Sunday, December 18, 2011

Why a Small House Plan?

As readers have known, we have been wanting to build a smaller home
further back on our property. The old homestead will be then used for
other purposes. Possibly a small shop or store. We have been looking
at house plans and I was disappointed. The plans available today are
all for very large homes that are far from being practical when using
alternative energy resources. So, I have spent the last week designing
my own floor plan for a 3 bedroom home.

The plan started from a 28' x 30' (840 sq ft) log cabin design that I
found online at a college website. It is one of many that are free to
print out and use. The cabin was the same dimensions. The rooms on the
floor plan included 2 bedrooms, kitchen, and living room. No bathroom.
Guess it is a camping style cabin that utilizes an outdoor privy.

The first thing I did was to redesign the bedrooms. In the original
plan, the 2 bedrooms are side by side on one of the 28' sides of the
plan. I changed the orientation to make 3 bedrooms, 10' x 10' each,
along a 30' wall. The bedrooms may seem small by today's standards, but
they fit our lifestyle. We homeschool our children and live on a small
farm property. We believe that bedrooms should be for sleeping or quiet
time. Most of the day, the children are doing their schooling, playing
outdoors, or doing some other activity as a family. There is no need
for large bedrooms.

Next to one bedroom, I drew in a 6' x 8' bathroom/laundry. I remembered
how my in-law's single-wide trailer's bathroom looked. It was small,
but very functional. I based the bathroom on that. Again, it is not a
room that people spend a lot of time in, so only needs to be functional
in size.

The kitchen area is next to the bathroom so that the water pipes can
share a wall area. The kitchen is in the smaller portion of the living
area, which is completely open. No walls except those that separate the
family area from the bedrooms & bathroom. Ample windows in all rooms,
along with the front and back doors, are aligned so that there will be
very good air circulation from cross breezes in the summer.

There are a reasons for the size of this home. The first has already
been mentioned. When you are using alternative energy resources, you
need to scale back. I realize that is not the popular or desired
response. Many who complain about solar or wind power do so because
they want a system that is outrageous in price to be able to keep their
current lifestyle. They have so many TVs and other electronic gadgets
that a smaller system would never be able to keep up. We have managed
with only a small solar panel system for a year now. The only complaint
that I can think of is that if we have too many overcast days in a row,
the cell phone does not charge well. We plan on adding a bit more to
our system so that I can also use my netbook while it is charging. This
is purely for convenience though.

When you depend on cross breezes to cool your home, an open floor plan
with fewer walls is a benefit. If you keep the doors open to allow the
air to circulate from one room to another is a great way to stay
cooler. We notice in our current house that when you open it up and a
breeze is blowing, the house stays much cooler. On the other hand, in
the winter a smaller home that has an open floor plan will be easier to
heat. A centrally located wood stove or a well placed propane wall
heater will be able to heat the entire home without any trouble.

I often have mentioned the time Joe and I toured a museum's rebuilt
period home that was sparsely furnished. That is my dream. To have a
home that contains only what is essential for the lifestyle of our
family. Having a smaller home encourages you to be sensible in how much
stuff you hang on to. If storage space is an issue, you are more likely
to use discretion in what you choose to keep. This in turn will make
maintaining of the home easier.

It would not be difficult to add a pantry onto the home. Adding on a
back porch and enclosing one end to make a pantry beside the kitchen
would be easy. We have wanted a 4-season porch anyways. This would be
a good option.

Joe still has to look over the plans and see what he thinks of them. He
may have ideas for adjusting the plans. That would be great. He always
has wonderful ideas. This is a step closer though.