I love minimalism, I believe the lifestyle philosophy is hugely beneficial for both mental clarity and lifestyle simplification. Its a reoccurring theme in my blogs. Last year I wrote about minimalism in a two part series Minimalism & Living Simply; Part 1 and Minimalism & Interiors; Part 2. The topic is also mentioned in many of my other posts including those about purging and downsizing, check out my blog archive. In this blog, let me get back to basics, both in regards to minimalism in interior design and in a broader sense of life itself.
People have a preconceived notion about what a minimalist interior looks like. Words used often have a negative connotation like barren and stark. Case in point, the photo below:
Its a simple room with only the most basic furnishings. Most likely this photo was staged this way to make an obvious point. In reality, minimalist style doesn’t have to be so…well, minimal. For me, I would furnish a room with all the necessary items and then stop when something has no purpose other than being idle decor. Simple window shades, for example in the photo above, would not detract from the minimalist aesthetic. Its all in the way that its done. In reality, these windows would need covering for both weather and privacy.
For a minimalist decor approach, if it serves no purpose or meaning then it should not go into your home. Its visual clutter, fills up a space, and eventually just needs dusting. Visual clutter and chores create stress and prevent relaxation. Minimalism goes beyond the aesthetic but rather its about life simplification. So that minimal interior isn’t barren and stark, rather it should really be considered simplified and calming.
The purpose of minimalism is to return to the basics and focus on what’s important in life. Simplification for the sake of getting more enjoyment from the space and being mindful of the actual activity. Some people would say “oh, but its not cozy!” I’m all for a cozy space, bring on the Hygge factor. The very definition of Hygge is cozy, its a Danish philosophy focusing on the people and activity but not all of the superfluous stuff. And you know what else does that… minimalism.
In another post I can easily write about an aesthetically pleasing cozy atmosphere that’s filled to the hilt with stuff. But to defend my point, all of that stuff had still better serve a purpose. To all of those people who say “I can’t get rid of my things!”, I’m not asking you to, but just ask yourself this: is your life calm? Are you relaxed or stressed? Do you have a list of chores and always find yourself searching for something or having to tidy up the house? Maybe you’re not ready to be a minimalist yet, but would it help to start being a “reductionist?”.
Join me next time for another thought provoking design topic that hopefully helps bring you insight for your home, business, and life in general.
After a long hiatus, my blog has returned. Let’s jump right into the deep end…
If you take a look around any home store right now they are bursting with decor and accessories. Quite rightly so, the holidays are the quintessential time to decorate the home with accessories. Pretty as all of those glittery baubles are, they are majorly lacking in one area: purpose and meaning. Let me explain…
This time last year I wrote about holiday decorations and included a cute poem depicting the sentiment of decorations. If you missed it, here’s the link: Twinkle & Sparkle. Now, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t acknowledge that my home too is decorated with beautiful and curated store-bought decorations. I’ll even confess that I have a color coordinated Christmas tree that I put up with military tactical precision, calculating the distance between the same colors so as not saturate any area but rather evenly disperse the ornaments. (Seriously, I’m a real treat to decorate a Christmas tree with, its serious business. Occupational hazard, my apologies!)
But, with that precision, in the adjacent branches should be the ornaments that over time your family has created by gluing together popsicle sticks, knitting and crocheting bits of yarn, painting doilies, and drawing on tissue paper with markers. Children’s art and family heirlooms are so precious and the most meaningful decorations you’ll ever have. In my mind at least, therefor the most beautiful, deserving the front row center spots on the tree. Your tree will be forever the more humbly beautiful with them.
Another offender in the decor category besides pretty but meaningless holiday decor are the pointless accessories that stores sell to decorate your mantel, bookcase shelves, and coffee tables. You know the type of things I’m talking about, its the abstract armillary globe with the arrow sticking out for your mantel shelf or the droid looking horse head bookends for your bookcase. I think the worst one of all has to be the innocently placed, beautifully carved bowl on the coffee table but then is ruined with these five to seven “balls” sitting inside it. They’re usually made of wicker or painted resin and they do absolutely nothing. They sit in the bowl and just act as decor. Really? We as a society have come to this, we can’t leave the bowl empty to stand alone and just be? We have to fill it, don’t we? We’re uncomfortable unless there is something in the bowl. I issue a challenge to all of you with a bowl with these fake balls in them, for the New Year…toss out the balls.
