Thursday, May 26, 2011

House Got Back

Photo courtesy Flickr

The more I lighten up, consolidate, and miniaturize, the bigger the house gets. Years ago, a wise older friend years ago looked around my first, six-hundred square foot cottage and remarked, “Be sure to leave room for people.” It was a struggle at first, but a few decades later, I can do that.

The key people to accommodate, it turns out, are the residents. No two households run off the same script, and our original one wrote in shop and studio space. It’s been a long haul first filling and then emptying the nest, but at last we are using the space as we meant to in the beginning.

The hospitality industry classifies space as the front of the house, social and reception areas, and the back of the house, support space like kitchens, laundry, and janitorial facilities. The trajectory of twentieth-century housing has been to outsource support and alter the proportion of interior space in favor of the front of the house.

I find that the more space I’m able to use for support and production, the more I enjoy the building, my time, and the people who visit. The key to rearranging the place has been to avoid toxic processes and supplies. As in the garden, I can mix the practical and the decorative at will if I don’t have to segregate certain functions. Consequently, every precious cubic inch of space does double or triple duty.

The house looks Victorian, but it functions like a traditional Japanese farmhouse, where every space was a workspace and people simply slept in convenient spots as projects demanded.

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