What is a “small” house? Some might say it’s “smaller” than what they’re used to, or smaller than the average house, or smaller than what they think will impress the neighbors, somehow “less”. My definition of a small house is one no larger than my interest in taking care of it, large enough to welcome friends and family but not necessarily large enough for them to move in, a personal house that accommodates the way I like to spend my time. For me that is something from 700 to 800 square feet that is mostly adjustable open space. It should include a good working kitchen and seating capacity for anywhere from two to twelve people to relax over a good meal (anymore than twelve transfers to an outdoor party), a comfortable place for reading and conversation, bookshelves, desk, computer space, somewhere to put the piano. Of course, sleeping space but that doesn’t require a lot of room – just enough for a cushy bed, a dresser and closets.
A useful exercise in designing a home(as opposed, perhaps, to a house) is to:
1. Sit with a large pad of paper in front of you with some pencils, or crayons if you like.
2. Close your eyes and spend just a few minutes imagining your ideal day spent at home – what you would be doing, who would be there, what you would see or touch or smell, what you would be wearing. Really put yourself into the space and feel the things that mean the best of what “home” would mean for you. Take as much time as you need without drifting into daydreams. Keep it actual.
3. Open your eyes and draw yourself in the house doing the things you have imagined. Put in the spaces you need to do the things you most like to do, drawing freely without worrying about how it looks. This is for you and doesn’t have to be shared with anyone unless you want to. Add furniture and extras as you like. Take your time and have fun with it. You are the creative force here.
4. When you feel that you’ve got it down as a drawing sit quietly for a minute or two, then look at what you’ve drawn and describe it in words. Speak out loud and consider how describing it out loud effects what you see, maybe making you want to change a thing or two, add or subtract something. This is a generative process.
5. Put the drawing aside for a day then come back to it with a pad of graph paper. Again take your time and little by little transfer what you’ve drawn to the paper with all the little boxes on it. Gradually you’ll see a house plan take shape. It may look more than weird to start with but so does anything that is just an initial accumulation of components. It takes kneading to make it take workable shape, like a loaf of bread. And it takes time but it puts you in the position of creating an environment that will enhance and support the best of your true nature.
6. Do the whole process over again until it really feels good to you.
While the above talks about designing a house from scratch, the same process can be used to rearrange, reconfigure any space you’re currently living in. Don’t worry about what’s “in style”. Design your space to support designing your life, lived as fully as possible.