What’s my point with this rambling rant? When decorating your home with accessories, think about their meaning and purpose. Are they a real item with history or are they simply shelf filler? Beautiful things are nice, but they should more importantly also hold a functional purpose or meaning to your heart. A decorative bowl can just be a bowl, in all its glory, and sit empty. Really, it will be OK, I promise you!
Have a great holiday season everyone, I’ll be back next year with fresh ideas and more satirical humor.
I’ve lived in 200 sf and I’ve lived in over 3,000 sf. Both of these sizes provided everything I needed…at the time. That’s the key, living in a space that provides you what you need at the time. It’s simple and basic, but many people don’t do it. Their house is either bursting at the seams with people and stuff or they are rolling around like marbles with empty rooms they no longer use.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to choose the house among several, realize the home isn’t just the style or location but also fit. Knowing and really thinking about the stage of life you’re in currently and probably the next 5-10 years will allow you to choose correctly. Budget is a separate issue altogether; what you should buy and what you can afford to buy can often be two very different numbers, therefore housing options.
When people live in a space for a few years the phrase “I need more space” often starts creeping in. It’s not that you need more space, you just need less stuff or better organization. (Check out my previous blogs under the minimalism category)
Houses now have man caves, living rooms, family rooms, play rooms, teen hangout rooms, bunk rooms, craft rooms, finished attics, rec rooms and finished basements. That’s a separate type of room that 50 years ago used to be all the same room. Let that sink in for a minute…all the same room. Whoa, right?
Once settled in the +3,000 sf house, people feel like they’re always picking up, tidying, cleaning, and honestly- constantly walking around stuff. Kitchens now have two islands and built in banquettes, breakfast bars that seat 6-8 plus a dining room to host 8-10 people. That’s a lot of places to sit and eat a piece of toast with your morning coffee. Also a lot of counters to clean and furniture to walk around.
Have you ever cooked in a really small kitchen? It’s fun! You’re at the stove, turn around you’re at the sink. Need a knife? It’s in the drawer right next to you. Need something from the fridge? It’s beside you an arm’s reach away. While you’re stirring the pot, the spice rack and spoon rest are most likely beside you already.
So what’s my point? Just because your mortgage says you can afford the +2500 sf house doesn’t mean you should. Think about that cute craftsman you saw or that 2 bedroom town home, would they really work better? What would the added income, that you would save every month from your mortgage, do for you? Can it pay off a car loan, old student loans, zero your credit card, then bulk up your neglected retirement accounts or maybe start a nice juicy college fund for your kids? Just think about it…
Join me next time when I discuss decor and accessories with a purpose and meaning. Thanks for reading, have a great day!
As I write this month’s blog, it’s cloudy and snowing. A perfect setting to discuss spreading daylight through the home. Do you have a dark room or hallway and wonder how to get more light? Many people have their lights on during the day when there’s no need. With proper delivery of sunlight, lights would only be used in the dark, completely logical right?
A dark and dreary interior doesn’t have to be with using purposeful historic features that carry daylight through a building while also bringing architectural interest and connectivity. One method is transom windows. These windows occur above doors and help spread daylight through to the next room. Sidelights are another method, often used on front doors. Any pet owner will recognize the immediate benefit of having a sidelight next to their doors; to alert them their furry friend wants to come in. Another method for delivering daylight throughout about space and is becoming more common is the interior window. Simply put, it is a window that is placed on an interior wall between rooms. Often used in a long horizontal orientation to ease sight lines to entrances, niche corners, or landmarks within a space such as a reception desk. When an interior window is placed in a wall that is adjacent to an exterior window, the daylight is pulled into that next room. If privacy is an issue, have the window sill placed higher up from the floor.
Beyond spreading daylight throughout the space, it’s also about connecting to the next space. Transoms, sidelights, and interior windows help pull you through to the next room. But it’s not just windows that can do this, decorative french doors on pantries, laundries, playrooms, basements, dens and even dressing rooms help connect you, draw you through to the view beyond, and expand the feeling of space.
Whether it’s with a window, a glazed door, or even a mirror, spread the daylight around, appreciate the view, and expand your perspective! Make a physical connection and engage with what is right next to you, whether it’s a room, your garden, or your neighborhood. It’s all about connectivity!
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Join next time: “Downsizing; finding the right fit.”
