The small house movement is gaining momentum and coming generations may reside in increasingly compact properties that effortlessly solve life’s residential conundrums.
Is it just me, or are newish suburban developments a nightmarish landscape of architectural incompetence and ineptitude? Such properties are generally sold as ‘house and land’ packages that offer a handful of basic floor plans to choose from. The residences are all enormous and loom ominously over the streets. The roof tiles used on all dwellings are often identical, the corporate building companies get a discount when it purchases 1 million tiles at a time. Driveways are huge. Parkland is limited. There are no corner stores or cafes. The automobile is the only transportation option. McMansion is the correct description for these dwellings. They are cheap, lowest common denominator options for television watchers and fast food addicts who care nothing for pleasing aesthetics. They represent lives of silent desperation.
Like every cultural force, there exists a counter-culture to the McMansion trend. In this case, it is the small house movement that is emerging across the globe. How big does a house need to be for two adults to comfortably live? How many carpeted bedrooms do they require? How many storage spaces are required for their accumulated possessions? The answer is emerging, and the small housing movement would suggest that humans can live very comfortably in much smaller spaces than previously thought. While tiny cramped apartments have housed many residents in cities such as Hong Kong and Seoul, the wide open spaces of North America and Australia have led to a mistaken belief that bigger is better and that 4 bedrooms are inherently better than 3.
The 2020 lockdowns of many cities led to millions of office workers conducting their meetings and answering their emails from home. This has spawned a rash of innovations that make this more practical. Tiny office pods can be erected in backyards to provide the space and freedom required to work remotely as more corporations realise just how outdated the traditional office space has become. Why does an entire workforce need to physically congregate to fulfil its duties? Virtual meetings are just as useful or useless as meeting in person. Why must employees waste precious hours fighting peak hour traffic snarls and crowded public transport so they can appear in the flesh? The definition of ‘workplace’ is changing.
The beauty of small dwellings is their flexibility. Extra modules can be added when required if one is expected visitors or welcoming a new addition to the family. A sprawling 4 bedroom McMansion is a dusty white elephant when children grow and leave home, while a flexible dwelling may be downsized and upsized as per its owner’s requirements. Many small houses can be towed behind a vehicle and moved around when desired. One could have a summer and winter destination for one’s small house. Two pockets of land could be established to accommodate the dwelling and viola, you just doubled your residential options.
The major benefit of the small house is its cost for both its construction and maintenance. Heating and cooling costs are reduced, the ecological footprint is reduced, and there is less need for upkeep. There is less that can go wrong. There is no need for hundreds of roof tiles, miles of plumbing, and tons of concrete.
Who wouldn’t love to spend a portion of the year living in a cabin in the woods, allowing their creativity to flourish far from the flashing lights and background traffic noise of suburbia? Who wouldn’t love the freedom to up stumps and relocate to the coast when the weather is warm? Are people happy, stuck in their oversized, poorly designed McMansions? Or would they be better served living in a small architect-designed domicile that makes full use of its limited space?
The future suggests that houses will get smaller and this has the AMG tick of approval.