In Savannah, Ga., where Steves lives, many homeowners still use their formal dining room everyday. But in most places, she said, people are more casual, and their dining room should be called the “sometime” room. If this describes your household, could the dining room in a new house do double duty as both an everyday office and an occasional place for dinner parties, as Steves herself does in her own house? On most days, her dining table functions as a “giant-sized credenza” where she can spread out the drawings and photographs she uses for her writing. When she wants to use the space for dining, she pushes her desk (which moves easily because it’s on castors) against the wall and puts her work paraphernalia out of sight.
As you list the activities in each room, think about how you feel in it because this can also shed clues on right-sizing your space, Steves said. When her readers say a room lacks “coziness,” this usually means it isn’t conducive to conversation because it’s too big. To help homeowners connect a room size to how they feel in it, she urges them to measure the sizes of their rooms and make a rough sketch of their current floor plan.
If you conclude that the “right size” house for you is smaller than the one you have now, how do you decide which rooms and features to jettison and which ones to retain? Steves suggested couching the choices in terms of trade-offs — “if I do this, what are the consequences?” And she added, if you do this, your choices may surprise you. For example, you may find that the “must-have feature” in your master bathroom is not the second vanity sink; it’s the purely utilitarian linen closet where you keep bulk purchases of toilet paper, hair and body care products, towels and bed linens.
Once you’ve gone through the right-sizing analysis and determined that you want a smaller house, how can you make it feel comfortable? Panelist Pat Gaylor, a Little Falls, N. J.-based interior designer, said that when you can see from one room into another, the space will feel bigger and that well-proportioned rooms and large windows that bathe the spaces in natural light will enhance your enjoyment of it.
Gaylor also stressed that owners will have a much better idea of what they are getting now because computer-aided design (CAD) software can create realistic, 3-D images of a proposed design. In the past, her clients were “completely flummoxed” in trying to understand what was being proposed. They couldn’t read the architectural drawings and “had to take on faith” that her design would deliver what they wanted.
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 would like to suggest topics for coverage, contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.katherinesalant.com.