First, I need to apologize for missing last month’s blog “Stained Glass, Tales of Color” that was supposed to be published. You see, a week before Christmas, when my blog would have come out, I suffered a technological apocalypse. My laptop experienced a quick and spontaneous demise. It turned on once briefly giving me a glimmer of hope but alas it was just enough to quickly harvest files onto a jump drive and then it glowed no more. When I logged onto my blog to complete it for the month on another laptop, I realized it was completely unsaved and was truly lost. I will address the topic again at a later date as it’s already written in my mind, but right now with the help of a new laptop, it’s time for the next scheduled topic of resolutions and decor dreams.
As the hurried pace of the holidays slows and the decorations come down, the focus shifts to the new year before us. Many people set resolutions; goals or dreams for themselves for the upcoming year. Most designers have a secret list of project types they would love to do in their professional lifetime. As a designer, I’ve taken that approach and created a bucket list of projects I aspire to be involved with at some point, may it be this year or in the future.
As an introduction on why these items are on my list, I like places that drip with ambiance. To make a place memorable and enjoyable, they have to exude character and have a good vibe. A restaurant for example, has to have a combination of good food and service, plus great atmosphere to bring repeat clients. If you have one of these food or drink venue related projects, call me today! I would clear my schedule for you…
English Pub/Old World Tavern
Now, here are some pretty pictures, let’s all dream together.
My design resolutions aren’t all food related. If you have one of these commercial or residential projects I will still excitedly clear my schedule for you…
Mid Century Modern House
Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading my blog! Set your 2018 goals high and make them happen. Whether you want to renovate, redecorate, or just rejuvenate, contact my studio, I’d be happy to help you.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Join next time: “Beyond Daylight; it’s all about Connectivity.”
This is part two of my ongoing series regarding minimalism and living simply. This month I discuss minimalism and interiors. As I mentioned in my previous month’s blog Minimalism & Living Simply:
“Any style of interior can be minimalist by simply not getting lost in the details and decor.”
Often times in the glossy decor magazines the rooms are filled to the hilt with accessories. I’ve always felt that when designing an interior that the room needs space to breath and the eye needs a place to rest. This is where minimalism shines.
See? All different styles of interiors, but they’re ALL minimalist in nature.
Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, father of modern architecture is credited with the famous design phrase “Less is more.” however after delving in further, I found the phrase, under the same context, first appeared in a line of “Andrea del Sarto, The Faultless Painter”, a poem by Robert Browning. Regardless of who said it first, the statement remains the same. Less IS more.
To reiterate my minimalist point even more, this month’s blog even mimics my mantra when approaching minimalism in interiors. Don’t get lost in the details. If you are developing a minimalist approach to a room, I invite you to share it with me via my contact page. I would love to see what my readers are doing or work with you on a project!
Next month we step away from minimalism and into the DIY world of kitchen renovations. If you want your kitchen project finished in time for the Holiday season, you must start now. You can do it, but let me help you.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Join in September: “10 steps to a budget friendly, DIY kitchen renovation.”
This isn’t a one and done blog topic but rather an introduction to a new, more satisfying lifestyle for those seeking simplicity. Are you downsizing or leaping excitedly into a tiny house or cottage? Maybe your cluttered or full rooms make you feel overwhelmed, like they’re taking over? Or, do you enjoy looking at bare counter tops, sleek furniture, and tidy rooms? The beauty of minimalism and living simply is that you get to define it by how it makes sense for you and your lifestyle. Most likely you know where you fall on the minimalist spectrum as it covers furniture design, home decor and design, fashion, lifestyle and personal processions. Terms like simple, streamline, uncluttered, pure, serene, calm, bare, and essentials, will resonate with you and you’ll strive to enact these principles into your life. Welcome and keep reading!
I was asked recently how does someone live minimally when their spouse wants to hoard and keep everything? This situation is a common frustration among couples. Luckily, the solution is simple: start with your own stuff. This will help relieve some of your burden and lighten your load. Hopefully, along the way, your spouse will join you in your efforts.
In two of my previous blogs Making room in your rooms and Evolving rooms and flexible spaces. I discuss how to clear out the clutter. For those who are ready to start really simplifying its time to purge the surplus from your home or business. Below is an outline of categories I’ve cultivated to reference when starting to reduce:
Clothes, shoes, coats, & seasonal gear
Bags & luggage
Furniture & decor
Bedding & linens
Pans & baking dishes
Pantry & refrigerator
Tupperware & food storage
Toiletries & medicine
Office & desk
Bills, mementos, & mail
Books & media
Electronics, gadgets, & small appliances
Junk drawer & tool box
Toys & sporting goods
Car & gardening supplies
Spend time clearing and reducing items from these categories until you only have your desired and used items. Some categories may be very easy while others may require more time. Once you’ve exhausted this list, you should feel emotionally and physically lighter. Arrange a charity to pick up your items, sell them, or pass them along to someone you know, just free yourself.
