Small Is The New Big


I said I'd elaborate.

I could use many sources, but a brand new source came across my desk yesterday - the latest issue of New Old House. (which, by the way, features the home of my favorite design couple, Steve and Brooke Giannetti. Steve is an architect-artist, Brooke is an interior designer, and their personal design style is exactly what I love. But that is beside the point...)

Inside this great magazine is a whole article dedicated to small being the new big. Here are a few quotes...

"We've changed from...conspicuous excess to careful consideration..."

"Now lean is the new luxury. To build lean means adapting our assumptions of what we want and need, to homes that are smaller, smarter, and simpler."

"While enthusiastic about buildling a new old house, (our clients) no longer come to us with a wish list that includes 7,000 square feet, a commercial range, and a soaking tub."

"We are sick of oversized McMansion houses and the budget required to build and maintain them. Today the most frequently requested house size is 2,500 square feet. Architects can design a perfectly comfortable, functional home within such limits."

Their tips - if you want to get in on this new-old aesthetic of smaller is better -

1. Think Smaller. Simply put - less square footage.
2. Get rid of "trophy rooms", such as game rooms, media rooms, and grand foyers. They are, at heart, only for show, and that sort of motive does not meet the true emotional needs of a person.
3. Scrap quirky roofs, curves, and corners in the roof and interior design. Complexity is out. Simplicity is in. And I quote, "A house embellished merely to add interest or curb appeal has a major design flaw, one that substitutes window dressing for real design skill. Traditional styles are simple. They have their own beauty and elegance, and they don't need to be gussied up with excess."

A house is built to meet the physical and emotional needs of a family. A family or home owner who has an emotional need to exhibit their social status, will find he or she can only buy or build for themselves a "McMansion"...they feel driven, after all, to meet this dysfunctional emotional need.

There are lots of definitions of "McMansion" floating around out there. To me, a McMansion is not just a "big house". I love me a big house. I could live in a huge house, and it not be a "McMansion"...it all depends on my motive, design taste, and the honest-to-goodness, every day use of the space. See, here's the thing - my every day life, lived honestly and true to my calling, needs more space. Every room in this house gets used many times a day, every day. More rooms, bigger rooms would be a good thing...a very good thing. The way we live (thirteen for dinner last Saturday, nine today - hospitality goes on here, to people outside our immediate family, as well as our family, every single day. That's the honest truth) the way we live would justify quite a large home.

But we use what we have, to its utter, exuberant limit.

A McMansion is a large space that houses small, inward lives. A McMansion is a home that does not regard human scale - everything is big, most of the public spaces are cavernous. A McMansion is a home that is all out of proportion to the honest, every day use of the space - whole rooms go unused for days (sometimes weeks or months) at a time.

A McMansion supports a lifestyle that the owners want to portray - not the lives they actually live. Big, pretty boxes, full of the props to a life no one really lives - these homes become McMansions because families don't love each other with simple, daily grace, and hospitality is not a way of life. Very little is shared, beyond the occasional party thrown as exhibition.

A McMansion wants you to admire it. A home wants you to take shelter within its cozy rooms, whether they be large or small.

I've seen it coming for years - small is the new big. Get in on this design style...it isn't going anywhere. It is here to stay.
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