The average size home has grown from the 1950’s to now, with an increase from 983 square feet in 1950 to 1660 square feet in 1970 to 2500 square feet in 2010. The average size family has shrunk, from 3.01 family members in 1973 to 2.5 people in 2010. Our expectations of the proper size home have grown as well. Most people I talk to feel like their kids each need their own bedroom, and no one can imagine living in a home with only one bathroom.
For a year my husband lived in a camper, and for a short time three of us plus one large dog shared that 280 square foot space. It was actually very cozy. Our teenager could be reading in her loft area, my husband might be watching television in the living area, and I could enjoy my book while resting in the bed. At the same time I could see and chat with each family member. We had only a few outfits per person, but we found places to stack our books. We spent more time away from home or outside, but we did enjoy cozy evenings together with music or television. Cleaning was easy, but we had to carry our laundry to the laundry mat. We only bought groceries for a day or two at a time, and we mostly ate outside. I loved that part of the camper living. This life was the hardest on the dog because we were in a campground that required dogs to be leashed at all times. We walked often, but she was always on the leash. Inside the camper her movements were restricted due to space. I remember visiting family and the dog racing up and down the hallways of the ranch house, enjoying the freedom to move.
After a summer in the camper we rented a two-bedroom apartment. We felt like we had won a space lottery. Both bedrooms had bathrooms, and walk in closets. The apartment was about 900 square feet. We did not know what to do with all that space, but our dog did. Again, she spent a few days just running around, from one bedroom to the next. The apartment more than doubled our living space, we had a full size refrigerator, and large kitchen. We could eat inside, then hang out in separate bedrooms. In some ways that was better, especially for our teenage daughter.
In the camper we had one weekend with our entire family, husband and wife, three kids and one son in law all sleeping in the tiny space. It was extremely cozy. We ate out, we toured the local areas and we sat outside often at our picnic table. We all had space to sleep, aided with the couch and a set of chairs that turned into beds. For a vacation it was fine. The secret is to always put away everything, and to wake up at the same time, turning all beds back into living space. Each person would have to do his or her part to keep the small space clean and uncluttered.
We are now in a 2500 square foot home, so I guess we have covered all the trends in our lifetime. We have space for all our junk, and our items we believe to be necessary. We can entertain company easily; we have a nice kitchen and even a separate room for dining. One Christmas we had 11 people sleeping in our home, and only a few of them had to sleep on the floor. I feel like we are fairly adaptable, making both smaller and larger living spaces work. We have lived in a 3 bedroom, one bathroom apartment, as well as a large older 4-bedroom home with no master bathroom.
Like many people I don’t like the trend of the giant homes on tiny lots. I wonder if people would prefer larger homes to quality built smaller spaces. When everyone seems to live in these large homes that include playrooms, man caves, sunrooms, master bedrooms the size of small apartments and numerous walk in closets, it is hard to imagine being happy in anything less. Our parents generally lived in 1500 square foot ranch homes, many without air conditioning, sometimes with only one bathroom. Many of us grew up sharing bedrooms with our siblings, and I imagine most of us played outside more, rode bikes more, and spent more time in the company of other people than this generation does. It seems what is valued most right now is personal space and privacy. The question is, what have we gained, and what have we lost?
How do you see this trend? What do you prefer for living space?