Nine hundred square feet is relative

Recently, I came across this post (via The Tiny Life). It reminded me a lot of a book I read this summer called “The Not So Big House.”

Here’s a quote from the post:

How small is too small? For a two-bedroom, two-bath house, 100 square feet is too small. That’s 8 feet by 12 feet: the inside of a UPS truck, basically. Three hundred square feet? That’s ok for Ted Kaczynski, but it’s too small for you. Assuming you’re a relatively fit person in a moderately urban area who doesn’t mind bumping into your partner once in awhile, I think you’re going to need an absolute, bare minimum of around 900 square feet for your two-bedroom, two-bath house.

I can sum up “The Not So Big House” like this: “Hey, instead of building a crappy 3,000 sq ft home, why don’t you build a really nice 1,000 sq ft home instead! :D” (Keep in mind I was hoping for a book on tiny homes, so I was rather disappointed. It wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.)


Now, my roommate and I live (with two cats) in what I can best approximate as 500 square feet. It’s definitely smaller than most of my friends’ one bedrooms. It’s the smallest apartment I’ve lived in to date, and most of those were one bedrooms.  I also don’t particularly care for living with another person, which can often make spaces seem much smaller. But nine hundred square feet for the four of us would be immense.

However, my parents live, with my sister, her spawn, and (sometimes) my brother, in a MUCH larger four bedroom/three bath house. I’d hesitate to estimate the square footage of that monster. The electricity bill in the summer (and at Christmas) often approaches my rent. For them, nine hundred square feet would be tiny.

So while people accustomed to small spaces find the idea of nine hundred feet as small laughable, most of the rest of America would likely find the concept of building only what you really need to be a novel idea.

But you run into problems. As a couple of commenters (on both Good and The Tiny Life) pointed out, banks often have to be convinced to finance small houses. And you run into the 80/20 rule. While you use 20% of the house 80% of the time, that 20% is likely going to be 80% of the cost. It’s easy and cheap to inflate a house’s size. An extra closet here, a few extra feet to the living room there. It’s the same principle as super sizing a meal. You get a lot more (or so you think) for just a little more money. But if you don’t need those fries, or that extra closet, you’re just throwing away money.

Also, I take offense at being compared to Ted Kaczynski.  I’m sure my roommate would, if she cared and/or actually knew who he was.


6 Responses to “Nine hundred square feet is relative”

  1. dargon Says:

    Huzzah for the first comment on the first post.

    I suppose I’m one of the friends with a big single apartment, 800 square foot, one bed, but Ive been in the two people in a 400 square foot place, and it ain’t too bad as long as you don’t hate the person you’re with.

    Considering I have considered living in a storage unit, except they all explicitly state you can’t, too small, well, as long as I can fit the bed and the computer, it ain’t too small.

    • cwnmamau Says:

      From what I’ve read, a lot of minimum sizes for houses were initially put into place to prevent shantytowns (hence why you can’t live in a storage unit, and many places expressly forbid living in shacks/sheds). Then the homeowner’s associations started up with it to keep property values inflated. From there it just snowballed.

  2. The house we have is 1,600 square feet. It has three actual bedrooms, an office I’m using as a bedroom, two bathrooms, kitchen, huge living room, giant dining room and a couple of halls. Not counted in that square footage is the utility room, garage, and sunroom/art room. It’s on a quarter acre pie slice shaped lot off a cul-de-sac. A lot of people would think, looking at the quoted square footage, that our place is tiny. However, we’ve got it arranged and decorated so that there is plenty of free space in it, and when you add in the non-traditional living space, it’s pretty ginormous.

    And, we use all the rooms in it, plus the yard space. We do a lot of our living out in the yard, either gardening or just hanging out and enjoying the space.

    I’ve lived in much much smaller spaces before, and discovered that one thing I need to feel happy in my space is floor space and room to stretch. I like wide open spaces, and really like when my interior living space merges into the outdoor living spaces.

    All of which is to say, well, even when I lived in small places, I didn’t feel like it was small, because I’d have things arranged to give me floor room, and I would refuse to close off my windows and doors. :)

    • cwnmamau Says:

      And you guys have a lot of people living in there, too, which makes a big difference. Nine hundred square feet would be huge for the roomie and I, but if you threw in another human or two, it would likely be just right.

      And what all you put in a room makes a really big difference. If I had all the furniture I did have at one point, my apartment would be even smaller than it is now.

  3. I have no idea the square footage on the house where I live, but I think the problem with that book is the premise. Why 2 bed, 2 bath? I rent a pair of rooms, which I have never measured except for how far underground they are, in what is, on paper, a 1 bedroom, one bathroom house. In reality one of my rooms is a bedroom too, but the bottom of the (tiny) window is above the top of my head, which makes it not count. The 1 bathroom, however, is very real, and perhaps made all the more so by the fact that there are 6 people living here, five of whom use normal bathroom facilities (my son is 4 months old, so he doesn’t, yet…). A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom is, IMHO, an unnecesary luxury for a house with fewer than 5 adults in it.

    • In America, it’s pretty common to have, at bare minimum, a bathroom per person, and usually even more. I think it’s ridiculous…my roommate and I share a single bathroom in my apartment just fine. We could use some more space in there, but hell, the only time we run into issues is when she’s taking her bath/shower/hour long bathroom hog, and I need to pee. But if it’s really that necessary, I just walk to the park down the road and use those bathrooms.

      And bathrooms are probably one of the most expensive areas to build in a house…which may contribute to why my apartment is so cheap.

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