Now, its time to start putting in place some principles that maintain your newly found freedom. What may seem like discipline will quickly come routine. Additional resources are abundant on this topic. Two that I am familiar with and follow are the Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and becoming minimalist by Joshua Becker. If you want to learn more in depth on the living minimally then these three gentlemen are a great go to resource.
A few principles that are constant throughout any minimalist reading deal with the accumulation of new things once you’ve purged the old.
1 in 1 out Rule. If you bring something into the home then an old thing needs to go. Example, if you buy new shoes, then toss out the old ones.
Stop Leisure Buying. Going shopping at the local mall used to be a common Saturday activity. People have accumulated a vast amount of clothes that they rarely or no longer wear. The too tight designer jeans bought on clearance, the leather boots that make your feet hurt, the wet suit you bought for that one vacation, and the wool ski sweaters that make you itch, its time for them all to go. Now, with the help of online shopping, the impulse of casually browsing is reduced. Only shop when you need something.
Getting Unusable Gifts. Receiving a gift from a loved one is wonderful, if you can use it or want it. However, if its not your style or useful to you, thank them, keep it for a while you’re comfortable with and then pass it along.
Keeping Nostalgic Items. This one is very difficult. Some people want to keep everything because of its meaning. Ask yourself “If I get rid of this item, did that event/person change?” You still have your memories, the situation still occurred. Baby clothes for example, keep the “coming home” outfit and your favorite onesie and then pass along the rest. Teens’ sport/activity t-shirts are another nostalgic category. Memory quilts are popular options for sentimental clothes and then can be actively used again. If you or someone you know doesn’t sew then there are companies online that will make the quilt for you, simply mail the clothes to them and six weeks later, your memory quilt is ready. Children’s drawings and artwork is another tug at the heartstrings. Every year, purge out the ones you and your child don’t really care for, take a photo of them and toss them. Keep only the ones that you cherish and frame them or place them in a memento box.
Saving for “One Day If…” It makes financial sense for children’s clothes to be kept for younger siblings but if you’re hoarding things in the garage and your basement is bursting, its time to reevaluate. “You might need that one day” is a slippery slope. Use it today, plan for tomorrow, but never keep for what if. Your house is a home to live in not a closet to store stuff.
Traveling Light. I’ve heard this from so many seasoned travelers, travel light. Once you start this practice, you’ll never want to travel burdened with big suitcases again. People who travel heavy need to have a lot of options and feel completely prepared for any situation and don’t make outfit decisions before they leave. Check the weather for your trip, make outfit choices that mix and match and leave the rest at home. If you have access to a sink or bathtub, then you can do laundry. When I studied abroad for four months in college, I packed one week of warm weather clothes, one week’s worth of cold weather clothes, and travel sized toiletries to cover the first few days there. All of my clothes layered with each other. I had space in my luggage for my art supplies, souvenirs and items that I bought there during the four months. For a regular vacation, a small 19″ carry-on and a backpack will work for you just fine, you’ll see.
Capsule Wardrobe/Uniform. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs made wearing the same thing everyday trendy. Their wardrobe of a gray tshirt and black turtle neck respectively, with jeans became their signature looks. Who would dare comment to these two successful gents if they wore the same shirt yesterday? They’re tech icons and they rock the “uniform” idea. A capsule wardrobe (~30 items) is much easier for many people to get on board with and adopt. I’ve even read about seasonal capsule wardrobes, however I feel that idea is stretching the concept beyond its intent. The idea of a capsule wardrobe harks back to the 1900’s where people simply didn’t own a lot of clothes. Instead, they owned only what they loved, choosing quality over quantity and maintained them. Don’t fear judgement as you embrace your freedom and lighter lifestyle. A minimalist wardrobe will simply be another aspect to your lifestyle and extension of your beliefs. Your coworkers will see your tidy workstation and your friends will see your uncluttered home, then understand your capsule wardrobe as completely logical.
Minimalism & Interiors. I’ll continue this blog next month to cover minimalism and interiors in depth as many people have a preconceived notion that minimalism has to mean modern, not necessarily so. Any style of interior can be minimalist by simply not getting lost in the details and decor. Tune in next month for a more in depth discussion.
Remember that minimalism is a lifestyle, a practice, and a way of life that alters the way you see your possessions and environment. Set them free and they will set you free.
