Living Small

April 28th, 2014

These days everywhere you look someone is talking, blogging, writing & yelling about living small, right next to your neighbors. From the IKEA showroom boasting a fully furnished home in 500 sq.ft. to a recent New York Times article about a woman happily living in her friends’ backyard in a mere 84 sq.ft. (Here). But what does that really mean?

The big idea is that high density living = good: good for a vibrant urban community, good for promoting local small business, good for the environment, etc…Some places, like New York City for example, have been practicing pro-high density since, well basically, forever. I recently read a statistic that said that the entire world’s population (around 7 billion-ish in 2011) could fit in the State of Texas if it were as densely populated as NYC (Here). Obviously it wouldn’t be practical what with the need to grow food and produce energy, but it certainly puts high density living into perspective. 

Outside of the condo market, here in Portland one way this concept of high-density, small scale living has been embraced is in the form of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s for short). Homeowners are carving out space on their property to build a separate dwelling unit (less than 800 or so total sq.ft.) or maybe converting a garage into permitted living space or even a basement if it has exterior access. Sometimes these units are rented out to strangers, friends, college age kids seeking independence from mom and dad, or even used as the primary dwelling for the homeowner who then rents out the main house. Sometimes they are the perfect solution to a grandparent wanting to downsize and be closer to children and grandchildren while still retaining the feeling of separate living.

But it can be overwhelming for the average person to consider the practicality of occupying so much less space than we are all accustomed to…especially with kids, or lots of personal mementos, or pets, or if you’re someone who does a lot of outdoor recreation (i.e. kayaks, canoes, mountain bikes, etc…), the list goes on and on…and that’s where creative and über functional design comes in to play. Like a table for four that folds up to become a framed picture on the wall when you need more floor space (Here), a classic Murphy bed that masquerades as a desk or a bookcase during the day (Here), or even a teeny tiny kitchen that expands for the 2 hours a day most people spend preparing food (Here).

So what do you think? Could you live small? Would you want to?


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