Lauresays: May 15, 2010 at 1:03 am

I’m enjoying these small house posts so much! I’m a fan of the not-so-big-house concept. I think my parents would have been, as well, as they designed their small, modern, ca. 1952 home with sensible storage, minimal and modest building materials and plenty of light. Some of the smart things I remember are….

-a tall, shallow cabinet in the small, sunny family room for storing the full-size ironing board, iron and water to sprinkle on the clothes or pour into the steam iron (complete with outlet)
-pull-out bins for my brothers’ sports equipment, and the laundry awaiting ironing. The laundry room was just a few steps away.
-a breakfast bar tripled as an art center or a sewing center (with outlets for lamps and machines) as well as a snack or overflow eating area
(and was frequently employed in all three ways)
-convenient storage right next to that surface: a wall with built-ins for a low, central games cupboard, topped with a surface for the tv, and flanked on either side with storage for sewing things, art things, toys, and holiday decor (no attic or basement in a coastal-region flat-topped house). Nothing fancy, just simply designed and executed out of modest wood and sheetrock, and we never needed a fancy tv cabinet or an ugly tv cart.
-The little laundry room had a load-bearing wall that was left open, and oblong plastic buckets with each child’s name on it were inserted on rough shelves to receive clean laundry as it was folded.
-The kids’ bathroom had a generous linen closet area with labeled shelves.
-Closets were sliding-door style and generous in the bedrooms, and mom and dad also had a mini walk in.
-The big kitchen island doubled as a cutting table as needed, served as a holiday buffet surface, and when Mom sewed less, it became a great spot to garden (skylight above).
–the island also had an indented cubby so the trash can was accessible but out of the walkway.
–there was another indented cubby for a rolling storage/serving cart with matching white formica surface
–the phone connection was built in there, and a cupboard that exactly fit the city phone books was also in the island
—a low, pull out surface in the island was perfect when I was learning to cook as a little girl, and a great extra surface during big cooking events.
–No dining room hutch – a few danish cabinets with tambour doors were mounted to the DR/LR walls
–the DR table was a drop leaf affair that made a nice credenza to set of a favorite piece of art, only brought out for formal occasions, so the living room was spacious and lived in.
– The kitchen table was round – easily accommodating different numbers of diners
–it also came with its own matching turntable to make serving easier, as well as making it easier to play Scrabble, Monopoly, whatever.
–They designed a place for the vacuum cleaner that wasn’t the hall coat closet, but separate, which also housed wrapping paper, extra fridge (big family), and other hobby things.
–the kitchen had plenty of light maple cabinets (the big splurge), including a place for tools, recycling grocery bags, cleaning stuff, and everything that usually doesn’t fit in kitchens. We never had to use the top of the fridge for food storage!
–several built-in bookcases would fill the needs of most families (we needed more, lol).
–tiny workshops adjoined the laundry room and the back of the house (complete with large, recycled
fiberglass privacy window) so we could have a carport instead of a mucky garage that wasn’t planned to hold a workbench or lawn & garden tools. I LOVED playing in that carport, especially on rainy days. We could skate or play make believe there, in the fresh air, and out of the hot sun. It was a great place to refinish furniture with ventilation and protection from the elements, too.
–their living space was extended into a courtyard off of the main kitchen/family area, laid with pavers with good old-fashioned sweat equity
–the carport entry went through the laundry room which had a door onto a tiny 3/4 bathroom (with a shower) perfect for stripping and sluicing small, filthy-grubby persons on their way back from the beach or mud pile, and dumping the clothing right into the washer – and having clean clothes ready! Mom knew how to prevent unnecessary housework like a pro!
–The living room had a built-in hole for storing firewood and featured original art my mom did to disguise it
–the fireplace was elevated in front of an 18″ high tiled surface that doubled as children’s performance area and extra seating, made comfy with cushions.
–the water heater and hvac were easily accessed. The hot water closet was a perfect place to set bread to rise in the winter (and the island was the perfect place to knead the bread without interrupting the rest of the kitchen activities.)
–they did one addition when we were at our peak population of 7, to accommodate all the bodies, and then re-purposed bedroom space for a home-based business as kids left the nest. Until then, mom and dad managed to almost invisibly convert their tidy desk spaces into the kitchen/family area and I think the file cabinet/safe lived in one of bedroom closets for awhile.

All this smart design meant that we could live really well in what was really a small home. We did so many things! I remember it as having places for doing lots of wonderful things, and with places to put everything away easily and neatly after each project was done. It has given me a real appreciation and affinity for well-planned, small homes. no wonder Sarah Susankah’s Not-so-big-house books were such a breath of fresh air to my soul, and why I sometimes peruse sites like this one!



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