After the excesses of the McMansion era, when houses ballooned out to 4,000 square feet and more and the average-sized one reached 2,500 square feet, homeowners today want smaller houses, said panelist Dan Gregory, an architectural historian and editor at HousePlans.com, a firm that sells home plans (www.houseplans.com). As evidence of this trend, Gregory cited his firm’s sales figures — for the past two years, its best-selling plan by far has been the one-floor, 2,091-square-foot “Storybook Craftsman” No. 120-162 (see accompanying graphic).
Still, Gregory also said buyers who want smaller, one-story houses are not going back to the modest “ranchers” of the 1950s and ’60s. The popularity of the No. 120-162 plan clearly indicates that the desire for the luxury and comfort of the McMansions continues unabated. The plan’s master suite has a big bathroom and two large walk-in closets, and the kitchen, breakfast nook and family room are generously sized.
What are buyers of the plan willing to give up to get a smaller house? The living room (whose demise has been predicted for 20 years) and a fourth bedroom. Buyers are also willing to accept smaller second and third bedrooms. A formal dining area was retained, but it is configured so that it could be enclosed and used for an additional bedroom or home office.
Does the popularity of No. 120-162 indicate a new look for suburbia? Gregory resisted giving a definitive answer but said that similar configurations have been bestsellers for other home plan services.
Seguing from home-buying trends to individual home owners, would similar smaller-house floor plans be right for you? While architects and home builders can easily visualize 2,091 square feet of living space, most people have no idea what this means or even the size of the place they live in now, said panelist Gale Steves, author and former editor-in-chief of Home Magazine. The best way for a family to know what will work for them is to assess their current house, a process Steves calls “right-sizing.”
Before you begin your own right-sizing analysis, toss out room names and focus on the household activities that occur in each space, Steves said. Be honest with your daily habits and see where they logically take you in planning a new house or a remodeling, she urged. Some rooms can be repurposed while others can shrink. For example, if you rarely cook and most dinners are “reheated carry-out or microwaved frozen entrees from Trader Joe’s,” you could be happy with a modest-sized kitchen that might have basic appliances incorporated into a single counter along one wall and a dining table (the classic country kitchen arrangement).