for the adults. A place for the kids.

It sounds like a great idea, but in the end, is it really? Isn’t it better for the kids to know you are close by? Super close by? Within an arm’s reach away should they decide to do something stupid, dangerous or devious, which some kids are known to do? And then when they are teenagers, isn’t it even more important to keep a look out. Think about that. What kid hasn’t stayed up way too late texting, talking on their cell phone, IMing, or trolling Facebook?

When I was 12, I made it a regular practice of sneaking out of the house once my parents were asleep. My exit was a safe distance from my parent’s room. It would almost be impossible for them to hear me. I got away with it every time. My kids are less likely to get away with it if I can hear them or see them.

Kid monitoring aside, it’s a challenge for me to find a balance between space and privacy. I like having rooms, but I prefer them to be small. Back on our farm we had a cavernous master bedroom. You could play racquetball in there. Here in New York our small bedroom also serves as my home office and a laundry room. We spend only about 20 waking minutes a day in this room. It is, in our opinion, a waste of space.

There are two rooms that answer my concerns for privacy and togetherness: the kitchen and the bathroom. I want a big kitchen. I want it to be a gathering place for friends and family. I don’t want a formal dining room. Just give me a big Italian kitchen where pots and pans, a long, informal table surrounded by mismatched, comfortable chairs, a big bowl of fruit, and tattered cookbooks bring us together.

Then I need a large master bathroom with my own entry code on the door. This bathroom will flourish with light and air. A toilet will hide itself behind closed doors with a powerful fan lurking above, and a roomy shower shows off enough shelves for eight different shampoos, two kinds of body wash, bar soaps, razors, and more. There will also be a large tub, a skylight and a window. A stereo wouldn’t hurt either.

The rest of the house can be small. Think about how much money this will save us. We won’t need a gargantuan TV because we’ll be sitting right there. We won’t need a sofa play pit, more tables and chairs, extra pictures on the walls and big rugs. And we won’t have to pay a small fortune to heat the place either.

I used to dream of having a big house with lots of room to roam. Now I know a big house only means more to clean, more to pay for, and more to keep us apart. So our house hunt is on hold for now. We’re going to take a closer look at what we want and where we want to invest our money, time and family. And we’ll see where we land next.


Blogger Karen du Toit said...

Great perspective! Now I look at our own small townhouse in a different light! :D

3:17 AM  
Blogger Cara Meyers said...

I can relate to you not wanting a big house! To this day, my son (age 7) has never, and still will not go upstairs alone because the upstairs is too big and imposing. Even if all of the lights are on, he won't go. And I can list 3 or 4 rooms we never use. We originally wanted a dining room to entertain my husband's large family. It has never happened, and never will. And forget cleaning this place! I do routine maintenance, but I have someone come every other week to do a really good job on the bathrooms and kitchen! I think the only ones who take full advantage of all of the rooms are the dogs!

1:52 PM  
Blogger Karl said...

One advantage of small spaces is that it makes families closer together. I really think it's true.

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12:17 AM  

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