There is a veritable geyser of data tracking housing today. From existing-home sales, to house prices, to new-home permits, to starts—housing metrics abound.
Sarah Susanka's "not so big" design ideas for the post-recession economy
Architect Sarah Susanka presents seven proven design ideas from her Not So Big Showhouse at SchoolStreet community in Libertyville Ill.
Sarah Susanka’s ‘not so big’ design ideas for the post recession economy
3. Kitchen Up Front
Most American homes have their primary living spaces—the ones they use every day—focused upon their back yards, away from the street. We’re gradually coming to appreciate, however, that an over-emphasis on personal privacy can also create an unintended sense of isolation. Buyers are more open to considering the benefits of connection to the street and to neighbors, as long as there’s still plenty of private outdoor space as well. (In this house, the “back yard” is located on the garage roof—see photo in Private Outdoor Space Above Garage.) Especially when lots are narrow, and access to daylight is limited, as often happens in denser neighborhoods, the front of the house is both lighter and cheerier because of the wide-open street beyond.
In this house, the front porch is on the south side, allowing daylight to stream in all day long. By placing the kitchen and eating area adjacent to the front porch, this readily accessible outdoor space becomes a natural extension of the kitchen’s habitable area. It was interesting to listen to visitors to the house as they took in this Kitchen Up Front feature. Even the skeptical became believers as soon as they stepped inside the house. The kitchen pulled them in, and its bright informality with access to the outdoors instantly sold them on the idea. If the goal is a stronger sense of community, this is a powerful and delightful shift away from convention, and toward livability and neighborliness.
4. Double Duty Dining
One of the least used rooms in many houses is the formal dining room. Even when we have friends over for dinner, it’s often difficult to get everyone to move from the pleasant conviviality of the kitchen and into the dining room for the actual meal. What if we were to design our informal eating areas so that they can serve both formal and informal functions, and save the space (and the money) usually poured into that rarely used formal dining room?
That’s what was done in this house. The dining area adjacent to the kitchen is both beautiful and functional, with a raised countertop at the island to hide cooking prep mess from view. This allows this one dining area to serve many types of dining needs. In this way, the house can be smaller because there’s one less room, but the house actually feels bigger because you can see into every adjacent space. Nothing is separated off into rarely used separate rooms.
There are times though when we really do need a different dining arrangement—those occasions when lots of people come for dinner, such as at Thanksgiving. At such times what we really need is a much bigger room, with space for perhaps a dozen. In this house, there’s an alcove off the living room that normally serves as a library/sitting space. But when it’s time for a big dinner gathering, the furniture can be rearranged just for that day, the table brought into this area from the kitchen, and leaves added as needed—another example of doing double duty, a key strategy in getting less space to do more.