As I sit down to start writing this month’s blog, it’s 92 degrees outside with a heat index climbing to 100. It’s time to take a break from the heat and discuss a lighter interior topic: styling. More specifically, style overload, as I call it. When an idea is created for the inspiration of a project and accessory styling takes over turning the space into a themed space. Leave the theme parks to Disney, they’re professionals, they do it very, VERY well. Everyone else hold back!
The difference between theme and inspiration is how simplicity is implemented and the quantity of themed accessories used. Inspiration equates to a hint, an idea, or suggestion to the viewer. A theme however, leaves no doubt what the concept is, its obvious and blatant. Besides getting a bit kitschy when styling the accessories, themes detract from the main event, induce stress, and consume resources such as time and money.
The biggest offenders of styling overload and themes are:
1. Wedding Receptions
By far, the biggest offender! Take the idea of a rustic inspiration for a minute. OK, you’re a sassy cowgirl who loves teal. Your bridesmaids will wear teal dresses and brown cowboy boots while you wear teal ones under your gown, go on and bring out that personality! You’ve found the perfect reception hall, its a beautiful candlelit barn with tulle hanging from the antique rafters, so romantic, you’re doing great, keep going!
Now, for the seating, you thought hay bales draped with riding blankets, the table settings will be wrapped in twine, the bouquets and boutonnieres will be secured in burlap, the invitations will be printed on gunny sack embossed paper and will have teal horseshoe icons at the bottom. Careful, we’re in dangerous styling territory now.
While you’re at it, cowboy boot charms will dangle from every nook and cranny, when you two kiss everyone will yell “Yee Haw!” and toast you with their mason jars filled with moonshine cocktails. Too far cowgirl, too far! You know what works well for seating? chairs. Do you know what’s difficult to untie when you’re hungry? twine knots. Leave the mason jars to your pickles and preserves. Besides, what are you going to do with 250 cowboy boot charms after the wedding?
Another reason for keeping the themed inspiration in line is it will help reduce stress during preparation before the wedding and focuses the resources on the bigger ticket items like food, drink, hall rental, and music. Wedding planning arguments prior to the wedding get more and more ridiculous as the day gets closer. The topics are petty and the details don’t matter in the long run. Save the decor budget from the craft store and put it towards the reception. Guests want two things in a wedding: witness the happy couple get married and then attend an awesome party. They’ll remember the fantastic food and the complimentary bar long before they remember your time consuming, intricate centerpieces, handmade butter cream mints and custom inked, hand embossed wedding invitations that you and your crew spent weeks designing and making.
Simplicity is key in wedding planning. Choose one color as a subtle accent, sprinkle a few flowers petals, light the candles, and keep the themed details few. A concept wedding is fun and lively, but should provide only a backdrop or atmosphere, not the main focus. When the couple enters, they should be the center as intended.
2. Baby Rooms
Similar to themed wedding receptions are baby room themes. Many couples get inspired for a room once they discover the gender of the baby but run crazy with it. From themed cribs and bedding, hand painted mural walls, custom designed art, special light fixtures and curtains. That’s a lovely dream but let’s get back to reality, eager parents.
For the first few months, your newborn’s vision can’t see more than black, white and primary bold colors, then after that, they’re into faces, shapes, and bold patterns. The baby’s room for the first year is for you. It needs to be functional and stress free, while providing a safe place for your infant to sleep and play. They don’t understand themes and decor, save that for later when your preschool aged prince or astronaut wants to sleep in a castle or spaceship, then do the theme room. Keep the decor basic however, children’s interest change like the seasons, so replacing themed decorations constanly gets expensive.
When decorating a baby’s room, also think of how the room will evolve through childhood to the teen years and then to a guest room when they’re an adult. I always advise skipping the twin bed for example. After the crib has transformed to a toddler bed and is outgrown, go straight to a double /full bed. Its just over a foot wider than a twin, most rooms can accommodate the extra width. The bed will be more comfortable for childhood reading and snuggling, then lounging as teens, and a guest bed as an adult.
3. Vacation Homes
Yay! You have the vacation home of your dreams! It’s walking distance to the beach, you can see the water from your bedroom windows and you can bike to quaint shops and awesome restaurants. Now, hang on a second before your start decorating it, don’t spoil it!
Vacation homes located by the beach, for the obvious reason, conjure ideas of surfing and fun in the sun. A jar of collected seashells from family walks is cute nostalgia, a coir walk off mat for sand by the back door is practical. Go ahead and cover all the furniture in durable canvas, but please pause when you want to hang fishing nets, lobster cages, and buoy floats above your mantle. That’s a theme, not inspiration.
