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11288trend to smaller houses in USA

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  • Christopher Miller
    Mar 31 11:18 AM
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      A not surprising piece of news:


      A quote that relates house size to the nature of the neighbourhood:
      "The key to small homes is connectedness," Cusato says, adding that
      people don't need as much interior space for entertainment or exercise
      if they live near parks, shops or other people. "I grew up in Alaska,
      and we played outside all the time. We could walk everywhere in our


      Americans are moving on up to smaller, smarter homes
      Updated 3/17/2009 10:46 AM | Comments 189 | Recommend 67
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      By Bob Donnan for USA TODAY


      Sarah Susanka, photographed in her office addition, says Americans are
      embracing living smaller. "There's a shift in the culture," she says.








      Sarah Susanka's remodeling tips:

      1. Set priorities. Of three factors -- quality, quantity and cost --
      determine which two are the most important and let the other "float."

      2. Examine your space. Look at what can be done within the existing
      footprint. List activities to be accommodated, recognizing that a
      place is needed but not necessarily an entire room.

      3. Study storage. A little well-designed storage in the right place
      can replace a lot of poorly designed storage, opening up floor space
      in areas that are currently too small to function properly.

      4. Bump out a little. Adding just a few feet to a space can contain
      costs and maintain a house�s scale.

      5. Add on with grace. If none of the above strategies meet your needs,
      and the budget allows, a small addition may be the best option.
      Consider what each exterior face of the house will look like.


      By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
      When architect Sarah Susanka remodeled her kitchen, she didn't use
      pricey granite or edgy concrete for her countertops. She used
      laminate. Her cabinets: Ikea.
      "You can save thousands of dollars" by using simple materials in a
      well-designed space, says Susanka, author of the best-selling 1998
      book The Not So Big House.

      For more than a decade, she has urged people to build better, not
      bigger. Now, as the U.S. economy struggles to climb out of a tailspin
      and environmental concerns rise, her message has gone mainstream.

      New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last
      year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square
      footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically,
      from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter,
      Census data show.

      The new motto: living well with less.

      FIND MORE STORIES IN: Washington | California | Houston |Chicago |
      Tucson | iPhone | Census | National Association of Home Builders |
      Industry | Corona | Ikea | Museum of Science| Institute of Architects
      | McMansions | Gopal Ahluwalia |Jeffrey Mezger | KB Homes | Kermit
      Baker | Not So Big House| Sarah Susanka | Marianne Cusato | Michelle
      "There's a shift in the culture," says Susanka, whose new book, Not So
      Big Remodeling, helps homeowners use existing space better. She says
      the economy has forced people to rethink McMansions and focus instead
      on what they need.

      Other architects agree.

      "It's a return to common sense and what really matters," says
      architect Marianne Cusato, who designed the Katrina Cottage, a modular
      kit house for people who were displaced by the 2005 hurricane.

      Cusato says the banking collapse last fall prompted her to co-design
      what she calls "The New Economy Home." In 1,500 square feet, it has
      three bathrooms, a half-bath and four bedrooms, one of which can be
      used as a rental unit. "It's a small house that lives large," Cusato
      says. She plans to begin selling the floor plan on her website as
      early as April.

      "It's sad that it took a complete economic meltdown" for people to
      appreciate smaller homes, but at least something good can come from
      it, says Michelle Kaufmann, author ofPrefab Green, published last month.

      Kaufmann, a California architect who designs compact, factory-built,
      eco-friendly homes, says she's busier than ever because "these
      concepts are resonating on a mass level." One of her modern homes is
      on display in the backyard of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.

      She says new gadgets, such as the iPhone, have helped consumers see
      that bigger is not always better. Now, she says, "we want more out of

      The shrinking dream

      Kaufmann and others expect the shift in attitudes to persist even
      after the economy recovers.

      "This will remain a trend. I don't expect this (home size) to come
      back up," says Gopal Ahluwalia, vice president of research for the
      National Association of Home Builders. Nine of 10 builders surveyed by
      NAHB this year say they're building or planning smaller, lower-priced
      homes than in the past.

      "We don't need big homes," he says. "Family size has been declining
      for the past 35 years."

