By Louise Bolger
Downsizing our homes: When less is more
sun staff writer
If you've ever cruised long term on a boat, you already know
that lack of space is you're biggest dilemma. Trying to cram
two week's worth of food, clothing, towels and bedding into
a space the size of some people's walk in closet is a challenge
that not everyone is ready for. But if you embrace it, what
you sacrifice in space can bring couples and families together
creating a safe, womb-like environment.
The concept of downsizing and living in a smaller space is
starting to make an impact on the national housing market.
The American home has grown larger and larger in recent years.
Per the Census Bureau, the median size of a house in 2005
was 2,227 square feet, up 50 percent from 1973. Even though
there has been a decades long rush in bigger homes, the market
is starting to see a trend in the opposite direction. One
example is in the Northeast, where new homes had less square
feet in 2005 than those built the year before, flattening
out what was the traditional upward trend in home sizes.
Much of this reversal has to do with the cost of construction
and the desire to build quality and efficiency rather than
quantity into new homes. Although the per square foot cost
is less in larger homes because the expensive space like kitchens
and bathrooms remains the same, homeowners are starting to
choose upgraded windows, high quality insulation and custom
finishing over cavernous space. Unfortunately, some of these
upgrades my prove to be invisible to property appraisers,
since they place more emphasis on size than quality. Appraisers'
comparisons are always square feet to square feet and they
don't make allowances for the quality or uniqueness of construction.
Empty nesters and young families' dreams of owning mega homes
start to fade when they realize these designs do not encourage
quality family time. This is logical when you consider the
popularly of communities that have created brand new towns
and neighborhoods. Homes with front porches and streets with
sidewalks encouraging strolls to a new downtown, where you
can see a movie, have dinner or listen to a band concert.
Lakewood Ranch, and new communities in the Florida Panhandle
and South Carolina are examples of developments providing
out-of-the-box housing options to a new generation of homeowners.
Anna Maria Island already has a community feel with people
walking and biking on a daily basis. It is the quintessential
area where downsizing should start to take hold. We already
have a large supply of cottages just waiting to be loved,
rather than torn down. We already have a trolley system that
can take you anywhere on the Island for free. We already have
a theater, restaurants, ice cream and retail shops of all
kinds within a very small geographic area. Anna Maria already
has the warm and fuzzy hometown feel that the new communities
are trying emulate. Why would anyone want to change it.
An old friend of mine once said he wanted to keep his life
simple. "I want to be able to keep everything I own on
a shelf," he said.
Of course, he would have needed a really big shelf to fit his
30-foot power boat, but his heart was in the right place. Minimalism
could be the latest trend to influence real estate. I guess
Mies van der Rohe was right - less is more, especially in boats.