It has been a long time, probably since the 1920s and 30s, since the small home has been on the minds of architects and designers. It's not that there aren't capable professionals to design small; it's that the profession as a whole has been too busy designing bigger and bigger houses to conform to Americans' needs. However, it seems that, just like life, the real estate market has come full circle.
Recently, there has been a rebirth of the small house movement, which has sprouted up all over the world, mainly as a reaction to overconsumption and the effects of global warming. Many people want houses that are more tailored, and they are conscious of the impact of construction on the Earth. This movement is opposite to the idea of the McMansion of the 1990s and 2000s.
Today's consumers, and those who are enlightened about our global situation, want quality products of minimal size. For small houses to be successful, they must have good construction methods and materials that are nontoxic to the environment yet are durable and have aesthetic appeal. Other aspects that are important to small homes are proper orientation with regard to the amount of sunlight and shade. Orientation will affect what kind of insulation is required, the amount and type of windows, and mechanical and/or passive systems for cooling and heating. Finally, everyone wants their home to be aesthetically pleasing.
Take, for example, the bungalows and cottages that were built all throughout the United States, from Miami to Los Angeles, during the '20s and '30s. Their success was the result of designing with restraint and with an economy of means; however, they were meant to accommodate middle-class families without excesses. Many of these homes still exist and are highly coveted for their charm and efficiency. Homeowners today may reconfigure a room to allow for another bathroom or a larger kitchen, but the fact that these houses can easily accept these modifications and renovations speaks volumes about the quality that went into their construction to begin with.
To solve all of the issues needed today and into the future, architects and designers will be required to develop a new kind of thinking and a high degree of ingenuity. Sure, today's requisite for air conditioning, smart energy consumption and hurricane protection are just some of the additional tasks to resolve. Integrating systems into the home that make them beautiful, efficient and technologically viable for the future is just part of the game.
Real estate developers also need to do their part and take note of the reality of the current market demands and think about building in a more global context. Building in the near future will not be about building bigger and cheaply but rather recognizing that the demands of the consumer will be more aligned with quality and economy of space. Back to the future, the time for the smaller home has arrived.
Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.