      Home sizes tend to stagnate during recessions, says Kermit Baker,
      chief economist of the American Institute of Architects. He expects
      that when the economy recovers, many first-time or middle-income
      buyers may want more square footage than they can now afford.

      Baker says plummeting home values, however, have caused many people to
      stop seeing houses as an investment but rather as a place to live. He
      says home-size declines probably will continue among high-end buyers,
      who began scaling back even before the recession.

      Steve Alloy, president of Virginia-based Stanley Martin Homes, says he
      started seeing that shift a few years ago and as a result began
      offering smaller floor plans. In the past eight months, he has
      introduced two models that are each under 2,000 square feet.

      In the Tucson area, Jeffrey Mezger says two-thirds of his houses that
      have sold in the past 90 days were less than 1,600 square feet.

      "In these economic times, people are more practical," says Mezger,
      chief executive officer of KB Homes, one of the nation's largest home
      builders. He says consumers, who were hit by record gas prices last
      summer, are also more concerned about utility bills, so energy
      efficiency has become more important.

      Two years ago, he says, the average KB house was about 2,400 square
      feet, which can easily accommodate four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
      He expects it could drop to 1,500 or 1,600 this year. In many
      communities, his models now start at 1,000 square feet. In Houston, KB
      Homes has an 880-square-foot house for $63,995.

      "We could have gotten a bigger home" but chose instead better
      flooring, lighting, countertops and cabinetry, says Jennifer Kovatch,
      24, an accounting manager. Next month in Corona, Calif., she and her
      fianc� are buying their first home. It has three bedrooms, not four.
      "We traded an extra bedroom for upgrades."

      Carole Conley and her husband had $1 million to spend when they went
      house-hunting in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. They could have bought
      a 5,000-square-foot home but decided against it. "We're a couple
      looking to our elderly years," she says, adding they want a house that
      will be easy to maintain when they retire. So they're buying a well-
      designed 2,000-square-foot rambler and plan to add 700 square feet.

      As an interior designer, Christine Brun sees a "complete reversal"
      from a decade ago. Now, she says, her clients are clamoring for less
      square footage, and manufacturers are responding with smaller
      furniture and appliances.

      "You're almost unpatriotic to live so large," says Brun, author of
      Small Space Living, published last month. She says Baby Boomers want
      to downsize, and young eco-minded adults "don't care if they live in
      500 square feet. They just want cool stuff."

      Between those attitudes and a crashing economy, she sees big prospects
      for smaller houses: "It's like a perfect storm."

      "The key to small homes is connectedness," Cusato says, adding that
      people don't need as much interior space for entertainment or exercise
      if they live near parks, shops or other people. "I grew up in Alaska,
      and we played outside all the time. We could walk everywhere in our

      How to live well with less

      For years as an adult, Cusato lived in New York apartments with less
      than 300 square feet. She says she lived outside, in her community, as
      much as inside, where she simplified her belongings. She told her
      family not to give her any more "tchotchkes."

      "Build what you need. Build what inspires you," Susanka says. "Don't
      build to impress your neighbors."

      As a best-selling author, Susanka could have built a grand home. She
      chose instead a 2,200-square-foot Cape Cod with a big front porch and
      "three perfectly proportioned" dormers on a lot that looks like
      country but is close to the airport, a good grocery store and a
      beautiful lake with walking paths.

      "What more could we ask?" she writes in her new book. She later added
      200 square feet for her office. She and her husband both work from
      home, so office space accounts for one-third of their square footage.

      "I don't feel we need more space," she says. If designed right, she
      says, less space can work well. "There are lots of things that can be
      done without spending a lot of money," Susanka says.

      She tells readers to think about how they really live and, if they
      feel they're short on space, to repurpose rooms that are rarely used,
      such as formal living and dining rooms.

      She says rooms can and should do "double duty." If they still feel
      more space is needed, she says, often a small addition will suffice.

      Susanka says the push to living smaller "at some point had to happen,"
      because McMansions use more resources and are not environmentally

      "We're in the midst of a pendulum swing," she says. "What will come of
      this will be a more balanced home."


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada

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