- Posted July 23, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Living in small spaces
See how this little house opens big
Click all the slides to see how it let us live on a resort for less than in the suburbs.
Being a graphic designer with some architectural and solar design education, I had it all figured out. To not only escape big home energy costs, mortgage and expensive taxes and living expenses of the suburbs, but do it living year-round on a nature resort with protected wildlife, lakes and waterfalls, hiking, horses – and golf. All at much less cost.
Then after building it and proving such a house was possible, use the house as a model to sell versions of the house to all the others who would love to get away, live great, and save! Who wouldn't want to shed their mortgage and big energy bills and maybe even live on a resort all year?
So the house was designed using every trick in the book to economize on space and energy use while incorporating quality custom features like natural cedar siding, hand-painted tiles and custom natural wood trim. And build it in a dream setting on a hilltop facing hills, woods and fields.
The key was keeping it small while making it work quite big. Do all that in a small 776 square feet of interior floor space, which uses as little energy as a 500 square foot house or less while housing 2 adults plus 2 grown children. And design this little affordable house so it acts like a big house when needed. Especially when our family and friends find out we're living on a resort. We welcomed them because they were the proving ground for how well this design could work.
And to afford to build this model of a new type of housing, get my wife and 2 grown kids to help me build it.
Designing for low energy: Small size a big energy reducer. Add to that double 2x4 stud walls carrying 9 inches of insulation, the ceiling two feet of insulation and over 20 feet of triple-glazed windows facing south to gather and hold enough heat to make this super-insulated passive solar house operate like a much tinier house. So well insulated the utility company was allowed to turn off the heating electricity during winter peak overloads. No air conditioning needed with all that insulation and window ventilation and overhang designed to keep the high summer sun out, and the hilltop breezes.
For everyday living for 4 adults: Provide 3 bedrooms, bath and a half, compact laundry room and kitchen.
For a big house when needed for visitors and entertaining: combine the dining room that converts to a living room with the 3 bedrooms whose double doors open up to the dining/living area, providing one large entertaining space within a small house. And seat the visitors on beds that convert to sofas. You can see how this all works in the floor plans and photos in the accompanying slides.
The house worked great and got compliments on the look and open feeling of what everybody imagined would be claustrophobic. The timing didn't. At the time, the economy was too good and everybody's plan was to move to a bigger house. Couples even worked 2 jobs to get big. Older small homes all over were now tear-downs for enormous homes that completely filled their lots. People had forsaken the out of doors, they wanted the safety of castles with enough rooms to do everything indoors. And impress people with the size of their possessions – homes and cars and video entertainment centers.
But we had some great times in our little-big-house and the nature hikes where we counted 42 deer on one walk. Climbed the hills. Boated. Even joined the volunteer fire department. Actually was drafted. No crowds in the supermarkets. It was like having our own store. We did finally sell it to someone who thought small is beautiful, too. We had to move back to the suburbs to commute to a paying job once more.
We would salt the plans for the little-big-house away for worse times. Looks like they're here! From the looks of the amount of traffic stopping to find out about small homes on iReport, it sure looks like now is the right time for the little-big-house plans to come out of the closet.
Slide 1 - Introduction to the little-big-house
Slide 2 - Floor plan in night mode
Slide 3 - Floor plan in entertaining mode
Slide 4 - Photo, house in family dining mode
Slide 5 - Photo, house in entertaining mode