If you’ve traveled anywhere to a different climate you may have noticed the buildings are painted very differently. Mainly to do with weather conditions, cultural influences, but also to do with the sun, particularly the quality of sunlight.
I recently read an article in a decor magazine recommending coral painted walls with mint striped upholstery and brass accessories for coastal homes. Not even the quaintest ice cream parlors should tackle that color combination. Unless your house is located in the heart of Key West, would I recommend bright pastel colors. Even then, do it with caution and a light touch. Vacation homes should sooth and relax you, not jolt you. Bring out your bright personality in more subtle ways like your dishes or bedding, not floor to ceiling all over your house.
4. Staged Homes
Any real estate agent will tell you that a staged home sells easier, assuming its done well. My concern is when staging turns stale. It is well established that neutral color palettes appeal to more buyers, but a bit of color can make the space feel lively. Accent colors are often used in staging for this purpose, however, sometimes incorrectly. Monochromatic accent colors (only using one and the same one) throughout the house makes the staging seem fake and stale.
For example, say the chosen accent color is turquoise. A bright refreshing turquoise shag rug is laid across the entry, contrasting the wood floor, cheerful! Turquoise accent pillows get strategically placed to the armchairs, the large painting above the sofa gets swapped for one that has turquoise, then a set of tall glass vases containing turquoise beads and baubles is placed on the mantle. Now walk into the kitchen, turquoise table linens dress the dining table with a large turquoise bowl overflowing with fruit is placed on the kitchen island. The bathrooms all have a turquoise hand towel and a matching turquoise candle. The master bedroom is beautifully dressed in fresh white linens and dark wood furniture, but now there’s a strategic turquoise blanket folded at the end of the bed and a specifically placed stool at the bedside…that’s, you guessed it, turquoise. Enough!
If using accent colors when staging a home, use two to three in different combinations throughout the home. This makes each room stay united but still feel fresh. Second, don’t get too crazy with the accessories that are brought in for the staging. People don’t have that many vases, lamps, bowls, and sculptures so strategically placed around their home, (especially in the bathrooms!) Remove the clutter, arrange the furniture, sprinkle a few fresh color attributes and then…STOP.
In general, when styling a space, the point is to celebrate and honor the interior not overwhelm it. Perusing professional interior design videos posted online recently regarding styling of accessories, I was shocked at the finished room examples. They were so full of accessories, styled to the hilt, that the room could pass for a shop. Add price tags and the displays were ready. Its time to scale back the tchotchkes. Yes, the occasional decorative bowl or vase adds detail, however not on every surface and shelf. Make it pretty but keep it simple. Remember, inspiration not theme.
Beyond single family homes, apartments, condos, and downtown lofts there are many housing alternatives for those who desire something different. Cottages, cabins, houseboats, dome homes, earth homes, and even communal living are all decades old concepts but are still a niche market. However, within this niche market there is a growing movement raging on called Tiny Homes. Occurring world wide, tiny homes (commonly defined as being less than 500 sf) are offering incredibly sensible solutions to a diverse population for many reasons. The main factors driving this trend are:
Those looking to buy are priced out of the market to shoulder the crippling and heavy mortgage burden, however still desire the high demand locations.
Those wanting to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint, live off grid, or live a sustainable lifestyle more in tune with nature.
Those yearning for a simpler life with less stress by reducing the required upkeep of a larger home, limiting the consumerism ideals of wanting and buying more, or living minimally with only necessities and truly desired items.
Those desiring to travel and need a home base to return to at the end of a journey. Many tiny homes are mounted on trailers for this reason, thus the owners can then take their home with them on road trips.
Whatever the reason is, many of these tiny homes are simply beautiful! When the concept of a home is streamlined to the basics the finesse of a well thought out design occurs due to spatial necessity. Still utilizing standard building materials of stud walls, insulation, shingles, double pane windows, skylights, wood floors, tile and so forth these homes can hold their own in style and craft way better when comparing to its cousin the RV, built of plastic, laminates and vinyl. However, due to the small size of these buildings, creativity is also needed in working with current building codes.
