live simply, simply live

Take shelter

About 4 minutes to read

If I had the opportunity, to own or design my home, I know that one of my conscious choices would be to not have a dining room.

I would argue that most people whose home has a dinning room, don’t use it. At most, very rarely and probably not for it’s intended purpose. That’s because older homes were designed for a different lifestyle and newer ones are designed by developers, usually without the insight of architects. Sure, you could lament the demise of family dinners and that making the case for a formal dining room is a great way of supporting the tradition, but most likely that large, flat, horizontal surface becomes a collection zone for clutter.

Most breakfast bars or kitchen tables now serve the same purpose and function that dinning rooms once did.

This article references a book “that tracked 32 middle class Los Angeles families around their homes, following their every move to see how people actually live nowadays. This image shows “the location of each parent and child on the first floor of the house of ‘Family 11’ every 10 minutes over two weekday afternoons and evenings.”

Pasted Graphic.tiff

As you can see, the majority of the family spend their time in the kitchen/dinner and family room, with most of the other space going unused. (This only references one family though, so needs to be taken with a great deal of salt).

The challenge of the future is to design homes for how people truly live. We need to question the status quo that bigger equals better.

Doing so requires intentionality, thoughtful analysis and brutal honesty. You may also need to question the notion of that “future self”. The one where you tell yourself that when you get that bigger place you’re going to throw dinner parties every week and have friends over all the time. The reality is if you’re not doing those things already, or at least in some capacity, what makes you think more space will change that?

So when it comes to choosing where to live – what do we need?

As Trent Hamm writes: “If you’re focused on just your basic needs for housing – space to prepare food, eat, do basic hygiene, relax, and sleep – you really don’t need much space for that, so don’t pay for it. Extra space means that you’ll just be filling it with stuff that you don’t really need.”

Approaching it more mindfully can help you save money. Tiny houses are cool, hip and cute but their definitely not the solution for everyone. Naturally, the amount of bedrooms will increase with the amount of occupants but that doesn’t mean the other rooms have to. I have comfortably shared a single bathroom between 5 flatmates and never had any problems. An additional toilet would have been nice, but it wasn’t needed.

And of course where you choose to live now will most likely not serve your needs for the rest of your life. Circumstances change, families grow or fly the nest.

However, because houses are seen as an investment rather than shelter as a basic need, it creates opportunities whereby people hold on to properties that far exceed their needs, or buy homes simply for investment purposes. They are seen as a commodity to be traded and sold rather than a basic human need. The effects of which are now being revealed here in London and the solution to which is a far more complex and entrenched for this post to tackle.

We can’t all afford to build from scratch, so are at the behest of the existing market. But if you are looking for a new home or making a change – consider the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule – which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The same can be said of bedrooms, a study, dinning rooms – if they go unused 80% of the time, can you make do without them? It’s not just the extra physical burden that comes with them, but cleaning, heating, potential structural problems.

I’m not arguing we all have to live in tiny homes but it comes back to being more intentional and mindful with our choices in respect to what we can truly afford and need.

“That’s why I can live in 900 square feet because I’ve thought about everything that goes into it and I envisioned it. And that’s really, I think the essence of design is to know that. I mean it has to be just enough, and I think that’s what an architect usually can do, but sometimes we get perverted by our own process and we ask the wrong questions. I’m completely convinced that you have to not only design what they do, but what they do it in or on. And it’s so, so easy to go wrong and you wind up with three dinning tables in the same house. Well you gotta run pretty fast to eat at three tables at the same meal.” From Just Enough | Minimalism: A Documentary