Thursday, 22 July 2010

little house

I've just recently finished reading this quite excellent book. 
In fact, very excellent. You should go and borrow it from your local library, and read it. If you're inclined that way. 
It's Little House on a Small Planet. And, it's about exactly what it sounds like it's about. About the small house movement, co-housing, community living.....
In reality, people have been living in small houses since house began. In caves and under ferns or bamboo or leaves to keep off the weather and protect from the animals. And on this small planet of ours, many many people still do live in little houses. People share one room with extended families - living, cooking, sleeping altogether.
I imagine that these people are happier and more content than anyone who lives in a big house can ever be. Can a mansion bring you happiness?

There are endless reasons why small houses are ideal living. Let's start at one that makes a difference to your daily routines - less rooms means less cleaning; who wants to clean 3+ bathrooms, 5 bedrooms, a formal living / dining room, and a family room every week. Think about all the extra time you'd have if there was only one bathroom, 2-3 smallish bedrooms, and one beautiful living / dining space. IN my experience, with kids, it doesn't matter how much space they have - they keep on making it messy; they'll fill one room, then move to the next. And, they also will not stay in their own rooms, but will hover around you, under your feet, on top of you. 
Yes, okay - my kids are still young, and you may be right in thinking that as they get older they'll want the space of their own. But I didn't; as teenagers my siblings and I did our homework in the lounge room {we didn't have a dining table to sit at - being floor livers}, around the family. Part of family life.

Other reasons, which are more thoughtfully environment and financial are the heating and cooling costs associated with a larger or smaller home. To air condition a big house costs a lot - a lot to your pocket, but more importantly, a lot to the environment. Mostly you're cooling rooms that you don't actually spend much time in. {But the workings of A/C mean that you need to keep it on to regulate the temperature, in case you want to walk into the room for a few minutes}.

Heating costs are the same. It's so easy to turn on your gas or electric heater and crank it up to warm the whole house, isn't it. And the electricity/gas bill comes and you get a bit of a shock - but pay it anyway, and forget come next Winter. {Again, I think I barely need to mention the environmental costs, and I don't figures to quote to you anyway. Common sense tells me that it's too much}.

Then there's the cost of actually building your home - regardless of if you build it yourself, pay someone to build it, or buy an old home already built a long time ago {you'll want to renovate that one, won't you}. The materials that go into building large houses can be expensive and costly to the environment, not to mention your mortgage. {Do you know what mortgage means - it's from old French & English, and means 'death pledge'. Lovely, hey!}. And then there's the extra furnishings you need to make all those rooms look like a proper home. 

Also, bigger houses means you have less land around you. Less earth and soil under your toes. Less space to plant trees or veges, or sit in the sun, or run around exploring with your children. 

Little House on a Small Planet is a book that shares stories with people who live in some of the smallest homes (in the USA). It's not a design book, or an architecture book, rather a viewpoint into how you can live, how you can change your life (your current home or your future home) to learn to live and love a small home.
{The one disappointing thing about the book is that all the zoning and planning rules are for USA, and don't apply to Australia - so other research material is necessary; my dad, I'm suspecting!!}.

It's not all touchy feely; it also has many interesting and eye-opening facts and figures and information. But it's the families and the stories that I loved the most. The ideas and ideals; but the ease with which it is a natural way of living - no heroics, just life.

Yesterday we looked at some land {and I left my camera in the car, so no photos or the beautiful trees and moss and fairy homes}. Perhaps it's our land. We are still talking and thinking and deciding and planning. So, of course, I am back to the drawing and planning of our home. Thinking of the spaces we need - what we really need, not what we might want. How do we use our space, can we use the same space for different things. 

We are lucky to live in a part of this Earth where the Winters are fairly mild, and outdoor living happens for most of the year. So vast open verandahs, and easy constant access to outside is essential, practical, expected. A fireplace for those few cold Winter months, where everyone settles in one room to keep warm, and huddles under the blankets and jumpers instead of "turning up the heat".

I'd love to hear your thoughts and feelings on the small house. How big is your home, how do you use your space, does your home have any exciting design features, how do you feel your family would go living in a small house (less than 100metres square, I think).

