Do we think about how we use space when making decisions on how to change our homes?
I was sitting in my garden reading last evening when I looked up from the pages of the book for a break. My first thought was actually how I could redesign my garden for a more enjoyable view next summer. Transplanting will ensue this fall. However, I began to reflect on the home inspections over the last week. I admit that I was looking for a topic for a post. The designs of the homes are what coming to my mind. Our concept of how space should be used in a home has changed over the years. Considering that I had inspections of homes built in 1940 to the present, space usage was easy to see.
I believe that homeowners have to consider space and its usage when they wish to make the best use of their home. Larger homes feel luxurious since their is space to spare, but this can be inefficient from an energy usage standpoint. As building green becomes a concern for consumers, we are rethinking how we layout our homes. If you have read various posts on this bog, you will see that I believe making rooms serve different functions during the course of the day is more practical for homeowners. I also like the idea of creating living spaces in the garden. My garden has reading areas, cooking area, dining area, and more. I do not often see people using their yards in this fashion. That is a shame.
The home built in 1940 did not have an entry room or hall. You entered into the living room. To your left is the sun room with a porch outside of a door. Directly ahead was the dining room. Directly through that room was a breakfast area. Slightly to my left through the living room was a hall for the stairwell. My thought immediately went to the idea of how well this space serves for a party or guests. Compare this to a home which is currently being built. Walking in the front door you enter into a huge entry hall. The space has a circular feel (it is half circle and half square). The stairs sweep along the edge of the circle making a grand entrance. With no first floor ceiling, we are looking up to the second floor, where a balcony goes across. This is a wonderful space for display. It exudes luxury to me, but I would not want it. What other use does this space have? Alright, the hall may serve in a party; however, I do not see this appropriation of interior space as benefiting the homeowners in their daily lives. To me the hall becomes an expense, since the area has to be lit and air conditioned.
I want to offer my own home as an example. Like many homes built in the 60s, I have a small hallway to be used as an entry. I have a hallway for the bedrooms. My entry hall is not large enough for much. I display some art there, which I try to set up to be viewed from my front room. The bedroom hall has an antique chest from Japan and a small bookshelf. Mainly the space display family photographs. My wife and I still speak of this space. I wanted to build bookshelves into the walls between the framing members. Yes, I have that many books, and I need to find new shelving spaces. My mother suggested closing off the front room from the entry hall and opening it up to the bedroom hall. This would make the front room become more family oriented, but the entry hall really would be useless then. I thought of taking away the little walls which separate the entry hall from the front room. This really would open up the space. That change would actually give me a better use of my floor plan.
I have fantasized about having the bedroom hall become part of the front room. The bedrooms would open onto this space, which would permit me to have a more usable area. Lifestyle choices make this a poor option. I listen to the news on the radio in the front room very early in the morning, while I begin my work day. This front room serves as the entertainment room at night, when the smaller children are in bed. The bedroom hall offers privacy, which is needed. My best option would be to do away with the entry. I think what would suit homeowners best is to stop to consider the needs of the family and the space available. Doing away with a hallway might be in their best interest. It may make the house more livable. As we become more concerned with sustainable building with a focus on energy efficiency, we may find that hallways or single function spaces are not what we need.