Denver architect Mike Woodley said furniture sizes loom large when designing smaller houses, but most rooms, including the family room, can be smaller than homeowners realize. “Everyone thinks [the family room] must be huge, but in this space, most people watch TV or talk, and they don’t need a big room,” even when the household owns a larger 50- to 60-inch flat-screen television, Woodley said. In a modest-size, 2,000-square-foot house, he has found that a modest-size 14-by-16-foot family room works well.
The ungainly size of many family rooms in both large and small houses is often due to the need to incorporate circulation in it, Woodley said. For this reason, he prefers a “destination” family room, with the circulation incorporated into an adjoining area of the eat-in kitchen space, which he likes to organize into an L shape. He puts the family room activities in one leg, the dining in the other and the kitchen in the area where the two legs join. Characterizing this configuration as a “triangle,” Woodley said it functions well because family members naturally gravitate toward each other, and this arrangement enhances that.
The master bedroom is another place where the room can be smaller without sacrificing utility, and here most owners do not need to be persuaded, Woodley said. More and more, people are saying they only use the bedroom for sleeping and late-night television, and they’d take a smaller sleeping area to get a separate dressing room with open hanging and drawer storage and a decent-size bathroom.
One indication of how much the master bedroom has shrunk from the cavernous excesses of the 1990s and early 2000s: Woodley said that in his designs, the master bath routinely exceeds the size of the bedroom, even in his smaller houses.
Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, she can be contacted at email@example.com or www.katherinesalant.com.