Just a few other small house reading ::
Small Home Style
Cohousing, Small Home Movement
Tiny House Blog
House of Fallen Timbers

*images are, from top - bottom:; little house on a small planet (middle two b/w images); revelations architect EDGE house (bottom two).


  1. Our house is just under 100m2 I think, or right on and it's too small. It's too small because it's badly designed. Not in a really awful way, just in an old-fashioned-not-the-way-we-live-now kind of way. We've gone over in our minds and on paper how we'd organise it if we ever decided to gut the whole place, though in terms of practicality it'll never happen, plus it has real charm, just not a practical kind of charm. So yeah, I can totally see that you could have a liveable house in 100m2, but you'd have to be clever about it. The other thing that I think is lacking in NZ houses, and probably Oz ones too, are basements. Sure we don't need the utilities coming in so deep to avoid being frozen, but you're gaining twice as much floor space with no loss of space on the surface. Plus the insulation comes built-in!

  2. Interesting...Since being in Australia I think we moved in and out about 12 houses...Kind of crazy I know!The hardest thing for me was lack of storage and practicality in the design...also it seems to have been hard downsizing, once you grow into a bigger house you expand!:)However totally agree on the maintenance side of things the only problem of a small house for us is visitors...with nowhere to put them so they have their space...I also think in Australia we are lucky as we can "live outside" quite a bit which often is almost part of the house I feel!

  3. Interesting topic Ellie. We live in a small inside space with a big outside space and share our room with the kids too (it's divided by big, heavy curtains for privacy). I'm looking forward to building our house and having more storage space and I'm also really looking forward to having my own bedroom (being the only girl in the house I sometimes feel like getting dressed without an audience). All that being said, I do love that it takes me about 10 minutes to vaccuum the whole place and about the same time to mop. I love that I can sew in my little sewing corner with my husband just in front of me on the couch and we can still be together and talk while doing different things.

    I think it will be strange for us and the kids especially when we do have different rooms. The house that we are building is 162.9m square with 70m square of verandah so it's very small when compared to the standard new house of today but big for us! I could go on and on......look forward to catching up with you soon!


  4. i have a thing for the small house movement. i dream of building a tiny cabin on the shore of lake superior and retiring to it when the boys are grown. i have a fantastic architecture book of beautiful small homes; i wish i could think of the title of it. i lent it to a friend and she never gave it back!

  5. Hey Ellie. I think we're on a wavelength at the mo. Just noticed your 'slow project' stuff up the top - how long has that been there? I've been doing my own little slow project.

    Anyway, small houses. I recently watched a little movie clip about a guy who builds tiny houses, I think he built the little timber one in your picture, loved it.

    I'm mulling over space issues. We're in a 2-bedroom flat, I have no idea what size it is but 70 square metres rings a bell? We bought this place so we could stay in the area where we've put down some roots, and I'd still far prefer to live in our flat within this familiar community than dislocate our family socially for the sake of more home space. We're still learning lots about ourselves as consumers, about our expectations and 'needs' and 'wants', as we keep living here. If we were in it for the long haul, I can imagine paring back what we own further. I think small space encourages a less consumeristic mindset.

    That said, we're really struggling with a lack of personal outdoor space. I like the idea of living small on a piece of land. Living small in a block of flats...? Well I'm not sure how much longer we can do it. We're starting to look for a nearby rental with more room inside AND out. Mostly, it's about the outside, but we'd love to be able to put folks up for the night now and then too.

    I just hope my materialism doesn't grow out of hand again if we go bigger. I am already thinking about needing stuff to 'fill' extra rooms... hmmm.

  6. Hi Ellie!
    Thanks for mentioning the House of Fallen Timbers. I had a visitor from your link and thought I'd stop in to say hello. When I was in High School my family hosted an Australian student for a semester. Her name was Shona and she came from Sydney. We learned a lot from her. She fell in love with peanut butter and taught us that there was no difference between net ball and basketball. I still laugh when I think about her asking my mother for a rubber. We call them erasers here, rubber has a whole other meaning. Anyway, just wanted to say hello and thank you for the mention. Have a great day!


Thank you for your words and thoughts. I do so appreciate each and every visitor to my blog. While I try hard to reply to your comment, it often doesn't quite happen..... know that I'm sending you a thoughtful thanks xxx

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