Many of these homes are mounted on trailers for this reason but then cannot be considered homes. Being mounted on trailers, many tiny homes average 8 ft wide by 24 ft long, and 13.5 ft tall due to DOT road regulations. To maximize interior space within these confines, many work out to be 150 sf-200 sf with the addition of loft spaces. Placing these homes permanently on a plot of land is another hurdle they face. In many municipalities they can only be classified as secondary dwellings or auxiliary spaces. This means they cannot be the primary residence of the land owner and have to locate on someone else’s backyard. Additional workarounds often have to be considered such as skirting the trailer wheels from sight, proper utility hookups, waste water management and so forth. However, those who are fortunate enough to be able to locate their tiny homes on open land without zoning restriction and completely off grid are living large! The lifestyle freedom these tiny homes bring is phenomenal and the views from their windows can be breathtaking.
As I mention on my website, my design studio is also the combination of the hobbies that keep me up at night. One of my guilty pleasures is watching tiny house videos on YouTube. As a designer, I analyze the homes’ level of craftsmanship, layout efficiency, and sustainable practices/environmental considerations. My favorite video producer by far is Bryce Langston and his “Living Big in a Tiny House” project based in New Zealand. With many kiwi residents either priced out of the expensive Auckland housing market or have fallen victim to the massive earthquakes in Christchurch, tiny homes are becoming a fast trend and valid housing solution. With his friendly interview style and genuine interest in tiny homes, Bryce’s videos showcase different tiny homes all over New Zealand. The additional scenic aerial drone shots are breathtaking and just add to the videos’ charm. He also includes construction tutorials from his own tiny house building project that are very informative and supportive of those looking to build their own homes. I can’t wait to see how his tiny house ends up and look forward to viewing his new videos this year. He’s currently interviewing in Japan and is coming to the USA this spring to learn more about the American tiny home trend. Learn more about Bryce and his living big project at http://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/
There is also a subset within Tiny Homes called Micro Homes. These differ slightly as they usually average under 100 sf! These are super stripped down and answer the requirements of absolute basic living. Extremely portable, these homes have also offered some larger cities solutions with helping the homeless find transitional housing for example. Watching YouTube videos on this topic, names start to repeat and those in the Tiny House community refer to each other for design assistance or inspiration. One such name is Dee Williams. Found at https://padtinyhouses.com/, she has downsized her 80 sf micro home to a new vardo gypsy wagon style under 60 sf. She’s truly a minimalist and revered in the tiny/micro community.
While my design specialty is historic preservation and renovations, I have always enjoyed making floor plans more efficient, analyzing every nook and cranny for unused space, and removing unneeded open space. My internship back in college was even analyzing the spatial efficiency of a hospital of 3 million sf to see if they were maximizing their space utilization. Buildings are priced out per square foot, so I like to make sure every one of them is used effectively. Designing a large building is easy but many times the functional space remains the same and circulation space (walking around) is what increases. Many daily activities occur in spaces less than 100 sf and human interactions occur within 10 sf. Shrinking that large building down and still maintaining all functions becomes the challenge, where the creativity begins! Hence, why I love studying tiny homes.
The American dream used to be buy a large chunk of land, build a big impressive house and feel satisfied saying “I’ve made it, I’m a success.” However, I feel that idea is shifting. With land prices soaring, the environmental impact becoming more evident, and lifestyles becoming much more mobile, that dream has new ideas. Cities are being more gentle with natural resources with recycling programs and encouraging water conservation with many states facing droughts. Solar panel installations are becoming increasingly popular and hybrid/high efficient cars are now common place. Businesses too are downsizing, people are now working remotely or on location, thus reducing the amount of office space the company needs to lease. Now, with the tiny house movement, cities have a new option to create affordable housing that can also be a lighter burden, if they choose to accept them into their zoning. I’ve recently read that tiny homes are becoming an appendix to the International Residential Code for 2018. Its still in the review and adoption process by the International Code Council, but the induction is finally here. Many building officials currently don’t know how to approve Tiny Homes as they’re in no mans land for building codes. Yes, restrictions will then occur for the DIY’ers but only through code regulations will municipalities be able to bring main stream acceptance. Then, tiny homes could exist on their own yard screaming “I’ve made it, I’m a success!”
The idea of home is many things to many people. At the end of the day however, all you need is protection from the elements, a cozy place to rest and cuddle with a loved one, a way to prepare nourishing food, and a facility to refresh. How you define those is what makes your home truly yours, whether its big, tiny, or somewhere in the middle. Go find your tribe, the home and community for you is out there.
Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ
Studio Owner & Interior Designer
Daricilar Design Studio – Medway, MA
Check out my previous blogs regarding making homes multi task here and how to declutter your life here.
Join in March: “Beyond the Beige Box; creating curb appeal and exterior detail.”
In the month ahead, we are about to consume a ton of both food and money. Let’s talk about purging our stuff and needing to make more room. Just as our stomachs only have so much space, so do our homes, businesses, and even our minds. Let’s first be grateful for all that we have but its time to declutter…
There’s a simple reason we need more space, we have too much stuff. Our rooms are not too small, there are simply too full with too many things in them. Try shifting the paradigm, instead of being persuaded to get rid of something, try having to defend why you should keep it. In my August’s post about Evolving rooms and flexible spaces. I mentioned that I would discuss storage in general at a later date. Below is an excerpt from that post:
Purge all unused items out of your space, it’s too expensive to fill with stuff you don’t use. Sell, donate, pass along, throw out, just make it leave. Clothes that don’t fit, rusty baking pans, old books, uncomfortable shoes, anything that doesn’t bring you joy or used daily is taking up expensive real estate in your home. Let it continue its journey and set yourself free! I recommend every season to get the stuff under control and from then on once a year to maintain the balance.
Bedroom- Use closet organizers for clothes by type. Establish hanging vs. folded, stacked on shelves or in drawers. Buy a double bed for kids instead of twins for sleeping options flexibility. If you don’t have a linen closet, store bedding in each bedroom in the closet or in totes under the bed. To reduce furniture in small bedrooms, use wall mounted shelves, sconces, and place dressers in closets if needed.
Clothes- Only keep clothes that are either sentimental or actively worn. Definitely keep hand me down clothes for your children in the future but not for yourself. If you no longer fit in an item, it has holes, stains, irritates, or is out of style then donate or toss it. When styles repeat as they always do, they are never the same. Your 80’s & 90’s clothes are just that, not the new 80’s and 90’s. Keep the classics, toss the trends.
Kitchen- Raid the pantry cupboard and fridge for expired or forgotten food, then toss and donate. Keep your kitchen counter clear apart from appliances used daily. If possible, buy a table with self storing leaves or extensions. If there’s no basement, stash extra kitchen chairs in bedroom corners or use as desk chairs. Donate the collection of generic glass vases, warped baking pans, and old dish towels. Purge the Tupperware, mismatched mugs, and the fridge magnets.
Bathroom- Toss out old toiletries, donate old towels, install hooks and wall shelves.
Living/Family Room- Furniture should be scaled for the size of the room, first identify travel patterns and then arrange the furniture around those. Sort through old books and magazines, CD’s and DVD’s, then donate or sell.
Paper- start a “touch the paper once” rule: pick it up, use it and file/recycle it. Shuffling papers around your desk wastes time and doesn’t help. Take photos of documents, use cloud software or external/jump drives for storage.
Electronics- Organize cables and chargers, establish a home or station for them. Simplify the gadgets: multiple phones, tablets, laptop and a desktop is too much. Unless your job requires separate devices, scale it back.
Furniture- Old office furniture is not a comforting look for your clients. Once you’ve depreciated the value on your taxes, no longer need it, and its way out of style, donate or trade it in to resale or refurbish. If you advertise your business as being current or cutting edge, but your conference room screams 1990, that’s a confusing message. Your physical office counts just as much for your branding image as your logo, webpage, and slogan. You wouldn’t wear a suit 25 years old so don’t make your office wear one either. If you can’t afford to replace all the furniture, be strategic in where the new furniture should go. Your staff’s daily comfort and the first impression of clients are paramount. Focus on ergonomic desk chairs and pleasant reception areas first then move on to replacing conference rooms and cubicles. I’ll address office furniture in more detail in a later post.
Social media and email- Set a stopping time for the evening. Move to a relaxing activity such as listening to calming music or taking a shower. Sip a warm drink and start dimming the lights to induce a sleepy environment.
Running errands- When going to and from errands, incorporate short walks to the end of the street, pause and stretch, then continue on your journey.
Eating- Put the electronics down and really taste your food. Be aware of the speed you are eating, and look around you. Talk to the people you’re eating with and come out of the trough mentality.
In general, retain only sentimental and very useful items then either donate, toss or sell the rest. Resist the thoughts of “what if one day…” or “what if I might…”. Live in the now and make space for tomorrow. Not everything is sentimental, useful, or necessary.
Also, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once or that you don’t have time. If you watched tv last night, then you have time for one item, one cabinet, one room. I think you’ll find that once you start you won’t want to stop. Free yourself from the heavy emotional burden of all this clutter in your life and let the real you breathe. Just as roots need space to grow, people need it too.